Counter-Terrorism: Don't Mess With the Bride Price


February15, 2007: In Afghanistan, the Taliban's "war on schooling for girls" has been running into resistance from many tribes. There are a number of reasons why these otherwise religiously conservative, tradition-bound tribesmen have decided to resist the Taliban's efforts to curb education for girls.

Although in many traditional societies (not just Islamic ones, either) women have second-class status, behind the scenes the story can be quite different. In Islam (as in Latin America, China, India, etc.), women are often important managers of family businesses and property. They are also frequently valued behind-the-scenes advisors to husbands and sons who are the tribal leaders.

Many tribesmen also view their daughters as valuable assets. A carefully arranged marriage can bring important political or economic connections. There can also be immediate monetary benefits in the form of "bride price." An educated daughter is thus inherently more "valuable" than an illiterate one.

Thus Taliban's efforts to block education for girls is seen as a direct blow against some tribal traditions. The Taliban has apparently begun to notice this, and in at least one instance has publicly has stated it will no longer target schools, and that it intends to open special schools for girls. This message, however, seems not to have reached some Taliban operatives, who continue to attack schools, and it certainly has not convinced many of the tribesmen who have been victims of these attacks.


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