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And, yes, I DO take it personally: Can you spot the only woman in this photo NOT wearing a headscarf?
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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Can you spot the only woman in this photo NOT wearing a headscarf?


U.S. first lady Laura Bush (2nd R) and
Afghanistan's first woman provincial governor
of Bamiyan Province Habiba Sarabi (R)
are seen during a surprise visit to Bamiyan
June 8, 2008. First lady Bush made an
unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Sunday
with an appeal to the international community
not to abandon the war-torn country in the
face of resurgent Taliban violence.


having just returned yesterday from afghanistan, i'm particularly sensitive to the need for women foreigners there to respect and blend in with local tradition... i had to pull one american woman i was working with aside a couple of weeks ago and insist that, in meetings with locals outside of our project offices, that she please keep her headscarf ON rather than unconsciously letting it slide off and not putting it back in place...

every afghan woman that i came in contact with over the past two and one half months constantly adjusts her headscarf to make sure it stays on her head... yes, you can make the argument that the locals should respect OUR traditions too, but to that i have only one response... it's THEIR country, not ours... and, yes, i know that laura bush would be shredded by the insane, right-wing hate-mongers if a photo of her wearing a headscarf appeared in the media, but, goddamit, she SHOULD have been wearing one...

p.s. this also explains part of why i was subjected to such heavy security and physical inspections when i flew out of kabul on friday morning... it ALSO explains why two colleagues from the project had to cancel the trip to bamiyan they were planning for this weekend... everybody was getting ready for laura's "unannounced" visit...

related story...

First lady Laura Bush, on a mission to highlight signs of rebirth in war-weary Afghanistan, ventured outside of Kabul on Sunday to an area that symbolizes both the destruction of war and Afghanistan's attempt at rebirth.

Mrs. Bush, on her third unannounced visit to the country, flew into the Afghan capital then immediately boarded a helicopter for a 50-minute flight to Bamiyan Province, the farthest she has traveled from Kabul.


The first lady's visit comes ahead of a donors conference in Paris, where the U.S. hopes billions of dollars in international aid will be pledged to help the embattled nation. Afghanistan was ruled by the repressive Taliban until U.S. forces invaded following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"The people of Afghanistan don't want to go back and live like that," Mrs. Bush told reporters on her plane as it made the nearly 14-hour flight to the Afghan capital. "They know what it was like. The international community can't drop Afghanistan now, at this very crucial time."


Mrs. Bush is spending several hours on the ground to meet with President Hamid Karzai, visit U.S. troops and see a police training academy that is training female recruits.

President Bush has defended Karzai against critics who say his government is weak and isn't doing enough to battle corruption and drug trafficking. Mrs. Bush said the U.S. and other nations should not blame Karzai unless they are going to give him credit for all the progress that's being made.

"It's really not that fair," she said. "I think it's undermining, frankly, to blame him for a lot of the things that may or may not be his fault. He inherited — just by becoming president — a country that's been totally devastated. It is very, very difficult when you have al-Qaida and Taliban all over the borders and making incursions into Afghanistan, and it's intimidating for everyone."

the karzai government is shot through with epidemic corruption on a scale that dwarfs the corruption i've seen in even the most thoroughly corrupt governments in argentina, macedonia and mexico... any progress in afghanistan is strictly a result of serendipity... if a tenth of the money being poured in there actually made it to where it needs to go, afghanistan would be dramatically better off than it is today...

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