By Joyce Chediac
Published Aug 13, 2010 10:11 AM
It is shocking and disturbing. Time magazine’s cover has a picture of a young Afghan woman whose nose has been cut off. The headline reads, “What happens if we leave Afghanistan.” (Aug. 9)
Time’s story claims the Taliban ordered 18-year-old Aisha’s nose and ears cut off because she left her husband and fled abusive in-laws. She is now living in a Kabul women’s shelter run by an American nongovernmental organization, and will come to the U.S. for reconstructive surgery
Surely, this cruel and abusive treatment of women must not be permitted anywhere. Time’s implication, however, that the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is the only barrier preventing further horrendous treatment of Afghan women is a lie. The article is manipulating the feelings of well-meaning people, while exploiting Aisha’s plight, in order to further Washington’s genocidal war, which has hurt Afghan women the most.
Time’s goal? Answering WikiLeaks
The recent WikiLeaks publications showed “How coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents. ... How a secret ‘black’ unit of special forces [death squads] hunts down Taliban leaders for ‘kill or capture’ without trial. ... How the coalition is increasingly using deadly Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets by remote control from a base in Nevada,” and how there has been a steep rise in Taliban bomb attacks on NATO troops. (The Guardian, July 25)
A separate editorial in the Aug. 9 issue of Time entitled “What’s hard to look at” admits that its cover picture and story are meant to counter the WikiLeaks publication. The magazine pitches its cover story as “emotional truth” and “something you cannot find in those 91,000 documents” of the leaked information.
Priyamvada Gopal, professor of English at Cambridge University who specializes in women and postcolonial theory, more accurately described the strategy behind what Time is doing. The WikiLeaks documents, she writes, “reveal CIA advice to use the plight of Afghan women as ‘pressure points,’ an emotive way to rally flagging public support for the war.” (The Guardian, Aug. 3)
Time has dropped all semblance of objective reporting. The magazine has taken the CIA’s “advice” and exploited Aisha’s plight to build war support. Truthfully, the more than 30 years of war in Afghanistan that Washington fueled and abetted has locked many rural Afghan women into the worst of both worlds: a medieval social structure and the destruction and dislocation of imperialist war.
Afghan women’s advocate Suraya Pakzad recently described the desperate situation for women in her country and its cause. “Three decades of war, displacement, warlordism, gun trafficking and narcotics trafficking,” she said, “come together and create a really hard situation for women. When there’s no security and continuation of war, there’s no guarantee for women’s rights.” (Politics Daily, March 10)
CIA’s war erased women’s gains
The U.S. press gets nostalgic about the freedom women in Kabul enjoyed before the Taliban. They fail to mention that the only government that brought significant gains to Afghan women took power in 1978 and sought to build socialism in Afghanistan.
Working under difficult conditions in one of the poorest countries in the world, the women and men in this government achieved the following: Feudal laws restricting women were abolished, and women became professors, attorneys, judges and government ministers. Seventy percent of the teachers, 50 percent of the government workers and 40 percent of the doctors were women. This government also sought ways to reach out to rural Afghanistan to develop it socially and economically.
Washington opposed this government from day one and courted the same rural feudal elements who found women’s new authority unacceptable. For its own ends, the U.S. exploited these feudalists’ misogyny as much as their anti-communism. The rural rulers who saw women as property would have been swept into the dustbin of history had U.S. imperialism not given them a new life and more than $3 billion in weapons.
The warlords overthrew that progressive government in 1992, after 13 years of vicious war financed by the U.S. and organized by the CIA. Soviet intervention to aid the progressive government was also thwarted. Even the New York Times admits, “The mujahedeen leaders who forced out the Soviets in the late 1980s were as conservative as the Taliban in many places, keeping women at home in order to preserve family honor instead of educating them or integrating them into the government.” (July 30)
U.S. empowered anti-women groups
The U.S. government was not promoting Afghan women’s rights when it installed the Northern Alliance, which ruled Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996. This clique was seen as “a symbol of massacre, systematic rape and pillage.”(The Independent, Nov. 14, 2001).
The Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 1996, but the U.S. raised no objections for five years. When the Bush administration invaded the country in 2001 and defeated the Taliban, it installed in its place the misogynist Northern Alliance. The current Kabul government still contains many members of this group, which are as reactionary on women’s rights as the Taliban.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government has played it both ways. Beginning in 1979, Washington used the gains made by women under the progressive Afghan government to provoke reactionary forces into action against that government. Today, for U.S. domestic consumption, Washington claims it is “rescuing” Afghan women from the very same reactionary forces it armed and empowered.
An imperialist occupying army can never improve women’s conditions in a country it occupies. The best thing for the women of Afghanistan is for the U.S. to leave completely and unconditionally and cease all covert and overt interference in this tortured nation. Only then will Afghan women and men have the chance to build a safe and stable environment where they can make their needs known and have them met.
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