In the Western media, the views of Afghanistan's political leaders and news of their latest political debacles—President Hamid Karzai's standoff with the Parliament over his 24 cabinet nominations the most recent example—tend to dominate over all else; few and far between are the perspectives of those at the opposite end of the power structure, the Afghan citizens.
Which is why the Kabul-based Asia Foundation's most recent "Afghanistan in 2009" report [PDF] released yesterday, based on a poll of more than 6,400 Afghan people from all over the country, is so valuable, offering a fascinating and useful snapshot of the Afghans' views as the latest conflict in their war-torn country escalates. The poll's subjects range from war and gay rights to security and the economy. If I had to choose the single most encouraging subject that emerges from the poll, it would be the growing support for women's rights in Afghanistan. 28 percent said women should be able to work outside their home (up from 2 percent in 2006), even though Taliban forbid this, and in general, 67 percent of respondents think women should be allowed to work. 87 percent of respondents also said educational opportunities should be open to both sexes.