May 26, 2012 at 09:54pm IST

World View: Will the Eurozone break up?

Suhasini Haider: Hello and welcome to Worldview with me Suhasini Haider. Tonight we're taking a close look at what NATO's plans for a pullout mean for Afghanistan and for Afghans in particular. In our studio, Fawad Paikar, he's the Bureau chief of the Spanish news agency EFE there in Kabul, also Sadia Serat, thanks so much for joining us. Sadia is an anchor with Tolo television in Kabul. We'll also be joined later by Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch based out of Afghanistan. But first to the story that just doesn't go away - The Eurozone crisis pushed the Euro down to a near two year low this week and sent world markets into a spiral once again. A summit dinner for EU leaders in Brussels failed to come up with anything concrete to avert that growing financial crisis that's already looking bad in Spain, Italy, Ireland as well as Greece. The big disagreement really on how to handle Greece. The disagreement between French President Hollande, who wants more growth Euro bonds issued, and German Chancellor Merkel who's pushing for more austerity. In fact, the Euro crisis also dominated the meeting of the G8 earlier in the week. So we'll be asking on our Big Question - Is the Eurozone breaking up?

Joining us is CNN's Emily Reuben in London on just what's next after this. Emily we've seen that EU summit leading up to a bigger summit in June. But most of what they've come up with in terms of even the Euro bonds, in terms of austerity, are really long term solutions. Is there anything they're talking about to deal with the immediate crisis?

Emily Reuben: Well I think this Eurobonds idea is one way of calming the markets. I mean one of the criticisms of these summits in the past has been that they haven't really achieved anything concrete and I think this is a thread that's been running through this Eurozone crisis that as it keeps lurching from one extreme to the next, it's very difficult to get an agreement from all of these leaders, and so we're not really expecting that much to change in terms of proposals for the short term.

Suhasini Haider: Alright, not much for the short term. Emily, here we've seen in India as well, we've seen a market shake out, we've seen the currency plummet, and many are saying that it's linked to the Greek crisis. But is there more to worry about, not just for India, but for markets worldwide that it's not just about Greece anymore but the Eurozone breaking up?

Emily Reuben: Well Greece is a relatively small part of the Eurozone. I think their GDP is something like 2 per cent of the overall economies. But the key issue is this - if Greece is forced out of the Euro it sets a very dangerous precedent. If, for instance, you are a saver in Ireland and you have all your life savings in Euros in your Irish bank, and you see that Greece has been let go and overnight the currency changes to the Drachma, its been radically devalued and all your savings are literally worth nothing; well you're going to start to get very worried and this is what people are worried about. They are worried that investors and savers will start pulling their money from the other banks in Europe. By that I mean Ireland, Portugal and Spain; Spain especially being one of the largest economies. The worry really is that if Greece exists the Euro, nobody knows where that might go. There's no precedent for this, there's no plan of action, there's no road map, and that's really the worry that if Greece goes, the other larger economies could follow, and that's the sort of financial Armageddon everybody is terrified of.

Suhasini Haider: Emily, in all of the gloom and doom and as you're calling it, the Armageddon, is there any silver lining, anything to hope for?

Emily Reuben: I think if I knew that I'd be a billionaire by now. I think the Euro is down today because there are rumors that Greece is planning an exit strategy, and that is what everybody is afraid of. The markets are very volatile at the moment and I think that one of the issues is that they just don't have much faith that the European leaders can deliver and make the tough choices that really are necessary. I mean some EU institutions are capable of doing this. Don't forget that the ECB injected a trillion euros of liquidity into the European banks just at the start of the year which kept them afloat and really saved the situation. I think what investors are looking for is some kind of other big bazooka from the European leaders to try and draw a line under this crisis.

Suhasini Haider: Alright, some sort of magic potion to come. Emily Reubin there with CNN in London. Let's turn now to our big story tonight, to that other big gathering of world leaders in Chicago this week as heads of NATO countries, Afghanistan President Karzai as well as Pakistan's President Zardari came together to discuss the pullout from Afghanistan in 2014. The conference over Afghanistan rapidly digressed into the US-Pakistan spat over allowing NATO trucks back into Afghanistan over the land route with Obama actually snubbing Zardari, refusing to meet him one on one, and Pakistan once again demanded an apology for the NATO air raid that killed Pakistani soldiers in Salalah last year.

In an interview to CNN, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accepted that the US-Pakistan fall out is still the big problem. But the pullout will go ahead as planned.

Hamid Karzai: Afghanistan will be looking after itself, after its security and the defence of the country almost entirely by 2014. That's also the time that the American forces and other forces will withdraw from Afghanistan. That transition and the eventual withdrawal in 2014 of the US forces and other NATO forces from Afghanistan is good for Afghanistan and good for our allied countries.

Suhasini Haider: Fawad if I could just ask you; President Karzai saying the pullout plan for 2014 goes ahead and he says it's good for everyone. Would you say the pullout plan in Afghanistan is seen as good for everyone?

Fawad Paikar: Let's begin with why the foreign forces came to the country, what was their goal and did they reach their goal, did they get what they wanted? They chased Osama Bin Laden to Afghanistan and he has already been killed. Now I think people have different perspectives. Some of the people believe that its good that they leave the country because they say Afghan security forces will have the capability to take the security of our country, and some of the people believe that the Afghan security force will not have the potential to take the overall security of the country because we still have Taliban infiltration inside our national armies, inside our national police, and from the other side we have Haqqani network, and Al-Qaeda is still alive.

Suhasini Haider: Given that sense of insecurity Fawad, when NATO leaves without the Afghan Security forces being able to handle what might follow, will NATO essentially be seen as leaving in defeat from Afghanistan as the Soviets once were?

Fawad Paikar: We cannot say they didn't fit in the country while on the other hand they aren't winning as well because none of the Western leaders, even President Barrack Obama, are saying the name of victory. My perspective is that they are leaving the country because they have spent lots of money there. They are leaving the country without any good result because Al-Qaeda is still alive, the Taliban is still there, and there continue to be suicide attacks…

Suhasini Haider: As NATO begins to pull out in 2014, do you see the Taliban also coming back into the political mainstream, into the leadership there?

Fawad Paikar: Well, I think the Taliban have different ideas about the country. The Taliban doesn't accept any regulations that the Karzai government has issued. So, I don't think so. It will be impossible because the peace process is not going on now. It was only between the United States and Afghanistan.

Suhasini Haider: Sadia, as a woman, you're an anchor in a television channel. This would not have been possible with the Taliban in power. Do you think things have gotten better in the last decade?

Sadia Serat: It's good that the Taliban is collapsing. Women now have good opportunities, girls are going to school and women are in Parliament too. They are moving, but still there are problems of prostitution, domestic violence, forced and under-aged marriage. These still continue in parts of the country.

Suhasini Haider: Hold that thought because I do want to discuss what that pullout is going to mean for Afghan women in particular. Coming up we have the chilling stories of three women there in Kabul. Stay with us for a special report here on Worldview.


Suhasini Haider: Welcome back to WorldView as we take a hard look at just what the NATO pullout from Afghanistan spells for Afghan women in particular. In 2001, the US and NATO attacked Taliban controlled Afghanistan with a promise for women. More than ten years later, that promise of empowerment is far from being delivered and the fear that things could only get worse from here. Here are the stories of at least three such women brought to you by CNN's Jessica Ravitz there in the US, and Sara Sidner in Kabul.


Bibi Aisha (an Afghan girl whose nose and ears were cut off for fleeing the home of her in-laws): I think all the time. Why this happened to me? Why they cut my ear and nose? If I had my nose I could have my life now.

Jessica Ravitz: This is 19 year old Bibi Aisha. It was her husband who cut off her nose and ears. Aisha was forced into marriage at a young age. She was given as payback for a crime committed by someone else in her family. After years of abuse from her in-laws, Aisha ran away but was caught. She spent months in prison. Her father-in-law retrieved her and with her Taliban husband and others, brutally cut off her nose and ears. She appeared on the cover of TIME magazine and was brought to the US for reconstructive surgery.

Sara Sidner: In a small room far from home, 18 year old Mumtaz is trying to recover from the worst chapter in her life - the day her face was soaked in acid.

Mumtaz: I feel so bad, that is why I don't look in the mirror anymore.

Sara Sidner A scorned young man decided if he couldn't marry her, he'd make sure no one else wanted to. One night several armed men entered her home to teach her family a lesson.

Mumtaz: They were three people. Two of them were holding a weapon saying, do not move, and the third person was pouring acid.

Sara Sidner: Unfortunately, Mumtaz's story isn't all that unusual here. She lives among sixteen girls and women now in this house, and almost every single one of them has scars from domestic abuse.

Sara Sidner: Across the hall from Mumtaz, Sahar Gul sits alone in her room. Illegally married off at thirteen years old, she says she was treated like an animal by her husband and his family. She says she was tortured because she was unable to conceive a child right away among other things, and she refused to submit to their demands that she work as a prostitute to contribute to the household income; and even after three family members were jailed and have now been convicted, Gul is having great difficulties getting a divorce from her husband. Still, since the US led war began, Human Rights Watch says the status of women in Afghanistan has improved some. For example, two million more girls are in school. Infant mortality rates have dropped and life expectancy has risen. But a 2008 survey by Global Rights showed 87 per cent of Afghan women reported suffering from domestic abuse. Rights advocates fear that when the international troops leave this country, so will Afghan women's rights.

Heather Barr (Human Rights Watch, Kabul): These improvements that we've seen in terms of education, literacy, maternal mortality, life expectancy; these have come about largely because of services that are funded by the international community; and these gains can be revered within a couple of years if the funding for those services goes away.

Sara Sidner: Usually, the women who were suffering remain faceless to the outside world. But Mumtaz is hoping you don't forget her face.

Suhasini Haider (studio): So we're asking on our Big Question - Is the NATO pullout a betrayal of Afghan women?

I'd like to bring in Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch. She's based out of Afghanistan, but has been visiting Delhi.

Heather we're looking at those stories; acid attacks on women; mutilation. As you speak with women there in Afghanistan, do you see a real nervousness on the part of women as the US plans its pullout?

Heather Barr: I think that nervous doesn't even begin to describe how serious the fears are right now in Afghanistan for the future of women. You know, there has been some very important progress in the last 10 years. There are several million girls in school now, even though about half of girls still don't go to school; maternal mortality has fallen steadily; Afghanistan has a parliament which is almost 30 per cent women. So, these are incredibly important achievements and these are achievements that have happened through the real bravery of Afghan women. I think that the fear that they have is that this may be the high point and we may be looking at a situation where women's rights infact go back backwards because the international community is turning its back and walking away from Afghanistan.

Suhasini Haider: As you've documented yourself, the real problem seems to be not just the domestic abuse, not just the Sharia, the Taliban style of judgement on these women, but the actual legal system. There are 400 Afghan women in prison for what are called 'moral' crimes. What are those?

Heather Barr: This is a really important issue because it's an issue that doesn't just affect the approximately 400 women and girls who've been put in prison unjustly. It also sends a message to all the Afghan women that this is a fate that could await them. Approximately 50 per cent of the women in prison in Afghanistan and very close to a 100 per cent of the girls in juvenile detention facilities in Afghanistan are there for what are called moral crimes, and these moral crimes are 1 of 2 things. The first is running away from home, meaning leaving home without permission from your father or your husband, and this infact is not actually a crime under Afghan law, but the Afghan Supreme Court has instructed judges to treat it as a crime. The second crime is what's called Zina which is sex between two people who are not married to each other. Now, when you actually meet these women and girls and talk with them and hear the story about how they ended up behind bars, what you hear is almost always a story of a woman who's run away from abuse.

Suhasini Haider: Heather as you make that picture, really many have that visual in Afghanistan of a woman being executed in public at a Kabul stadium. Is what you're saying really that once the US and NATO pulls out that it could be full circle for women in Afghanistan; that that could happen once again?

Heather Barr: I think that is exactly what women are worried about. I think that Afghan women were incredibly optimistic at the end of 2001 after the fall of the Taliban and I think that the international community including some of those leaders that you mentioned really made promises to Afghan women. Now is the moment that we really see whether those promises are going to be kept or not because the situation is not resolved, the situation is not fixed. There's been important progress but that progress has come in part because of the support of the international community and if that support is withdrawn, we can see literacy rates falling, we can see life expectancy falling, we can see women who spoke up and fought for women's rights being punished and retaliated against in the years ahead. So, this is a moment when the international community needs to really challenge itself to remember the promises it made in 2001 and to fulfill those promises, and to separate the question of what's going to happen with women's rights and what support they are going to provide for women's rights from the questions about whether the troops are being withdrawn. Countries withdrawing troops can't be seen as countries being finished with Afghanistan.

Suhasini Haider: Alright, Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch there coming with that voice from Kabul. Fawad as we hear about the NATO pullout; you're a young Afghan looking forward to a future there. The question - What do you fear the most?

Fawad Paikar: According to people whom I interviewed or I'm in touch with in Afghanistan, some people think that if the Taliban comes back they will come with different mentalities, in a different face now. They might let girls go to school like religious school - madrassas. They may give some opportunities to Afghan women to work.

Suhasini Haider: You think it'll be a more moderated Taliban and that picture of the woman being shot in a Kabul stadium, that's not something you think will happen again…

Fawad Paikar: We may not witness that picture again. According to some people, some analysts, the Taliban will come in a different mentality, so they won't see the same violence again.

Suhasini Haider: Alright, on that hopeful note, Fawad Paikar as well as Sadia Serat, thanks so much for joining us here on Worldview.

And here is my take - If there is a silver bullet to women's problems anywhere, it is education and that's hard enough is any developing country. In Afghanistan, the fear of the Taliban returning also means that girls will perhaps once again be pushed out of their classes unless NATO finds a way to keep its presence in Afghanistan to keep the Taliban from destroying that progress that women have been able to make. However, little it is, NATO will be accused of having left them worse off in 2014 than when they invaded in 2001.


Will the Eurozone break up?