Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Women in Afghanistan are subject to severe violations of basic human rights (but signing a petition isn't likely to help them).
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1999]
Origins: With every passing day, our inboxes play host to a growing number of calls to arms. People we've never heard of pop up to demand we protest this, boycott that, or eschew whatever from our diets, as they fill our
At first all such messages are taken to heart as we naively assume there must be some fire lurking beneath all that smoke. With time comes a more jaundiced view of such things, as incitement after incitement proves out to be naught but yet another group of crazies' attempt to inflame others with their particular brand of paranoia. We grow used to discovering that the studies underlying the scare are flawed, or the facts misstated, or the event we're supposed to get riled about never happened. The easily-herded Internet newcomer evolves into a properly skeptical Netizen who knows better than to believe
Conditions in Afghanistan are pretty much as described in this petition. Since the Taliban's ascension to power in 1994, the civil rights violations have been numerous, with women bearing the brunt of the repression. It's a deplorable situation, one the U.S. State Department is all too aware of. What this petition decries is real, and you can read plenty more about conditions in Afghanistan at the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) web site.
Even so, signing this petition isn't likely do any good. First of all, the petition — a well-meaning individual effort of one person at Brandeis University — isn't going anywhere. The
Please read this message carefully, especially the next two sentences. Do not reply to this email. Do not forward this email to anyone else. Anyone who needs a copy, already has one. Do not make things worse. Do not "help" by forwarding this message to everyone who has corresponded with you on this subject.Later versions direct responses to different addresses (some of them even valid!), but the final result is the same — although the petition is real, it isn't going anywhere. Signing it and persuading others to add their names is pointless, since the signatures aren't being collected and formed into one giant petition. In any case, where would this petition go? Only a handful of countries have diplomatic relations with the Taliban-led government of Afghanistan (their recognition of the legitimacy of the Taliban government has since been rescinded in light of the
Due to a flood of hundreds of thousands of messages in response to an unauthorized chain letter, all mail to <email@example.com> is being deleted unread. It will never be a valid email address again. If you have a personal message for the previous owner of that address, you will need to find some means other than email to communicate.
<firstname.lastname@example.org> was not an organization, but a person who was totally unprepared for the inevitable consequences of telling thousands of people to tell fifty of their friends to tell fifty of their friends to send her email.
It is our sincere hope that the hundreds of thousands of people who continue to attempt to reply will find a more productive outlet for their concerns. There are several excellent organizations and individuals doing real work on the issues raised. Some of them were mentioned in sarabande's letter. None of them authorized her actions. We suggest that you contact them through non-virtual channels to help. They all have web sites with information and contact points. Unlike sarabande, they can channel your energy in useful directions. Do not let this incident discourage you.
Please do not forward unverified chain letters, no matter how compelling they might seem. Propagating chain letters is specifically prohibited by the terms of service of most Internet service providers; you could lose your account.
Any replies to this message will be deleted unread. The issue is closed.
The notion that a mere petition is going to prod the Taliban into rethinking the way they govern Afghanistan is wishful but ineffective thinking. The Taliban have nothing but contempt for the western world, they've already had punitive sanctions imposed on them by other countries, and the rest of the world couldn't stop them from destroying mere statues. Why on earth would anyone expect them to respond to a petition, especially one signed by folks they view as meddling foreign infidels?
The sad fact is the Taliban run Afghanistan as they see fit, and no amount of
If you feel strongly enough about this issue (or any other) to want to get involved, you should certainly do so. But remember, as with most endeavors, your results are likely to be proportional to your efforts. Adding your name to an Internet petition is quick, easy, and virtually useless. If you want to help, make a real effort such as writing or calling your Congressmen or contacting humanitarian groups to find out what you can do to assist their causes.
Barbara "muzzle 'em fundamentalists" Mikkelson
Last updated: 15 December 2007
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