Author’s Note: Twenty years ago the US and UK exploited the cause of women and girls in Afghanistan and the rest of the Muslim world to justify their invasion, occupation and others. forms of intervention in Muslim nations. Their leaders enlisted their wives, Laura Bush and Cherie Blair, in the propaganda war to “lift the veil” on the Taliban, long after the group retreated under fire.
In the following years, more women entered the workforce and more girls went to school, but Afghans continued to suffer from widespread poverty, worsening illiteracy and patriarchy. through violence, repression and war, primarily hurting women. Afghanistan has become the “forgotten war” and the cause of its women has been forgotten until recently, when the Trump administration essentially handed Afghanistan over to the Taliban and the Biden administration pulled US forces out of the country. in a rather humiliating way.
Suddenly, the cause of Afghan women returns to the front page for fear that the little that has been accomplished is reversible. As I wrote in the 2010 article below, despite the best intentions of many, the Western military crusades in the Muslim world do not solve social and political problems; they compose them.
Editor’s Note: The article below was first published on the Al Jazeera website on August 5, 2010, under the title Western wars vs Muslim women.
Western media are teeming with reports of Taliban abuse of women in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which present countless voices for war to secure a “better future for women’s rights.” This week’s Time magazine cover is a case in point.
If the Western wars “liberated” Eastern women, Muslim women would be – after centuries of Western military intervention – the most “liberated” in the world. They are not and will not be, especially when freedom is combined with Western hegemony.
Afghanistan has had its share of British, Russian and American military interventions to no avail. In fact, reports from credible women’s groups point to a worsening of conditions for Afghan women since the US invasion ten years ago.
Taliban social norms can be an affront to modern values, but they cannot be summarily replaced by Western values, let alone by force.
If, as General Petreaus insists, American soldiers must “live” with the Afghans in order to defeat “the insurgency”, expect more hostility towards the foreign invaders and their values.
The burden of the white man
The same Orientalist civilizing logic that has been used for centuries to justify bloody colonial wars is used today to manipulate a war-hostile public into supporting military escalation in Central Asia.
Western man’s long-held fantasy of “saving” veiled women from their repressive captors is exploited to promote the idea that war can free women from the wrath of “bearded terrorists” while “freeing them”. America âof their terrorism.
In light of such a dose of excess morality, it was particularly embarrassing to American leaders that their allies were making amends with the same rejected illiberal groups and practices.
Last year, the Obama administration publicly rebuked Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari for recognizing Sharia law in the small Swat Valley as an “abdication” to the Taliban and berated Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan, for having signed a law that would allow rape in marriage. among the country’s Shiite minority. Never mind that until recently marital rape was legal in the UK and US, where it is still not treated as ordinary rape in a number of states.
Those seeking military solutions to social problems fail to distinguish between Islam and the Taliban or between the cultural and religious aspects of life in Central Asia. Moreover, they do not explain why or how women’s rights can be achieved by military means.
After all, the vast majority of Pakistanis and Afghans have already voted against the Taliban – and in Pakistan’s case, for a secular party led by a Westernized woman, the late Benazir Bhutto, who was allegedly assassinated by the Taliban. Indeed, the founders of Pakistan were no less secular than many of their Western counterparts.
The past few months have shown that the Pakistani government is capable of confronting the Taliban if necessary. And when Pakistani television showed the public flogging of a 17-year-old girl, it sparked widespread outrage among more than 170 million Pakistanis.
For decades Pakistanis and Afghans fell victim to the Taliban, Mujahedin, and medieval-style warlords who were supported and armed by the United States through Pakistani and Saudi intelligence.
In fact, for much of the 20th century, Western-led or supported military interventions in the greater Middle East have, intentionally or unintentionally, primarily targeted secular national regimes in the region – from Musaddeq in Iran to Nasser in Egypt through Hussein in Iraq, not to mention Najibullah installed by the Soviets in Afghanistan.
The burden of the white woman
The irony escapes conservative British politician Cyril Townsend, who wrote in the pan-Arab Saudi newspaper Al-Hayat – under the headline Women’s Rights in Afghanistan – that British female soldiers are fighting for women’s rights there to be realized.
No explanation has been provided as to why, 18 years after the deployment of half a million American and British troops to liberate Kuwait and defend their ally Saudi Arabia, Saudi women still cannot vote or drive.
Similar cheers were voiced in 2001 by Laura Bush and Cherie Blair for the “war to liberate the women of Afghanistan” when in reality they were promoting their men’s war, not the rights of the people. women.
Time magazine joined the war choir this week with a plea to remember the plight of Afghan women. Richard Stengel, editor of the magazine, wrote that he did not publish this story or show this image “neither to support the American war effort, nor to oppose it.” Maybe, but the cover helps justify the war on humanitarian “civilizing” grounds instead of criticizing it for those same reasons.
A century after the English poet Rudyard Kipling first invoked the “White Man’s Burden” to explain the US invasion and occupation of the Philippines, Washington and London continue to justify their military interventions and their occupation, on many of the same lies debunked.
It is scandalous that after the “White Man’s Burden” sham has been exposed with the blood of millions of people, more of the same violence is justified under the pretext of “White Man’s Burden”. and woman â.
This is especially the case when many advocate the bombardment of other cultures to achieve social parity or cultural affinity with the West. Such dangerous eschatology that hopes to build on destruction will eventually destroy entire Muslim societies for the masquerade of achieving women’s freedom as the West imagines.
Victims of ultimate abuse of power, wars
As the first victims of abuse of power, Western women are uniquely placed to reject the most patriarchal and destructive of all abuses of power: wars.
As for Muslim women, there is no place in this war for what they represent, their hopes or their aspirations. Their voices are gradually muffled by the deafening noise of bombs and explosions.
Oriental women were the first civilian casualties of wars. How many grieving widows, mothers, sisters and daughters will it take to reject choice wars and expose their so-called civilizing mission? After decades of war, Iraq and Afghanistan are now widowed nations – five million and more, according to some reports.
Remember that the abuse of women does not stop at any cultural or geographic border. Ironically, in the United States, violence against women in veteran families is three to five times higher than in average families. It is literally the “white woman’s burden”.
Many women join the military to achieve equality with men, and more of them have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan than ever before. But I agree with those who seek to completely undo a man-made world of warfare.
In any case, men do not wage war to save women. On the contrary, according to war historian Martin Van Creveld, men go to war to flee their wives and families in search of ecstasy. That’s not exactly a woman’s cause now, is it?