Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Afghanistan: Two Steps Back?

I was sent an email stating that Barbara Walters visited Afghanistan pre-2001 and post 2001 (after the Taliban were ousted). She noticed that women continued to walk behind the men, but at a greater distance than pre-2001. She asked a woman why and the dead-pan response was, "land mines."

I haven't researched to see if this actually happened, but I thought about it when I read today that the Afghanistan government is considering bringing back the Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Under the Taliban regime, this body was responsible for brutal attacks, torture and killing of women who appeared "unvirtuous" by Islamic law. This included the public killings in the Olympic stadium.

Karzai's cabinet has passed the motion and it's on its way to Parliament. Apparently, the Department is to educate people as to what is "allowable and forbidden by Islamic law."

I saw the good that our military and government have done over there, but don't think it's enough. Reading this reminds me of the ghosts I hear each day from the people I met with, "we don't want to be forgotten."

Will the Afghan people be forgotten? Have they taken a step backwards?

Lightheartedly, I'm reminded how we women felt our guest house friends and guides worked at "protecting our virtue." No T&A! (toes and ankles). I imagine they took a big risk: men taking care of a house full of women. I wonder if they suffered any repercussion?

Lift Off! Round 2

Tickets go on sale tomorrow for the STS 115 Atlantis Shuttle launch. The lift off window is August 28 - Sept. 13 and I'm hoping I'll get to see this one. This will be the shuttle's 19th mission to the International Space Station. Some of the astronauts have been training about a decade for a chance to walk or float in space.

When I had lunch with Colonel John Blaha (at the Kennedy Space Center), he talked of his days on the space station. Specifically, I recall him describing the "smell of Earth" when a new rocket or space shuttle would dock and unload with fresh supplies. I asked if he ever got jet-lagged while in space (yes, I was serious). He was stunned at my answer, "no, not if you're properly trained, there's no jet-lag," was his response.

Want to experience weightlessness in space? By the end of the decade, Virgin Galactic, led by Sir Richard Branson and others, will be transporting travelers into orbit. Amazing.