Women in Afghanistan marched in Kabul on Saturday, continuing popular resistance to what many Western critics of President Hamid Karzai's new power-sharing deal between the government and the Taliban fear is a growing trend of violence and discrimination against women. Activists were outraged last month after Karzai seemed to accept recommendations from powerful clerics to segregate the sexes and allow husbands to beat their wives under certain circumstances.
According to a report by MSNBC and Reuters, Saturday's round of protests came in direct response to a recent rash of violence against women — in less than a month, five Afghani women have been killed in three of the country's provinces. Demonstrators carried signs that read "Where is the justice?" in an effort to draw attention to the fact that increased cooperation between Karzai and the Taliban has threatened to return Afghanistan to the days of Taliban rule from 1996-2001 when women were banned from many jobs and denied the right to vote.
Karzai, however, must step down after the next presidential election after serving the constitutional limit of two consecutive terms, and the impending executive vacancy has prompted 36-year-old lawmaker Fawzia Koofi to announce her intention to run for president. She expects threats of violence against her family will pressure her to reconsider her candidacy, but her mere presence in the looming presidential race could go a long way to reversing the slow erosion of hard-won women's rights in Afghanistan's nascent republic. "It's very easy to terrorize a woman in Afghanistan," Koofi said. "It's very easy to create accusations against a woman, and then her political life will be finished." Even if Koofi doesn't win, by sticking out what may prove to be an arduous race, she could demonstrate that Afghan women won't barter with their own political rights as casually as Hamid Karzai has.