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Time Magazine uses Afghan women

July 31, 2010

You may remember in 2001, when the US first began its invasion/occupation of Afghanistan, the Bush administration was arguing that one of the reasons for this invasion was to liberate Afghani women. Laura Bush herself took this position and publicly became the face of the administration’s claim to be concerned about the plight of the women in Afghanistan.

Some media pundits and political sectors continue to use this argument to justify the US occupation, even the escalation of US troops by the Obama administration. One recent example of this justification and moral pontification is the most recent issue of Time Magazine.

Time uses the photo of an 18 year-old Afghani women who had her nose cut off by the Taliban. The headline for the cover story reads, “What happens if we leave Afghanistan?” The article reads in part like a White House position paper where the well being of women is held up as a reason to question the nearly 9 year occupation.

However, there are several things that the Time Magazine cover story fails to address. First, it is important that the Taliban are an outgrowth of the ultra-right group of Muslim men knows as the Mujahideen. The Mujahideen were financially backed by the US with the goal of overthrowing the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, but the Mujahideen also wanted to impose its own ideology on the people of Afghanistan, particularly women.

Before the Mujahideen took power, women enjoyed a great deal of equality in Afghanistan, as is well documented in the book by Afghani writer Sonali Kolhatkar, Bleeding Afghanistan. Kolhatkar is also the co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, an organization that has been calling for the end of the US occupation.

Second, Afghani women have suffered from 3 decades of war, violence and occupation. The Time article frames the issue of female suffering primarily at the hands of the Taliban, when in fact women in Afghanistan were viciously targeted by the Mujahideen, various warlords and under the current Karzai administration. The Karzai administration, you will recall, last March passed a law, which essentially legalizes rape in Afghanistan. Such an extreme law was never passed while the Taliban were in power.

Third, the headline of the cover story, “What happens if we leave Afghanistan,” reflects an imperialist mind set by the editorial staff at Time Magazine. It suggests that Afghanistan will be worse off if the 9-year occupation ends. This ignores any historical context – the US-backed counter-insurgency war of the 1980s, the role of the US in back specifics warlords in the early 1990s, the US support of the Taliban in its first years of rule and the tremendous human cost to Afghanis of the current occupation.

A more honest cover-story headline would read, “What has the 9 year occupation meant for Afghanis?” Unfortunately, this is not the kind of reporting we are likely to see from the corporate media in the US, as is evidenced by the coverage of the recently released US documents regarding Afghanistan by Wikileaks. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has noted that the mainstream news response by Wikileaks has been to either downplay the seriousness of those documents or to further justify the current US military escalation in Afghanistan.

The 18 year-old woman on the front cover of Time Magazine may have indeed suffered at the hands of the Taliban, a political movement which has a horrendous record of violence towards women. However, the picture and the story are misleading at best and could easily be classified as propaganda, since it not only distorts the historical record, it also can be used by the Obama administration as further justification for the US occupation of Afghanistan.

The Time article also ignores other Afghan women’s voices, many of which have condemned the US occupation. Listen to what Afghani women have to say in this portion of the documentary Rethink Afghanistan.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Bob Vance permalink
    July 31, 2010 9:48 pm

    You notice they never seem to get around to showing us similarly explicit photos of the people killed from drone attacks, midnight raids that mutilate whole families and someone in the immediate aftermath of US facilitated torture… and then there are the warlords we are paying to stay on our side who routinely take pre-adolescent boys as sex toys.

  2. Jeff Smith permalink
    July 31, 2010 9:55 pm

    Thanks Bob for the feedback. I couldn’t agree more with your comments. I am so sick of our government and news media claiming to give a shit about Afghani women.

  3. August 2, 2010 5:01 pm


    Your post provides a lot of context around the issues facing women in Afghanistan. Since you mentioned that TIME failed to address a number of these points, you might be interested in TIME editor Rick Stengel and columnist Joe Klein’s interview with Charlie Rose on Bloomberg Television tonight at 8P/10P ET. Perhaps they’ll address some of those issues during the interview? If you’d like a preview, there is a short clip of tonight’s episode posted on Facebook at:

    All the best,

    Community Manager
    Bloomberg Television

  4. September 28, 2010 8:57 am

    I was searching about this issue everywhere,I was really curious about this…Really big thanks.I will always looking for your new articles.Farewell, Richard


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