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The Western media claptrap on Afghan women’s alleged oppression

According to Asma Aftab, an Assistant Professor at Government College University Faisalabad, the hasty withdrawal of the US and its Western allies from Afghanistan finally laid to rest a 20-year-old war that has ended in failure, Western media have started to malign the Taliban using the narrative of alleged oppression faced by women.

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So finally, the Taliban took over almost the whole of Afghanistan by hoisting their flag on Panjsher – the last notable site of resistance that the Taliban troops faced from the Northern Alliance. Surprising it has been for many international experts of global politics and geostrategic affairs; the most interesting signs of shock and indignation can be seen on mainstream western media where this astounding victory of the Taliban is almost hard to stomach.

Since the Taliban’s control of Afghan capital Kabul at the end of last month and the dramatic escape of former president Ashraf Ghani, the international media is contemplating over the ‘future of Afghanistan’, imagining the bizarre tales of ‘life under Taliban’, especially the women and religious minorities.

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Why media is sensationalizing this particular segment?

From Amanpour to Gorani, all popular media anchors are musing about the bans and barriers that the new Taliban regime will impose on women’s education, employment, freedom and mobility by simultaneously flashing images of vibrant Afghan women raising slogans for their rights likely to be engulfed by the regressive Taliban.

Most conspicuous was the image of an Afghan university where the girl students are segregated from the male students, filling and fueling the anxious eyes and tongues of these media pundits expressing skepticism about the promises of the Taliban. The irony is doubled when one recalls how the same media channels were least concerned about the present and future of Afghan mothers (women and men too) when The US was dropping what New York Times named as the “mother of all bombs” – the Daisy Cutter – on Afghanistan with the pretext of bombing the militants’ hideouts in the mountains.

The double standards, rather no standards of western democracy are unmasked when we see the international media showing no concern about the plight of poor Afghans facing the wreck and ravage of war and foreign invasion which in the last two decades found a comfortable euphemism of liberation, progress and civilizing mission performed by US and NATO forces.

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Western media biased perception about the Taliban

However, when the Taliban who are in fact neither foreigners nor aliens, took control of the land, the international media is creating an impression as if Afghanistan has been taken over by a pack of aliens governed by their wanton and wild instincts. That this perception of mainstream Western media about Taliban as a minority extremist Jihadits tends to mask the reality that they are none other than the representatives of the Afghan Pashtoons who are the majority ethnic group comprising 80% of the entire population.

This can be validated by seeing a surprisingly smooth and quick transition of power that the  Taliban managed to attain and maintain over almost entire Afghanistan without any major resistance or considerable fight. This further supports the fact that the Taliban, far from being unwanted outliers or invaders, are in fact Afghans who have taken their country back from foreign invaders aided and abetted by the puppet rulers like Ghani. The current scenario in the country makes it a little doubt that given a Western-style democracy, it is the Taliban who would form the majority Government based on the number game.

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Analyzing the flawed perception

However, the enduring belief to respect the free will and choice of Afghan people to decide their destiny and steer their country towards democracy seems to be in jeopardy when we see the mainstream western media seeing things from their own flawed perspectives. This is most evident when it comes to their sheer disregard and disrespect for the cultural and religious values of Afghan people or Afghan women, in particular, doubly bound with the religious and tribal norms of gender segregation which are viewed by the western gaze is essentially discriminatory and oppressive.

Hence to see the face of a model on a billboard blackened or the removal of a red heart from a signboard in Kabul Airport are considered an offensive cessation of women’s rights rendering Afghanistan bereft of love and life.

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One wonders what would qualify the misplaced anxiety touching to an almost paranoid in the current media coverage of Afghanistan which hardly focuses on the real problems of Afghan people with their genuine and just demand for peace, political autonomy and democracy long denied to them by the superpowers of the world, primarily the USA.

The writer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Government College University Faisalabad. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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