Sunday, August 29, 2010

U.S. Occupation Increases Violence Against Afghan Women

Time story exposed as lie

U.S. occupation increases violence against Afghan women

By Joyce Chediac
Published Aug 26, 2010 8:44 PM

The Aug. 9 Time magazine featured a shocking cover photo: a portrait of an Afghan woman named Aisha whose nose had been cut off, allegedly by the Taliban, for resisting abusive in-laws. Time used this picture to build support for U.S. troops as a “last line of defense” that will not “abandon” Afghan women against an advancing Taliban.

None of this was true.

The Taliban did not mutilate this woman. She was maimed by other reactionary forces while the U.S. looked the other way. Far from protecting Afghan women, the U.S. occupation has resulted in increased violence against them, while the Pentagon protects a government filled with misogynists.

In a story entitled “Afghan Women Have Already Been Abandoned” (The Nation, Aug. 12), Ann Jones, who knows the woman on Time’s cover, explained: “I heard Aisha’s story from her a few weeks before her face was displayed all over the world. She told me that her father-in-law caught up with her after she had run away, and he took a knife to her on his own; village elders later approved, but the Taliban didn’t figure at all into this account.”

The true story, in a small-circulation progressive publication, will be read by a few. But Time magazine is everywhere and its slick and dramatic cover, which exploits the terrible situation of an unfortunate Afghan woman to justify the U.S. occupation, has already been seen by millions around the world. This blatant lie by one of the most powerful magazines in the world is an example of how the biggest media have taken on the role of mouthpieces for Pentagon policies, abandoning any pretext of objective journalism.

Meanwhile, Aisha’s face was mutilated by reactionary forces during the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, making the U.S. government responsible. In fact, “as U.S. troops remain in the country and have dominated it for the past 10 years, violence against women in Afghanistan has been increasing — not decreasing,” according to the Afghan women’s organization RAWA.

U.S.-backed Karzai government filled with misogynists

The U.S. government has created a frenzy against Taliban mistreatment of women for its own reasons. Pentagon press releases do not point out, however, that the Karzai government, placed in office by U.S. tanks and maintained there by U.S. troops, is mostly made up of reactionary feudal forces with the same views toward women as the Taliban.

Feudal misogynists control Parliament, the cabinet and the courts, according to Jones. Even Time admits that “Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, the minister of economy and leader of the ideologically conservative Hizb-i-Islami faction ... believes that women should not be allowed to leave the home unaccompanied by a male relative.” (Time, Aug. 9)

Some gains for women in Kabul had been reported since 2001, as opposed to women in the countryside, who face the dislocation, death, hunger, hardship and lack of social accountability caused by the U.S. bombings. But today even women in Kabul face a severe backlash.

Prominent women assassinated, threatened

According to Jones, “a series of assassinations of prominent women, beginning in 2005, have driven many women from work and public life. Women working in women’s organizations in Kabul regularly receive threatening letters and, recently, high-tech videos on their mobile phones showing women being raped.”

A bill was passed by Parliament last year authorizing husbands in Shiite families to withhold money and food from wives who refuse to provide sex. The bill limited inheritance and custody of children to women in case of divorce, and denied women freedom of movement without the permission of the families. This Shiite Personal Status Law was supported by President Karzai, who was put in office and has been kept there by U.S. troops.

In this atmosphere, many women parliamentarians fear bringing up issues like women’s rights for fear of retaliation, according to the U.N. Assistance Mission.

The anti-woman bill passed even though 25 percent of Parliament’s seats are reserved for women. How could this happen? M.P. Sabrina Saqib, who voted against the bill, “estimated that less than a dozen of the 68 female parliamentarians support women’s rights. The rest — proxies for conservative men who boost them into power — aren’t interested.” So some apparent gains for women in Afghanistan that the U.S. took credit for, like reserving a quarter of the legislative seats for women, were not real but done with smoke and mirrors.

The best way for the U.S. to “help” the women of Afghanistan is to get out of that country and the entire region, cease all overt and covert activity, stop interfering in the affairs of the Afghan people, and leave the women and men there to determine their own lives.

Next: Exposing the colonialist assumption that Western culture is superior regarding women. How the U.S. government ignores the epidemic of violence against women in the U.S.
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