The Afghan girl is back

Discussion in 'West Asia & Africa' started by ajtr, Aug 5, 2010.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    The Afghan girl is back

    BY GUEST ON 08 5TH, 2010 | COMMENTS (15)
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    While Sharbat Gul’s eyes powerfully transfixed the world from the cover of National Geographic in 1985, Aisha’s ordeal depicted on the cover of Time this week fixates our attention on where her nose would be. The metaphoric pain in the eyes has given way to the figurative – in this case, the disfigurative.

    The visceral cringe at Aisha’s mutilated face is surpassed by the painful cerebral spasm at the congruent headline: “What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan.”

    The connective logic is that gruesome violence against women would occur were the US to leave Afghanistan. Like it isn’t now.

    The story shows what the Taliban are capable of doing. Yet the US policy includes negotiating the ‘good’ Taliban. In the early phase of the War on Terror almost a decade ago, the desire to liberate Afghan women framed the attacks on Afghanistan as a ‘just war,’ sidetracking the revenge for 9/11 into philanthropic bombing for justice and rights of women. Afghan women were positioned as the voiceless subalterns of the Taliban Islamist order, and magnified voices from across American government, media and civil society called for occupation for liberation.

    When the presence of coalition forces didn’t dissolve the blue burqas or give women economic opportunities and in fact, added to the list of women headed households without means of survival, the world muttered ‘culture’ and got on with the rest of it. Afghan women receded into the background again, to crop up again only now, when the US’s justification of its presence is under strong attack, support for its troop presence in Afghanistan at an all-time low.

    Except that Afghan women did not quite disappear in the middle. The Revolutionary Afghan Women’s Association (RAWA) declared US and its stooges as the main human rights violators in the country, and if there is any ambiguity where RAWA’s loyalties lie, there slogan is, ‘Neither the US nor Jihadis nor Taliban, Long Live the Struggle of Independent and Democratic Forces of Afghanistan’. Founded in 1977, RAWA is the oldest political and social organisation of Afghan women struggling for peace, freedom, democracy, and women’s rights in an Afghanistan, and are as opposed to the Northern Alliance, who the US allies with, as the Taliban. They also question where the $38 billion allocated for Afghanistan since the invasion has gone.

    Nor is it a matter of RAWA versus the rest. As someone who has considerable experience of working with women survivors of violence, I have evaluated women’s shelters in Afghanistan and monitored women’s rights programs for donors. I have seen horrendously scarred women, even grotesque amputations and burns, all of whom acquired their injuries while under the protection of US occupation. While the US cannot be directly held responsible for domestic violence, they patronise provincial governors and officials who allow such practices to continue, adjudicate them in instances, in addition to cluster bombing and aerial attacks on civilians that pass through sanitized semantics to appear as tangential collateral damage. There are no verified counts of Afghan civilian casualties by US assaults, and political analysts have been of the opinion that this is deliberate, while every coalition casualty is well-documented. Countless women approach shelters simply because they have nowhere else to go to, once their male family members and children are wiped out in such attacks.

    The Time magazine cover has started a controversy that has already drawn hundreds of comments. The attention, however, has been not on the tagline but on Aisha’s photograph, whether it was exploitative or shockingly violent or desensitising. How about asking these very questions about the occupation?

    I remember seeing a strange discussion on an American daytime TV talk show, on whether date rape was worse or stranger rape, with women who had experienced either one trying to prove theirs was a more painful experience. Domestic mutilation or international bombing seems to offer Afghan women the same choice.

    While Aisha’s picture conjectures what happens if they leave, in effect, emotional blackmail for supporting the war offensive, another photograph of a woman torn apart by bomb shrapnel, bleeding to death while in her wedding dress could be captioned: “What Happens if They Stay.”

    In the transition from Sharbat Gula’s haunting eyes to Aisha’s ghost nose, the world has had to lower its gaze.
     
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  3. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Afghan Women and the Return of the Taliban Read more

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    The following is an abridged version of an article that appears in the Aug. 9, 2010, print and iPad editions of TIME magazine.
    The Taliban pounded on the door just before midnight, demanding that Aisha, 18, be punished for running away from her husband's house. Her in-laws treated her like a slave, Aisha pleaded. They beat her. If she hadn't run away, she would have died. Her judge, a local Taliban commander, was unmoved. Aisha's brother-in-law held her down while her husband pulled out a knife. First he sliced off her ears. Then he started on her nose.
    (See managing editor Richard Stengel's message to readers about this week's cover.)
    This didn't happen 10 years ago, when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. It happened last year. Now hidden in a secret women's shelter in Kabul, Aisha listens obsessively to the news. Talk that the Afghan government is considering some kind of political accommodation with the Taliban frightens her. "They are the people that did this to me," she says, touching her damaged face. "How can we reconcile with them?"
    (See pictures of Afghan women and the return of the Taliban.)
    In June, Afghan President Hamid Karzai established a peace council tasked with exploring negotiations with the Taliban. A month later, Tom Malinowski from Human Rights Watch met Karzai. During their conversation, Karzai mused on the cost of the conflict in human lives and wondered aloud if he had any right to talk about human rights when so many were dying. "He essentially asked me," says Malinowski, "What is more important, protecting the right of a girl to go to school or saving her life?" How Karzai and his international allies answer that question will have far-reaching consequences, not only for Afghanistan's women, but the country as a whole.
    (Watch TIME's video on photographing Aisha for the cover.)
    As the war in Afghanistan enters its ninth year, the need for an exit strategy weighs on the minds of U.S. policymakers. Such an outcome, it is assumed, would involve reconciliation with the Taliban. But Afghan women fear that in the quest for a quick peace, their progress may be sidelined. "Women's rights must not be the sacrifice by which peace is achieved," says parliamentarian Fawzia Koofi.
    (Comment on this story.)
    Yet that may be where negotiations are heading. The Taliban will be advocating a version of an Afghan state in line with their own conservative views, particularly on the issue of women's rights. Already there is a growing acceptance that some concessions to the Taliban are inevitable if there is to be genuine reconciliation. "You have to be realistic," says a diplomat in Kabul. "We are not going to be sending troops and spending money forever. There will have to be a compromise, and sacrifices will have to be made."
    (Watch TIME's video "Portraits of the Women of Afghanistan.")
    For Afghanistan's women, an early withdrawal of international forces could be disastrous. An Afghan refugee who grew up in Canada, Mozhdah Jamalzadah recently returned home to launch an Oprah-style talk show in which she has been able to subtly introduce questions of women's rights without provoking the ire of religious conservatives. On a recent episode, a male guest told a joke about a foreign human-rights team in Afghanistan. In the cities, the team noticed that women walked six paces behind their husbands. But in rural Helmand, where the Taliban is strongest, they saw a woman six steps ahead. The foreigners rushed to congratulate the husband on his enlightenment — only to be told that he stuck his wife in front because they were walking through a minefield. As the audience roared with laughter, Jamalzadah reflected that it may take about 10 to 15 years before Afghan women can truly walk alongside men. But once they do, she believes, all Afghans will benefit. "When we talk about women's rights," Jamalzadah says, "we are talking about things that are important to men as well — men who want to see Afghanistan move forward. If you sacrifice women to make peace, you are also sacrificing the men who support them and abandoning the country to the fundamentalists that caused all the problems in the first place."


    Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2007238,00.html#ixzz0vjk20a2L
     

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