"In Love and War"
Abstract: Women of Afghanistan are forced to live under oppressive regulations set forth for them by the men of their societies. Women have virtually no rights to do anything for themselves. There entire lives are controlled by and lived for someone else. Through their songs, they lament the conditions of their lives and are able to convey a beauty in their verses that all people can identity with. (67 words)
Key Words: Pashtun, women, honor, oppression, songs
Love and war, two concepts that are so contradictory it is hard to believe they could ever coexist simultaneously in one society. War is a state of conflict, hostility and chaos which reeks havoc on civilizations as opposing forces struggle to defend their cause not matter what the price. Throughout history the world has seen the devastation such conflict can bring; from the gory conquests of the ancient Romans, to the horrific Nazi Holocaust in World War II, to the bloody battles between government forces that raged in Afghanistan. It is in this world of mayhem and cruelty that Pashtun women must carry on their lives. They attempt in whatever possible to find and salvage any kind of love and beauty amidst the turmoil of their warring nation. These women must find ways to stay strong and resist the oppression forced upon them by their patriarchal society which coerces them into hard physical labor as well as demeans their humanity as their status is reduced to nothing more than property (Majrouh XIII, XIV). The song of the Pashtun woman is her escape, her release, and her joy as she unites with other women in her community and sings out against her oppression. Through these landays, or songs, one sees another dimension to the lives of Pashtun women as they transform the misery and grief of their everyday lives into a spirit of beauty as they lament against their oppressors and find ways to love even in a time of war.
In order to fully appreciate and understand what is conveyed through the songs of these women, one must understand the historical, social and political context in which they are living. Afghan women have lived and continue to live in an oppressive patriarchal society where they are not even regarded as full fledged citizens, and where men control all political, social and economic powers. In the Saur Revolution in April 1978, civil war in Afghanistan broke out as the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) came into power and tried to institute unwelcome reforms that challenged the current social and political structures of Afghanistan through changes in land tenure and gender relations (Moghadam, 220). The PDPA advocated for women's rights and equality, while traditionalists from tribal communities were opposed to this equality as they viewed it as a threat to the current power structures, as well as a danger to their economic well being. The problem of the weak central state served to exacerbate this problem due to its inability to effectively employ these modernizing programs and goals (213). The question of women became an issue of central concern among the opposing sides. For the Afghan modernizers the women's liberation and equality became an integral political and cultural goal of the regime. While for traditionalists keeping the women in their current subordinate status was a vital element of their identity and social structure (214). Women are subjected to extremely hard physical labor. They are responsible for performing the most daunting, and exhaustive domestic work, without any compensation. Her labor power and the products of that labor are controlled totally by men (215). She is also subject to arranged marriage where she is treated like the property of her father as he sells her off for a bride price provided to compensate him for the loss of his daughter's labor, rather than provide social insurance for the girl incase of divorce or widowhood as is custom in many other Muslim...
Cited: Majrouh, Sayd Bahodine, ed. Songs of Love and War Afghan Women 's Poetry. Paris:
Editions Gallimard, 1994.
Moghadam, Valentine M. Revolution, Islamist Reaction, and Women in Afghanistan.
Ed. Mary Ann Tetreault. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1994.
Moghadam, Valentine M, ed. Gender and National Identity Women and Politics in
Muslim Societies. London: Oxford University Press, 1994.
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