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Southern California

International Review
Volume 8, Number 1 • Spring 2018
Southern California International Review
scir.org

Staff
Editor-in-Chief:
Katie McDowell

Editors:
SarahBelle Selig
Anna Lipscomb
Nicholas Tinoco
Abhiram Reddy

The Southern California International Review (SCIR) is a bi-annual print
and online journal of interdisciplinary scholarship in the field of interna-
tional studies generously funded by the School of International Relations
at the University of Southern California (USC). In particular, SCIR would
like to thank the Robert L. Friedheim Fund and the USC SIR Alumni Fund.
Founded in 2011, the journal seeks to foster and enhance discussion between
theoretical and policy-oriented research regarding significant global issues.
SCIR is managed completely by students and also provides undergraduates
with valuable experience in the fields of editing and graphic design.

Copyright © 2018 Southern California International Review.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any
form without the express written consent of the Southern California International
Review.

Views expressed in this journal are solely those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily
represent those of the editorial board, faculty advisors, or the University of Southern California.

ISSN: 1545-2611
With the rise of nonstate actors and extremism challenging the interna-
tional framework, this edition of the Southern California International
Review is dedicated to the disruptive forces to the global order that can be
utilized for the greater good.
Contents

1. African Agency 10
How Ethiopia Leveraged Chinese Infrastructural Investments
Cathy Dao

2. Does the ICC Have A Place on the African Continent? 30
A Discussion on the Legitimacy of the International Criminal Court
Inge Odendaal

3. The Implications of Domestic Terrorism 42
Reframing Uyghur Separatism in Xinjiang, China in a Post-9/11 Context
Kim Byrne

4. The Populist Challenge 58
Can the International System Survive Religious and Eurosceptic Populism?
Sofia Kavlin

5. The Western Media Representation of Afghan Women 70
A Multimodal Analysis of British Newspapers from 2001-2002
Rahellah Haidari
Editor’s Note:

Dear Reader,

It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you the fifteenth edition of the Southern California
International Review (SCIR). This semester’s issue continues our mission of providing a
platform for undergraduate scholars of international affairs to deliver their work to a larger,
global audience.

We were incredibly fortunate to have dozens of submissions for this issue. Our editors spent
staunch hours examining undergraduate research from all across the country and throughout
the world. Of the many impressive submissions, the following five were outstanding for their
original ideas and fresh perspectives on globalization topics. As you read this journal, you
will understand why.

In the creation of this issue, the SCIR is extremely appreciative of the support of the University
of Southern California’s School of International Relations. Director Wayne Sandholtz,
Associate Director Linda Cole, and the rest of the faculty and staff give us the guidance we
need to steadily grow. I also extend our thanks to Ms. Robin Friedheim for her generous
scholarship that provides the foundation upon which our endeavor thrives.

With rapidly changing political landscapes across the globe this year, international relations
theory must transform to address modern disruptive forces to the conventional international
order. This theme resonates with our five selected articles, where the authors examine the
ways in which terrorism, populism, and other forms of highly polarized political discourse
challenge the existing global framework. Two of our articles contribute to the literature
on the modern African continent, with one challenging the integrity of the ICC in an
African context and the other investigating Chinese investment in Ethiopia’s infrastructure.
Other articles delve into the nuances of modern extremism, from the oppression of China’s
Uyghur separatist group to the differences between European and Middle Eastern populist
movements to the perception of Afghan women post-9/11.

I would like to thank you, the reader, since without you, we are nothing. Remember, the
content of this journal is just one part of a much larger dialogue.

Please read, ponder, explore and enjoy.

Warm regards,
Katie McDowell
Editor-in-Chief
African Agency:
How Ethiopia Leveraged Chinese Infrastructural Investments
Cathy Dao

As the second highest recipient of Chinese loans in Africa between 2000 and 2015, Ethiopia’s
impressive economic growth reflects a dual narrative in the conversation on global devel-
opment: “Africa Rising” and “China Rising.” This paper will address three questions. First,
have Chinese state-led infrastructural investments in Ethiopia’s critical sectors benefited
Ethiopia in economic and geopolitical terms? Next, to what extent can Ethiopia’s economic
performance be attributed to the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front
(EPRDF) and Ethiopian firms? Finally, is this approach of attracting foreign infrastructural
investments economically sustainable for Ethiopia and what actions can be taken to improve
sustainability? This research examines Ethiopian and Chinese rhetoric on these topics, fol-
lowed by a discussion of the economic sustainability of four highest-value completed projects
in Ethiopia’s transportation, energy, and telecommunications sectors funded by the Export-
Import Bank of China, in terms of skill-technology transfer and debt repayment. Results sup-
port the argument that Ethiopia’s national policy and regulation leveraged Chinese state-led
investments to the former’s economic and geopolitical advantage. First, the EPRDF used op-
portune timing in domestic and international affairs to pivot to China. Second, the Ethiopian
government channeled Chinese state-led investments to infrastructure projects in sectors with
multiplicative effects, as laid out by the Growth and Transformation Plan. Third, Ethiopia
harnessed Chinese investments to establish its credibility as an attractive financing environ-
ment and solicited interest from new and old partners. Engaging with Chinese investments
helped Ethiopia improve its development approach and ensure economic independence long-
term. While it remains to be seen whether Ethiopia can address the limitations and pitfalls of
these investments, Ethiopia’s case study highlights the role of African agency in determining
the effects of foreign investments on national development.

1. Introduction
At a time when economies across the African continent are lagging in growth
rates, Ethiopia has stood out as the exception. From 2006 to 2016, compared to a regional
average of 5.4%, Ethiopia grew at an annual average rate of 10.5%.1 Ethiopia’s growth is
not built on the back of natural resources, but rather the increasing importance of Chinese
public investments. Unlike neighboring Kenya or Sudan, Ethiopia does not boast reserves
of minerals such as iron and oil that naturally attract foreign investment. Yet, it was the
1  World Bank, “The World Bank in Ethiopia – Overview,” 2017.

Cathy Dao is a freshman at Stanford University pursuing a major in International
Relations and a minor in East Asian Studies with a China focus.
11 Cathy Dao

second highest loan recipient from China from 2000 to 2015, after oil-rich Angola. For
comparison, the country has received nearly the same amount of loans as the combined
total of Kenya and Sudan, the third and fourth highest recipients.2 In the span of those
fifteen years, Ethiopia has received financing from the Chinese government, banks, and
contractors for dams, roads, rail, and manufacturing plants totaling more than $13 bil-
lion.3 Thus, Ethiopia’s example reflects a dual narrative in global development discourse,
namely the concepts of “Africa Rising” and “China Rising.”
Chinese funding and support for infrastructure has assisted African economic
development; yet, what often unnoticed is the potential influence that African govern-
ments can wield in translating foreign finance into substantial socioeconomic improve-
ment.4 Ethiopia’s leaders have capitalized on China’s interest in Ethiopia and “squeeze
as much economic benefit [for Ethiopia] out of it as possible.”5 Though not without its
shortcomings, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)’s proac-
tive approach in leveraging Chinese investments to meet national benchmarks such as
infrastructure development in transportation, energy, and telecommunications laid out
in the Growth and Transformation Plan provides a development framework for fellow
African countries.
This paper argues that, while the competitive economic and geopolitical advan-
tages brought by Chinese government investments came at an opportune time, it was
ultimately Ethiopia’s deliberate national policy and regulation that channeled those invest-
ments into meaningful economic and geopolitical results. First, the Ethiopian government
leveraged timing and made the pivot to China. Second, the Ethiopian government acted
upon a clear political will to meet identified targets for developing the national economy
by channeling the Chinese state’s investments to infrastructure projects in critical eco-
nomic sectors. Third, in harnessing Chinese investments, Ethiopia further established its
credibility as an attractive environment for foreign funding and solicited interest from
new and old partners. This has enabled Ethiopia to improve its development approach,
while maintaining independent long-term capacities.
This essay will first explore how the Ethiopian government capitalized on a factor
of timing in both external and internal developments to attract funding from the Chi-
nese state. External factors include the withdrawal of a majority of conventional Western
investors in the 2000’s, the rise of China, and its increased presence in Ethiopia and other

2  Lucas Atkins et. al. “Challenges and opportunities from the commodity price slump,” China Africa Research Initiative,
Economic Bulletin, no. 1 (2017).
3  Ibid.
4  David Dollar, “China’s Engagement with Africa: From Natural Resources to Human Resources,” Brookings Institute,
Report (2016).
5  Seifudein Adem, “China in Ethiopia: Diplomacy and Economics of Sino-Optimism,” African Studies Review 55, no. 1
(2012).

Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
African Agency 12

African economies. Internal factors include the EPRDF and other commitments by elite
firms to help Ethiopia improve socioeconomic standards and quell domestic tensions. The
convergence of timing and political will, manifested in rhetoric and policy, helped Ethio-
pia gain Chinese funding through various avenues, including trade flows, loans, and credit
lines. Furthermore, the essay will discuss the EPRDF’s Growth and Transformation Plan,
and how the government used Chinese investments to fund infrastructure that would help
Ethiopia achieve national targets of substantial economic growth, poverty reduction, and
industrialization. Specifically, this essay will evaluate the economic impact and sustain-
ability of operational infrastructure projects funded by the Export-Import Bank of China
(EXIM) in the transportation, electricity, and telecommunication sector. This paper will
also discuss the potential shortcomings of the Chinese state-funded investments in Ethio-
pia, including concerns of skill, knowledge, and technology transfer and debt sustain-
ability. Lastly, this essay explores how Ethiopia has used Chinese presence in the country
to diversify its funding sources and build up independent long-term economic capacities.
It will also highlight instances where a lack of structural reforms in the EPRDF’s national
policy and regulation has inhibited returns on Chinese investments for Ethiopia’s econo-
my and society.

2. Timing & Political Will: Ethiopia's Pivot to China
As Western foreign investments in Ethiopia dwindled in the 2000’s, hastened by
the contested 2005 Ethiopian elections and the 2008 global financial crisis, the EPRDF
swiftly took advantage of the Chinese state’s development approach, an alternative source
of funding with a policy of “non-interference.” Christine Hackenesch, a political scien-
tist specializing in Sub-Saharan Africa political regimes and EU-China-Africa relations,
points to how the increase of Chinese engagement in Africa, and in Ethiopia specifically,
coincided with the post-2005 political crisis. During that period, traditional donors such
as the European Union threatened to withhold assistance to Ethiopia, due to allegations
of a manipulated election favoring the incumbent EPRDF.6 The departure of Western
commercial banks from Ethiopia was hastened by the Great Recession, which scaled down
lending. In their absence, the Chinese government extended offers to invest in Ethiopia.
David Dollar, a Senior Fellow in the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings
Institution, explains that Chinese development assistance is not determined by a host
country’s form of governance.7 Thus, China’s opportune arrival “contributed to easing

6  Christine Hackenesch, “Aid Donor Meets Strategic Partner? The European Union’s and China’s Relations with Ethiopia,”
Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 42, no. 1 (2013).
7  Dollar, “China’s Engagement with Africa: From Natural Resources to Human Resources.”

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13 Cathy Dao

pressure built up on the government.”8
The aforementioned events incentivized the Ethiopian government to diversify
funding sources. EPRDF envisaged the benefits of China’s policy of “non-interference,”
while ensuring Ethiopia could shape its own national policy space. In practice, China’s
non-interference policy gave Ethiopia relative flexibility to follow its own development
strategies for Chinese state-funded projects, although it remained beholden to Chinese
companies for the implementation of those projects.9 A 2009 statement from the presi-
dent of China’s EXIM Bank, Li Ruogu, elucidates this sentiment: “Roads and radios are
more urgent needs for Africans than human rights and freedom.”10 One worried Ethiopian
expressed on a blocked news site: “China, not having herself a shred of moral authority
in matters of human and civil rights, will never dare criticize nor much less discourage
the repressive and abusive tendencies of her trading partners.”11 Hence, the EPRDF chose
to highlight China’s non-interference stance for foreign policy, effectively adding to the
portrayal of Ethiopia as a beneficial partner for China. The former Ethiopian Prime Minis-
ter, Hailemariam Desalegn, emphasized that the mutual win-win cooperation rested on
mutual respect and non-interference in domestic politics.12 Faced with dwindling fund-
ing from historical investors, mainly from intergovernmental institutions and Western
countries, the EPRDF seized the opportunity to gain alternative sources from China to
fuel economic growth.
This relationship is promising for Chinese national interests. Ethiopia’s large
population presents a promising market and its location provides China access to the rest
of Africa and a secure channel for Chinese trade via the Red Sea.13 From an economic
and geopolitical perspective, Ethiopia is also a developmental “success story” that China
can tout to legitimize its involvement in other developing countries.14 The EPDRF lever-
aged China’s commercial and strategic interests in Ethiopia to re-establish state-to-state
exchanges in the 2000’s. The EPRDF leadership hoped to capitalize on China’s industrial-
ization framework through the exchange of knowledge and expertise in order to facili-
tate Ethiopia’s transition to a middle-income, industrialized society by mid-2020s. The

8  Hackenesch, "Aid Donor Meets Strategic Partner?"
9  Ibid.
10  Adem, “China in Ethiopia: Diplomacy and Economics of Sino-Optimism”
11  Admassu Feleke, “Ethiopia: ‘Beware of the Chinese bearing gifts,’” Nazret, June 12, 2017.
12  Tao Ni, “Ethiopian Prime Minister: ‘China has made a significant contribution to the development of Africa,’” People’s
Daily, November 29, 2015.
13  Jonathan Kaiman, “China says it built a railway in Africa out of altruism, but it’s more strategic than that,” Los Angeles
Times, August 4, 2017; Nectar Gan, “Why China-built Ethiopian railway matters to Beijing and Africa,” South China Morning
Post, January 11, 2017.
14  Fantu Cheru, “Emerging Southern powers and new forms of South-South cooperation: Ethiopia’s strategic engagement
with China and India,” Third World Quarterly 37, no. 4 (2016); Xinhua, “Ethiopia-Djibouti railway sets new model for China-
Africa cooperation,” China Daily, October 5, 2016.

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African Agency 14

government demonstrates its foresighted understanding and leveraging of China’s rise in a
foreign policy published in 2002:

“China is newcomer to the world of foreign investment, so one cannot speak of results
in this area. We should give special attention to the strengthening of relations with China.
We need to fully utilize Chinese development experience as well as training and technical
assistance possibilities. We need to secure greater financial assistance if possible and, fail-
ing that, to improve the efficiency of what is made available. Recently, China has stepped
into the area of foreign investment, and we have to do all we can to take this fresh opportu-
nity to promote investment and trade. This, among other things, will require us to cooper-
ate closely with the Chinese government. We need also to make a major effort to work with
the Chinese government and companies to secure a market for our products in that country.”
(Abdulkhalef, 2015)

Another critical internal factor that contributed to the Ethiopian government’s
ability to attract and utilize China’s foreign development assistance stems from the politi-
cal will of elites, manifested in beliefs in national sovereignty and regime legitimacy.
Fantu Cheru, an Ethiopian professor at the School of International Service in Washington
D.C., attributes Ethiopia’s pragmatic “economic diplomacy” to “the desire of the libera-
tion movements that formed [the EPRDF] to fundamentally transform all aspects of
Ethiopian society and to break out of poverty.”15 In the leadership’s eyes, poverty was a
“national shame” and a handicap that hurt the country’s pursuit of independent foreign
and development policies.16 The elites’ political will is heightened by current threats to
regime stability. John Aglionby, a senior reporter at the Financial Times, highlights how
economic growth is a tool for the EPRDF to ease domestic pressures: “Ethiopia’s authori-
tarian government is making a China-style bet on its own survival.”17 In 2016, it saw a
wave of violent protests across major parts of the country and went into a declared state
of emergency. These developments were compounded by food shortages and diminished
agricultural yields due to weather changes. In hopes of quelling public discontent over
“suppression of democratic rights and crony capitalism,” the government was forced to
deliver on economic promises.18 The CEO of the Ethiopian Railways Corporation, Dr.
Getachew Betru, noted in an interview a “big shift from pan-Africanism and anti-colonial
thinking towards developmental thinking, towards infrastructure building.”19 In sum, the
15  Cheru, “Emerging Southern powers and new forms of South-South cooperation: Ethiopia’s strategic engagement with
China and India.”
16  Ibid.
17  John Aglionby, “Ethiopia bids to become the last development frontier,” Financial Times, July 3, 2017.
18  Aglionby, “Ethiopia bids to become the last development frontier.”
19  The Worldfolio, “Game-changing railway hallmarks the ‘African Renaissance,’” The Worldfolio, 2015.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
15 Cathy Dao

political will of the EPRDF and other elites highlight how African agency, in conjunction
with China’s rise, was crucial in propelling Ethiopia to use China’s development assistance
for economic and political advantages.
The internal and external factors presented above resulted in Ethiopia’s engage-
ment in “commercial diplomacy” with China, the equivalent of rhetorical courtship that
led to increased Chinese state and private involvement in Ethiopia. Xinhua, the official
news press agency of the People’s Republic of China, reported on budding relations
between the EPRDF and CPC. Ethiopian’s former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi stated in
2008, “The cooperation with China is of vital importance to push forward Ethiopia’s devel-
opment and the Ethiopian government highly values it.”20 A decade later, the relationship
has become more entrenched. In a meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Halermariam
in June 2017, Wang Yi, China’s Foreign Minister echoed Zenamwi’s sentiment: “It [I think]
is now crucial to implement the strategic cooperative partnership in all aspects of Sino-
Ethiopian relations.”21 According to the Ethiopian Investment Commission, China now
leads the foreign investment pack, followed by Turkey and others.22
Moreover, the numbers demonstrate the EPRDF’s successful use of rhetoric to
draw in a major source of funding from China. Trade and investment relations between
the two countries have flourished in recent decades. In 2000, China-Ethiopia trade was
only worth the equivalence of U.S. $88 million. In 2013, trade exceeded U.S.$12 billion.
Since 2006, China has been Ethiopia’s largest trading partner.23 In investment, there has
been a ten-fold increase in cumulative FDI from China in an eight-year window, from
U.S.$109 million in 2007, to U.S.$1.13 billion in 2015.24
The same upward trend can be seen for credit lines and loans from China’s EXIM
Bank. Regarding the scale of the bank’s commitments to Ethiopia, David Shinn, former
U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, wrote the following: “By the end of 2011, China’s Export-
Import Bank lending to Ethiopia had reached $1.8 billion. Ethiopia has become one of the
largest recipients in Africa for credit lines from the Export-Import Bank.”25 In addition, an
interview with Ethiopia’s Minister of Finance and Economic Development Sufian Ahmed

20  Editorial, Addis Ababa, “China offers three-point proposal to boost ties with Ethiopia,” AfricaFiles, November 11, 2008.
http://www.africafiles.org/article.asp?ID=19414
21  People’s Daily, “Ethiopian Prime Minister Haier Mariam Meets with Wang Yi,” People’s Daily, June 23, 2017.
22  Xinhua, “Will “African Lion” Ethiopia sustain fast growth?” New China, February 27, 2017.
23  The trade balance still heavily favors China to this day. In addition to the Chinese contractors’ use of labor from outside
of Ethiopia, the trade deficit is a flashpoint that strains the Ethiopian public’s perception of Chinese investments and is a major
concern of the government of Ethiopia.
24  Hong Kong Trade Development Council, “Ethiopia: Market Profile.” HKTDC Research, September 4, 2017.
25  David Shinn, “Ethiopia and China: Two Former Empires Connect in the 20th Century.” International Policy Digest, June
11, 2014.

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African Agency 16

reveals that Ethiopia is also the largest recipient of China EXIM Bank loans.26 As later
discussed, the government leveraged the bank’s varied financial assistance for infrastruc-
ture in high-priority sectors under the Growth and Transformation Plan. In other words,
the EPRDF translated Chinese aspirations into foreign financial streams that helped lay
the foundations for domestic projects that would support economic development.

3. National Policy: Ethiopia's Growth and Transformation Plan
The Ethiopian government acted on its rhetoric by crafting a goal-driven national
policy. In 2010, the EPRDF rolled out the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), a
five-year economic plan that sets high targets for “economic growth, poverty reduction,
and infrastructure expansion.”27 The goal of GTP is to help Ethiopia lessen its dependence
on agriculture, make the transition to an industrialized society, and achieve an ambitious
11.2% annual growth rate.28 This explicit set of objectives helps communicate the coun-
try’s development priorities to both the domestic audience and foreign investors. Thus
far, progress on economic development and quality of life has been made. For example,
between 2000 and 2011, the percent of the Ethiopian population living below the poverty
line dropped from 44% to 30%.29
Furthermore, the government reasoned that meaningful long-term improvement
in most areas mentioned above, especially in agricultural production and industrialization
levels, cannot be achieved without energy and hard infrastructure.30 Helen Hai, the United
Nations Industrial Development Organization Goodwill Ambassador for industrialization
in Africa, observed that finance and infrastructure are used to enable industrialization and
modern agriculture, which can help transform African economies.31 This trend is support-
ed by data illustrating that roughly 96% of Chinese development assistance32 in Ethiopia
goes to “energy generation and supply (52%), transport and storage (31%) and indus-
try (12%)”, and the focus of China’s infrastructure finance in the country has been the

26  Gedion G. Jalata, “Development Assistance from the South: Comparative Analysis of Chinese and Indian to Ethiopia,”
Chinese Studies 3, no. 1 (2014).
27  Yanning Chen, “A Comparative Analysis: The Sustainable Development Impact of Two Wind Farms in Ethiopia,” China
Africa Research Initiative, Working Paper No. 7, 2016.
28  Government of Ethiopia, “Economy – Ethiopia,” Accessed December 3, 2017.
29  This trend is attributed not only to Ethiopia’s underpinning stable and strong economic growth of 10.9% annually, of
which Chinese investments make an increasingly significant contribution. Poverty reduction has been driven by agricultural
growth, bolstered by the government’s increased spending on “basic services and effective rural safety nets” (World Bank
Group, “Ethiopia Poverty Assessment 2014,” 2015).
30  Government of Ethiopia, “Economy – Ethiopia.”
31  The Banker, “View from the IMF: Interview with Helen Hai, CEO, Made in Africa Initiative,” October 8, 2016.
32  Unlike conventional categorization, Chinese development assistance does not separate aid, loans, and investments, and
is a mixture of the three. For Ethiopia’s specific case, China gives a high volume of monetary and non-monetary aid in a wide
variety of forms, such as grants, interest free loans, concessional loans, and technical assistance.

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17 Cathy Dao

telecommunications sector.”33 These statistics highlight that, through policymaking with a
deliberate emphasis on infrastructure establishment, the EPRDF has been able to harness
the Chinese state’s investments to build facilities in three sectors critical to Ethiopia’s long-
term sustainable growth: transportation and storage, energy, and telecommunications. The
following section will evaluate the economic sustainability of completed projects funded
by the China EXIM bank in these three fields.

4. Economic Sustainability of Critical Infrastructure Projects
4.1 Criteria Explanation: China EXIM Bank Mechanism
The criteria of this study in determining which projects to examine are as fol-
lows. First, projects must have be completed, in operation, and have received a literature
review to assess economic impact and sustainability. Second, most of the project’s cost
must be funded by the Chinese Exim Bank non-exclusively34. Third, projects must be
classified within one of the three sectors that have far-reaching impacts for the economy:
transportation and storage, energy generation and supply, and telecommunications. Lastly,

Chart Created by Cathy Dao

for the purposes of this paper, the scope of “economic impact and sustainability” concerns

33  Jalata, “Development Assistance from the South: Comparative Analysis of Chinese and Indian to Ethiopia.”
34  Projects by the ZTE and Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway have also received funding from China Development Bank. How-
ever, such projects with more than one lender still merits examination. This is because the Chinese state’s usage of one policy
bank to finance projects versus another are but different means to achieve the same ends: “supporting the state’s foreign trade
and economic development in the global arena” (Kamal and Gallagher, 2016). One could also make the case that the presence of
other Chinese state banks apart from the Chinese EXIM Bank indicates high levels of interest from the Chinese government.

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African Agency 18

technology, knowledge, and skill transfer and debt repayment capacity. Brief descriptions
of all projects analyzed in this paper are depicted in the chart below.
For Ethiopia, project financing from the Export-Import Bank of China is more
attractive compared to other financiers due to the competitive advantages that the bank
enjoys from state backing.35 In addition to having fewer disclosure requirements and
domestic conditions, relative to Western commercial lenders, the bank offers lower costs
of capital borrowing and interest rates, longer repayment time frames, and grace periods.
Projects are often backed by concessional loans, which are a combination of the advantag-
es discussed. However, these projects demonstrate a constraint on Ethiopian agency: they
require the recipient to use at least 50% of the funds to purchase Chinese goods and ser-
vices, including Chinese contractors.36 Furthermore, the China EXIM Bank usually funds
“turnkey projects”, which offer fewer opportunities for knowledge-sharing compared to
traditional donors.37 Thus, the terms of loans from the policy bank have implications for
the EPRDF’s ability to bolster the capabilities of its domestic workforce, given Ethiopia’s
national goal of becoming a manufacturing-heavy economy.

4.2 Djibouti Railway & Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit (LRT)
These projects seek to establish critical infrastructure in Ethiopia’s transportation
sector. The light rail will improve local commuting time in Addis Ababa, and the transna-
tional railway will alleviate current congestion in for land transport, which will facilitate
greater regional and national trade, and promote exports.38 Moreover, lack of reliable
transportation has hurt the profitability of local manufacturing.39 Thus, both the light rail
and the railway support the GTP’s goal of increasing industrialization and international
competitiveness, the engines of rapid economic development.40
This commitment manifests in the Ethiopian government’s insistence on tech-
nology and skill transfer. While the project’s adoption of Chinese standards and related
equipment may lock Ethiopia into future purchases of Chinese goods, in the case of the
railway, the two Chinese contractors will only operate and maintain it for the first six
years, with an extra two years of technical support.41 Afterwards, operations will be trans-
35  Chinese state-funded projects in Ethiopia are financed by two main state-backed policy banks, including the China Devel-
opment Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China, and they have similar mechanisms. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of
China also finances projects in Ethiopia, but since it is a commercial-based public company, it is not relevant to the focus of this
paper. The paper also does not focus on outward foreign direct investment from private Chinese companies.
36  Handel Lee and Liu Zhigang, “Overview of China’s export financing system.” King & Wood Mallesons, July 23, 2014.
37  Maria Ana Jalies D’Orey and Annalisa Prizzon, “An ‘age of choice’ for infrastructure financing.” Overseas Development
Institute, Report (April 2017).
38  Javier Blas, “Chinese Company Begins Dire Dawa Port Construction,” Addis Fortune, March 28, 2017.
39  Aaron Maasho, “Ethiopia bets on clothes to fashion industrial future,” Reuters, November 21, 2017.
40  Embassy of Ethiopia. “Railway development in Ethiopia,”
41  Yun Sun, “China and the East Asia railways: Beyond full industry chain export,” Brookings Institute, July 6, 2017.

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19 Cathy Dao

ferred to local railway professionals, graduates of the Railway Academy of Ethiopia, which
was established by the government to equip the future local labor force with the neces-
sary skills. This focus on supply-side development demonstrates Ethiopia’s seriousness
about expanding infrastructure in the long run.42 For the Light Rail Transit, the Centre
for Public Impact, a non-profit in London, paints a similar picture. The Chinese contrac-
tors, tasked by the Ethiopian government, have trained at least fifty Ethiopian drivers and
maintenance staff.43
The project’s total building cost of roughly $4 billion, around a quarter of Ethio-
pia’s 2016 government budget, may raise concerns. However, the Ethiopian government
has taken steps to tie the newly-built railway to future income-generating facilities.44 An
example is the Eastern Industry Zone (EIZ), a special economic zone to be built by Qi-
yuan Group, a Chinese firm, and funded by China Exim Bank, which will make the coun-
try’s future industrial zone more accessible.45 The Ethiopian government is also executing
plans to build infrastructure complementary to the railway for further transportation ease,
such as dry ports. This ties into the Growth and Transformation Plan II46, which aims to
bring the total number of dry ports up to 35 in the next three years. Furthermore, Dipti
Mohapatra, Associate Professor of Economics at Madawalabu University, asserts that at
the end of the 25-year loan payment period, revenue generated from the project will help
the government pay the loan in time, and eventually reap economic benefits.47 Through
an economic analysis of the project, Mohapatra highlights that the benefits will outweigh
cost streams at the end of the loan tenor.48 Since the completed infrastructure projects
funded by China EXIM bank have only become operational recently and the bulk of the
projects have not materialized, it remains to be seen if his assertions are true.
The Ethiopian Railways Corporation (ERC), the local company that awarded

42  The Infrastructure Consortium for Africa. “Infrastructure Financing Trends in Africa – 2016.” ICA Report (2016).
43  Centre for public impact, “Light Rail Transit in Addis Ababa.”
44  Xiaochen Su, “Why Chinese Infrastructure Loans in Africa Represent a Brand-New Type of Neocolonialism,” The Diplo-
mat, June 9, 2017.
45  Françoise Nicolas, “Chinese Investors in Ethiopia: The Perfect Match?” Ifri Center for Asian Studies, Notes de l’Ifri,
March 2017.
46  The Growth and Transformation Plan has two phases. Phase I was initiated in 2010, and phase II in 2015.
47  Dipti Mohapatra, “An Economic Analysis of Light Rail Transit in Addis Ababa Ethiopia.” European Academic Research
3, no. 3 (June 2015)
48  In his study, Mohapatra included only quantifiable benefits such as revenue from freight and passenger tariffs and employ-
ment generation. Mohapatra assumes that 55% of the total project cost will be financed through external debt from China
Export-Import Bank, and 45 % will be financed by raising equity in the open market by Ethiopian government. The metric he
is using to measure economic viability of the railway is the economic internal rate of return (EIRR), a standard metric used in
capital budgeting measuring the profitability of potential investments. According to Mohapatra: “the feasibility of the project
is determined by comparing the EIRR with the current accounting rate of return of 12%. This represents the opportunity cost
of capital and is considered an appropriate minimum criterion for economic viability by both the Federal Republic of Ethiopia
and international funding agencies like the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB)”. The fact that the EIRR of
investments will be 18.90%, higher than the 12% benchmark, means that the project is economically viable.

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African Agency 20

contracts to Chinese contractors for both the railway and light rail projects, has accu-
mulated debt and loss. This raises concerns about whether the ERC can pay their debt,
and not only to Chinese EXIM bank. The Reporter Ethiopia, a local news outlet, reports
that, in 1.5 years, the ERC has not seen returns on its investments. The company has lost
roughly U.S.$560 million from the construction and operation of the LRT. To compound
the risk, the ERC has started making small-sized reimbursements for the principal loan
and loan interests from the China EXIM bank for both the LRT and the Addis Ababa-Dji-
bouti railway (U.S.$2.5 billion) and for a loan from European banks facilitated by Credit
Suisse (U.S.$1.165 billion).49 Given how substantial the loans and losses incurred are, why
does the ERC continue to borrow?
According to Dr Getachew Betru, CEO of the ERC corporation is betting on
Ethiopia’s future growth. Betru explained that, since railway businesses often have a matu-
ration period of 20-30 years, the hope is that the infrastructure will help the ERC recover
its losses once tied to various sectors in local and regional economies. For its part, the
corporation has invested in logistic chains, tourism, and other enterprises that increased
connectivity enables.50 The prospects are positive. Mohapatra also conducted an economic
analysis of the LRT project in Addis and found that the inflows of revenue over the fifteen-
year payment term can cover the costs of the EXIM loan. It is expected to be paid for by
revenue from tariffs, savings in time, fuel, accidents, and stimulated demand for goods
and services generated from the employment of both skilled and unskilled labor.51

4.3 Adama Wind Farm I & II
Ethiopia’s government also prioritizes the energy sector. Ethiopia invested in
wind energy for many reasons: energy from current hydropower is unreliable, rising
demand needs alternative sources of energy, and wind farms have a relatively low cost
and ease of assembly.52 Furthermore, the Ethiopian Herald expressed optimism that this
will provide energy to booming manufacturing sectors, and extra revenues from power
exports to Tanzania, Kenya, Djibouti, Sudan, and Somalia.53
As with the railway and light rail, the technology and knowledge transfer in this
case also highlights Ethiopian agency. Yanning Chen, a PhD candidate at John Hopkins
University SAIS, visited the Adama Wind Farm and conducted local interviews and
reviewed documents. She noted that, while this transfer occurred mostly on an individual
level, it was the Ethiopian government who drove this process, mainly through govern-

49  Yohannes Anbrerir, “Running out of Steam,” The Reporter Ethiopia, January 28, 2017.
50  The Worldfolio, “Game-changing railway hallmarks the ‘African Renaissance.’”
51  Mohapatra, “An Economic Analysis of Light Rail Transit in Addis Ababa Ethiopia.”
52  ESI Africa. “153MW Adama wind farm grows Ethiopia’s renewable energy plan.”
53  Zerave Hailemariam, “12,000 MW: Continuation of Ethiopia’s energy progress.” The Ethiopian Herald, April 14, 2017.

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21 Cathy Dao

ment policies and contract negotiation.54 Specifically, HydroChina could not bring in
skilled personnel and experts that Ethiopia possessed locally, and the Chinese firm had to
subcontract logistics work to local companies. Local universities were selected to serve as
consultant engineers, and Ethiopian staff and engineers are now managing Adama Wind
Farm I.55 Furthermore, construction of the wind farms “also provided many employment
opportunities” for residents and companies in the short and long term. For example, the
construction phase employed about 1,500 employees, including 1,000 Ethiopians and 400
Chinese. A comment from HydroChina representatives highlight the success of Ethiopia
in its proactive policy; when asked about their impression of working with the Ethiopian
client, they responded, “demanding.”56

4.4 National Mobile Transmission Network
The Ethiopian government has been effective in increasing the population’s ICT
access. Prior to Chinese investments in the sector, Ethiopia’s mobile network only covered
11% of the population, less than one-fifth of the regional average.57 Lishan Adam, the East
Africa facilitator of Research ICT Africa, a South Africa-based public interest think tank
focused on ICT policy and applications, notes the recent increase in mobile penetration.
Since 2007, ZTE has helped Ethiopia provide for over 30 million subscribers and deliver
a CDMA wireless network for rural towns.58 Dalton of the Wall Street Journal conducted
video interviews with farmers in a rural area southwest of the capital, which highlighted
that better mobile connection has enabled farmers to determine daily price fluctuations.59
Infrastructure, however, is not enough. To aid its expanding communications network, the
EPRDF has been investing in centers and e-applications to stimulate mobile demand and
is constructing a national “IT Park” to attract IT service companies.
However, to maintain the state-owned Ethio Telecom’s monopoly, the govern-
ment has skirted meaningful reforms to structural barriers in the ICT sector. This has
perpetuated the limited exchange of technology, knowledge and skill, and suboptimal
economic returns. First, there is minimal cooperation with local universities. Thus, local
engineers still lack expertise, and the gradual handover of management of Ethiopia’s core
telecommunications network has been largely ineffective.60 Furthermore, debt sustainabil-

54  Chen, “A Comparative Analysis: The Sustainable Development Impact of Two Wind Farms in Ethiopia.”
55  Ibid.
56  Ibid.
57  Mark D.J. Williams et. al. “Africa’s ICT Infrastructure: Building on the Mobile Revolution. Directions in Development.”
World Bank, 2011.
58  Lishan Adam, “What is happening in ICT in Ethiopia.” Research ICT Africa, Policy Paper 3, 2012.
59  Matthew Dalton, “Telecom Deal by China’s ZTE, Huawei in Ethiopia Faces Criticism.” The Wall Street Journal, January
6, 2014.
60  Adam, “What is happening in ICT in Ethiopia.”

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African Agency 22

ity has become a prescient challenge. The Chinese loans for the 2007 project account for
about 12% of Ethiopia’s foreign public-sector debt. In addition, the large amount of loans,
the long repayment period of 13 years, and liability has caused ZTE to charge Ethiopia
more for its network.61 Meanwhile, Ethio Telecom’s revenue is not growing as fast as its
infrastructure. In fact, the percentage of telecom revenue as a contributor to GDP declined
sharply in 2008 and has not returned to 2007 levels.62 Instead of embracing privatization
in ICT like neighboring Kenya, which has seen substantial revenue increases, Ethiopia
opted for superficial changes63. This inhibits innovation from private firms, which in turn
impedes the Ethiopian government’s ability to achieve its GTP target of translating ICT in-
frastructure to substantive economic growth. Thus, telecommunication is a sector that has
great potential for Ethiopia, but only if accompanied by policy and regulatory reform.64

5. Timing, Part. 2—Leveraging Chinese Presence
Ethiopia has made a reputation for leveraging the presence of Chinese and
Indian financiers to attract investment from other sources, namely Brazil and Russia.65
As reflected in second-hand accounts, Chinese development assistance has emboldened
Ethiopia to be more assertive in foreign aid negotiations. Prizzon and D’Orey interviewed
government officials and development partners who worked with Ethiopia. The responses
support that the government of Ethiopia was an “initiator of discussions about develop-
ment projects – discussions were not simply supply-driven by development partners.”66
The country would not move forward with projects that do not support national priorities
identified in GTP II.
Ethiopia dedication to national goals has established its financial credibility to
foreign lenders. According to Getachew Betru, CEO of the Ethiopian Railways Corpora-
tion (ERC) “nobody took us seriously” when the company approached banks for the Ad-
dis Ababa-Djibouti railway, including banks from China, India and Turkey.67 However, in
the span of a few years, the ERC’s ability to finance 30% of the construction of the railway
by itself, combined with the firm’s explicit inclusion of an article in contracts that elimi-
nated risk for investors, has altered this perception.

61  Matthew Dalton, “Beijing’s Bargain: Chinese Deals Carry Hidden Costs for Poor Nations.” The Wall Street Journal, Janu-
ary 7, 2014.
62  Adam, “What is happening in ICT in Ethiopia.”
63  To help Ethio Telecom’s revenues catch up to the scope of network expansion, the government has hired France Telecom,
a foreign firm, for two years, but the change in management has showed modest results. This indicates more deep-rooted
structural problems in the government’s policy and the nature of Ethiopia’s telecom sector, such as lack of management skills,
lackluster innovation, and unreliable network and customer service (Adams, 2014).
64  Adam, “What is happening in ICT in Ethiopia.”
65  Aaron Maasho, “Ethiopia signs Djibouti railway deal with China.” Reuters, December 17, 2011.
66  D’Orey and Prizzon, “An ‘age of choice’ for infrastructure financing.”
67  The Worldfolio, “Game-changing railway hallmarks the ‘African Renaissance.’”

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23 Cathy Dao

In addition, the government has been judicious not to spread its resources too
thin, prioritizing a capacity to self-finance its infrastructure. In 2014, a South Africa-based
infrastructure investment group, Black Rhino, proposed the construction of a pipeline to
deliver fuel from the Djibouti Port to central Ethiopia, but the Ministry of Transport can-
celled the deal. A senior official at the Ministry of Transport explained Ethiopia’s rationale
to The Reporter Ethiopia: “It is not that the project is unable to secure loan, but while we
are having the railway line in place…We have to maximize the use of the railway and pay
back the loan to the Export Import (EXIM) Bank of China first.”68 Furthermore, according
to Deloitte, one of the four biggest accounting firms in the world, Ethiopia “stands out for
its consistent GFCF spending and has one of the highest GFCF ratios globally.”69 In the last
decade, Ethiopia has spent, on average, the equivalent of 32.8% of its GDP on infrastruc-
ture, and the amount is increasing. This is in stark contrast to South Africa and Nigeria,
the continent’s two largest economies, who have only spent the equivalent of 19.9% and
11.9% of their respective GDP on infrastructure.70 Ethiopia’s debt levels remain relatively
manageable, according to a report in July 2016, published by the United Nations Confer-
ence on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). In the “Economic Development in Africa
report– Debt Dynamics and Development Finance in Africa,” the report states that, while
state-owned enterprises in Ethiopia, such as ERC and Ethio Telecom, continue to borrow
heavily to finance their “multi-dimensional development investments,” “the nation is one
of the 10 African countries with low debt distress as of November 2015.”71

6. Conclusion
Ethiopia has used prudent policy and regulation to channel the Chinese state’s
investments into infrastructure that serves the country’s national development goals,
successfully leveraging China’s presence to solicit funding from new and old partners
alike. An examination of the economic impact and sustainability of infrastructure projects
in critical sectors, including transportation, energy, and telecommunications, reveals
two key insights. First, the extent of skill and knowledge transfer from Chinese firms to
Ethiopian labor is still limited. Second, whether Ethiopia will emerge successful from its
bet for economic prosperity and repay its debt in full to Chinese lenders remains to be
seen. Meanwhile, the government of Ethiopia has taken steps in the direction of financial
independence in the future.

68  Kaleyesus Bekele, “Gov. cancels planned Ethio-Djibouti oil pipeline project.” The Reporter Ethiopia, December 2, 2017.
69  Deloitte University EMEA CVBA. “Africa’s changing infrastructure landscape, 2016.” Deloitte, Africa Construction
Trends Report (2016).
70  Deloitte University EMEA CVBA. “Africa’s changing infrastructure landscape, 2016.”
71  Addis Fortune. “Budget and Loans.”

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African Agency 24

Given time constraints, this research did not evaluate the social and environmen-
tal impact of the aforementioned projects. Due to a lack of literature on the economic im-
pact and sustainability of completed dams funded by the China EXIM Bank, and the fact
that the majority of dam projects have yet to exit planning stages the essay did not discuss
hydropower, the main source of energy generation for Ethiopia.72 Furthermore, this paper
does not address power imbalances in Sino-Ethiopian relations.
Ethiopia’s astonishing economic growth in recent decades has rendered the
country a powerful example for other African countries attempting to leverage foreign
investment. Contrary to the neocolonialist view, Ethiopia has demonstrated that African
countries can craft their own narrative and pave their own path forward by taking advan-
tage of external opportunities and maintaining national agency under a strong develop-
ment-minded leadership.

72  Abel Abate Demissie, “Ethiopia’s distinct path to development, with help from China.” The Reporter Ethiopia, August 19,
2017.

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25 Cathy Dao

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Does the ICC Have a Place on the African Continent?
Examining the Legitimacy and Value of the ICC in the African Continent
Inge Odendaal

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has been charged with having a “racist” agenda by
senior officials of the African continent, contributing to a deteriorating relationship between
the African Union (AU) and the ICC. This paper will examine the legitimacy and value of
the ICC within Africa by analyzing the origins of contemporary tensions and interrogat-
ing African claims of ICC persecution. This paper will then assess the ICC’s relevance to the
African continent in light of the creation of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Finally, the paper will propose future policy changes regarding methods to ameliorate the ten-
sion between African states and the ICC.

1. Introduction
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has been charged with having a “racist” agen-
da by senior officials of the African continent, prompting the African Union (AU) to call
upon its member states to adopt a policy of non-compliance towards the institution. The
purpose of this paper is to examine the legitimacy and value of the ICC within Africa.1 In
this research, legitimacy will be defined as “the ability to be defended with logic or justifica-
tion or validity.” This study will analyze the relations between the continent, specifically the
AU, and the ICC, with an emphasis on persistent tensions in Kenya and Sudan.2
The paper begins with a discussion on the contemporary relationship between the AU
and ICC, followed by an overview of the ICC’s procedure, mandate, and rules of engage-
ment. The discussion will then shift to examine the evolution of the AU-ICC relationship.
This research will assess AU claims that the ICC “hunts” Africans, the reasons for proce-
dural quarrels between the two bodies, and the contentious relationship between the ICC
and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The final section of the paper will pres-
ent possible solutions to tensions between the AU and ICC.

1.1 Identification of the problem
Makau W. Mutua describes the contemporary relationship between the AU and ICC as

1  Max du Plessis, Tiyanjana Maluwa, and Annie O’Reilly, “African and the International Criminal Court,” International Law:
Chatham House, 1-13.
2 Ibid.

Inge Odendaal is a postgraduate student at Stellenbosch University in South
Africa, studying International Relations. Her research interests include African
International Relations, Policy, and Gender.
Does the ICC Have A Place On the African Continent? 31

characterized by “intellectual disagreement and political passion”.3
In 2008, the ICC indicted former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. 4 The indictment
was a watershed moment the relationship, causing the AU to adopt a hostile stance towards
the ICC. The AU called upon its member states to implement a policy of non compliance
towards the ICC, abandoning international obligations as stipulated under the Rome Stat-
ute. Failure to comply with the AU’s demand would be met with sanctions.5 Following this,
there was a large-scale attempt by the AU to persuade its members to withdraw from the
Statute.6
The relationship between the AU and ICC has deteriorated to the point that the AU is
exploring methods to “make the Court’s presence in Africa an irrelevancy in the future”. 7
The implications of this development are widespread and threaten both the international
reputations of AU member states and the legitimacy of the ICC. ⅔ of ICC members are Af-
rican states with AU membership.8 Should the majority of these states decide to withdraw
from the Rome Statute and obtain membership within the AU’s own regional “criminal
court,” the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the ICC’s legitimacy and constitu-
ency would be greatly impacted. 9

1.2 ICC: Mandate and Procedure
The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established in 2002 to serve as a perma-
nent and independent court for the prosecution of individuals charged with international
crimes such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.10
The mandate of the court can be evaluated in the context of the preamble of the Rome
Statute, which states, “such grave crimes threaten the peace, security and well-being of the
world”. 11 The Rome Statute, as entered into force on 1 July 2002, serves as the legal founda-
tion of the Court and has been ratified by 123 states. Several states including India, China,
Russia, and the U.S. are not signatories of the Statute and have offered criticisms of the
court.

3  Makau W Mutua,“Africans and the ICC: Hypocrisy, Impunity and Perversion,” Africans and the ICC: Perceptions of Justice:
47, accessed on September 19, 2017. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2905830.
4  T Murithi, “The African Union and the International Criminal Court: An Embattled Relationship,” The Institute for Justice
and Reconciliation, IJR Policy Brief No. 8.
5 Ibid.
6  Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8  Max du Plessis, Tiyanjana Maluwa, and Annie O’Reilly, “African and the International Criminal Court"
9  “Judicial and Human Rights Institutions,” African Union, accessed on September 16, 2017, https://au.int/en/organs/cj.
10  A. Heywood, Global Politics, United Kingdom: 387, Palgrave MacMillan.
11  T. Murithi, “The African Union and the International Criminal Court: An Embattled Relationship,” The Institute for Justice
and Reconciliation, IJR Policy Brief No. 8.

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32 Inge Odendaal

Central to the workings of the ICC is the value of compliance.12 Concerns about com-
pliance include procedures for the prosecution of crimes by citizen of a non-signatory
country within a signatory country, and crime accountability imbalances between signa-
tories and non-signatories.13 Murithi describes this imbalance as “a case of one law for the
powerful and another for the weak.”14
In terms of procedure in bringing a case to the court, national criminal jurisdiction
takes precedence, rendering the ICC a court of last resort. Cases are recommended to
the prosecutor, who then initiates an investigation.15 If the investigation findings provide
grounds for a case, an official case is made against the accused, thereafter subsequent legal
processes are dependent on the accused’s response to the charges.16 Cases can be made by
any individual, country, institution, or group. The United Nations Security Council, can
make case recommendations to the prosecutor which are binding on all UN member states;
regardless of signatory status to the Rome Statute.17

2. Africa and the ICC
This section will address the origins and worsening of tensions between the ICC and
the AU.. It will also explore the AU’s grievances against the ICC and the regional actions the
AU has taken against the Court in recent years. Finally, this section will address critiques of
the AU’s claims within AU member states.

2.1 Context of Africa and International Law
To assess the AU-ICC relationship, one must first address the African continent’s his-
torical relationship with international law.
Africa’s problems with international law can be traced back to the state formation pro-
cess. Modern African states are a creation of international law though their arbitrary for-
mation at the Berlin Conference.18 Accordingly, Africa’s modern identity has largely been
shaped by the West, the normative home of international law. Modern African states, were
further preserved by the international legal principle of uti possidetis, regardless whether
they were functional as sovereign states.19 The principle postulates that the borders of a

12  J. Cilliers and K. Sturman, “The Right Intervention,” African Security Review, 11(3): 28-39.
13 Ibid.
14  T. Murithi, “The African Union and the International Criminal Court: An Embattled Relationship,” The Institute for Justice
and Reconciliation, IJR Policy Brief No. 8.
15 Ibid.
16 Ibid.
17  International Criminal Court, accessed on September 18, 2017, https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/Main.aspx.
18  P.K. McGowan, S. Cornelissen, and P. Nel (eds). “Power, Wealth and Global Equity: AN International Relations Textbook
for Africa,” Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press.
19 Ibid.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
Does the ICC Have A Place On the African Continent? 33

state are fixed under normal circumstances. Modern international law was used as a means
through which imperialist states could exploit Africa’s resources and people and manage
domestic policy.20 These historical events and encounters are crucial to understanding the
psyche of the contemporary Africa’s reaction to ICC actions.
It is crucial to note that perceptions of international law within the eyes of Africans are
neither universal nor static. Therefore, a crucial distinction will be made between the views
of the AU, African states, and civil society.21

2.2 Africa’s History with the ICC
African countries actively and enthusiastically participated in the drafting of the Rome
Statute. 22 In light of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, these countries believed that the devel-
opment of the ICC would have a positive impact on global governance to “operationalize
an international criminal justice regime” and ensure a system of check and balances within
the international community.23 Unfortunately, the Court “faced a strong challenge from
the United States, which first signed the Statute and then “unsigned” it.” The African states
whom had voluntarily signed the Statute quickly raised objections as to the self-exclusion of
prominent world powers, which would undermine the Court’s intention to prevent atroci-
ties worldwide. Relations between the ICC and African states have since remained un-
hinged.24

2.3 The ICC and the Problem of Moral Integrity
Ethiopian Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn, acting chair of the African Union,
claimed in 2016, “ICC is hunting Africans,” citing a disproportionate number of ICC inves-
tigations on the continent. Until the appointment of Gambian Fatou Bensouda as acting
prosecutor in 2012, only African cases had been investigated by the ICC, namely cases in
the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan (Darfur), Ugan-
da, Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, and Kenya.25 The ICC’s Afrocentric investigations have fostered a
distorted perception amongst African leaders and elites regarding the “true” intent of the
Court.26

20  Makau W Mutua,“Africans and the ICC: Hypocrisy, Impunity and Perversion,” Africans and the ICC: Perceptions of Justice:
49, accessed on September 19, 2017.
21 Ibid.
22  T. Murithi, “The African Union and the International Criminal Court: An Embattled Relationship,” The Institute for Justice
and Reconciliation, IJR Policy Brief No. 8.
23 Ibid.
24 Ibid.
25  International Criminal Court, accessed on September 18, 2017, https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/Main.aspx.
26  Makau W Mutua,“Africans and the ICC: Hypocrisy, Impunity and Perversion,” Africans and the ICC: Perceptions of Justice:
51, accessed on September 19, 2017.

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34 Inge Odendaal

Despite the global pervasiveness of war crimes, only African cases have been tried and
submitted for investigation, besides very recent investigations into Middle Eastern cases
such as Iraq. 27 The moral integrity of the ICC has subsequently been called into question by
various political actors on the African continent, who cite the ICC’s selective persecution
and its tendency to investigate relatively “weaker” states in comparison to world powers
such as the U.S., Russia, and the United Kingdom.28

2.4 The Case for Selective Prosecution
Until 2013, 21 cases in nine countries had been opened by the ICC, all of which were in
Africa. Five of the nine countries’ cases were self-referrals. Pivotal cases such as Libya and
Sudan were on request of the UN Security Council.29
One of the main arguments for the case of selective prosecution is the ICC’s relation-
ship with the UN Security Council.30 The African Union has argued that due to the UNSC
capacity to refer cases to non-signatory countries of the Statute, the Court’s activities are
biased towards the Council’s interests.31 This critique was in response to the UNSC’s rec-
ommendation for a case against Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir. The AU noted the
referral of Libyan and Sudanese cases but not cases in Israel and Syria. An Israeli referral is
currently in investigation, but has not yet been classified as a case.
Cases referred by the UNSC are binding to all UN member states regardless of their
signatory status to the Statute.32 This was crucial in the Sudanese and Libyan cases as nei-
ther states were signatories. Countries which do not comply to the Statute by choice is are
still subject to interrogation by the ICC as per order of the UNSC. Therefore, permanent
members of the UN Security Council are de facto immune from the Court’s scrutiny.33
The arrest of two prominent African figures provided auxiliary evidence of the ICC’s
Western bias and signaled a shift in the AU-ICC relationship. The first incident occurred
in 2000 when Belgium issued an arrest for Abdoulaye Yerodia Ndombasi, the Democratic
Republic of Congo’s then-Minister of Foreign Affairs, under charges of genocide.34 In 2008,
a similar incident occurred in which Rose Kabuye, a key member of the Rwandan govern-
ment at the time, was arrested in Germany under suspicions related to the shooting down
27  Makau W Mutua,“Africans and the ICC: Hypocrisy, Impunity and Perversion,” Africans and the ICC: Perceptions of Justice:
51, accessed on September 19, 2017,, 52.
28  Ibid., 47.
29  Ibid., 49.
30  International Criminal Court, accessed on September 18, 2017, https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/Main.aspx.
31  Max du Plessis, Tiyanjana Maluwa, and Annie O’Reilly, “African and the International Criminal Court,” International Law:
Chatham House, 1-13.
32  A. Heywood, Global Politics, United Kingdom: 387, Palgrave MacMillan
33  Makau W Mutua,“Africans and the ICC: Hypocrisy, Impunity and Perversion,” Africans and the ICC: Perceptions of Justice:
51, accessed on September 19, 2017.
34 Ibid.

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Does the ICC Have A Place On the African Continent? 35

of the former Rwandan President’s aircraft, a catalyst for the 1994 Rwandan genocide.35
African leaders have argued that European states use universal jurisdiction to “harass” Af-
rican leadership.
As a counter argument to the case of selective prosecution, Du Plessis, Maluwa &
O’Reilly, state:

“There are good reasons to pursue the cases that are under investigation or prosecution before
the ICC. For one thing Africa has experienced a large number of atrocities and, statistically
speaking, the rate of atrocity crimes committed on the continent would make it a natural focus
for the court anyway.”36

This argument fails to account for the lack of prosecution of foreign criminal activity.
In addition, the ICC has cited this lack of prosecution of certain cases as being detrimental
to their financial benefactors.37 This paper argues that in the context of cases such as Syr-
ia, non-signatory states would be vulnerable to investigation: namely the U.S. and Russia,
bringing the ICC into potential conflict with states of considerable power.38
Do victims of these crimes they with the African elites’ views on the Court? Du Plessis,
Maluwa, and O’Reilly note: “The people who complain about the bias tend to be African
political elites, not the victims.” Regardless, a serious problem exists as there are double
standards within the ICC’s actions. The institution’s legitimacy is contingent on whether
other states see it as a just body.39 In 2012, to demonstrate world powers’ shared responsibil-
ity in atrocities across the globe, Archbishop Desmond Tutu refused to share a stage with
the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair due to his actions during the Iraq War. The
failure of the ICC to disprove the argument of selective prosecution is problematic as it de-
flects attention away from victims affected by these crimes. The atrocities committed need
to be investigated and those accountable must be held as such, regardless of their location
or nationality.40
This argument does not disregard the examples of African states using the ICC to their
own advantage. 41 Namely, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni referring cases regarding
the Lord Resistance Army to suit his domestic political agenda, and Kenyan President Uhu-
ru Kenyatta referring “rebels” against his regime to the Court. These instances demonstrate

35  Makau W Mutua,“Africans and the ICC: Hypocrisy, Impunity and Perversion"
36  Max du Plessis, Tiyanjana Maluwa, and Annie O’Reilly, “African and the International Criminal Court"
37 Ibid.
38 Ibid.
39 Ibid.
40  T. Murithi, “The African Union and the International Criminal Court: An Embattled Relationship,” The Institute for Justice
and Reconciliation, IJR Policy Brief No. 8.
41 Ibid.

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36 Inge Odendaal

that international legal bodies such as the ICC that are grounded in objectivity are neces-
sary but difficult to sustain in practice.

2.5 Why the AU is Criticising the ICC
In recent years, the AU has shifted its position on the ICC, as demonstrated by the
Darfur case, Prosecutor v. Omar Al Bashir.
This case served as a pivot point within the AU and ICC’s relationship. The UNSC pro-
posed the case to the ICC in 2008. 42Soon after, the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber issued an arrest
warrant for Omar al-Bashir for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Which
was sent to the various signatory states of the Rome Statute, the AU Peace, and UNSC.43 The
African Union responded that the arrest warrant would threaten peace talks within Sudan.
At the time of the arrest warrant, the AU was at a critical juncture in establishing peace in
the Sudanese civil war). Al Bashir had been serving as was a key interlocutor in AU peace
efforts and a prominent figure within the AU. Mutua describes:

“Africa was incensed over the Libyan situation because it was largely viewed as an act of hege-
monic powers using the Court to get rid of an old enemy by disregarding the pleas of the AU to
mediate the conflict… Many African states felt that the ICC was being used to fight the wars of
the West against an African leader.”44

Regardless, AU leaders found it difficult to refuse investigation into the Darfur situa-
tion. This situation presented a crossroads to the AU and signatory countries of the Statute
in Africa: adhering to the ICC could undermine the AU’s capacity to address its own re-
gional concerns.45 The AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) argued that should the ICC
have intervened and arrested al-Bashir.
Conversely, the AU demanded non-compliance with the arrest warrant, damaging the
AU-ICC relationship. Beyond Bashir’s importance in peace talks, the AU also argued that
by warranting Bashir’s arrest the ICC was undermining sovereignty and established politi-
cal processes.46 Bashir at the time was a sitting Head of State officially elected by democratic
process.47The ICC’s removal of an acting Head of State of a country would set a dangerous
precedent for other leaders on the continent and would undermine state sovereignty. There-

42  T. Murithi, “The African Union and the International Criminal Court: An Embattled Relationship,” The Institute for Justice
and Reconciliation, IJR Policy Brief No. 8
43 Ibid.
44  Makau W Mutua,“Africans and the ICC: Hypocrisy, Impunity and Perversion,” Africans and the ICC: Perceptions of Justice:
49, accessed on September 19, 2017.
45 Ibid.
46  T. Murithi, “The African Union and the International Criminal Court: An Embattled Relationship"
47  T. Murithi, “The African Union and the International Criminal Court: An Embattled Relationship"

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Does the ICC Have A Place On the African Continent? 37

fore, by opposing the ICCs warrant for arrest, the AU’s actions can be seen in large part as
a protection of sovereignty. Following the AU’s request, countries such as Djibouti, Kenya,
and Chad declined to arrest Bashir, subsequently delaying his.48
The contentious AU-ICC relationship begs the question of the ICC’s future legitimacy
and value in Africa. In terms of legitimacy, the Court’s jurisdiction has been dealt a serious
blow with the AU’s call for non-compliance and its accusations of skewed interests. This sets
a precedent for other countries to undermine international legislation and further limits the
ICC’s ability to fulfill its mandate.49

2.6 The Kenyan Cases
The Kenyan cases significantly impacted the AU-ICC relationship and were a catalyst
for the wide-scale abandonment of the Rome Statute. In May 2013, the Kenyan government
under Kenyatta lobbied AU member states to adopt a resolution calling for accusations
against Kenyatta to be dealt with domestically, rather than in The Hague. The resolution was
supported by all members except for Botswana.50 The case against Kenyatta was described
as:

“an explosive and damning account of charges against Kenyatta and his associates…It details
how Kenyatta planned and financed the Mungiki, a deadly Kikuyu tribal militia, to commit
crimes against humanity. Perhaps most chillingly, the legal brief documents specific cases of the
murder, bribery, and intimidation of scores of witnesses. It leaves little to the imagination.”51

It is essential to note that, the AU’s resolution does award the Kenyan judicial system a
degree of sovereignty in dealing with the case.52 However, Kenyan human rights and crimi-
nal justice experts wrote to the UN Secretary General arguing that the Kenyan judiciary
was reformed to suit Kenyatta’s agenda.The letter explained that “there is no process of
reconciliation, no mechanism to try these cases in Kenya and the threat of instability in the
region is hollow.”53
Notably, key witnesses testifying against Kenyatta and Ruto have disappeared or re-
canted their testimonies, eventually forcing ICC Prosecutor Bensouda to withdraw the
charges against Kenyatta and his associates, “citing a lack of sufficient evidence because of

48  Max du Plessis, Tiyanjana Maluwa, and Annie O’Reilly, “African and the International Criminal Court,” International Law:
Chatham House, 2.
49 Ibid.
50  Max du Plessis, Tiyanjana Maluwa, and Annie O’Reilly, “African and the International Criminal Court,” International Law:
Chatham House, 2.
51  Makau W Mutua,“Africans and the ICC: Hypocrisy, Impunity and Perversion"
52 Ibid.
53 Ibid.

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38 Inge Odendaal

the failure of the Kenyan state to cooperate with the Court by providing it with information
required by the prosecution.”54

2.7 Diverging African Opinions on the ICC
While the African Union serves as a unitary political voice for the continent, its hostile
stance towards the ICC has proved a point of debate for several AU member states.
A prime example of an African state at odds with the AU’s stance is Botswana. Bo-
tswana has publicly disagreed with the AU’s stance of non-compliance and has on many
occasions stated that it will continue to abide to its obligations as stipulated under the Rome
Statute. South Africa is another interesting case.55 Despite its human rights based approach
to foreign policy, South Africa was the source of widespread contention when it hosted Al
Bashir for a 2015 AU summit and failed to arrest him. ICC judges later ruled that the South
African government had violated Statute terms by aiding al- Bashir. However, the country
remains a signatory of the Statute.56
In a majority of ICC cases, ordinary citizens are the most widely affected and sub-
sequently have some of the strongest opinions in regards to the Court’s jurisdiction. For
example, during Kenyatta’s trial in 2013; an opinion poll showed that 67% of all Kenyans
wanted Kenyatta and Ruto to be tried in The Hague by the ICC, rather than by the domestic
judiciary. In addition, South Africa’s failure to arrest al-Bashir in 2014 caused great politi-
cal tension between opposition parties, interest groups, and the African National Congress
(ANC).
Critics of the AU’s stance have also emphasized the AU’s blind eye towards Kenyatta’s
alleged crimes. Scholars such as Makau W. Mutua argue that African leaders whom attack
the ICC “seem to suffer from historical amnesia and selective memory.” Mutua argues that
African elites blame historical injustices towards Africa by Western powers for the contem-
porary trauma. Matua argues:

“They deliberately pervert history to hoodwink ordinary Africans and play on white guilt. I
reject this false historical narrative and its sinister attempt to hijack the stories of genuine pan-Afri-
canism and the pain of victims to maintain bankrupt African elites in power…African post-inde-
pendent rulers must share the blame for the failure of the continent to incubate democratic states.”
3. Solutions and Policy Recommendations
The ICC’s legitimacy is greatly diminished in the eyes of many African governments,
with the exception of Botswana, and it will face two critical obstacles in Africa in the com-
54  Makau W Mutua,“Africans and the ICC: Hypocrisy, Impunity and Perversion"
55  De Rebus, “South Africa and the ICC: Stay or go?” accessed September 18, 2017, http://www.derebus.org.za/de-rebus-pdf-
download/.
56  T. Murithi, “The African Union and the International Criminal Court: An Embattled Relationship"

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Does the ICC Have A Place On the African Continent? 39

ing years: how to ensure accountability and avoid crimes against humanity in a region trau-
matized by past atrocities, and how to deal with claims that the ICC is serving the interests
of the UNSC. It appears that the AU and ICC are at a crossroads: either remedy a bruised
relationship, or cut ties completely. The latter seems closest to reality.

3.1 African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
The African Union has set up its own regional judiciary the African Court on Human
and Peoples’ Rights. Some have critiqued this institution as a toothless body trying to un-
dermine the ICC in reaction to the 2009 arrest warrant for al-Bashir. However, the process
of establishing this body pre-dates the warrant for Bashir.57
In theory, the initiation of such a court presents a viable legal alternative, should the
current climate and context of the AU and ICC’s interaction continue. However, critics
has pointed to AU executive control over the Court as a cause for concern. Grounds for
this argument lie within the institutional structure of the African Court on Human and
Peoples’ Rights and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Commis-
sion is responsible for recommending cases to the Court and also serves as a sub-body of
the AU’s Executive Branch that can regulate recommendations. This is highly problematic
in terms of separation of powers.58 This concern is reinforced by the Kenyan case, in which
the domestic courts were manipulated to Ruto and Kenyatta’s advantage. The main differ-
ence between the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the ICC is within their
respective its mandates. As Murithi describes:

“The AU, by its very nature, will gravitate first to a political solution and approach to dealing
with the past; such an approach will place more of an emphasis on peace-making and political
reconciliation. The ICC, on the other hand, will pursue international prosecutions, because
this is written into its DNA, the Rome Statute.”59

3.2 Looking Ahead
The AU's discourse since 2009 clearly reflets a belief in the ICC's inefficncy. Actions by
the ICC and its prosecutors since 2009 have only exacerbated this.
The appointment of Bensouda offers renewed hope. Bensouda has opened investiga-
tions of various cases in Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan, Colombia, Ukraine, Honduras, and
Iraq.60 However, much work needs to be done address points of contention and engage in
57  Max du Plessis, Tiyanjana Maluwa, and Annie O’Reilly, “African and the International Criminal Court,” International Law:
Chatham House, 2.
58 Ibid.
59  T. Murithi, “The African Union and the International Criminal Court: An Embattled Relationship,” The Institute for Justice
and Reconciliation, IJR Policy Brief No. 8.
60  International Criminal Court. Accessed on September 18, 2017. https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/Main.aspx.

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40 Inge Odendaal

constructive dialogue. One proposed solution is the creation of an ICC liaisons office in
Addis Ababa.
This paper recommends that the ICC reassess its relationship with the African Union
and the UNSC, and focus on encouraging African states to form part of the ICC assembly.
With regards to the African Union, this paper recommends that it evaluates its stance
and audits its internal dialogue on its claims against the ICC, continues to enforce its man-
date by holding its own leadership accountable; and focus resources on improving the in-
stitutional integrity of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and African
Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.61

4. Conclusion
This paper set out to examine the legitimacy and value of the ICC in Africa. The discus-
sion started with a brief analysis of the contemporary state of the AU and ICC’s relation-
ship and found that it has deteriorated to a point where the ICC has severely lost authority,
legitimacy, and validity, among African leaders.
The discussion shifted to the problematic relationship between the UN Security Coun-
cil and the ICC to examine the argument of selective prosecution. This paper found that the
balance of power is shifted towards more prominent world powers whom sit on the United
Nations Security Council. The UN Security Council’s ability to make recommendations to
the prosecutor which serve as binding to all member states, regardless whether or not they
are signatory states of the Rome Statute, was found to be ambiguous in their decisions.
Pivotal points within the AU and ICC’s relationship were discussed, including arrest
warrant for Al-Bashir and the 2013 Kenyan cases. Following these events, the AU has de-
manded noncompliance by its members with ICC decisions, fostering a hostile relationship
with the Court and internal debate between AU member states.
In summary, the ICC’s constituency and legitimacy has been seriously affected by the
AU’s stance of non-compliance. This has limited the Court’s capacity to fulfill its mandate
as stipulated under the Statute. A lack of compliance has hindered the ICC’s ability to try its
accused, undermining both its legitimacy and value on the continent.
While bodies such as the ICC are necessary to ensure accountability for atrocities
against the marginalized, power dynamics in these institutions threaten their validity and
must be appropriately addressed to prevent hostilities and non-compliance.

61  T. Murithi, “The African Union and the International Criminal Court: An Embattled Relationship,” The Institute for Justice
and Reconciliation, IJR Policy Brief No. 8.

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Does the ICC Have A Place On the African Continent? 41

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De Rebus. “South Africa and the ICC: Stay or go?” Accessed September 18, 2017. http://
www.derebus.org.za/de-rebus-pdf-download/.
Du Plessis, M. Maluwa, T. & O’Reilly, A. “African and the International Criminal Court.”
International Law: Chatham House. 1-13.
Heywood, A. Global Politics. United Kingdom: Palgrave MacMillan.
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cpi.int/libya.
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Relationship.” The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation. IJR Policy Brief No. 8.
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and the ICC: Perceptions of Justice: 44-60. Accessed on September 19, 2017. https://
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www.icc-cpi.int/darfur.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
Implications of Domestic Terrorism
Reframing Uyghur Separatism in Xinjiang, China in a Post-9/11 Context
Kim Byrne
During the Strike Hard campaigns in the 1990s, the Chinese central government cracked
down on separatist violence of the Uyghur minority group in China’s westernmost province
of Xinjiang. In 1999, the Xinjiang government acknowledged the issue of violence, but
reversed its rhetoric in the early 2000s to appeal to potential trade partners and foreign
investors. When the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center disrupted
the international stage, the local and central Chinese governments’ stance on Xinjiang’s
internal stability shifted again. China swiftly assumed the new buzzword and began to
claim the threat of 'terrorism' in Xinjiang, thereby aligning its interests with the United
States against the new 'War on Terror'. Suddenly Uyghur separatism was broadcasted
as a security threat and an attack on the state. Beijing's motivation for this rebranding of
Uyghur violence in Xinjiang could be interpreted as a strategic move to improve relations
with the U.S. and legitimize the policies enacted by the central government on the Uyghur
minority. This paper seeks to understand the reframing of Uyghur separatism as terrorism
by the Chinese government since 9/11. The ‘9/11 effect’ on the geopolitical climate did not
leave China or Xinjiang untouched. Through the analysis of hard and soft censorship, the
history of Uyghur separatism and violent incidents, and the geopolitical focus on Islamic
terrorism, this paper argues that China uses terrorism as a justification for harsh policies
against Uyghur separatist sentiments and actions.

Introduction
China’s rise as a great power in the international system does not come without
complexities. As the world’s most populous nation, China is comprised of many differ-
ing and often conflicting identities, some of which struggle to coexist. In Xinjiang, the
westernmost province of Mainland China, the most prominent ethnic group is Uyghur.
The Uyghur are Sunni Muslims of Turkish descent who tend to identify more with their
religious and regional identities than a Chinese nationalist identity.1 This minority group
differs widely from the Han, who make up the majority of the Chinese population and
government; thus, some Uyghur have advocated for independence since the establishment
of the People’s Republic of China. An examination of separatist movements in Xinjiang
reveals an important subnational story of the region, its people, and the perception of
Chinese leadership towards internal security threats.
1  Xiao Wei Zang, “Major Determinants of Uyghur Ethnic Consciousness in Urumchi,” Modern Asian Studies 47, no. 6 (2013):
2046.

Kim Byrne is a senior at Elon University majoring in International Studies and
Political Science. She also has minors in Asian Studies and Religious Studies.
43 Kim Byrne

Prior to 9/11 and the global War on Terror, Uyghur separatism threatened the
Chinese regime’s perceived security. However, once the international community rallied
behind combatting terrorism and revamped counterterrorism efforts to multilateralism,
China strategically rebranded its internal security issue to a terrorism concern in order to
gain attention and legitimacy from the global community. Broadly defined, terrorism is a
strategy used by an individual or group that engages in systematic, indiscriminate violence
to achieve a political goal. Largely, this violence seeks to instill fear in the targeted govern-
ment and civilian populations. This paper explores how the terrorist attack of September
11, 2001 and the rise of transnational terrorism internationalized Uyghur separatism.
Additionally, this paper explores the impact of China’s tight control of information and its
citizens on the international community’s understanding of the situation in Xinjiang and
why China frames Uyghur separatism as terrorism. Through an analysis of the Chinese
authoritarian government’s framing of ethnic separatist movements in Xinjiang Province
as domestic terrorism, this paper argues that China strategically capitalized on the inter-
national emphasis on counterterrorism and the global War on Terror to attain legitimacy
from the international community and justify its actions against the movements.

Literature Review
Uyghur identity is a unifying and mobilizing force for the Chinese ethnic minor-
ity in Xinjiang. The rise of global terrorism awareness in the aftermath of 9/11 led to an
increase in scholarship surrounding the reframing of Uyghur separatism as terrorism.
Research on Xinjiang’s ethnic tensions and subsequent violence has focused on Uyghur
separatism, Chinese domestic terrorism, and censorship. While censorship is not directly
related to interpreting the significance of framing, it is an intervening variable in deter-
mining how Uyghur and Xinjiang are viewed both internally and externally. The scholar-
ship largely comes out of the West, which allows for both a less censored depiction of the
subnational story and an overwhelmingly external narrative.

Uyghur Separatism
Scholarship surrounding the Uyghur ethnic minority’s separatist movement in
China’s Xinjiang province has developed in recent years. With the rise of terrorism as an
organizing principle and policy justification on an international level, the term is used
often by regimes to illustrate non-state actors seeking to obtain a political goal. Michael
Clarke argues that the actions of a state, in efforts to reduce instability and increase se-
curity, sometimes produce an environment of instability. Dubbed the ‘security dilemma,’
Clarke examines the juxtaposition of a state’s intention for security and the outcome

Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
Implications of Domestic Terrorism 44

resulting in insecurity. He understands China’s involvement in Xinjiang as an example of a
security dilemma.
Scholars suggest the Chinese leadership has significant economic interests
in Xinjiang. The foundation of Kunal Mukherjee’s analysis of the conflict in Xinjiang
explores three lenses: “the rise of ethnic nationalism, impact of external forces on the con-
flict, and the human rights situation.”1 According to Mukherjee, Xinjiang is important to
China because it grants access to oil and gas resources that the rest of the mainland lacks.
Similarly, Malika Tukmadiyeva suggests that internal stability in the resource-rich area is
the regime’s main goal for Central Asia because stability there will increase the survival of
the state.2
Altay Atli also challenges the common understanding that Beijing is involved
in Xinjiang to persuade Uyghur to collaborate with the Chinese leadership. Instead, Alti
argues that China is interested in Xinjiang for primarily economic reasons with a much
lesser emphasis on political stability or independence. The failure of ethnic groups to
coexist is of little significance to the Chinese government, according to Alti, countering
Mukherjee and Tukmadiyeva. China’s goal is to suppress separatist movements in order to
protect economic and material welfare.3
Scholars of Uyghur separatism use ethnicity as a variable to explain separatist
sentiments. The overarching theme of Mukherjee’s research is to understand autonomy,
defined as the political independence of a region or a group of people from its existing
country. The conflict between ethnic minorities and the majority grows into an issue of
nationalist sentiment and poses a perceived threat to the regime in power. Clarke outlines
the security dilemma of ethnic hierarchy. Beijing perpetuates an ethnic hierarchy in the
Chinese societal system with Han-identifying people at the top; thus, any minority group
poses a threat to this hierarchical structure.4 The Uyghur people comprise of the majority
of Xinjiang’s population, and this group has a history of separatist sentiment through-
out the latter half of the 20th century. Clarke defines state security as protection of state
sovereignty from external threats. Social security encompasses the security of a group and
threats to identity. The survival of the state and the society are reliant on the security of
sovereignty and identity respectively. Clarke suggests that China is confronted with the
rise of ethnic nationalism and terrorism in Xinjiang, thus the Chinese leadership feels

1  Kunal Mukherjee, “Comparing China and India’s Disputed Borderland Regions: Xinjiang, Tibet, Kashmir, and the Indian
Northeast,” East Asia: An International Quarterly; Dordrecht 32, no. 2 (2015): 173.
2  Malika Tukmadiyeva, “Xinjiang in China’s Foreign Policy toward Central Asia,” Connections:
The Quarterly Journal 12, no. 3 (2013): 103.
3  Altay Alti, “The Role of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the Economic Security of China,” Orta Asya ve Kafkasya
Arastirmalari 6, no. 11 (2011): 111.
4  Michael Clarke, “China’s Internal Security Dilemma and the ‘Great Western Development’: The Dynamics of Integration,
Ethnic Nationalism and Terrorism in Xinjiang,” Asian Studies Review 31, no. 3 (2007): 324.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
45 Kim Byrne

regional security is being threatened.
Ethnic and religious identity is imperative to the Uyghur people in Xinjiang.
Similar to Mukherjee and Clarke, Elizabeth Van Wei Davis argues that although the
violence of this separatist movement is rooted in the ethnic and religious rhetoric, there
is no unified agenda. Davis understands that an unstable Xinjiang threatens the Chinese
leadership because there is a perceived domino effect into Tibet, Taiwan, and Inner Mon-
golia. She goes on to argue that the Chinese government’s crackdown on Uyghur violence
reduces the threat in the short term, but “fuels a sense of injustice and mistrust among the
Uyghur in the long run.”5
Zang Xiaowei has a slightly different focus in her analysis of Uyghur separat-
ism. She provides a thorough explanation of the Uyghur ethnic group in Xinjiang and the
growing ethnic consciousness of this group since the opening up of China and the migra-
tion of Han Chinese into the province. The Cultural Revolution under Chairman Mao
Zedong from 1966 to 1976 seemed to be an attack on the ethnic minority by the Han-
dominated government.6 As a result of the long-term ethnic targeting, she suggests that
growing ethnic inequalities and an increased emphasis on Uyghur language and Islamic
religiosity aid the Uyghur to foster separatist sentiments against the Chinese government.
Zang argues that Uyghur feel culturally targeted and marginalized, thus increasing the
desire for autonomy.
Many scholars have addressed the validity of China’s claim that the Uyghur vio-
lence threatens the stability of the regime. James Millward argues that while the PRC's fear
of Uyghur violence as a result of separatist sentiments is legitimate due to their historical
engagement in violent activities, the threat that unrest and further violence has escalated
to a crisis since the 1990s is overstated. Uyghur separatism has been a prevalent ideology
in Xinjiang since the time of the Qing dynasty. The international awareness of Uyghur vio-
lence, however, was only recently brought to the public’s attention. As a result of 9/11 and
the War on Terror, the Chinese government has rebranded Uyghur violence as terrorism
to legitimize the security threat and subsequent efforts to suppress separatist sentiments
in Xinjiang. Millward understands that there is significant tension between Uyghur people
and the Chinese leadership, but even still, the imminent threat of terrorism in Xinjiang is
quite exaggerated.

Chinese Domestic Terrorism
Scholars analyze Uyghur separatism as a phenomenon of domestic and global
significance. Malika Tukmadiyeva outlines China’s view of controlling Central Asia as

5  Elizabeth Van Wei Davis, “Uyghur Muslim Ethnic Separatism in Xinjiang, China,” Asian Affairs, an American Review 35, no.
1 (2008): 23.
6  Zang, “Major Determinants of Uyghur Ethnic Consciousness in Urumchi,” 2050.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
Implications of Domestic Terrorism 46

the regime’s attempt to guarantee the stability and economic development of Xinjiang
province.7 China has articulated its regional security concerns as the ‘three evils’: terror-
ism, extremism, and separatism. The situation in Xinjiang has been made to fit into these
categories.
For the Chinese government, Uyghur separatists fit its perception of terrorism.
An article published in the Chinese state-sanctioned newspaper, China Daily, deems vio-
lence conducted by this minority group in Xinjiang as acts of terror against the Chinese
state.8 However, the article’s bias is evident the language used and the claims made in
favor of the government regime. The article is skewed to portray the Chinese leadership’s
perspective of terrorism and violence in Xinjiang even as the central government tries to
improve the economic situation in the region. This article suggests that Uyghur violence is
rooted in ethnic tension rather than economic disparities.
Terrorism, as determined by the Chinese government, threatens the influence
of the regime through the use of force. Christopher Cunningham explains that Chinese
leadership deemed Uyghur separatism a terrorist organization and even connected one
specific branch to al-Qaeda to gain legitimacy from the international community.9
However, Cunningham refutes Beijing’s claim on the basis of embellishment, suggesting
instead that China has strategic and material interests in the region. This central counter-
argument suggests that the perceived threat to the regime is actually economic rather than
political. Cunningham introduces the idea that Beijing attempted to link Uyghur separat-
ists to terrorism to legitimize their counterterrorism efforts. He also argues that stability
and control in Xinjiang are imperative to securing economic and material interests of the
Chinese government.
Similar to Cunningham’s explanation of China’s leadership perception of a
Uyghur terrorist threat, Kevin Sheives argues that post-Cold War Chinese involvement in
Central Asia is driven by Chinese interests in solidifying regional stability and increasing
security.10 He explains that separatist movements in Xinjiang, while they are considered
terrorism by the Chinese leadership, are not on par with the international community’s
understanding of terrorism. Tukmadiyeva’s analysis of the three evils to Chinese national
security is applicable to Scheives’s research in the sense that understanding China’s efforts
to combat and control Uyghur separatism is contingent on the government’s view of this
movement as a terrorist threat.
7  Tukmadiyeva, “Xinjiang in China’s Foreign Policy toward Central Asia,” 87–107.
8  Zhiping Pan, “United Front Against Terrorism,” China Daily, August 7, 2014, http://www.china.org.cn/opinion/2014-08/07/
content_33168549.htm.
9  Christopher P. Cunningham, 2012, “Counterterrorism in Xinjiang: The ETIM, China, and the Uyghurs,” International Jour-
nal on World Peace; New York 29 (3): 7–50.
10  Kevin Sheives, 2006, “China Turns West: Beijing’s Contemporary Strategy Towards Central Asia,” Pacific Affairs; Vancouver
79 (2): 205–24, 176, 181.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
47 Kim Byrne

Censorship
Scholars studying Uyghur separatism in Xinjiang provide a unique view of the
regime’s perception of the threat through personal interactions. Mukherjee underscores
the political sensitivity of Xinjiang separatism due to Chinese control over information
and a fear of government retaliation for speaking about the situation. In an interview
with a Uyghur man from Kashgar, he notices the man is uncomfortable and unwilling to
discuss the issue with the researcher.11 On this individual level of analysis, Mukherjee’s re-
search illustrates the Uyghur desire or knowledge of a separatist movement juxtaposed on
the limit of freedoms to express themselves. According to Steve Guo and Feng Guangchao,
China is likely the largest example of institutionalized censorship in history.12 Guo and
Feng’s analysis of public opinion demonstrates that censorship, as experienced by the
Uyghur, has tangible effects on public sentiment.
Gary King, Jennifer Pan, and Margaret Roberts conducted an experiment to
analyze the content of millions of social media posts from all over China and records
of government censorship.13 The findings of their research support the aforementioned:
Chinese censorship aims to curtail collective action via the removal of content that could
spur social mobilization. This is significant because separatist movements in China are
often handled with a violent crackdown by the government supplemented with increased
control over the expression of information.
On a more leadership-based analysis, Peter Lorentzen argues there is an as-
sumption that authoritarian regimes fear and restrict media independence.14 His research
suggests that regimes may use independent media to their advantage. Lorentzen illustrates
that an authoritarian system, not unlike the Chinese system, can benefit from a sophis-
ticated media control strategy by allowing journalists to report on low-level subjects to
improve trust in government.
Another perspective of Chinese censorship comes from scholar Agnieszka
Joniak-Luthi.15 She explains the difficulty in collecting scholarly research material under
the extreme state and police presence in China. It is especially difficult to conduct inter-
views and collect data because the researcher is aware of the dangers to the informant.

11  Mukherjee, “Comparing China and India’s Disputed Borderland Regions,” 190.
12  Steve Guo and Guangchao Feng, “Understanding Support for Internet Censorship in China: An Elaboration of the Theory
of Reasoned Action,” Journal of Chinese Political Science 17, no.
1 (2012): 33–52.
13  Gary King, Jennifer Pan, and Margaret E. Roberts, 2013, “How Censorship in China Allows Government Criticism but
Silences Collective Expression,” The American Political Science Review; Washington 107 (2): 326–43.
14  Peter Lorentzen, “China’s Strategic Censorship,” American Journal of Political Science 58, no. 2 (2014): 402-14.
15  Agnieszka Joniak-Luthi, 2016, “Disciplines, Silences and Fieldwork Methodology under Surveillance,” Zeitschrisft Fuer
Ethnologie 141 (2): 197–214.

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Implications of Domestic Terrorism 48

Joniak-Luthi suggests that the government fears researchers because there is little way to
control what information gets published outside national borders, thus the state pres-
sures researchers into self-censorship. It is therefore necessary to apply a critical lens to all
research that comes out of an authoritarian nation because the data that is presented could
have been manipulated.
Scholarship on censorship is slightly challenging to connect to the overall discus-
sion of Chinese terrorism because scholars rarely focus on the actual information being
censored. However, the importance of censorship cannot be ignored in the context of Chi-
na’s internal conflicts, despite the difficulty of its prevalence in the field. China’s regulation
over what is published within its borders and what external information can be accessed
influences the internal and external depiction of Uyghur separatism and subsequently can
affect public opinion on the topic.

Argument/Rationale for Case Selection
The Chinese government’s response to Uyghur separatist movements is an
example of authoritarian regimes using terrorism to frame threats to regime security. As a
Muslim minority group, the Uyghur are vulnerable to association with the global ‘War on
Terror’ and Islamic terrorism. This subnational group is distinct from Tibetan separatism,
yet scholars could find many points of comparison between both subnational struggles.
Systematic economic disparity within Xinjiang plays a big role in the violence that Xinji-
ang has experienced.

Historical Background
There are approximately 8 million Uyghur people living in the Xinjiang Uyghur
Autonomous Region. While it is officially labeled an autonomous region, granting the
area its own provisional government, Xinjiang is still subject to Chinese Communist
Party (CCP) influences and PRC laws. Culturally, Uyghur people identify with Turkey
and Central Asia. The resource-rich province borders India, Russia, Afghanistan, Paki-
stan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, and Mongolia.16 An estimated 500,000 Uyghur
people reside outside of Xinjiang in Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Only about 150,000 Uyghur live outside of Central Asia in
places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Europe, or the United States.17
Conquered by the Qing dynasty in 1759, Xinjiang has been subject to Han
Chinese control with little representation in government. The Communist Party imple-

16  Christopher B. Primano, “China Under Stress: The Xinjiang Question,” International Politics 50, no. 3 (2013): 456.
17  Cunningham, “Counterterrorism in Xinjiang,” 9.

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49 Kim Byrne

mented policies after the installment of the nationalist government in 1944, but Xinji-
ang was largely unaffected until the Cultural Revolution. From 1966 to 1976, the Party
targeted Uyghur elite including intellectuals and religious leaders, closed rural bazaars,
and publically burned religious scripts.18 In a post-Mao China, the CCP acknowledged the
damaging consequences of the Cultural Revolution on Uyghur in Xinjiang. In an effort to
regain support from Xinjiang and maintain a political and economic stronghold over the
province, the CCP legalized religious expression and granted the region exemption from
the One Child Policy. Pilgrimage to Mecca was granted to eligible Uyghur starting in 1979
and the number of mosques rose for the first time since the Cultural Revolution.19
Liberalization and reform were the overarching themes of the post-Mao era and
Xinjiang was not excluded. However, the goals of the provincial government conflicted
with those of Beijing. Protests broke out in 1985 when the CCP considered using Xinjiang
as a site for nuclear testing and tensions escalated in response to the 1989 Tiananmen
Square demonstrations.20
The Uyghur ethnic group of Xinjiang province experienced a growing ethnic
consciousness post-opening up in 1978 as a result of Han Chinese spreading into the
province. The consciousness materialized in growing ethnic inequalities and emphasis on
the Uyghur language and Islamic religiosity. The Chinese government envisions a mod-
ernized Xinjiang with a robust economy and developed infrastructure. Yet, the Uyghur
population does not completely share these goals. In the 1990s, Uyghur began to ask for
more autonomy and land, which led to sometimes-violent revolts against Han Chinese
and the CCP. The government attributed this unrest to the lax policies regarding religion
and culture granted by Deng Xiaoping.21
In 1949, Han Chinese only made up 6% of Xinjiang's population. Since then, Han
people have flooded the major cities in Xinjiang and filled the expanding labor market due
to Beijing’s economic expansion initiative. Han Chinese accounted for 40% of the popula-
tion in 2000.22 There is significant ethnic tension between the Han and the Uyghur both
within and outside of Xinjiang province. The Uyghur people are often ostracized when
migrating outside of Xinjiang for employment. The Han Chinese perceive Uyghur excep-
tions as discriminatory; however, Han Chinese benefit far more from Chinese policies and
Uyghur have been systematically marginalized and targeted by the Chinese government.23

18  Zang, “Major Determinants of Uyghur Ethnic Consciousness in Urumchi,” 2050.
19  Ibid., 2051.
20  Michael Clarke, “China’s ‘War on Terror’ in Xinjiang: Human Security and the Causes of Violent Uighur Separatism,” Ter-
rorism and Political Violence 20, no. 2 (2008): 277.
21  Zang, “Major Determinants of Uyghur Ethnic Consciousness in Urumchi,” 2052.
22  Primano, “China Under Stress,” 455.
23  Ibid., 457.

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Implications of Domestic Terrorism 50

During the 1980s and 1990s, China saw a multitude of attacks and separatist vio-
lence on government officials and civilians by Uyghur extremists. The Chinese media por-
trayed the area as unstable and dangerous. One of the most notable incidences of Uyghur
violence was a series of bombings that occurred in Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang
and Beijing, the capital of the PRC in 1997, on the anniversary of Deng Xiaoping’s death.
These bombings killed only 12 people, but successfully induced CCP fear, causing the
Party to tighten policies in the region.24
In response to increasing separatist violence, Beijing implemented policies
directly targeting Uyghur such as ordering cab drivers outside of Xinjiang not to pick
up them up. Additionally, the Strike Hard campaign was introduced in 1996 to counter
radicalism in Xinjiang. During its implementation, 190 people were tortured and executed
for ties to separatism.25 The implementation of this campaign coincided with the Chinese
statement of the three evils: separatism, terrorism, and extremism.26 The Strike Hard
campaigns focused on accelerating arrests, trials, and sentencing of criminals. However,
this action was disproportionately directed toward national separatists.27 Although the
intention was never publically acknowledged, the campaigns were geared to target the Uy-
ghur without posing a threat to the Han in the region. The Chinese government justified
their actions toward the Uyghur as the right of a sovereign state dealing with the threat of
separatist individuals.
Prior to 9/11, Chinese government considered the conflict purely domestic, to
be dealt with internally. Beijing even considered easing up on its policies in Xinjiang by
reducing police enforcement of the Strike Hard Campaign. However, in light of the 9/11
attacks and the subsequent U.S. initiation of a global war on terror, specifically targeting
groups associated with Islam, China’s domestic threat moved to the international stage.

Main Analysis
Uyghur Separatist Connections to Islamic Radicalism
The Chinese leadership has altered its rhetoric on the Uyghur over time in order
to justify its counter efforts and save face with the international community. Depending
on the climate of Chinese relations with other prominent actors, Beijing has either denied
or responded ambiguously to reports of violence or unrest in Xinjiang. In order to project
its alignment with to the United States and the international community in regards to the
global War on Terror, China plays up the national and regional security threat of separat-

24  Cunningham, “Counterterrorism in Xinjiang,” 12.
25  Primano, “China Under Stress,” 460.
26  Justin Hastings, “Charting the Course of Uyghur Unrest,” The China Quarterly 208, Dec. (2011): 909.
27  Clarke, “China’s ‘War on Terror’ in Xinjiang,” 280.

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51 Kim Byrne

ism in Xinjiang.28 From 1992-1997, reports suggested that Uyghur separatists conducted
at least 200 violent terrorist attacks, killed 162 people, and injured over 440. More than
30 'terrorist’ cells were found, captured, tried, and often times executed. The reports of
attacks included instances of "assassinations, explosions, arson, and poisoning."29 During
this time, Xinjiang was partially inaccessible to foreign travelers and journalists. Chinese
policy reiterated that Uyghur violence was an internal issue and the PRC intentionally
kept reports of the instability in the region quiet.30 In 2001, the rhetoric shifted.
With al-Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Center in New York and the subse-
quent War on Terror rhetoric, terrorism became a global buzzword and fear of terrorism,
namely Islamic terrorism, quickly became ingrained in the international public. The Chi-
nese government seized this opportunity as a way to legitimize their harsh policies toward
the Muslim Uyghur population in Xinjiang.31 After 9/11, orders from Beijing instructed
that Xinjiang schools and universities were required to teach classes strictly in Manda-
rin, no longer allowing students to choose between Uyghur and Mandarin. The PRC
also tightened its freedom of religious expression policies in the region.32 Chinese state-
sanctioned news began framing the situation in Xinjiang as jihad or war between Uyghur
separatists and the Chinese leadership, labeling separatists as Islamic extremists.33 Beijing
portrays Uyghur separatism as synonymous with Islamic radicalism and intentionally uses
the Uyghur’s Muslim identity to connect them to international definitions of terrorism.

ETIM and Chinese Domestic Terrorism
The Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement, or ETIM, is one of the major separat-
ist groups in Xinjiang. The Chinese government uses the term East Turkestan Terrorist
Organization to represent the whole of the Xinjiang movement. The central Chinese
government frequently references this group to establish a connection between Uyghur
national separatism and Islamic extremism. However, many of the actual incidences of
Uyghur violence or separatist protests are not let, funded, or supported by ETIM.
The primary goal of the ETIM is to establish Islamic law in Tashkorgan, a small
geographic portion of Xinjiang that boards Pakistan and Afghanistan, justifying the
government’s association of the group with other Islamic movements.34 However, most

28  Yitzhak Shichor, “Blow Up: Internal and External Challenges of Uyghur Separatism and Islamic Radicalism to Chinese Rule
in Xinjiang,” Asian Affairs 32, no. 2 (2005): 124.
29 Ibid.,121.
30 Ibid.
31  Primano, “China Under Stress,” 461.
32  Hastings, “Charting the Course of Uyghur Unrest,” 895.
33  Shichor, “Blow Up,” 120.
34  Ibid., 123.

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Implications of Domestic Terrorism 52

Uyghur separatist organizations do not identify primarily with their faith.35
Under the term ‘terrorism’, the Chinese government has more freedom to act
as they see fit to contain separatist groups within its borders. Chinese policies that target
Uyghur are now less vulnerable to human rights violations claims from the international
community. Reframing the situation in Xinjiang legitimizes China’s systematic violence
against the Uyghur minority. Since 2001, the U.S. has detained a handful of Uyghur pris-
oners at Guantanamo Bay for their alleged connections to known Islamic terrorist groups
in the Middle East.36 As a result of the arrests, China is more secure in its claim that the
Uyghur are linked to Islamic terrorism.
The international community is notably more interested in Xinjiang’s status
since the War on Terror began. As Uyghur separatism receives more attention and the
terrorist frame is solidified in international media, the strength of the separatist campaign
has weakened due to lack of external support. As a result of the increased government
presence both militarily and policy-wise in Xinjiang, external actors have largely confined
their support to human rights activism, thus avoiding issues of autonomy or indepen-
dence.37
In 2002, the U.S. embassy in Beijing and the United Nations declared the ETIM
group a terrorist organization due to a planned attack on the U.S. embassy in Kyrgyzstan.38
This label further legitimized CCP policies in Xinjiang. The United Nations also declared
ETIM to be a financer of terrorism, supplemented by a report from the PRC claiming the
existence of eleven active terror groups in China, all in the Uyghur community.39

The Impact of Chinese Censorship on the Uyghur Situation
Generally, censorship is defined as any government restrictions placed on access
to information. Censorship can be broken up into two categories, hard and soft censor-
ship, both of which are apparent under the Chinese central government. Hard censorship
focuses mainly on controlling internally published material and targets the individual that
posts contentious information or expresses unpopular opinions. Soft censorship restricts
access to online information. Evidence suggests that the CCP has blocked certain exter-
nal websites and tailored search engines results to align with the CCP’s narrative.40 The
Chinese government’s frame of Uyghur violence mixes both hard and soft censorship. The
portrayal of the violence wields influence over threat severity perceptions and public sup-
35  Shichor, "Blow Up," 128.
36  James Millward, “Violent Separatism in Xinjiang: A Critical Assessment,” Policy Studies 6, no. 6 (2004): 1.
37  Shichor, “Blow Up,” 133.
38  Cunningham, “Counterterrorism in Xinjiang,”13.
39  Ibid., 14.
40  Zhijin Zhong et al., “Does the Great Fire Wall Cause Self-Censorship? The Effects of Perceived Internet Regulation and the
Justification of Regulation,” Internet Research 27, no. 4 (2017): 976.

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53 Kim Byrne

port for government response. Therefore, China has implemented its censorship regime
on the Uyghur separatist movement through its framing of separatism as terrorism in a
post-9/11 world.
The authoritarian nature of China’s central government enables the CCP to ma-
nipulate the media to its advantage. Chinese media is primarily state-owned and the news
is controlled to align with the official Party narrative, framing any coverage of the separat-
ist movements with terrorism rhetoric. The Internet has enabled the Uyghur people to
voice their grievances with the central government via blogs. Blogging is used as a form of
popular resistance as a vehicle for self-expression, interaction among like-minded people,
and circulation of personal stories.41 Because these blogs are highly censored, many Uy-
ghur blogs are flagged and taken down quickly.42
Additionally, the regime uses censorship to manipulate the information that is
accessible to Chinese citizens on blogs and other Internet platforms. In response to the
risk of state censorship, Uyghur sources undergo a significant degree of self-censorship.
Another major facet of the Chinese censorship regime that affects Uyghur separatism is
restrictions on external media. The Chinese online censorship system, also known as the
“Great Fire Wall,” filters access to external websites and information.43 Subsequently, the
Uyghur people are unable to access information published by external groups that may
sympathize with their situation or provide important information.

Conclusion
Despite de jure autonomy in the region, the Chinese Communist Party continues
to wield significant control over Xinjiang. As a result, the provincial Xinjiang govern-
ment is not as representative of the Uyghur majority as policy implies, contributing to the
creation of Uyghur separatist movements.
In December of 2002, the Bush administration added the East Turkestan Islamic
Movement, ETIM, to the list of international terrorist organizations. A year after this
announcement was publicized, China published its first announcement since 1990 linking
Uyghur separatism to terrorism. The Chinese central government, through regional police
and the People’s Liberation Army, increased enforcement of the Strike Hard campaigns in
Xinjiang, to the international community turned a blind eye.
This study illustrates the implications of reframing internal nationalist separat-
ism as domestic terrorism. Since the rebranding of the Xinjiang separatist movements as
terrorism, the international community has largely ignored the crisis. While human rights

41  Qing Yu Hai, “Blogging Everyday Life in Chinese Internet Culture,” Asian Studies Review 31, no. 4 (2007): 424.
42  Pan, “United Front Against Terrorism.”
43  Zhong et al., “Does the Great Fire Wall Cause Self-Censorship?” 974.

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Implications of Domestic Terrorism 54

activists and organizations were tuned into China’s policies against the Uyghur in Xinji-
ang before 9/11, once the rhetoric shifted, criticisms quieted. The international concern
surrounding Islamic terrorism in the Middle East served as the perfect scapegoat for the
authoritarian policies against the Uyghur.
Beijing has victimized itself under the frame of Uyghur terrorism threats when
in reality the Uyghur have faced military and political oppression for decades. Direct-
ing attention to the illegitimate reframing of the Uyghur movement could encourage the
international community to reassess its passivity in regards to the crisis. Additionally,
this research could introduce the idea that terrorism can serve as an easy justification for
governments to centralize control in response to domestic instability.

`

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55 Kim Byrne

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Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
57 Kim Byrne

Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
The Populist Challenge:
Can the International System Survive Religious and Eurosceptic Populism?
Sofia Kavlin

This paper is based on the assumption that populism is an empirically observable phenom-
enon that enables cross-cultural comparison. We argue that the grievance hypothesis is par-
ticularly useful to analyze the process by which the grievances produced by the international
order produce local populist groups. Of particular interest to this study, is the extent to which
different forms of populism threaten the international order and the responses appropriate
for each form. Our analysis contends that religious populism constitutes a structural threat
while Eurosceptic populism constitutes a normative challenge. The implications of each are
radically different and we will discuss some possible approaches for the international com-
munity to mitigate the effects.

Introduction
Days after the British referendum, an editorial from La Razón read: ‘Populism is
Tearing Europe Apart’. Additionally, Anthony Painter from The Times noted that ‘Popu-
lism is a real threat to mainstream democracy.’1 Populist movements have been patholo-
gized by liberal media, reducing their actions to ‘human impulses from fear, racism, and
corruption.’2 This representation diminishes the legitimacy of grievances that originally
gave rise to these populist movements. This paper will explore the links between the
norms and institutions of the international order and the 21st century populist surge.
Operating under the assumption that populism is an empirically observable phenomenon,
this research advances the argument that the populist phenomenon operates by translat-
ing local grievances into politically salient discourses, which in turn can threaten the
international order from different angles according to “varying ideological traditions and
sociopolitical environments.”3 This paper examines the interaction between international
and domestic politics in order to understand religious populism in the Middle East and
Eurosceptic populism in Western Europe. First, we will provide a theoretical background
outlining key notions such as populism, international order, and the grievance hypothesis.

1 Giorgos Katsambekis, “The Populist Surge in Post‐Democratic Times: Theoretical and Political Challenges," The Political
Quarterly 88, no. 2 (2017): 202-210. 
2 Olivier Jutel, "The Liberal Field of Journalism and the Political – the New York Times, Fox News and the Tea Party," Journalism
17, no. 8 (2016): 1129-45. 
3  Katsambekis, “The Populist Surge in Post‐Democratic Times"

Sofia Kavlin is a fourth year International Relations and Anthropology stu-
dent at the University of Toronto. She completed this paper as part of a senior
seminar in Fragile and Conflict Affected States in Global Politics.
59 Sofia Kavlin

Second, we will relate these ideas to religious populism in the Middle East, focusing on
the case of Al-Qaeda. In the third part, we will offer an overview of Eurosceptic populist
parties in Europe and how they affect the international liberal order in a radically different
way than religious populisms. We will end by providing an overview of the lessons of the
21st century populist surge and outline appropriate international responses.

1. Theoretical Background and Key Notions
Populism, as described by Cas Muddle (2004), “refers to a thin ideology that sep-
arates two homogenous and antagonistic groups: the pure people versus the corrupt elite,
and which argues that politics should be an expression of the will of people.”4 Traditional
theories of the populist challenge tend to argue that populism is a threat to local constitu-
tive democracy. Theorists such as Peter Mair (2009) argue that populist movements are a
direct challenge to the democratic party system, contesting the legitimacy of the latter as
the direct link between citizens and public policy.5 Mainstream theories of the ‘populist
challenge’ tend to link populism to the failure of representative democracy in the Western
hemisphere. The emphasis on the ‘populist challenge’ as a Western phenomenon tends to
play down the global scope of populism. This paper concurs that populism arises from a
crisis of representation and exacerbates intra-group antagonism. However, it challenges
the idea that that the populist threat is an inherently western or localized phenomenon.
Globalization and the rise of communication technology necessitate a reassessment of the
populist phenomena. For this reason, this paper will broaden the focus of populism to
consider it both as a result of the discrepancies of the international order and as a threat
that extends beyond state boundaries and the Western hemisphere. Focusing on populism
as a global phenomenon requires the acknowledgement that populist movements differ
greatly in form and content depending on local resources, culture, and power structures.
This paper will consider how the core elements of populism—crisis of representation,
intra-group antagonism, and political discourse expressing ‘the will of the people’—mani-
fest differently across various contexts.6 We are particularly interested in how local popu-
list movements exploit grievances produced by the international order and interpret the
international liberal order as a common enemy regardless of geographic context.
This paper defines international order as the international liberal order spear-
headed by the United States in the late 1940’s, notably under the Bretton Woods system.7
The concept of international order, according to Jeffrey Haynes (2009), centers on two

4  Hanspeter Kriesi, "The Populist Challenge," West European Politics 37, no. 2 (2014): 362.
5 Ibid.
6  Katsambekis, “The Populist Surge in Post‐Democratic Times."
7  Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry, "The Myth of the Autocratic Revival: Why Liberal Democracy Will Prevail," Foreign
Affairs 88, no. 1 (2009): 77-93.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
The Populist Challenge 60

main themes: “1. An international acceptance of common values and norms, including
the body of international law and 2. The development of institutions (UN, WTO, NATO)
designed to preserve and develop the international order.”8 At the turn of the century,
President George W. Bush spoke of a ‘New World Order’ based on the strength of interna-
tional law and global organizations. Nevertheless, this vision was based on the acceptance
of core liberal values: democracy, sovereign equality, secularism, and free markets.9 This
meant that in order to be considered a legitimate government, countries were compelled
to liberalize their economies, and maintain democratic practices that resonated with
Western liberal values and institutions. We argue that discrepancies between the liberal
ideals advanced by the current international order and economic and political realities
in many countries have created local grievances that can easily be exploited by populist
groups.
Central to the grievance hypothesis is the ability of an organization to translate
the frustrations of ‘the people’ into a politically salient discourse. Murshed and Tadjoed-
din (2009) sub-divide theories of grievance into relative deprivation and polarization.10
The former is defined as the discrepancy between what people think they deserve and
what they can actually acquire. The latter occurs “when two groups exhibit great inter-
group heterogeneity combined with intra-group homogeneity.” In other words, there is
an insider-outsider dynamic that creates antagonism between the disenfranchised and
the ‘elite’ international order. The grievance hypothesis has traditionally focused on local
power dynamics; however, this paper argues that it is a particularly useful framework
when considering the effects of the international order on local politics.

2. Religious Populism in Iraq and Afghanistan
A study of religious populism in the Middle East is relevant for two main
reasons. First, it enables an assessment of the role of information technology and global-
ization in expanding the scope of the populist phenomena. Second, it enables the study
of resurfacing religious fundamentalism. Joshua Yates (2007) defines religious populism
in the 21st century as “the hardening of religious orthodoxies in confrontation with the
disruptions, dislocations and disenchantments caused by the processes of globalization.”11

2.1 The Religious Populism of Al-Qaeda

8  Jeffrey Haynes, “Transnational Religious Actors and International Order,” Perspectives 17, no. 2 (2009): 43-69.
9 Ibid.
10  Syed Mansoob Murshed and Mohammad Zulfan Tadjoeddin, "Revisiting the Greed and Grievance Explanations for Violent
Internal Conflict," Journal of International Development 21, no. 1 (2009): 87-111.
11  Joshua J. Yates, "The Resurgence Of Jihad & The Specter Of Religious Populism," SAIS Review 27, no. 1 (2007): 127-144.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
61 Sofia Kavlin

The case of Al-Qaeda, a radical Islamist organization founded in 1988 in Afghan-
istan, exemplifies Yates’ definition of religious populism.12 This form of religious extrem-
ism generates support from the masses exploiting political disenfranchisement and lack
of economic opportunity from the liberal system. Al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden
emphatically proclaimed:

You steal our wealth and oil…Your forces occupy our country…You have starved the Mus-
lims of Iraq…It is no wonder that more than 1.5 million Iraqi children have died as a result
of your sanctions, and you did not show concern. (…) Do not await anything from us but
jihad, resistance, and revenge.”13

Bin Laden’s discourse aligns with the grievance hypothesis. First, it echoes feel-
ings of relative deprivation in regard to the discrepancy between what people thought they
should receive from oil exports and what they actually received. Second, it emphasizes
polarization, in the form of a hierarchical international order that enables the West to oc-
cupy less powerful countries with little opposition. Ultimately, this excerpt demonstrates a
capacity to channel grievances into an anti-establishment political movement that creates
a credible threat to the international order.
Theorists have focused on the link between state failure and the challenge ter-
rorism poses to the international order and its key institutions. Haynes (2009) argues that
“failed states such as Pakistan may facilitate the formation and development of religious
terrorist organizations, allowing greater freedom of action than when there is a strong
central government.”14 Thus, radical Islamic groups such as Al-Qaeda depends on the
availability of state sponsors and sanctuary territories. Weak regulation and policing in
neighboring countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have allowed extremist groups
to develop their support base devoid of significant government interference.15 Further-
more, weak territorial control across neighboring states also enables the establishment of
widespread illicit networks that fund new operations. This highlights how globalization
can increase regional skirmishes, undermining territorial sovereignty and jeopardizing
regional stability. Moreover, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates have expanded the appeal of ex-
tremist groups through the transnational flow of information made possible by advances
in communication technology. Al-Qaeda’s intentional manipulation of the television
network Al-Jazeera, widespread Internet use, digital records, and satellite phones have
enabled religious Islamic populism to develop a decentralized, yet ideologically unified,

12  Ty McCormick, “Al Qaeda Core." Foreign Policy no. 205 (2014): 26-27.
13  Yates, "The Resurgence Of Jihad & The Specter Of Religious Populism"
14  Haynes, “Transnational Religious Actors"
15  Edward Newman, "Weak States, State Failure, and Terrorism." Terrorism and Political Violence 19, no. 4 (2007): 463-488.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
The Populist Challenge 62

support network.16

2.2 A Structural Threat to the International Order
Religious populism poses structural challenges to the international order by
inciting incendiary actions from the West. The Bush Administration’s ‘War on Terror’
response in the post-9/11 period replaced the United Nations Charter’s norms of non-
intervention, state sovereignty, and sovereignty with preemption, aimed at authorizing
interventions in countries such as Iraq in order to counter terrorist activities. This transi-
tion alienated potential allies and reduced changes of conciliation with Al-Qaeda’s regions
of influence. This provided ample propaganda material to religious populist groups like
Al-Qaeda.
Moreover, Al-Qaeda threatens the structural foundation of the international or-
der because it does not recognize the separation of church and state as a legitimate means
of governance. Religious populist groups tend to frame their objectives in terms of a fight
against “the globalizing secularity” of the Western liberal order.17 When U.S military
forces entered Saudi Arabian soil in 1994, Bin Laden proclaimed, “God decrees humilia-
tion for you and will not remove it until you return to your religion.”18 Al-Qaeda does not
recognize the legitimacy of states that do not operate under sharia law.

2.3 Responding to Religious Populism
The international order must address legal and structural contradictions within
its system to balance security and justice goals with notions of legality. Waging a war on
‘terror’—a non-state actor—is unprecedented under the UN Charter. A legal system that
only allows wars to be waged against other states fails to establish adequate protocols of
action in the event of an international threat rooted in a decentralized religious populist
movement. A restructuring of the international order must take into account regional
nuances of conflict and cooperation that do not fit into the conventional state frame-
work. The international order could scale down to regional orders, as Samuel Huntington
describes in his 1993 essay “The Clash of Civilizations.” Instead of integrating a global
liberal world order, Huntington argues that cultural fault lines would become a feature of
the post-Cold War world.19 Huntington’s argument resonates with the emergence of reli-
gious discourses of extremist groups and point to a key shortcoming of the international
system: the international order has failed to adequately respond to the religious dimen-

16  Yates, "The Resurgence Of Jihad & The Specter Of Religious Populism"
17  Steven R. Goldzwig, "Commencing the Rationale for War: George W. Bush's Address at West Point, June 1, 2002," Journal
for the Study of Peace and Conflict, (2010): 53-76.
18 Ibid.
19  Allison Graham, “China vs. America,” Foreign Affairs (2017)

Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
63 Sofia Kavlin

sion of Middle Eastern populist movements. Religion is a critical identity factor in the
Middle East region and the West’s dismissal of this has only hindered its efforts to counter
extreme forms of religious populism such as Al-Qaeda. Efforts should be made to improve
social conditions on the ground instead of advancing democratic and secular models that
ignore local realities.

3. Euroscepticism: Institutionalized populism in Western countries
Despite their mature democratic institutions and historical alignment with the
international liberal order, there has been a rise in populist discourse in France and Great
Britain claiming that “government institutions and the political class have lost touch with
the real people.”20 According to theorists such as Almond and Verba, a key factor for the
viability of any particular political regime is a political culture that aligns with the regime
structure.21 What happens when the core support base of the liberal international order
turns against the system? What does this mean for the institutions of the liberal order and
Western principles of democracy and rule of law? Many western liberal democracies have
suffered a crisis of representation, participation, and legitimacy driven by an alienating
liberal order and economic stress produced by globalization.

3.1 Eurosceptic Right-Wing Populism
The 2008 economic recession had severe social effects in both France and Eng-
land, illustrating the failure of their governments to prioritize citizens when pressured
to cut back on government spending. This crisis of representation can be interpreted in
terms of a heightened sense of relative deprivation in the form of a growing income gap
and shrinking middle class, and increased polarization between a disenfranchised work-
ing class and the liberal elite. According to Hanspeter Kriesi, one of the main character-
istics of Eurosceptic populism is the antagonism between ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ of global-
ization.22 In this scenario, the grievances produced by economic globalization manifest
largely at the national level, given that democratic representation has historically been a
national affair. Thus, globalization has fueled the rise of Eurosceptic anti-establishment
populist parties that have become credible candidates in domestic elections.
In France, the anti-establishment party, Front National, has almost doubled its
share of votes in the first round of the Presidential elections between 2007 and 2012.23 It

20  Cesare Pinelli, "The Populist Challenge to Constitutional Democracy," European Constitutional Law Review 7, no. 1 (2011):
5-16.
21  Gabriel Almond & Sidney Verba, "The Civic culture revisited," Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage Publications, no 20 (1989).
22  Kriesi, "The Populist Challenge."
23  Ezez, "Nesstar WebView" (2017) Eed.nsd.uib.no. http://eed.nsd.uib.no/webview/index.jsp?study=http://129.177.90.166:80/
obj/fStudy/FRPR20072_Display&mode=cube&v=2&cube=http://129.177.90.166:80/obj/fCube/FRPR20072_Display_
C1&top=yes

Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
The Populist Challenge 64

has rallied supporters based on a nationalistic, protectionist agenda promising to close
borders and prioritize the creation of new jobs for nationals. Thus, the working-class
electorate that has traditionally supported left-wing parties has aligned with a right-wing
populist party that has adopted an anti-globalization, pro-worker platform.24
The U.K.’s Conservative Party has similarly appealed to the frustrated, tradition-
ally left-leaning working class by creating a platform based on the promise of job creation,
increased national sovereignty, and limited immigration. The ‘Leave Campaign’ won a
sweeping victory in the 2016 referendum on anti-establishment, nationalist discourse. The
vote to leave the EU, dubbed “Brexit,” reflected the increased social polarization and sense
of relative deprivation as perceived by marginal Northern populations who “felt left out of
the prosperity that integration into a global economy brought to London."25

3.2 The Eurosceptic Normative Challenge
A key takeaway from these cases is that the legitimacy of the political structure
depends on the will of the people to recognize and support it. The rise of anti-establish-
ment discourse in France and England demonstrates a challenge to liberal values associ-
ated with the current order. Democracy, diversity, and individual freedoms as founding
principles of the international liberal order are increasingly being replaced with tangible
policy goals such as security and job creation. Nevertheless, these parties have remained
committed to operating through the existing electoral systems. In fact, right-wing anti-
establishment parties “regularly participate in elections and accept the rules of the repre-
sentative system.”26
However, if the system fails to address the grievances channeled by right-wing
populists, these frustrations could eventually turn violent and pose a more serious threat
to the international order. If representative democracy fails to respond to citizen demands,
voters may choose to shift their allegiances away from legitimate political actors towards
non-institutionalized actors that promise to overturn the entire system by violent means.
Religious populism in the Middle East is an example of this phenomenon. The changing
political landscape in France and England should serve as a lesson to policymakers to
listen to public discourse. Voters trust the democratic system to translate demands into
reform and public officials to be their advocates in international institutions. It is becom-
ing increasingly urgent to facilitate dialogue between these supranational institutions and
the citizens whose lives are affected by their decisions.

24  Carlo Accetti Invernizi and Christopher Bikerton, "Neither Left Nor Right In France," Foreign Affairs (2016). https://www.
foreignaffairs.com/articles/france/2016-02-18/neither-left-nor- right-france.
25  Peter Hall, "The Roots Of Brexit," Foreign Affairs (2016). https://www .foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-king-
dom/2016-06-28/roots-brexit.
26  Pinelli, "The Populist Challenge to Constitutional Democracy" (2011)

Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
65 Sofia Kavlin

Conclusion
Key features of populism—crisis of representation, intra-group antagonism, and
political discourse emphasizing the will of the people—can be found in populist move-
ments regardless of particular cultural context. Religious populism in the Middle East and
Eurosceptic populism in Western democracies demonstrate the existence of populism
as an empirically observable phenomenon that allows for an interesting cross-cultural
comparison. Moreover, we have sought to expand the literature on populism to consider
the dialogue between globalization and local political dynamics. The grievance hypothesis
is useful in deciphering the way in which grievances produced by the international order
manifest in local politics. Sentiments of relative deprivation and polarization that arise
from the international liberal order are shared across diverse cultural contexts. Religious
populists and Eurosceptic right-wing parties have exploited these grievances to antagonize
the international liberal order.
This study has demonstrated that the manifestations and the challenges posed by
various forms of populism may be radically different. The threat posed by religious popu-
lism in the Middle East is structural in nature. Religious populist groups such as al-Qaeda
seek to eradicate the structure upon which the current order is built. The goal of imple-
menting sharia law reflects an opposition to liberal rule of law, the democratic system of
representation, and the secular premises upon which the international order is founded.
Conversely, the threat posed by Eurosceptic populisms is a normative one. Right-wing
populist parties in Western Europe are challenging the values associated with the interna-
tional liberal order and representative democracy, but do not seek to change the structure
itself. Eurosceptic populists still choose to mobilize grievances through the democratic
system of representation. They continue to accept secularism as an organizing principle
and elaborate their policy goals. In this case, demands for greater national security, job
creation, and protectionism are advanced through traditional institutions of the interna-
tional order. This means that right-wing populisms still seek legitimacy by appealing to
the rule of law and democracy.
The international order’s dismissal of religion from the political domain is unsus-
tainable. The future of negotiations in the Middle East lies in the creation of ‘regional law
and regional order’ rather than the imposition of an international liberal order that refuses
to adapt to regional realities. Europe, however, desire still remains to uphold democratic
principles and the rule of law at the core of the international order. We have reached a
critical point when the international liberal order must engage with its citizenry, increase
responsiveness, and make appropriate reforms in order to preserve the support of the
people.
In sum, the solution may be a restructuring of the international order to adapt
to regional realities instead of upholding a universalism that is superficial in practice.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
The Populist Challenge 66

Regional orders may be better suited to respond to local context and diverse cultures by
enabling a high degree of autonomy, flexibility, and responsiveness.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
67 Sofia Kavlin

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France". Foreign Affairs. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/france/2016-02-18/
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Almond, Gabriel A & Verba, Sidney. 1989. The Civic culture revisited. Newbury Park, Ca-
lif.: Sage Publications.
Deudney, Daniel, and G. John Ikenberry. 2009. "The Myth of the Autocratic Revival: Why
Liberal Democracy Will Prevail." Foreign Affairs 88 (1): 77-93.
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com/articles/united-states/2017-08-15/china-vs-america?cid=int-lea&pgtype=hpg
Hall, Peter. 2016. "The Roots Of Brexit". Foreign Affairs. https://www .foreignaffairs.com/
articles/united-kingdom/2016-06-28/roots-brexit.
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Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
69 Sofia Kavlin

Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
The Western Media Representation
of Afghan Women
A Multimodal Analysis of British Newspapers from 2001-2002
Rahellah Haidari

The military occupation of Afghanistan by the U.S. in 2001 and the Taliban regime (1996-
2001) cultivated a number of political and social issues that are still prevalent in Afghani-
stan. Through three decades of war, Western mainstream media has largely overlooked the
suffering of the Afghan people, namely Afghan women. Afghan women, in particular those
living in rural areas, are often neglected by national and international media. Moreover,
the minimal coverage has historically been used for strategic purposes as a means to ad-
vance foreign policy agendas and dehumanize the "enemy,” leading to dangerous stereotypes
devoid of understanding of the political and social struggles of Afghan women. This research
investigates the representation of Afghan women between September 2001 and January 2002
in four British newspapers using multimodality and intertexuality. This study illustrates
how language can be used to foster false stereotypes grounded in pre-existing ideologies and
strategic agendas.

Introduction
Prior to “hard blows” from British, Soviet, and U.S. intervention the last several
decades, Afghanistan had been “one of the most peaceful countries in Asia," known for
its hospitality and natural landscapes. The country is now a "land of extremes" after three
decades of war.1 The disastrous ending of the Soviet occupation after the Mujahedeen
rebellion in the 1980’s and the 1992 civil war cultivated high levels of political instability
and division between the Afghan people. The fighting led to the creation of a new armed
movement, the Taliban, led by Mullah Mohammed Omar, a former Mujahedeen fighter.2
The world Talib originates from Arabic, meaning students. The organization, a Pakistan-
backed anti-modernist religious extremist group, was keen to "stabilize the country
through a policy of ferocious repression."3 The prospect for order was well received by
many Afghans. Initially, the leaders of the group expressed their desire to bring peace

1  W. Maley, Afghanistan Wars, UK: Palgrave Macmillan (2002)
2  Amin Saikal, Modern Afghanistan, London: I.B. Tauris (2004)
3 Maley, Afghanistan Wars.

Rahellah haidari is a postgraduate student pursuing her Master's in Human
Rights and Political Science at the University of Manchester, U.K.
71 Rahellah Haidari

to the country by disposing of the Mujahedeen. However, as their territorial control
increased, their agenda to "transform Afghanistan into a pure Islamic Emirate" came to
light.4 The organization’s anti-feminist nature led to the immediate implementation of
repressive policies, such as the public stoning of women accused of adultery.
The "organic alliance" formed between the Taliban and the mastermind of the
September 11th, 2001 terror attacks on the U.S., Osama Bin Laden, facilitated financial
support to the Taliban. Support was given in exchange for logistical support for new ter-
rorist training camps in an attempt to Al-Qaeda networks into a "trans-national network."5
The U.S. response to 9/11, the "War on Terror," led to the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan
against Al-Qaeda networks and their protectors, the Taliban. In the construction of the
narrative against the threat of terrorism, media became the mouthpiece of the govern-
ment.
Mass media, specifically newspapers, play a significant role in framing the per-
ceptions of people, cultures and beliefs. Western media sources are often characterized as
"dominating news flow," rendering developing nations dependent on them for coverage
for international attention.6 After 9/11, international terrorism became the focal point in
international news and political agendas. Public interest in news affairs increased with
this “new internationalist sentiment."7 In late 2001 and early 2002, news coverage on
Afghanistan increased as a response to Operation Enduring Freedom. The U.S. govern-
ment wielded significant influence over the coverage to ensure it aligned with its strategic
interests.
Leading up to the invasion, Western media targeted the burqa, a long, loose gar-
ment covering the body worn in public by many female Muslims but mandated under the
Taliban’s Islamic legal system. These media sources condemned the covered women’s attire
as a means "to confirm the urgency of rescuing them from their fate."8 The U.S. govern-
ment utilized the forced veiling and other repressive policies against women to actively
construct an image of the Taliban as monsters and Afghan women as victims of their
brutality. For example, one story recounted an Afghan woman with no male relatives, who
subsequently could not comply with the Taliban’s policy prohibiting women from leaving
the house with a male presence. This incident was used to exaggerate the extreme restric-
tions of the regime. The "War on Terror" narrative constructed by the U.S. in the media

4 Saikal, Modern Afghanistan.
5 Ibid.
6  William A. Hachten and James Francis Scotton, The World News Prism. Global Information In A Satellite Age, 7th ed. Malden,
MA: Blackwell Pub (2007)
7 Ibid.
8  M. MacDonald, "Muslim Women And The Veil. Problems Of Image And Voice In Media Representations," Feminist Media
Studies 6, no. 1 (2006): 7-23.

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Western Media Representation of Afghan Women 72

not only hardened the political situation in Afghanistan but also influenced Western
public perception of both the Taliban and Afghan women.
In order to understand the significance of the Taliban’s policies for women, it
is worth considering the situation prior to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the
U.S.-led war. The Afghan constitution of 1964 ensured basic rights for women such as
equal pay. Many girls and women attended school in the 1950’s and about forty percent of
Afghanistan’s doctors were women.9 Women were not subject to forced veiling and were
involved in political posts.10
A 1989 fatwa, or religious decree, by the Mujahedeen leaders worsened pros-
pects for Afghan women. They were ordered to wear the burqa and forbidden to attend
schools. The U.S. and Western mainstream media overlooked the fatwa despite subsequent
violations of women’s rights, including public threats to murder employed women, largely
due to on-going negotiations between the U.S. and Taliban for an oil pipeline through
Afghanistan.11 The emergence of the Mujahedeen government in 1992, the formation of
the Northern Alliance, the rise of the Taliban, and the silence of the U.S. severely curtailed
Afghan women’s rights.
The attention given to Afghan women in the media after September 2001 con-
verged around two issues: the veil and access to education.12 Coverage was laden with
images of Afghan women in the veil, which became the "central trope of the atrocities
committed by the Taliban."13 Afghan women throwing off their burqas after the downfall
of the Taliban were celebrated by both the British and U.S. media and seen as a symbol of
success for the U.S.-led intervention.14, 15 Western media’s obsession with the veil over-
looked many of the social and political struggles of Afghan women. Despite this attention
given to Afghan women, their voices were largely absent in news reports.
This research aims to shed light on the representation of Afghan women through
the Western lens from September 2001 to January 2002. The study challenges the view that
the Taliban was solely responsible for the negative representation of Afghan women. The
research also aims to demonstrate the power of the media in influencing perceptions and
attitudes towards certain groups through representation.

9  Stabile, A, C., and D Kumar, "Unveiling Imperialism: Media, Gender And The War On Afghanistan," Media, Culture And
Society 27, no. 5 (2005): Pg 765-782.
10  E. Smeal, "Congressional Testimony Of E. Smeal On The Plight Of Afghan Women," Feminist Majority Foundation, 2001.
11  Rashid, Ahmed. Taliban. London: I.B. Tauris (2000)
12  Stabile and Kumar, "Unveiling Imperialism."
13  Macdonald, "Muslim Women.
14 Ibid.
15  ‘Afghan women shed their burqas’ in BBC, 20 November 2001

Southern California International Review - Vol. 8 No. 1
73 Rahellah Haidari

Literature Review
The context of war influenced the representation of Afghan women in West-
ern media. According to Omar (2007) and Habibzai (2010), media primarily pub-
lished human-interest stories that rationalized the presence of international forces in
Afghanistan.16,17 Others have also identified consistent patterns of misrepresentation and
stereotyping in media coverage of women.18 This study uses multimodality to assess the
coverage of Afghan women between September 2001 to January 2002 in three British
newspapers: The BBC, The Telegraph, and The Guardian. This study also employs inter-
textuality to investigate the use of figurative language in a fourth news source, the Daily
Mail. Specifically, intertextuality is used to analyze metaphors, the process of Othering,
and the protection scenario frame to assess Western media’s misrepresentation of Afghan
women. The literature on these concepts will be discussed in subsequent sections.
Media representation is a critical facet of identity construction and can subse-
quently affect public opinion on foreign policy. Before examining media representations
of Afghan women, it is important to consider the nature of the media in regards to war.
Lacey and Longman explain that the press is a "major educational asset" in the under-
standing of global cultures.19 Often, the public is dependent on the media for information,
suggesting a spectrum of potential influence on public opinion. Research by Kishan and
Freedman, Hachten and Scotton, and Hodges sheds light on how Western media reported
the "War on Terror" in Afghanistan, providing a lens through which to assess media
representations of the Taliban and Afghan women.20, 21, 22 Hodges is particularly useful in
providing a critical, objective perspective on Bush’s "War on Terror" narrative.23
The language and style of newspaper reporting are also important in this analy-
sis. Keeble and Mair’s account on embedded reporting emphasizes how the reader can
be influenced by the perspective the media provides.24 Richardson, along with Hodges
and Nilep, identifies particular language devices such as reporting speech and hyperbole
16  J. Omar, "Conflict In Afghanistan: A Gendered Perspective,"The Meeting Of The Global Intermedia Dialogue. Oslo: the Meet-
ing of the Global Intermedia Dialogue, 2007.
17  Habibzai, H. "Challenges Facing Media Coverage: An Afghan Perspective". In Afghanistan, War And The Media, 56-63. L, R.
Keeble and J Mair. UK: Arima Publishing (2010)
18  Carolyn M. Byerly and Karen Ross, Women And Media, Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub. 2006. Derrida, J. (1977) Limited Inc.
Illinois: North-western University Press
19  C. Lacey , and D. Longman, The Press As Public Educator: Cultures Of Understanding, Cultures Of Ignorance. Uk: University
of Luton (1997)
20  D. Kishan and D Freedman, ed. War And The Media. London: Sage Publishers (2003)
21  Hachten and Scotton. The World News Prism.
22  Hodges, Adam. The "War On Terror" Narrative. Discourse And Intertextuality In The Construction And Contestation Of
Socio-Political Reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2011)
23 Ibid.
24  Keeble, Richard, and J Mair. Afghanistan, War And The Media. Deadlines And Frontlines. Bury St Edmunds: Arima Publish-
ing (2010)

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Western Media Representation of Afghan Women 74

and their subsequent implications for group representations in media.25, 26 Their account
provides a strong framework for analyzing newspaper articles. Poole and Richardson’s ac-
count on the transformation of news coverage in the UK within the wider context of 9/11
may also contribute to this analysis.27 The research demonstrates that Muslims are often
represented through negative lenses in British reporting, which often link them to conflict
and violence.
Afghan women have suffered under several extreme regimes since the 1970’s, yet
Western media rarely covers their situation. When coverage has existed, it has largely been
used to demonize the existing regime for strategic purposes.28, 29 Research by Gonzales-
Perez found that coverage in war zones often represents women as passive victims.30
Goren and Meehan argue that the images of passivity, objectification, victimization, and
desperation for liberation are often misleading and incomplete.31, 32 Afghan women were
represented as victims of brutal policies enforced by the Taliban and in need of interna-
tional assistance. The topics covered most frequently during the U.S. invasion of Afghani-
stan were the burqa and women’s education, and many of the Afghan women’s realities
were overlooked. Rashid addresses many of these realities.33
Coverage of Afghan women increased significantly after the 9/11 attacks, but the
attention was short lived. To understand the sudden increase in coverage after September
2001, one must consider the previous lack thereof. Accounts on Afghan women in West-
ern media were largely absent during the Soviet invasion in 1970’s and the Mujahedeen
regime in Afghanistan in the 1990’s. In the 1970’s, coverage mainly focused on the U.S.
support for the "freedom fighters" against the Soviet Union. U.S. officials were generally
quiet on the topic during the Taliban regime amidst American oil pipeline interests.34
Reports from Amnesty International and other international relief organizations on the

25  Richardson, J, E. Analysing Newspapers. An Approach From Critical Discourse Analysis. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan,
(2007)
26  Hodges, Adam, and C Nilep. Discourse, War And Terrorism. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing (2007)
27  E. Poole, "The Effects Of September 11 And The War In Iraq On British Newspaper Coverage," In Muslims And The News
Media, Section 2, Chapter 8. E Poole and E, J. Richardson. London: I.B. Tauris (2006)
28  A. Rasul, and S, D. McDowell, "Images Of Oppression: An Analysis Of The Coverage Of Afghan Women In Time And
Newsweek After 9/11, The Journal Of International Communication. 21, no. 1 (2014): 21-37.
29  Fowler, C. "'Enduring Freedom' Reporting On Afghan Women From 2001- Present". In Afghanistan, War And The Media:
Deadlines And Frontlines, 56-63. L, R. Keeble and J Mair. UK: Arima Publishing (2010)
30  Gonzalez-Perez, M. Women And Terrorism: Female Activity In Domestic And International Terror Groups.New York: Rout-
ledge (2008)
31  Goren, J, L. You've Come A Long Way Baby: Women, Politics And Popular Culture. Lexington: The University Press of
Kentucky (2009)
32  Meehan, E, R., ed. Sex And Money: Feminism And Political Economy In The Media. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press. (2002)
33 Rashid, Taliban.
34  Stabile and Kumar, "Unveiling Imperialism."

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75 Rahellah Haidari

country’s refugee crisis, as well as accounts by Feminist Majority and Revolutionary As-
sociation of The Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) about the specific abuses of the Taliban’s
rise in power in 1996, were deemed “too shocking” for public audiences by the BBC and
CNN.35 Accounts by Fowler and Stabile and Kumar briefly discuss political reasons behind
Afghan women’s absence from the media prior to 2001.36, 37, 38 Habibzai and Abirafeh
discern a decrease in Afghan women’s presence in Western media after 2002; as Afghan
women in the capital were “liberated,” media failed to address the continued suffering of
rural Afghan women under the Taliban regime.39, 40
A gap in the research exists in assessing the Taliban’s role in crafting the represen-
tations of Afghan women in Western media, and the implications of Taliban policy on the
Western portrayal of Afghan women as victims in need of assistance. The Taliban’s policies
requiring the veil and banning education were enforced through severe punishments such
as stoning and death, gaining the attention of media sources in Western countries like the
U.S. and Great Britain. With the exception of Fowler and Poole, who discussed several
British sources such as The Guardian, the existing literature on this topic has focused
almost exclusively on U.S. media coverage.41, 42 This study seeks to remedy this gap by criti-
cally examining the representation of Afghan women in British media.

Methodology
The data for this analysis is a collection of online newspapers between September
2001 to January 2002, the height of the conflict.43 BBC, The Telegraph, The Guardian and
The Daily Mail newspapers were selected to provide a representative cross-section of mass
media coverage. A total of six articles have been chosen from each newspaper based on
the relevance of the topics in the news reports to the research question.
The method to analyze the first three newspapers is multimodality.44 Multimodal-
ity is "used to highlight that people use multiple means" to generate meaning in a text.45

35  Fowler, "Enduring Freedom."
36  Fowler, C. "Journalists In Feminist Clothing, Men And Women Reporting Afghan Women". Journal Of International
Women Studies 8, no. 2 (2007).
37  Fowler, "Enduring Fredom."
38  Stabile and Kumar, "Unveiling Imperialism."
39  Habibzai, "Challenges."
40  Abirafeh, L. "Gender Aid Interventions and Afghan Women: Images versus Reality." Edited by F. Shirazi. Muslim Women in
War and Crisis (2010) University of Texas Press.
41  Fowler, C. "'Enduring Freedom' Reporting On Afghan Women From 2001- Present". In Afghanistan, War And The Media:
Deadlines And Frontlines, 56-63. L, R. Keeble and J Mair. UK: Arima Publishing (2010)
42  Poole, "Effects of September 11."
43  Hachten and Scotton, The World News Prism.
44  Kress, G, and T Van Leeuwen. Reading Images: The Grammar Of Visual Design. 2nd ed. London: Routledge (2006)
45  Jewitt, C, J Bezemer, and K O'Halloran, ed. Introducing Multimodality. UK: Taylor and Francis (2016)

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Western Media Representation of Afghan Women 76

The combination of language and image creates a different interpretation than meaning
created by language alone. The interplay of "modes" used offers "distinct possibilities and
constraints."46 A multimodal approach addresses discourse by analyzing all semiotic
resources in conjunction and can help demonstrate the motivations behind specific uses.
This methodology allows us to consider the visuals alongside language as much commu-
nication in society today is done multimodally through the media.47 Especially in contem-
porary media, which relies heavily on multimodal communication, images and narratives
wield strong influence on perceptions of reality.
One advantage of multimodal analysis is its capacity to reveal subtleties in
messaging, namely the information that is either emphasized or concealed in an event’s
coverage. These content decisions can affect public demand, and subsequently can exert
influence over policy decisions. As newspapers have become increasingly multimodal,
media’s capacity to "design" reality improves.48 Assessing the benefits and drawbacks of
each semiotic mode will be useful in demonstrating how the different semiotic forms
interplay to create a scope for mean making.
In addition to multimodality, this analysis also employs intertextuality. The term,
first coined by Julia Kristeva in the late 1960’s, refers to the phenomenon that messages are
created in the context of previous and anticipated information.49 Intertextuality is useful
in this analysis in its capacity to demonstrate how new newspaper coverage is informed by
past coverage and contributes to narrative development across time and publications. The
perspective and ideology of the newspaper may be evident in the intertextual references
between the newspaper reports. Halliday’s 1985 language theory will be used to identify
the roles of both existing shared knowledge and new information in public understanding.
The analysis will address the use of figurative language, such as metaphors and
the process of Othering, to create meaning. Lakoff and Johnson argue that one’s percep-
tions of oneself and others are shaped by figurative language.50 Metaphors especially are
"extraordinarily powerful and pervasive” and are commonly used in public discourse:
Bush’s use of metaphors in political speeches, such as the description of terrorists as
“diseases,” ultimately had profound impact on the public’s perception of terrorism.51, 52
The construction of the negative “Other” in news reporting, often supplemented with

46  Jewitt, C, J Bezemer, and K O'Halloran, ed. Introducing Multimodality. UK: Taylor and Francis (2016)
47  Machin, D. Introduction To Multimodal Analysis. London: Bloomsbury (2001)
48  Kress, G. Literacy In The New Media Age. London: Routledge (2003)
49  Fairclough, Norman. Discourse And Social Change. Cambridge: Polity (1992)
50  Lakoff, G, and M Johnson. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (1980)
51  Thornborrow, J, and S Wareing. Patterns In Language. Introduction To Language And Literary Style. Milton Park: Routledge
(1998)
52  Jackson, R. "Writing Identity: Evil Terrorists, Good Americans". In Writing The War On Terrorism: Language, Politics And
Counter-Terrorism, 59-92. R Jackson. Manchester: Manchester University Press (2005)

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77 Rahellah Haidari

the construction of the “self ” as good or heroic, is an important element in addressing
the representation of the enemy in a conflict. During this crisis, many mainstream media
sources employed the process of Othering, or “Us and Them” discourse, which "radi-
cally dichotomised" the conflict in public perception.53 The process of Othering is often
deployed to dehumanize the enemy and gain public support for a government’s foreign
policy decisions in wartime.
The protection scenario will be particularly useful for explaining the construc-
tion of the hero-villain-victim narrative in Western media’s coverage of the U.S.-led inva-
sion, which capitalized on Afghan women as the narrative’s victims.54, 55 The scenario aids
in our understanding of how the U.S. used media to Other the Taliban, establish the West
as a beacon of civilization, and paint the U.S. as the savior of the suffering Afghan women,
a three-part narrative structure defined in Tzvetan Todorov’s narrative theory.56 Todorov
argues that an event’s disruptive qualities motivate action to restore equilibrium. This is
useful in illustrating how the U.S. used the media to label the Taliban as oppressors of
Afghan women in order to use the women’s liberation to restore the equilibrium and how
the burqa was oversimplified to a "restrictive dichotomy of victimhood and liberation."57
Keeble and Mair conclude that "reporting is a patchwork" in which small parts of
information combine to form an overall image of people.58 The prevalence of the veil in
coverage and the avoidance of other more nuanced realities creates an incomplete image
of the Afghan women, reflective of a phenomenon Hoskins and O’Lloughlin call "select-in
and filter-out" process, in which some topics are made "prominent and some invisible" in
mass media.59

1. Multimodality and Intertextuality
Seaton identifies the media as a "key agent of change" and the press in particular
is a "major educational asset" to a public’s understanding of the world.60 Through media,
"perceptions are created, sustained, and challenged."61 These perceptions are often shaped
through the media’s representations of individuals or groups, which vary in their “accura-

53 Richardson, Analyzing Newspapers.
54  Jeffords, Susan. "Rape And The New World Order". Cultural Critique, no. 19 (1991): 203-217. doi:10.2307/1354314.
55  Steihm, J, H. "The Protected, The Protector, The Defender". Women’s Studies International Forum. 5, no. 3 (1982): Pg 367-77.
56  Todorov, T. The Fantastic: A Structural Approach To A Literary Genre. New York: Cornell University Press, 1970.
57  Fowler, "Enduring Freedom."
58  Keeble and Mair, Afghanistan.
59  Hoskins, Andrew, and Ben O'Loughlin. War And Media: The Emergence Of Diffused War. Cambridge: Polity, 2010.
60  Seaton, J. "Understanding Not Empathy". In War And The Media, Pg. 45-50. D Kishan and D Freedman. London: Sage
publishers. (2003)
61  Hoskins and O’Lloughlin, War and Media.

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Western Media Representation of Afghan Women 78

cy, veracity and objectivity."62 The propagation of these representations in newspapers can
influence both a public’s perceptions of the group and actions towards it. During wartime,
the pressure on media to align with their government’s interests frequently contributes to
the construction of "unreliable and maybe inaccurate" representations.63 With sufficient
repetition in coverage, these representations "may come to be accepted as a fact."64 It is
therefore necessary to investigate all modes used in coverage to assess the validity of the
Afghan woman’s representation in Western media.
1.1 BBC
In Western media’s coverage of Afghan women, the burqa "dominated the news topic" in
the year 2001-2002 more than "the legal and structural gender inequalities" in Afghani-
stan, as is evident in the six BBC articles selected for this study.65, 66 The prevalence of the
burqa in coverage contributed to the construction of Afghan women as oppressed by the
Taliban regime. In addition, the wives of Western heads of state, namely Cherie Blair and
Laura Bush, were framed as beacons of freedom eager to help Afghan women "shed their
burqas."67 One article refers to Afghan women’s life as "shadows” and links the "the head-
to-toe covering" to the anonymity and invisibility of Afghan women under the Taliban.68
The story of an Afghan woman is used to authenticate stories of Afghan women being
forced to wear the veil: the article quotes a woman named Fahima who explicitly stated
her hatred for both the veil and the Taliban as well as her desires to "throw off [her] veil
and celebrate" if the Taliban were defeated by the U.S.69
Although the article features an Afghan women’s voice, the report primarily
features indirect quotations from the point of view of the author, Caroline Wyatt. Indi-
rect quotations have a greater "interpretative influence of the reporter" and thus a greater
"potential for distortion and misrepresentation."70 The article’s tone implies that Afghan
women have become "silent shadows" as a result of veiling policies and the visuals support
the narrative by presenting only images of Afghan women in the burqas. One caption
refers to the veil as a "burial shroud."71 These images reinforced the developing Western

62  Hoskins and O’Lloughlin, War and Media.
63  Smith, V. "The ‘Brittle’ Compact Between The Military And The Media". In Afghanistan, War And The Media: Deadlines And
Frontlines, Pg. 42-49. L, R. Keeble and J Mair. UK: Arima Publishing (2010)
64 Hodges, The "War on Terror" Narrative.
65  Fowler, "Enduring Freedom."
66  Karim, H, K. "America's Media Coverage Of Muslims: The Historical Roots Of Contemporary Portrayals". In Muslims And
The News Media, Section 2, Chapter 10. E Poole and E, J. Richardson. London: I.B. Tauris, 2006.
67  ‘Afghan women shed their burqas’ in BBC, 20 November 2001
68  ‘Afghan women’s life in the shadows’ in BBC, 16 October 2001
69 Ibid.
70 Richardson, Analyzing Newspapers.
71 ‘Afghan women’s life in the shadows’ in BBC, 16 October 2001

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79 Rahellah Haidari

perception of Afghan women’s imprisonment under the Taliban. The emphasis on the
Taliban’s four main policies on women: "ban of employment, ban of education, dress code
and the segregation of women outside of home," work in tandem with this perception to
create a perceived causal relationship: the Taliban is the primary cause of Afghan women’s
subjugation.72
One article shows Afghan women as they "enjoy their freedom" by shedding
their burqas.73 The lexical choices support the visuals of Afghan women’s uncovered faces:
Afghan women "have thrown off their burqas" and "lifted their heavy veils."74 This narra-
tive implies congruence in all Afghan women’s emotions towards the burqa. Moreover,
the article misinforms the reader that the U.S. successfully "liberated" Afghan women
from the Taliban through the removal of veiling requirements. The representation of the
burqa as the primary symbol of oppression and “metaphor of liberation” marginalizes
"the economic, cultural and religious dimensions of their struggles.”75, 76 For example, the
inability of Afghan women to produce income due to the employment ban forced many
families who were dependent on female earnings to flee to neighboring countries such as
Pakistan and Iran.77 This narrative also ignores the women who assumed leadership roles
"in defensive operations against the Taliban," overlooking the capacity of Afghan women
to serve as agents of change.78
In sum, the "repetitive framing of women as victims" was prevalent in the select-
ed BBC articles.79 These articles failed to express the diversity of views regarding the veil
and other facts of Afghan women’s lives that vary across regions and ethnic minorities.
Therefore, the newspaper articles provide a biased and inaccurate view on the situation
of Afghan women. Overall, the articles imply a causal relationship between the Taliban’s
policies, the burqa, and the oppression of women and fail to address the full breadth of
social, economic, and political hardships faced by these women over the course of several
decades. The projection of Afghan women as victims that is a recurrent theme throughout
the articles may "serve a strategic purpose [for the U.S.-led invasion]; however, this strat-
egy reveals little about women’s realities and serves only to dislocate them as historical and
political actors."80

72  Marsden, P. The Taliban: War And Religion In Afghanistan. London: Zed Books Ltd, 2002.
73  Afghan women enjoy their freedom’ in BBC, 23 November 2001
74  ‘Afghan women shed their burqas’ in BBC, 20 November 2001
75  Roy, D. "The Media In A Time Of War". International Socialist Review 29 (2003): 39-48.
76  Ozerdem, A. "Humanitarian Cost Of The Media’S Military Embeddedness In Afghanistan". In Afghanistan, War And The
Media: Deadlines And Frontlines, 174. L, R. Keeble and J Mair. UK: Arima Publishing, 2010.
77 Marsden, The Taliban.
78 Rashid, Taliban.
79  Byerly and Ross, Women and Media.
80  Abirafeh, "Gender Aid Interventions."

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Western Media Representation of Afghan Women 80

1.2 The Guardian
The construction of the “War on Terror” narrative across British mass media
sources during this period reflects the phenomenon of mean-making, which "consists of
an ongoing process that spans multiple overlapping encounters."81The broadsheet news-
paper The Guardian echoes the BBC’s pattern of headlines on Afghan women: the articles
Behind the Burka and Beneath the Veil address the women’s lives in terms of the veil,
another addresses Cherie Blair and Laura Bush’s campaign, and others describe Afghan
women waiting “for liberation.”82
The Guardian’s online articles do not include images, and therefore multimodal
analysis is limited in this regard. However, diction choices still reflect a Western bias in re-
gards to the topic. Although the author of Behind the Burka, Polly Toynbee, is openly criti-
cal of Western media in its attempt “blur the issue” of Afghan women, she nevertheless
falls subject the existing framework it provides when she describes the veil as a "horrible,"
"grotesque," "sinister, airless little grille" that is a "garment of lurid sexual suggestiveness."83
She writes that the veil transforms Afghan women into "cowering creatures demanding
and expecting violence and victimization." The language choices in her article align with
the existing semantic narrative across the assessed media sources and may "breed passivity
among readers…and result in indifference."84
The assumption of forced veiling ignores the women who wear the burqa as a
personal choice and undermines its history. Lederman explains that the burqa first ap-
peared in the Ottoman Empire where "it was used as a curtained sedan-chair by upper-
class Christian women to denote status and protection from thieves and dust."85 The
lack of historical context in the article "allows the blame to be placed on Afghan society,
constructed as timelessly misogynistic, barbaric and uncivilised."86 The association of the
veil with Islamic fundamentalism and its use as an "exotic stereotype" to denote Afghan
women’s oppression "reiterates certain assumptions about the value of women as tokens of
possession and control."87
The heroic frame provided to Cherie Blair and Laura Bush in their attempts to
"save" or "liberate" their Afghan sisters plays a significant role in continued public support
81 Hodges, Discourse.
82  ‘Behind the burka’ in The Guardian, 28 September 2001; ‘Back beneath the veil’ in The Guardian, 8 November 2001; ‘Burkas
stay on as women of Kabul wait for their liberation’ in The Guardian, 28 November 2001
83  ‘Behind the burka’ in The Guardian, 28 September 2001
84  Rasul and McDowell, "Images of Oppression."
85  A. Lederman, "The Zan Of Afghanistan: A 35 Year Perspective On Women In Afghanistan," In Women For Afghan Women:
Shattering Myths And Claiming The Future, 46-58. S Mehta. New York: Palgrave Macmillan (2002)
86  Stabile and Kumar, "Unveiling Imperialism."
87  K. Lemons, "Discourses Of Freedom. Gender And Religion In The US Media Coverage Of The War On Iraq". In The 'War
On Terror Narrative'. Discourse And Intertextuality In The Construction And Contestation Of Socio-Political Reality. Oxford:
Oxford University Press (2011)

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81 Rahellah Haidari

and political justification for war. The Guardian’s November 17, 2001 article on the cam-
paign was written a day after the BBC’s coverage of the same topic.88 The Guardian article
builds on the information in the BBC article, adding that Blair "rarely risks direct personal
involvement in government matters" and Bush will "solely use radio address for the first
time as a first lady."89 The information suggests that Blair and Bush went out of their way
to campaign for Afghan women. The article cites the campaign’s attempt at "restoring the
values [of Afghan women] that were there before." The frame of Western female leaders
as heroes and Afghan women as victims in distress is actively constructed across many of
the articles The Guardian released during this period, supporting Bush’s “War on Terror”
narrative.
One Guardian article by Humera Khan does criticize the tendency for Western
media to simplify the issue, condemning the "arrogance and insensitivity of the U.S.-led
coalition" and describing the anti-burqa campaign as "the latest weapon" being "launched
from the very heights of the White House and Downing Street."90 Khan adds further that
the campaign by the First Lady and Cherie Blair is an "assault" on the veil that emphasizes
a divide between the West and the Islamic world. Khan criticizes Cherie Blair for ignor-
ing the "experiences, context, and faith" of Afghan women and highlights the tendency
for Western fashion industries to promote female bodily exposure. Her article reflects the
argument that the "road to war" was "unexamined" and this is "implicit in the prevalent
mode of news media coverage."91, 92
While this article highlights some important flaws in the coverage at the time,
it still neglected to include direct quotes from Afghan women or elaborate on the many
unspoken trials the women faced. Afghan women were "rarely heard to speak and hardly
ever in their own words."93 In the absence of these voices in mass media, Western govern-
ments were enabled to craft an independent narrative that aligned with political interests.
The articles reveal The Guardian’s pro-war position, albeit expressed more subtly than the
BBC.
1.3 The Telegraph
The Telegraph published only four articles on Afghan women between Septem-
ber 2001 and January 2002. Three of these articles were directly linked to Afghan women
and the fourth is an account from a former member of the Afghan secret police on details

88  ‘Leaders’ wives join propaganda war’ in The Guardian, 17 November 2001; ‘First Ladies back Afghan women’ in BBC, 16
November 2001
89  ‘Leaders’ wives join propaganda war’ in The Guardian, 17 November 2001
90  ‘Freedom, fashion and an assault on the burka’ in The Guardian, 21 November 2001
91 Habibzai, Challenges.
92  Fowler, "Enduring Freedom."
93  Macdonald, "Muslim Women."

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Western Media Representation of Afghan Women 82

of the Taliban regime.94 The Telegraph gave minimal coverage of Afghan women, often
with a limited scope that avoided nuances about their social and political lives.
One article provides a useful account on the refugee crisis and criticizes Cherie
Blair and Laura Bush’s campaign for Afghan women, which sought to “lift the veil on
what Afghan women really want.”95 However, similar to The Guardian, the article fails to
include first-hand accounts from Afghan women. The absence of Afghan women in this
article is salient across all Telegraph coverage during this period, and many of the ar-
ticles echo the coverage of both the BBC and The Guardian. Unlike The Guardian’s more
detailed accounts, The Telegraph’s coverage is relatively short and subsequently lacks in-
depth analysis. Several articles regurgitated the common topics addressed by other British
newspapers, reiterating the British Prime Minister’s attempts to “restore human rights”
and repeating phrases linking the Taliban to “medieval” practices and the oppression of
women’s education. These articles reflect the extreme degree to which "the presentation of
information and values in the form of news is routinized and ritualized," creating frame-
works that shape our understanding of and responses to events.96, 97 The absence of Afghan
women from the Telegraph underscores the argument that media represented them
either "as victims or as victim-turned stories" by sensationalizing their situation devoid
of first-hand accounts.98, 99 The media’s silence after the fall of the Taliban led the world to
believe that Afghan women have been liberated yet the "situation of Afghan women is and
remains ‘unspeakable’."100

2. Language as Representation
2.1 Process of Othering and the Rhetoric of "Us and Them" - The Daily Mail
Western media, under pressure from the Blair and Bush administrations to align
with patriotic interests, reiterated Bush’s Good-Evil dichotomy in order to garner public
support for the war. The dehumanisation and demonization of al-Qaeda and the Tali-
ban, known as the process of Othering, contributed to the framing of Afghan women as
oppressed. The enemy is Othered through positive self-representation and negative Other-
representation, which work together to create an "in-group and out-group polarisation."101

94  ‘I was one of the Taliban’s torturers: I crucified people’ in The Telegraph, 30 September 2001; ‘Leaders’ wives campaign for
Afghan women’ in The Telegraph, 16 November 2001; ‘Aid may be linked to women’s rights’ in The Telegraph, 21 November
2001; ‘Lifting the veil on what Afghan women really want’ in The Telegraph, 23 November 2001
95  ‘Lifting the veil on what Afghan women really want’ in The Telegraph, 23 November 2001
96  Lacey and Longman, The Press.
97  Hoskins and O’Lloughlin, War and Media.
98  Abirafeh, "Gender Aid Interventions."
99  Lacey and Longman, The Press.
100  Fowler, "Enduring Freedom."
101  Van dijk, T, A. Discourse And Power. London: Palgrave Macmillan (2008)

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83 Rahellah Haidari

This process functions to "outcast" the out-groups based on a "mutual antagonism" of
them.102 Some of the language devices that are employed by the media when construct-
ing a rhetoric of ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ include over-lexicalization of terms such as "terror" and
"evil," hyperbole or "excessive exaggeration," and naming devices that index a particular
relationship with a group.103
The process of Othering and the Us-Them rhetoric are extremely prominent in a
fourth prominent news source, The Daily Mail, whose coverage on Bush’s "War on Terror"
focused extensively on the dehumanization of Osama Bin Laden. The negative Other-
representation is evident in the over-lexicalization of the term "terrorism" and "war," and
use of words intended to induce reader emotion, such as "danger," "assault," "disaster," and
"chaos."104 The over-lexicalization demonstrates the power of language in not only "justify-
ing seemingly irrational actions but of bridging mutual understanding and recognising
the Other as not whole unlike ourselves."105
In addition to the over-use of the terms associated to terrorism, "the way people
are named in news discourse can have a significant impact on the way in which they are
viewed."106 Indeed, naming a group enables the reader to associate the group with the
characteristics that are attached to the term. For example, the Daily Mail referred to the
regime as "Islamic militants," "fanatics," and the "fundamentalist Taliban" which catego-
rized the regime as evil and extreme by nature.107 This categorization is further exagger-
ated by referring to Al Qaeda and the Taliban as "trained terrorists," "ticking time bombs,"
"axis of evil," "America’s worst nightmare," and the "number one enemy."108 The demoniza-
tion of the enemy through hyperbole constructs the Taliban as barbarians and contributes
to the victimization of Afghan women.
The negative Other-representation of the enemy is constructed in tandem with
the positive Self-representation, creating a powerful dichotomy employed by political ac-
tors to "legitimize war and aggression."109 While the Taliban and Al Qaeda were negatively
represented, the U.S. and its allies were positively represented as the "civilized world" and

102  Lazar, Annita, and Michelle M. Lazar. "The Discourse Of The New World Order: ‘Out-Casting’The Double Face Of Threat".
Discourse & Society 15, no. 2-3 (2004): 223-242.
103 Richardson, Analyzing Newspapers.
104  ‘Terror hit heart of America’ in The Daily Mail, 12 September 2001; ‘Bin Laden taunts the west’ in The Daily Mail, 27th
December 2001; ‘Afghan leader thanks Britain’ in The Daily Mail, 31st January 2002
105  Hodges and Nilep, Discourse.
106 Richardson, Analyzing Newspapers.
107  ' Terror hit heart of America’ in The Daily Mail, 12 September 2001
108  ‘Afghan leader thanks Britain’ in The Daily Mail, 31st January 2002; ‘Bin Laden taunts the west’ in The Daily Mail, 27th
December 2001
109  Van dijk, Discourse.

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Western Media Representation of Afghan Women 84

"free, democratic world against terrorism."110 By establishing the West as peaceful people
against evil, the article generates the reader’s support for the U.S. government and hostility
towards the enemy. The polarization is reinforced in the articles to maintain in-group and
out-group boundaries.
Positive Self-representation and negative Other-representation is reliant on the
use of deictic pronouns such as "we" and "them" that emphasizes a sense of unity within
the in-group by outcasting the Other. Bush capitalized on these pronouns often in his
political speeches, using phrases such as "our union has never been stronger," "our nation
is at war," and "our war against terror." The outcasting of the Other is more apparent in all
four newspapers than the in-group categorization. Othering of the outgroup constructs
notions of blame and responsibility on the Taliban for the oppression of Afghan women.
"The creation of Self and Other and Us and Them shut the door on any discussion of root
causes or motivations" of the Taliban’s actions or the U.S. response.111 Moreover, these
constructions ignored other crises in Afghanistan such as the risk of severe food shortages
faced by 5.5 million Afghans; until Afghan women "proved rhetorically useful, their tragic
circumstances merited little coverage in the mainstream media."112, 113
2.2 Protection Scenario
One of the recurring discourses evident in both U.S. and British media was the
protection scenario. The discourse implies that Afghan women need to be protected from
the predatory men. Like Todorov’s three-part narrative structure, the scenario contains
three categories: "the protected or victim"; the "threat or villain"; and the "protector" or
"hero."114, 115 In this case, the U.S. is protecting the Afghan women the Taliban. The dis-
course of protection used by politicians and media classified the Afghan women as victims
and denied them any agency over their own lives. The U.S. used the protection scenario to
justify the destruction of the country’s infrastructure.
The rise in discourse on Afghan women increased six-fold from the 18 months
prior to September 2001. The protection scenario, focusing on the Taliban’s sexist policies,
suggested that Afghan women’s oppression began with the Taliban regime. Abu-Loghud,
paraphrasing Gayatri Spivak, states that the protection scenario aligns with justificatory
colonialist narratives where the exotic brown women are saved by the civilized white men

110  Afghan leader thanks Britain’ in The Daily Mail, 31st January 2002; ‘Terror hit heart of America’ in The Daily Mail, 12
September 2001
111  Pintak, L. "‘Framing The Other: Worldview, Rhetoric And Media Dissonance Since 9/11". In Muslims And The News Media,
Chapter 16. E Poole and E, J. Richardson. London: I.B.Tauris, 2006.
112  Oxfam International. "Humanitarian Situation On Afghanistan And Its Borders". Oxfam International, 2001.
113  Stabile and Kumar, "Unveiling Imperialism."
114  Jeffords, "Rape and the New World Order."
115  Stiehm, "The Protected."

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85 Rahellah Haidari

from the barbaric brown men.116 Although direct quotations credited to Afghan women
and men are sometimes used in the articles, the selectively of these quotes to ensure the
article displays a sense of urgency is a cause for concern.
In addition, Todorov’s Narrative Theory is also useful here in understanding
how the media portrayed the conflict in terms of an equilibrium, or Afghan women’s
presence in the public sphere before the Taliban which was disrupted by the regime
through forced veiling and other restrictions. According to Western media, the U.S.-led
invasion therefore restored the equilibrium by liberating Afghan women from the veil.
This narrative ignores both the previous oppression of Afghan women under the Soviet
and Mujahideen regimes, and the continued struggle for women’s rights in Afghanistan
today.117 The discourse also failed to disclose the Revolutionary Association of Women
of Afghanistan’s (RAWA) attempt to expose the situation of Afghan women before 2001.
This report was sidelined by the media.
2.3 Metaphors
According to Lakoff and Johnson, "metaphors play a central role in the con-
struction of social and political reality."118 Media texts often employ metaphors to sim-
plify the complexities of war for the public’s benefit, a trend common in Western media
during this crisis.119 For example, Behind the Burka’s Toynbee framed the Taliban’s poli-
cies as a cultural war "fought out on women’s bodies."120 By comparing Afghan women to
battlegrounds, the metaphors reiterate their victimization and attributes veiling policies
as the primary source of Afghan women’s oppression. Additionally, authors at the BBC
and The Guardian used phrases like "silent shadows" and "prisoners" to induce associa-
tions with invisibility and loss of agency; this metaphor consequently "executes its own
form of exclusory agency, providing a pretext for conjuring women off the news scene."121
These associations of Afghan women with vulnerability and invisibility demonstrate the
capacity for metaphors to "simplify complex and abstract issues and present them in a
vivid and potentially emotional terms" intended to induce reader response, often con-
tributing to the propagation of inaccurate or incomplete information.122

116  Abu-Lughod, Lila. "Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections On Cultural Relativism And Its
Others". American Anthropologist 104, no. 3 (2002): 783-790.
117  Heath, J, and A Zahedi, ed. Land Of The Unconquerable: The Lives Of Contemporary Afghan Women. 1st ed. California:
University of California Press, 2011.
118  Lakoff and Johnson, Metaphors.
119 Richardson, Analyzing Newspapers.
120  ‘Behind the burka’ in The Guardian, 28 September 2001
121  Fowler, "Enduring Freedom."
122  Semino, E. Metaphor In Discourse.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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Western Media Representation of Afghan Women 86

Conclusion
This study investigated four British newspapers as a means to assess the
misrepresentation and absence of Afghan women in Western media news coverage.
The data collected negated the initial expectation that the 9/11 attacks and subsequent
invasion of Afghanistan would significantly increase the presence of Afghani women in
Western media coverage. The scope of the coverage was limited: in 2001 and 2002, cov-
erage focused extensively on the burqa and largely ignored many of the realities these
women faced under the Taliban regime. The media’s black-and-white frame overshad-
owed the nuances of Afghan women’s suffering under the Taliban regime in order to
simplify the conflict for Western publics and justify military presence in the country.
The misrepresentation of Afghan women in media discourse raises serious
concerns about the credibility of war coverage. The overall result from the research was
that Afghan women were either ignored or misrepresented as passive victims of the
Taliban regime’s oppression. The media’s emphasis on unveiling as a form of liberation
is reflective of a greater trend in media to focus primarily on the female body and is
grounded in Western concepts of skin exposure and sexuality as a qualifier of freedom.
Afghan women from rural areas were particularly neglected in the British
media news reports during the conflict, which focused instead on women living in the
capital, Kabul. Western media bias is largely to blame for the misrepresentation of the
Afghan women’s plight, enabled by the Taliban to portray the women in a negative light.
In January 2002, after the media declared a successful “liberation” of Afghan women,
they virtually disappeared from coverage. The Afghan woman’s voice is largely absent
from the media today, despite continued oppression.
By analyzing outlets’ use of figurative language, the process of Othering, and
the protection scenario through intertextuality and multimodality, this research em-
phasizes the media’s capacity to form and sustain perceptions, subsequently affecting
our social and political reality. Media representations of minority groups have strong
implications for public opinion and the ensuing behavior of political actors. While the
use of multimodality in this study helped to illuminate these points, the method proved
to be a limited model for this analysis for two reasons: the subjective nature of the data
selection, and the lack of visuals in the online articles, rendering it difficult to assess
how the mode of language and visuals combined created meaning.
This research contributed to existing literature by assessing the ways in which
Western media crafted a false image of Afghan women. However, this research is lim-
ited in its capacity to predict an accurate representation of Afghan women; for future
research, objective and thorough interviews with the diverse population of Afghan
women would be useful for understanding their realities.

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87 Rahellah Haidari

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‘I was one of the Taliban’s torturers: I crucified people’ in The Telegraph, 30 September 2001
‘Leaders’ wives campaign for Afghan women’ in The Telegraph, 16 November 2001
‘Aid may be linked to women’s rights’ in The Telegraph, 21 November 2001
‘Lifting the veil on what Afghan women really want’ in The Telegraph, 23 November 2001
‘Terror hit heart of America’ in The Daily Mail, 12 September 2001
‘School where a ration bag is a fashion item’ in The Daily Mail, 28 October 2001
‘Bin Laden taunts the west’ in The Daily Mail, 27th December 2001
‘Bush: War on terror goes on’ in The Daily Mail, 30 January 2002
‘Afghan leader thanks Britain’ in The Daily Mail, 31st January 2002’
‘Blair makes surprise visit to Afghanistan’ in The Daily Mail, 8th January 2002

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