Introduction In the weeks and months that followed the September 11th terrorist attacks, what had been

a distinctly anti-feminist Bush administration expressed new-found concerns for the status of the women of Afghanistan. Seemingly overnight, the Bush administration and the American mainstream media came to recognize and take issue with the ongoing plight of the women of Afghanistan under the Taliban which had been reported to them for years (Amnesty International 1995; Physicians for Human Rights 1998). During this period, the Bush administration made a strong connection between its military mission in Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom, and the liberation of Afghan women. This connection was made so strongly that First Lady Laura Bush declared in her radio address to the nation that “[t]he fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women” (2001). As the war progressed, government and media accounts proliferated highlighting the Taliban’s oppression of women and the need for American military intervention to ‘liberate’ Afghan women. Some have characterized the sudden Western focus on the women of Afghanistan post-9/11 as the co-optation of women’s rights, accusing Western media and governments of misappropriating and misrepresenting the plight of the women of Afghanistan to gain support for the war (Hunt 2002). Perhaps less evident to most observers is that the appeals to the status of women to justify war during the war in Afghanistan did not reflect a new phenomena, but rather followed a legacy of the co-optation of the feminist discourse to justify foreign intervention which can be traced back to the imperial projects of the British in India and Egypt and the French in Algeria. In all of the aforementioned cases, appeals to women’s rights were used to frame Western invasion and occupation as the liberation and protection of women.Western actors constructed a rescue narrative to frame foreign occupation


in which Western liberators rescued the victimized women of the invaded country from their oppressive men. In doing so, Western actors framed invasion and occupation in a manner which garnered support and provided moral legitimacy for their efforts. The use of this rescue narrative in contemporary Afghanistan draws striking parallels to its use in colonial Egypt, India and Algeria. Placed within this historical context, one can observe a continuity in the use of appeals to women’s rights to justify war and occupation. In Afghanistan, as in the colonial context, this rescue narrative is riddled with Orientalist binaries between the people of the West and the occupied state. Likewise, in both the historical and contemporary context, the focus of efforts at improving women’s rights is placed on cultural practices rather than the structural economic and political roots of women’s oppression. In Afghanistan, an obsessive focus on the veil overshadowed the impact of pervasive warfare and economic marginalization on women’s lives. This can be likened to the colonial focus on the veil in Algeria and Egypt and on the practice of Sati in India. Furthermore, as did colonial women, Afghan women found their voices excluded from the discourse on their oppression except when their message furthers the purpose of the occupation. Thus, one can observe a continuity between the co-optation of the feminist discourse in the colonial and contemporary context. Not only does the rescue framing and its particularities hold constant across Afghanistan and the historical context, but so too do its surrounding circumstances. In both the contemporary and historical context, the rescue narrative served as a moral justifier which obscured other more pressing reasons for occupation. In the colonial context European pledges to liberate women legitimized colonialism. In Afghanistan, these appeals further obscured the role of American oil interests in Afghanistan and the Central Asian region. Furthermore, in Afghanistan as in the


colonial context, appeals to foreign women’s rights are ironic and suspicious given the irrefutable disconnect between support for women’s rights at home and abroad by those who co-opt the feminist discourse to justify occupation and war. In the colonial context, men like British Consul General Lord Cromer professed a desire to liberate Egyptian women while at the same time vociferously opposing women’s equality in England. In the United States, President Bush championed Afghan women’s rights while taking a regressive stance on women’s equality domestically. Finally, and tragically, the use appeals to women’s rights and the co-optation of the feminist discourse to justify war and occupation have negative or ambiguous impacts on the lives of the women in question. War and occupation do not promote women’s equality. This thesis employs a theoretical framework for understanding the rescue narrative. Drawing on the works of Lakoff (1990), Stiehm (1982) and Jeffords (1991), it depicts a rescue narrative constructed to frame invasion and occupation as the liberation and protection of women in order to morally legitimize war and occupation. This framework also draws upon Said’s Orientalism in order to identify the Orientalist discourse which permeates the rescue narrative. Utilizing this framework, this thesis draws upon a broad range of journal articles, books, government publications and news articles to demonstrate the use of this rescue narrative to justify colonialism in the historical context, the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and the recent extension of the occupation until 2014. Having established the use of the rescue narrative, it then utilizes Lakoff’s (2002; 2004) works on framing in political discourse to demonstrate the powerful impact of this frame. This analysis seeks to demonstrate how the rescue narrative is used to provide moral justification and garner support for war by framing invasion and occupation as liberation and


protection. It further seeks to demonstrate how the contemporary use of this technique in the occupation of Afghanistan does not constitute a new phenomenon, but rather a continuation of a strategy to gain support which has existed since the era of European colonialism. It then proceeds to demonstrate the continued use and expansion of the rescue narrative in the recent discourse surrounding the post-2011 extension of the occupation. This argument will proceed as follows. First, the use of appeals to women’s rights and the co-optation of the feminist discourse to legitimize occupation is examined in the historical, colonial context. Second, the discourse surrounding the invasion of the war in Afghanistan is examined to demonstrate the current use of this strategy and its continuity with the historical context. Finally, examining the contemporary discourse surrounding the recent post-2011 extension of the war in Afghanistan, this essay examines how the rescue narrative was extended from a framing of occupation as protection to a framing of withdrawal as abandonment to provide moral justification for an extension of the occupation.


Chapter I Methodology: Understanding the Rescue Narrative The Rescue Narrative ! This analysis utilizes concepts of framing in political discourse, in particular the framing

of war, and of Orientalism to uncover how appeals to women’s rights justify warfare and occupation. Jeffords, expanding on the works of Lakoff and Stiehm, describes a rescue narrative used to justify war in the name of the protection of women (Jeffords 1991; Lakoff 1990; Stiehm 1982). The scenario under examination is referred to as the fairy tale of the just war by Lakoff and the scenario of protection by Jeffords, but shall be referred to herein as the rescue narrative. The rescue narrative is an example of what is referred to as a frame. Frames, as defined by Lakoff in Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, are, ...mental structures that shape the way we see the world. As a result, they shape the goals we seek, the plans we make, the way we act, and what counts as a good or a bad outcome of our actions (2002, p. xv). Given the significance of frames in shaping goals and actions, Lakoff argues that reframing is social change (2002, p. xv). The effective use of frames in political discourse has a profound impact on political outcomes. Jeffords’ 1991 “Rape and the New World Order” builds upon the contributions of earlier works by Lakoff (1990) and Stiehm (1982) to depict a framework for the rescue narrative. As outlined by Jeffords, this rescue narrative involves three characters; the protector/hero, the protected/victim and the threat/villain. In this narrative, the protected/victim is attacked or threatened by the threat/villain. The protector/hero then rescues, or promises to rescue, the protected/victim from the threat/villain (Jeffords 1991, pp. 204-207). These three roles are interconnected in such a manner that none can be established in the absence of the other two


(Jeffords 1991, p. 205). Given this interdependence, protectors must constantly identify victims to protect and villains to vanquish in order to maintain the legitimacy of their role (Jeffords 1991, p. 205). This frame is a perennial feature of war propaganda. As Lakoff explains, “the most natural way to justify a war on moral grounds is to fit this fairy tale structure to a given situation” (1990, pp. 4-5). The rescue narrative provides moral legitimacy for war by framing it as a heroic effort. Lakoff’s work on framing war stems from his 1990 article “Metaphor and War: The Metaphor System Used to Justify War in the Gulf”, which was widely circulated in the lead-up to the first Gulf War. While Lakoff’s version of the rescue narrative is gender-neutral, focusing on the broader conceptions of states as protectors, the protected or villains, Stiehm’s “The Protected, The Protector, The Defender” highlights the gendered characteristics of protection. According to Stiehm, For the most part, then, men have forbidden women to act either as defenders or as protectors. At the same time, a government's very existence affirms the need for defenders or protectors. In this situation all women have become 'the protected.' Some men become actual protectors; the rest remain potential protectors. (1982, p. 367) Thus, the rescue narrative amounts to liberating a country’s women from its men. Highlighting the racialized and gendered nature of this narrative in the context of the British colonial ban on Sati in India, Spivak famously referred to it as “white men saving brown women from brown men” (1994, p. 93). As Jeffords points out, the strict interconnection between the roles in the rescue narrative does not allow for the possibility of wrongdoing by the protector. The basis of the rescue narrative is that the protected is violated by the villain and rescued by the protector. Thus, “violation by the protector doesn’t count” (Jeffords 1991, p. 212). Because of this, the rescue

narrative leaves no room for recognition of the damaging impact of the protector’s actions on the victim. Another defining characteristic of the rescue narrative is that it contains an inherent asymmetry between the hero and the villain. As Lakoff explains, The hero is moral and courageous, while the villain is amoral and vicious. The hero is rational, but though the villain may be cunning and calculating, he cannot be reasoned with. Heroes thus cannot negotiate with villains; they must defeat them. (1990, p. 4) This asymmetry bears strong similarities to Said’s concept of Orientalism, an elaboration of which allows one to recognize the Orientalist discourse which permeates the rescue narrative. Orientalism The concept of Orientalism emerges from Said’s seminal 1978 work of the same name. In this work, Said forwards three definitions for Orientalism. First, Orientalism can be understood as an academic designation for the work of anyone who researches, writes about or studies the Orient (Said 1978, p. 2). Second, Orientalism can be understood as “a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between ‘the Orient’ and (most of the time) ‘the Occident.’” (Said 1978, p. 2). Third, Orientalism can be understood “as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient” (Said 1978, p. 3). Most important for this analysis is Said’s second definition. As Said explains, the relationship between the West and the Orient can be characterized by the West’s position of strength and domination over the Orient (Said 1978, p. 40). This relationship produced a binary discourse in which “[t]he Oriental is irrational, depraved (fallen), childlike, ‘different’; thus the [Westerner] is rational, virtuous, mature, ‘normal’” (Said 1978, p. 40). Said describes Orientalism as “a political vision of reality whose structure promoted the difference between the familiar (Europe, the West, ‘us’) and the strange (the Orient, the East, ‘them’)” (Said 1978, pp. 43-44). This binary discourse


bears great similarity to the asymmetries between the hero/protector and the villain/threat Lakoff identifies in the fairy tale of the just war. The result of this discourse has been to polarize the distinctions between the West and the Orient, creating a system of binaries through which to understand the relationship between the two. The immense body of Orientalist discourse and literature accumulating over time has produced what Said refers to as a “repertory of images” in which one can observe great internal consistency amongst depictions of the Orient across time and space. The staying power of these representations presents an image of the Orient as timeless, unchanging and stagnant. The repertory of images is worth examining because, as Said argues, one must respect and seek to better understand any system of ideas with the ability to remain relatively unchanged from the mid-19th century until present (1978, p. 6). In his examination of 19th century Orientalism, Said argues that by the 1850’s or 1860’s, for instance, if one from Europe wanted to write about India, Egypt or Syria they would be greatly constrained in their capacity to write in a free and creative way. This is because “[a] great deal of writing had gone before and this writing was an organized form of writing, like an organized science.” (Jhally 2002). So powerful were these constraints that “[e]ven the most imaginative writers of an age, men like Flaubert, Nerval, or Scott, were constrained in what they could either experience of or say about the Orient.” (Said 1978, pp. 43-44). The result is a repertory of images which permeates representations of the Orient across time and space and has a powerful impact on how we write, speak and understand the ‘other’. A defining characteristic of this discourse is its lack of self-representation and consent on the part of the ‘other’. As Said explains, There is very little consent to be found, for example, in the fact that Flaubert’s encounter with an Egyptian courtesan produced a widely influential model of the Oriental woman;

she never spoke of herself, she never represented her emotions, presence, or history. He spoke for and represented her. He was foreign, comparatively wealthy, male, and these were historical facts of domination that allowed him not only to possess Kuchek Hanem physically but to speak for her and tell his readers in what way she was “typically Oriental.” My argument is that Flaubert’s situation of strength in relation to Kuchuk Hanem was not an isolated instance. It fairly stands for the pattern of relative strength between East and West, and the discourse about the Orient that it enabled (Said 1978, p. 6). As with the Orientalist discourse in general, the rescue narrative can be characterized by a lack of self-representation on the part of the protected. The protector tends to speak for the protected or, when rare opportunities for self-representation arise, are selective in what they acknowledge. Framing in Political Discourse This analysis proceeds to account for the success of proponents of the War in Afghanistan in framing the debate, and thus the failure of anti-war activists and feminists to do so, by applying Lakoff’s lessons on framing in political discourse. Drawing from the academic field of cognitive linguistics, Lakoff posits six lessons on framing which help to account for the power and resilience of appeals to women’s rights to justify the War in Afghanistan. First, “words are defined relative to conceptual frames” (Lakoff 2002, p. 419). Words evoke frames and for this reason one must use the right words in order to evoke the right frames. For instance, the word liberation, often deployed in the context of liberating Afghan women from the Taliban, evokes the framing of the war as a rescue mission; of American and allied troops as heroic protectors, Afghan women as protected victims and the Taliban as villainous threats. Second, “to use the other side’s words is to accept their framing of the issue” (Lakoff 2002, p. 419). Thus, those who seek to counter this narrative by positing alternative ways to liberate Afghan women actually reinforce this frame. Third, “[h]igher level moral frames limit the scope of the frames defining particular issues” (Lakoff 2002, p. 419). This means that frames of the protection, liberation, or

abandonment of Afghan women which appeal to people’s morality and sense of what is ‘right’ are very powerful in shaping and limiting the scope of our understanding of the interrelation between the War in Afghanistan, the Taliban, Afghan women and the American military. Fourth, “to negate a frame is to [evoke] that frame” (Lakoff 2002, p. 419). This means that when opponents of the use of Afghan women to justify the War in Afghanistan contend that “war won’t liberate Afghan women”, they are actually evoking the rescue frame. Fifth, Lakoff contends that “rebuttal is not reframing” and that one must impose their own alternative frames before they can successfully rebut (2002, p. 420). Thus, one must reframe the debate in order to refute the rescue narrative. Sixth, Lakoff makes the critical observation that “the facts themselves won’t set you free”, arguing one must properly frame messages in order for them to have the meaning one wishes them to convey (2002, p. 420). When facts are presented in the absence of a fitting frame, the facts are deflected and one’s pre-existing frame is retained. For this reason, when facts are presented which demonstrate the damaging impact of war on women or the misogynist policies of America’s Northern Alliance allies, these facts are discarded because they do not fit the preexisting frame of the rescue narrative. In the final section of this analysis, insight from Lakoff’s lessons on framing is used to demonstrate how the rescue narrative allowed proponents of an extension of the war to effectively frame the debate as one between the continued protection or abandonment of Afghan women.


Chapter II The Rescue Narrative in Colonial Egypt, India and Algeria The Rescue Narrative As several academic studies have pointed out, in the experiences of British colonialism in Egypt and India as well as French colonialism in Algeria one can observe the deployment of a rescue narrative through which the colonizer, portraying itself as a hero and a liberator of women, justifies its occupation. This framing evokes an understanding of occupation as a noble act of liberation. Within this context, women of colonized societies were portrayed as passive and oppressed victims, colonized men as barbaric oppressors, and Western men as civilized liberators (Hasan 2005, pp. 27-30). In colonial India, the rescue narrative portrayed Indian women as helpless victims who were “unwelcomed at their birth, untaught in childhood, enslaved when married, accursed as widows, and unlamented at their death.” (Haggis 2003, p. 173). Indian men, the villains, were portrayed by the British as brutal and barbaric, their degradation of women “unequaled even among the most primitive African or Australian savages” (Loomba 2003, p. 244). British imperialists, the protectors, portrayed themselves as civilized liberators who freed Indian women from their oppressive men. This same narrative held true for colonial Egypt, where British rule was justified as necessary so that enlightened and civilized British men could liberate Egyptian women from uncivilized and oppressive Egyptian men (Ahmed 1992). Likewise, Algerian women, “humiliated, sequestered [and] cloistered”, were portrayed as the victims of Algerian men’s barbaric and sadistic behaviour (Fanon 1969, p. 164). French colonialists, the protectors of Algerian women, professed a desire to liberate them in their imperial conquest. All three cases are riddled with Orientalist binaries between the West and the Orient, between civilized Western men and brutal Oriental barbarians, between liberated Western


women and oppressed Oriental women. As these examples demonstrate, Western imperialists justified their domination of colonies as necessary for the protection of these societies’ women from their men. European colonization of Egypt, India and Algeria was morally justified through the utilization of a rescue narrative which legitimize their occupying presence as an act of liberation and protection. A Focus on Culture A commonality amongst the historical uses of the rescue narrative to justify occupation is that Western efforts to liberate women targeted and purposefully undermined local culture. One way this manifested itself was Western actors’ emphasis on native customs and traditions, rather than women’s economic and political marginalization, as the source of their oppression. In India, colonial portrayals of Indian women’s oppression focused on the practice of Sati, the selfimmolation of a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre, which became not only emblematic of the oppression of Indian women but also the moral basis for British imperialism (Loomba 2003, pp. 243-5). In Egypt, British consul general Lord Cromer focused his efforts to liberate Egyptian women on the removal of the veil, which he perceived to be the most apparent manifestation of Islam’s “degradation of women” (Ahmed 1992, pp. 152-153). Given this perception, despite enacting measures that negatively affected women’s access to education and medical services, Cromer regarded himself as the champion of Egyptian women’s rights (Ahmed 1992, p. 153). Likewise, In Algeria, French colonialists focused their efforts for improving women’s rights on de-veiling. Evidence that these efforts sought to undermine local culture was most emphatically demonstrated during the events of May 13th 1958. On this day French generals bused thousands of Algerian men into Algers where they ceremonially de-veiled a group of Algerian women,


upon which they cheered “Vive l’Algeria francaise” or “Long Live French Algeria” (Lazreg 1994, pp. 134-136). As Fanon observed, French imperialists used women as the site of their attack on Algerian culture, trying to “win over the women [so] the rest will follow” (1969, p. 163). In all three cases, the thrust for liberating women ignored their material circumstances and instead used women’s bodies as a site through which to undermine local culture. As a result, what was, in the case of Sati, a “diverse, variable and uneven” custom (Loomba 2003, p. 245), or in the case of the veil, one of the last “few shreds of national existence” (Fanon 1969, pp. 166-167), became a site of cultural struggle. Thus, one way in which Western appeals to the liberation of women served to undermine local culture was the focus on cultural traditions and customs, rather than women’s economic and political circumstances, as the source of their oppression. Another way in which Western efforts to liberate women purposefully undermined local culture and served the purposes of colonialism was that the prescription for women’s liberation often involved adopting Western gender norms in the place of indigenous ones. In colonial India, Egypt and Algeria the prescription for the liberation of women was essentially replacing native patriarchy with Western patriarchy, suggesting a primary concern with cultural domination rather than improving the status of women. In India, missionary women sought to liberate Indian women by imposing upon them Victorian middle-class gender roles so they could be good wives and mothers (Haggis 2003, p. 174). In Algeria, the Plan de Constantine, the French strategy for improving Algerians’ access to education and economic opportunities, recognized that male unemployment was too high for women to enter the workforce so it recommended that they stay home and utilize French home management methods or, where available, enter a limited number


of feminine positions (Lazreg, 1994, p. 134). In Egypt, where Lord Cromer criticized Islam’s degradation of women, one must not forget that his measuring rod for women’s liberation was middle-class Victorian English gender norms which vehemently rejected the notion of women’s equality (Ahmed, 1992, p. 150-151). As these examples illustrate, Western colonial efforts to liberate women often undermined local culture since the prescription for the liberation of women involved abandoning native gender norms to adopt Western ones. In their attack on local culture, these efforts reflected the advancement of the domination of the occupying society more than the furthering of women’s rights. The Lack of Self-Representation in the Rescue Narrative A defining characteristic of the deployment of the rescue narrative to justify foreign occupation is the absence of the native women’s voices from the Western discourse on their oppression. By being silenced from the discourse, these women are denied self-representation and the opportunity to raise criticisms of either local or Western patriarchy. The rescue narrative, by portraying native women as passive and helpless victims, has been constructed so that, as Spivak famously concluded, “[t]he subaltern cannot speak” (1994, p. 104). Given her perceived helplessness, the oppressed and victimized woman is rarely asked for her opinion. For instance, in colonial Egypt, in contrast with Western women who defined the bra for themselves as a site of feminist struggle, Egyptian women had little say in the politicization of the veil (Ahmed 1992, p. 167). In Algeria, during the era of French colonialism, most Algerian women could neither read nor write in either Arabic or French and thus neither know what was being written about them nor have the opportunity to contribute to the debate (Lazreg 1994, p. 98). Lazreg points out that much has been written about the politicization of the veil and its importance for French


colonialists and Algerian men, but little has been written about its significance for Algerian women (1994, p. 136). Compared to Algerian women, she argues, few have experienced “the expropriation of their moral outrage by so many women and men ostensibly speaking for them but in fact speaking against them” (Lazreg 1994, pp. 223-224). In India, as the contestation between British and Indian culture manifested itself in women, little space was reserved for Indian women to question either indigenous or colonial patriarchy (Loomba 2003, p. 246). When it was, it was only the voices of those who supported the imperial discourse which were permitted to speak. The few Indian women’s voices represented in the missionary literature came from the Bible Women who were “Christian converts who, in South India, assisted the missionary women by actually doing the work of reaching the ‘heathen women’” (Haggis 2003, p. 184). According to Haggis, the Bible Women’s voices were, ...present in fragments of their work diaries, submitted to the missionary women who supervised their work. These reports were translated into English and edited by the missionaries for inclusion in missionary reports and articles (2003, pp. 184-185). Thus, because they came from a narrow segment of the population and were filtered by the missionaries, such voices could hardly be expected to reflect an accurate or representative sample of Indian women’s lived experiences. As these examples demonstrate, the women of colonial India, Egypt and Algeria could find a multitude of voices willing to speak for them but rarely, if ever, were they asked for their input. The absence of their voices from the discourse denies them the opportunity for self-representation and empowerment, which are both fundamentally crucial for the advancement of women’s rights. Therefore, a definitive characteristic through which one can identify appeals to the liberation of women as the cooptation of the feminist discourse to justify occupation rather than a concerted effort at


empowering women is the absence of these women’s voices on own their oppression from the Western discourse. Other More Pressing Incentives for Occupation The legitimacy of the rescue narrative is called into question by the fact that the occupation, while justified through the liberation of women, invariably provides the occupiers some form of economic, strategic or geopolitical gain. In India, Sati served as “the moral justification for empire” (Loomba 2003, p. 245), and missionary women’s accounts of the perceived horrors of Indian women’s lives served as a main contributor to British support for imperial rule (Haggis 2003, p. 180). In Egypt, the inferior status of Egyptian women confirmed British perceptions of their own superiority and worthiness to dominate other societies (Ahmed 1992, p. 150). Furthermore, couching the attack on the veil in the language of feminism provided a guise for the undermining of Egyptian culture and the perpetuation of British dominance. Likewise, in Algeria, using appeals to women’s rights to attack the veil helped legitimize attempts at acculturation, and served the colonial establishment’s efforts at de-structuring Algerian culture (Fanon 1969, p. 164). Haggis, addressing the paradox of British colonial feminists in India promoting the same gender relations abroad which they opposed at home, argues that British women used the colonial mission as a way to liberate themselves from domestic oppression (2003). Thus, feminists carved themselves a civilizing role in India as their responsibility “because it affirmed an emancipated role for them in the imperial nation state” (Burton 1990, p. 296). In India, Egypt and Algeria, while feminism and the language of women’s rights were used to justify intervention, these self-professed liberators invariably benefitted from their occupying role. Thus, as these examples demonstrate, the deployment of


the rescue narrative is invariably used as a moral justification to obscure some gain afforded to self-professed liberators by their occupying presence. The Discrepancy Between Support for Women’s Equality at Home and Abroad The nobility of the deployment of the rescue narrative in Egypt, Algeria and India is called into question by the presence of a conspicuous discrepancy between European occupiers’ support for feminism when directed against men of other cultures and feminism in their home countries. This discrepancy is emblematic of the fact that claims to protect women’s rights are not borne out of legitimate concerns but rather a strategic co-optation of the feminist discourse to justify occupation. French colonialists in Algeria, while professing a deep concern for Algerian women’s rights, did not truly believe in equality of the sexes either at home or abroad (Lazreg 1994, p. 63). Likewise, in India, British colonialists espousing feminist concerns conveniently ignored the fact that women were regarded as intellectually inferior and barred from equal access to prosperity in Victorian England (Hasan 2005, pp. 37-38). The most striking evidence of this hypocrisy between support for feminism abroad and domestically, however, comes from British colonialism in Egypt, where Lord Cromer, the champion of women’s rights in Egypt, was “founding member and sometimes president of the Men’s League for Opposing Women’s Suffrage” in England. (Ahmed 1992, p. 153). As Ahmed reflects, even though Victorian men “rejected the ideas of feminism and the notion of men’s oppressing women with respect to [themselves], [they] captured the language of feminism and redirected it, in the service of colonialism, toward... the cultures of Other men” (1992, p. 151). In Algeria, India and Egypt, colonial men with overtly anti-feminist beliefs regarding their own societies’ women embraced the language of feminism to justify foreign intervention. Thus, as these examples demonstrate,


the legitimacy of the rescue narrative is further weakened by the discrepancy between occupiers’ support for feminism when used again other men in other societies and their vociferous opposition to it domestically. The Outcome for Women’s Lives Unsurprisingly, the occupation, morally justified through the liberation of women, did not improve the economic, political and social circumstances of women in the colonies. Although the site of much politicization, the lives of women, whose oppression has been highlighted and misappropriated to justify occupation by Western actors, are rarely improved. In India, for instance, British colonial regulation of Sati in 1813 led to a sharp increase in the number of Satis in the following years1 (Loomba 2003, p. 245). Furthermore, while the British establishment professed a desire to elevate the status of the women of India, imposing Victorian middle-class gender roles upon them did not improve their economic standing (Haggis 2003, p. 174). In Egypt, while Cromer professed a desire to liberate Egyptian women, his educational policies, including raising school fees and placing restriction on the training of female doctors, had a detrimental impact on Egyptian women’s access to education and employment (Ahmed 1992, p. 153). In Algeria, despite embracing the rhetoric of women’s liberation, the French colonial establishment limited women’s educational and employment opportunities in their Plan de Constantine (Lazreg 1994, p. 134). As these examples show, the policies of those who co-opt the feminist discourse for imperialistic intentions often have negative or ambiguous effects on

The British Colonial establishment began regulating Sati in Indian in 1813. In establishing this regulation, they asked pundits at the courts to provide them with regulations in conformity with the scriptures. Prior to regulation, the practice Sati may have been diverse, contextual and subject. With British regulation, however, it became calcified in law in accordance with a traditional understanding of the practice. It is argued that this gave Sati a legitimacy which it previously lacked and enforced a rigid interpretation of a less structured practice (Loomba 2003, p. 245). Furthermore, it is argued by others that the sharp increase in Sati after British regulation reflected a resistance to Western control (Loomba 2003, p. 246). 18

women’s lives. Thus, the use of the rescue narrative to legitimize occupation in the name of women’s liberation most often results in a lack of improvement in the economic, political and social circumstances of the women in focus.


Chapter III The Rescue Narrative in Post-9/11 Afghanistan
A Continuity of Methods Placed within this historical context, the appeals to the liberation of Afghan women by the United States during the onset of the war in Afghanistan bear a striking resemblance to the appeals to women’s rights to justify colonial occupation in Egypt, India and Algeria. As did their imperial predecessors, actors in the United States cultivated support for the occupation of Afghanistan in the name of women’s liberation. Much of the evidence demonstrates the continuity between the historical use of the rescue narrative in colonial Egypt, India and Algeria and the United States invasion of Afghanistan. The Rescue Narrative in Afghanistan ! In the Western discourse on the War in Afghanistan one can clearly identify the utilization

of the rescue narrative to justify military intervention. Drawing on the same repertoire of images (Said 1994) used by the French in Colonial Algeria and the British in Colonial India and Egypt, these actors cultivated popular support for the war by framing it as a heroic mission for the liberation of Afghan women. Through the narrative of the protector, the protected and the villain (Jeffords 1991; Stiehm 1982), the Western discourse called upon America and its allies (the protector) to liberate Afghan women (the protected) from the Taliban (the villain). This narrative drew heavily from Orientalist binaries used in the historical colonial context. President Bush laid the foundations for the rescue narrative weeks prior to Operation Enduring Freedom during his September 20th, 2001 address to the Joint Session of Congress when he told Congress and the American public of the “brutalized” citizens of Afghanistan, a country where “[w]omen are not allowed to attend school” (Bush 2001a). This narrative grew increasingly prominent in the


mainstream discourse after the declaration of Operation Enduring Freedom on October 7th, 2001. First Lady Laura Bush explicitly and inextricably tied the war in Afghanistan to the liberation of Afghan women during her radio address to the nation on November 17th, 2001, declaring that “[t]he brutal oppression of women is a central goal of the terrorists”, and that “only the terrorists and the Taliban forbid education to women” (Bush 2001). Contrasting the ‘brutality’ of the Taliban with the outrage of ‘civilized’ people, First Lady Bush directly attributed Afghan women’s liberation to American military intervention, declaring that “[b]ecause of our recent military gains in Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes” (2001). Support for this narrative drew consensus across party lines, with Hillary Clinton writing in Time Magazine that “[t]hanks to the courage and bravery of America's military and our allies, hope is being restored to many women and families in much of Afghanistan” (2001). The post-9/11 discourse on the women of Afghanistan is not only inaccurate but deliberately misrepresentative of the historical origins of Afghan women’s oppression on at least two accounts. First, the Bush administration’s assertion that “[t]he assault on the status of women began immediately after the Taliban took power in Kabul” (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 2001) deliberately ignores knowledge of the systemic human rights abuses against women under the Rabbani government which preceded the Taliban from 1992 until 1996 (Hunt 2003, p. 57). The Rabbani government was responsible for widespread rape and murder of women (Warnock 2008, p. 133). Amnesty International, highlighting the brutalization of women under the Rabbani warlords, had been urging the international community to intervene in Afghanistan since 1995 (1995, p. 21). Likewise, in their 1998 report on the Taliban’s oppression of women, Physicians for Human Rights observed that the oppression of women greatly


escalated in 1992 under the Rabbani government (1998, p. 30). The United States was aware of these reports yet continuously portrayed the oppression of women in Afghanistan solely as a product of the Taliban (Bush 2001; Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 2001). In reality, egregious violations of the rights of the women of Afghanistan began neither under the Taliban in 1996 nor the Rabbani government in 1992, but rather in 1978 when the United States began providing tremendous support to Mujahedeen fundamentalists (Warnock 2008, p. 149). Thus, a second way the United States’ discourse on the women of Afghanistan deliberately misrepresents the historical circumstances of these women is the lack of recognition of American complicity in their current woes. The United States, by funding the most fundamentalist of forces in Afghanistan, is directly responsible for the plight of Afghan women. As part of its cold war strategy, the United States provided a total of $3 billion to the Mujahedeen to fuel their struggle against the Soviets (Hirschkind and Mahmood 2002, p. 342). In a 1998 interview Jimmy Carter’s Former National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, revealed that American support for the Mujahedeen didn’t start after the war in 1979 as was commonly thought, but rather in 1978 in order to purposefully induce the Soviets into their own Vietnam. Asked reflectively if he regretted funding the rise of Islamic fundamentalists, Brzezinski responded by asking his interviewer “[w]hat is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?” (Le Nouvel Observateur 1998). While a number of moderate Afghan nationalist groups opposed the Soviet occupation, the vast majority of aid was given to the most radical and fundamentalist groups. According to Hirschkind and Mahmood , over 50% of US aid to the Mujahedeen went to a group headed by


Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a warlord “known for throwing acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil” (2002, p. 343). Thus, the American administration and government directly contributed to the development of Afghan women’s current plight by funding oppressive and fundamentalist groups with a disregard for their human rights records. In fact, American support for fundamentalists in Afghanistan despite their atrocious human rights abuses against women continued as late as May 2001, when the United States provided Afghanistan with $43 million dollars as a reward for the Taliban’s ban on opium (Kapur 2002; CNN 2001). Thus, the rescue narrative used to justify the war in Afghanistan misrepresents the historical roots of the oppression of Afghan women by ignoring its existence prior to the rise of the Taliban as well as America’s contribution to it. A deeper understanding of the roots of Afghan women’s oppression and America’s complicity in its emergence is cause for skepticism of American concerns for Afghan women and suggests they reflect little more than the co-optation of the feminist discourse to justify military occupation. The Focus on Afghan Culture and the Veil Much like the French and British colonial discourses on the oppression of women in Algeria, India and Egypt, the contemporary Western governmental and media discourse on the oppression of women in Afghanistan has focused almost obsessively on the cultural manifestations of Afghan women’s oppression, leaving the material, economic and, most importantly, political and conflict-related sources of their plight relatively ignored. This discourse fell short of prescribing the replacement of Afghan with American culture, but it clearly rooted Afghan women’s oppression in their local culture and targeted local practices, particularly veiling. In doing so, this discourse legitimized the notion of Afghanistan having an


inferior culture worthy of Western domination while failing to address the real sources of Afghan women’s oppression. In the discourse that emerged, the plight of the women of Afghanistan was reduced to a battle against fundamentalism (Zine 2006, p. 35). During this time it became “popular common-knowledge” that the veil epitomized the oppression of Afghan women (AbuLughod 2002, p. 785). In the final weeks of November 2001, Time Magazine alone produced numerous articles focusing on culture, and specifically the burqa, as the source of Afghan women’s oppression, with titles like ‘Kabul Unveiled’ (Stanmeyer 2001), ‘The Women of Islam’ (Beyer 2001), ‘About Face for the Women of Afghanistan’ (Lacayo 2001), ‘Veil of Tears’ (Walsh 2001), and ‘Looking Behind the Burqa’ (McGirk 2001). Hillary Clinton cultivated these images in an article for Time Magazine, asking readers “[b]ut how, some might say, can women emerge from behind the burqas to positions of leadership in Afghan society so quickly?” (Clinton 2001). Importantly, the vast majority of representations of the burqa in this discourse failed to point out that it was not the burqa itself but rather the Taliban’s forced imposition of it which was problematic (Ayotte and Husain 2005, p. 119). The prominence of culture in this discourse led many to ask, and rightfully so, “[w]hy... conditions of war, militarization, and starvation [were] considered to be less injurious to women than the lack of education, employment, and, most notably, in the media campaign, Western dress styles?” (Hirschkind and Mahmood 2002, p. 345). Put bluntly by Kolhatkar, “[w]hat good is an uncovered face if it is starving to death?” (2002). In a study of Afghanistan, Physicians for Human Rights found that “the rights to freedom of speech and expression, the instituting of legal protections for women, and issues surrounding peace and de-mining [were] amongst the most pressing concerns for women in Afghanistan”, while the burqa and dress were among the least


important (Kapur 2002, p. 219). Despite these pleas, an examination of the impact of decades of conflict was passed over in the West for a focus on culture, religious extremism and the veil as the source of Afghan women’s oppression (Khan 2008, p. 128). With this focus, the Western discourse not only ignored the real sources of Afghan women’s oppression, but by proposing war as a remedy it attempted to solve Afghan women’s problems by contributing to their very source. The failure of the West to recognize and challenge the major sources and manifestations of Afghan women’s oppression rather than focus on culture and the burqa suggests that American appeals to the liberation of Afghan women reflect the co-optation of the feminist discourse to justify military occupation rather than legitimate concerns for their welfare. The Absence of Afghan Women’s Self-Representation from the Western Discourse In the Western discourse on the oppression of the women of Afghanistan, as was evident in the discourse during colonial times, one can observe a general absence of Afghan women’s voices except when they fit within the rescue narrative. Those voices outside of this narrative are largely excluded. This reflects the simultaneous silencing and co-optation of these women’s agency. Western representation of Afghan women simultaneously present two distinct images; Afghan women as helpless victims who must be rescued, but also as vocal opponents of the Taliban (Hunt, 2002 p. 117). Both of these images serve to justify military intervention in the name of Afghan women. The more dominant of these two images has been of Afghan women as helpless, passive victims of the Taliban’s brutality. This portrayal legitimizes foreign intervention in Afghanistan by forwarding the notion that Afghan women can only be liberated by outside assistance (Ayotte and Husain 2005, p. 123). Through this discourse, Afghan women’s “ability throughout decades of war and hardship to survive adversity with tenacious resistance was lost in


the attempt to cast them as voiceless victims” (Zine 2006, p. 35). Flying in the face of these representations of Afghan women as passive victims are the thousands of women of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), a group that has courageously opposed fundamentalism, warlordism and violence in Afghanistan in all its forms. The women of RAWA have bravely defended their rights in Afghanistan and have represented themselves articulately before both the United Nations and the United States Government. Unfortunately, however, the voices of the women of RAWA have only been represented in the West when they are woven into the discourse of opposition to the Taliban. The agency of RAWA members and their powerful criticisms of the Taliban were co-opted into the Western discourse to justify the war in the name of Afghan women (Hunt 2002, p. 117). For Western actors, highlighting RAWA’s opposition to the Taliban added credence to the notion that the war is supporting Afghan women. What is far less reported, however, is that RAWA has opposed the bombing and the war from its onset (Abu-Lughod 2002, p. 789). Also absent from discussion is the fact that RAWA was formed in the late 1970’s and stood in opposition to numerous previous regimes, including the Northern Alliance that the United States has taken on as an ally in its war effort (Abu-Lughod 2002, p. 790). At the onset of the war, RAWA warned the United States of siding with the Northern Alliance, stating that their human rights record was just as horrific as the Taliban’s and that “[o]ne fundamentalist band cannot be fought by siding with and supporting another” (RAWA 2001). RAWA warned against the U.S.-led invasion numerous times both publicly and before the U.S. House of Representatives, but these calls went unanswered. If American concerns for promoting Afghan women’s rights were legitimate one would expect more respect for Afghan women’s organizations’ claims that war would negatively impact human


rights and democracy in Afghanistan (Hunt 2003 p. 57). The selective representative of Afghan women’s agency when it accords with the occupying effort provides further evidence that U.S. appeals to the liberation of Afghan women reflect little more than the use of appeals to women’s rights to justify occupation. The Discrepancy Between Bush’s Support for Women’s Equality in Afghanistan and at Home Support for the claim that American concerns for the status of the women of Afghanistan reflect the co-optation of women’s rights can be found in the conspicuous contradiction between the Bush administration’s professed concerns for liberating women in Afghanistan and its markedly anti-women and anti-feminist domestic policies. Like Britain’s Lord Cromer and other colonial officials who utilized feminist discourse, Bush co-opted the language of women’s rights abroad while vehemently resisting feminist concerns domestically (Ahmed 1992). On his very first day as President he denied funding to any international organization offering abortion services or counseling (Viner 2002), effectively eliminating the option for millions of women in the developing world, including the roughly 80,000 who die annually from unsafe abortions (Eisenstein 2006, p. 195). Like Ronald Reagan and his father George H. W. Bush before him, President Bush declared a National Sanctity of Human Life Day on January 20th, 2002 to coincide with the January 22nd, 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling on women’s access to abortion services (White House 2002). In his announcement of the day, Bush explicitly tied abortion to terrorism, telling the American public that “[o]n September 11, we saw clearly that evil exists in this world, and that it does not value life... Now we are engaged in a fight against evil and tyranny to preserve and protect life” (White House 2002). Bush also shut down or reduced the size of a


number of government offices focused on women’s equality in the workforce. Most troubling among these was his closure of key offices in the Women’s Bureau of the Labor Department charged with measuring data on wage-earning women and wage discrepancies between men and women (Eisenstein 2006, p. 195). These closures made this data unavailable, eliminating evidence to support gender-based claims of inequality or discrimination in the workforce (Eisenstein 2006, p. 195). In addition to this, Bush also closed the White House Women’s Office established under the Clinton administration which was responsible for the coordination of policy initiatives concerning women (Eisenstein 2006, p. 195). Also under Bush’s watch, Attorney General John Ashcroft appointed a number of judges opposed to reproductive choice and women’s rights as well as two members to the National Advisory Commission on Violence Against Women seeking its abolition (Eisenstein 2006, p. 195). While the Bush administration touted its efforts to liberate the women of Afghanistan it systematically undermined the rights of women in the United States and abroad through ideologically-driven anti-women policies. The conspicuous contradiction between the Bush Administration’s concerns for women’s status in Afghanistan and its markedly anti-feminist and anti-women policies suggests American desires to liberate the women of Afghanistan, like those of Cromer and other colonial officials, reflect little more than the co-optation of the feminist discourse to justify military occupation. Other More Pressing Incentives for Occupying Afghanistan The nobility of American desires to liberate Afghan women is significantly reduced upon recognition of the economic and geopolitical objectives forwarded by American military occupation of Afghanistan. Just as the French and British stood to gain from their presence in Algeria, India and Egypt, so too does the United States have economic and geopolitical


incentives for controlling Afghanistan. Thus, one must be skeptical of whether American desires to liberate Afghan women reflect legitimate concern or an attempt to mask economic and geopolitical motivations. First and foremost, one cannot overstate the significance of the fact that American policy-makers only sought to liberate the women of Afghanistan after September 11th despite a long-running recognition of their suffering. More importantly, however, one must also recognize the role economic concerns, specifically the desire to control Central Asian energy resources, play in American interests in Afghanistan. During the 1990s, a United States oil company called Unocal was engaged in discussions with the Taliban regarding the development of a 1,040 mile pipeline from the Caspian Sea through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan into the Arabian Sea (Talbot 2003, pp. 316-318). In addition to this, there was also a 790 mile natural gas pipeline planned to run through the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan border through Afghanistan into Central Pakistan (Physicians for Human Rights 1998, p. 29). By bypassing Russia and Iran this would not only greatly enhance profits but serve American geopolitical interests in the region (Talbot 2003, p. 316). Taliban representatives came to Texas to discuss the pipeline deal with Unocal executives in December 1997 (BBC World Service 1997b), however discussions fell through following Al Qaeda’s August 1998 embassy bombings and the U.S. cruise missile strikes on Al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan which ensued (Warnock 2008, p. 132). Prior to this setback, the importance of Central Asia to U.S. oil interests was demonstrated earlier in 1998 by John J. Maresca, VP International Relations for Unocal, who testified before the U.S. House of Representatives that: The [Caspian] region’s total oil reserves may well reach more than 60 billion barrels of oil. Some estimates are as high as 200 billion barrels. In 1995, the region was producing only 870,000 barrels per day. By 2010, western companies could increase production to about 4.5 million barrels a day, an increase of more than 500 percent in only 15 years. If

this occurs, the region would represent about 5 percent of the world’s total oil production. (Maresca 1998) In this same testimony, Mr. Maresca concluded that because of the competitiveness of the European market and because of American sanctions on Iran the only viable route for the pipeline would be through Afghanistan. Despite his optimism for the potential of the region, Mr. Maresca concluded that the pipeline through Afghanistan “could not begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, lenders, and our company”, urging Congress to provide support to a U.N. peace process in Afghanistan (Maresca 1998). Mr. Maresca’s call went unanswered, but American interest in the Caspian Sea region continued into the Bush administration, with Dick Cheney’s 2001 report on US energy needs calling for major American developments in the area (Warnock 2008, p. 83). The primacy of oil interests in the U.S. involvement in the region is evident in the fact that Zalmay Khalilzad, who served as an advisor to Unocal during the 1990s (Warnock 2008, p. 81), served as Bush’s Special Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2003 and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005 (U.S. State Department). It was also widely alleged that Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai served as a Unocal advisor (Warnock 2008 p. 81), although this has been denied both by Karzai and Unocal (Global Security 2009). Progress towards the development of the pipeline followed shortly after the invasion. In May 2002 the BBC reported that “Afghanistan hopes to strike a deal later this month to build a $2bn pipeline through the country to take gas from energy-rich Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India” (BBC News 2002). Mohammad Alim Razim, Afghanistan’s Minister for Mines and Industries reported that Unocal was the preferred company to carry out this project (BBC News 2002). A framework agreement on the plan was signed by Turkmenistan, Pakistan and

Afghanistan in December 2002 for what would be known as the TAP pipeline, named after its member states (McWilliam 2002). India, which was invited to join the project when the TAP agreement was signed, officially joined what then became the TAPI pipeline agreement in April 2008 (Foster 2008, p. 4). The project has been coordinated by the Asian Development Bank, a regional development bank owned by 48 member states in the region and 19 from other parts of the world (Foster 2008, p. 4). During a steering committee meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan on April 23-24 a framework agreement was signed by the four partners to facilitate implementation of the project (Thomas Financial News 2008). Construction of the pipeline remains stalled due to continued instability in the region, but U.S. interest in the project remains. A rival deal has been proposed which would flow gas from Iran through Pakistan to India through what is known as the IPI or Peace Pipeline. This pipeline would be constructed by the three states separately, reportedly to avoid sanctions for cooperating with Iran (Foster 2008, p. 8). The United States has vociferously opposed the IPI pipeline. According to Foster, In 2007, a senior State Department official, Steven Mann, stated that the United States is unequivocally against the deal. “The U.S. government supports multiple pipelines from the Caspian region but remains absolutely opposed to pipelines involving Iran.” Washington fears the IPI pipeline deal would be a blow to its efforts to isolate Iran. The Bush administration has been trying to pressure both Pakistan and India to back off from the pipeline (2008, p. 8). India withdrew from the IPI pipeline in 2009 citing transit fees and pricing disputes (UPI 2010). Development of the pipeline continued between Iran and Pakistan, and the door remains open for India to participate. In February 2011, however, the project was officially suspended (Cutler 2011).


At the same time as the IPI pipeline deal reached a stalemate, progress towards the TAPI pipeline surged ahead. The TAPI greatly progressed in December 2010 when a deal was signed between the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India in the Turkmen capital of Ashgabat (BBC News 2010). In February 2011 U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake reported that “good progress had been made” on the TAPI pipeline as he wrapped up a tour of Central Asia, adding that he was engaged in discussions with U.S. companies interested in the pipeline development (UPI 2010b). To add further economic incentives, it was revealed in the summer of 2010 that the United States had identified nearly $1 trillion of mineral deposits in Afghanistan (Risen 2010). In January 2011, Afghan Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani reported the estimated value of recently-discovered untapped mines had increased to $3 trillion (Najafizada 2011). The role of oil interests in Afghanistan is absent from the mainstream discourse because civilian populations in the U.S or elsewhere have scant interest in participating in war for economic motives, and so these are often masked by noble and just causes to garner public support (Delphy 2002, p. 343). Coverage of the pipeline is virtually absent from the Western media with the occasional exception in the business pages of Forbes and Bloomberg. Recognizing this reality, one can understand why the U.S. has promoted the idea that the war is liberating Afghan women. Thus, given the existence of American economic incentives for invading Afghanistan one must be skeptical of whether America’s expressed desires to liberate the women of Afghanistan represent legitimate humanitarian concerns or the co-optation of women’s rights to mask other economic and geopolitical motives.


Afghan Women’s Lives After Nearly Ten Years of Occupation Just months into the invasion of Afghanistan, during his first State of the Union address, President George W. Bush boasted of the liberation of Afghan women, telling America that “[t]he last time we met in this chamber, the mothers and daughters of Afghanistan were captives in their own homes, forbidden from working or going to school. Today women are free, and are part of Afghanistan's new government” (2002). Despite these boisterous claims, however, more than nine years later the occupation of Afghanistan has yet to follow through on its promise to liberate Afghan women. The women of Afghanistan have achieved measured gains in terms of political inclusion, legal protection, access to education and economic opportunities since the fall of the Taliban, but these improvements must be tempered against the death, pervasive violence and threats to their personal security which have also increased. Thus, while the status of women in Afghanistan has improved according to certain measures during the occupation of Afghanistan it would be extremely difficulty to argue the war has been to their benefit. The inclusion of the women of Afghanistan in the new Afghan government has been perhaps the most highly touted accomplishment of post-Taliban Afghanistan in terms of women’s equality, but women’s numerical representation doesn’t reflect their marginalization and exclusion from power. Afghan women have been involved in Afghanistan’s political reconstruction since the initial negotiations of the post-Taliban government in Afghanistan at the Bonn negotiations, where they constituted 10 percent of the delegates. Women’s political representation further increased in subsequent stages of the reconstruction, with female delegates comprising “12 percent of delegates at the emergency Loya Jirga, 20 percent of the Constitutional Drafting and Constitutional Review Commissions, and 20 precent of


representatives at the Constitutional Loya Jirga.” (Sultan, Levine and Powley 2005 p. x). Women’s political inclusion was ultimately enshrined in Article 83 of the Afghan constitution, which reserved for women 25 percent of the seats in Afghanistan’s lower house of Parliament and nearly 17 percent in its upper house. In addition, Afghanistan’s first cabinet included three female Ministers. Unfortunately, despite these impressive initial strides, women’s political representation is already on the decline. This is particularly acute in areas without quotas such as cabinet positions, where the only current female Minister of the Minister of Women’s Affairs (Human Rights Watch 2009, p. 5). In parliament, where quotas do exist, numerous flaws have been observed in the process. Malalai Joya, a former member of Parliament and outspoken critic of the Afghan government, alleges that “the quota system has in fact been abused by the warlords, who intimidate independent women from running for office, ensuring that their stooges are elected instead” (Joya 2008, p. 161). A 2009 study conducted by UNIFEM Afghanistan found that women who receive the highest percent of the vote in their province during elections are not placed in regular seats, but rather are automatically placed into female quota seats. Thus, the quota is essentially used as a ceiling rather than a floor for women’s political representation (UNIFEM 2009, p. 11). Women’s political representation has been further undermined by President Hamid Karzai who, in February 2010, passed a Presidential Decree which “permits unfilled quota seats to be filled by ‘the most voted candidate in the candidates list,’ regardless of gender” (UNIFEM 2009, p. 12). In the context of violent hostility against women’s political participation, this greatly increases the risk of female candidates being threatened if they run for office by giving the men incentive to threaten them. Thus, while women’s representation has


been constitutionally guaranteed in the new Afghan government, there are serious limitations to women’s political participation. In addition to guaranteed representation of women in Afghan parliament, the very enfranchisement of Afghan women was a significant improvement from their experiences under the Taliban regime. Evidence from the October 2004 Presidential election suggested that many Afghan women embraced the right to vote, with women constituting 40 percent of the overall voter turnout. Despite these impressive aggregate figures however, those in certain provinces are extremely problematic, such as in Oruzgan and Helmand provinces, where women’s turnout was only 7 and 2 percent respectively (Sultan, Levine and Powley 2005, p. x). Some light is shed upon the cause of this low turnout by a 2005 survey of Afghan men and women in which 87 percent said they believed women required permission from their husbands to vote (United Nations Development Programme 2005, p. 5). Furthermore, women’s low turnout is closely linked to the general insecurity for all Afghans, but particularly women, during elections. In the 2009 Presidential elections it was reported that the Independent Election Commission only began to recruit women to conduct security checks at female voter stations weeks before the election, and ultimately could not provide sufficient security personnel at female voting stations during that election. As a result, male security personnel worked at many female polling stations which led many Afghan women to stay home on election day (Human Rights Watch 2009, p. 30). Optimism about women’s enfranchisement in the new Afghan government must be measured against the evidence of widespread voter fraud using women’s ballots. Despite women’s low reported turnout in elections, female votes cast in the 2009 election were high and likely a result of serious fraud. For instance, in the Paktia province the majority of ballots


counted were cast by females, but this is unlikely given that women’s reported turnout was low in district areas and virtually non-existent in rural areas (Human Rights Watch 2009, pp. 30-31). In the end, nearly one third of all votes cast in the 2009 election were eliminated due to fraud (UNIFEM 2009, p. 5). Thus, while women’s political enfranchisement represents a significant gain for the women of Afghanistan, this improvement is limited by the general insecurity of female voters as well as pervasive electoral fraud using women’s votes. In addition to the serious challenges posed by the shortcomings of the inclusion of women in political bodies and the electoral process, the prospects of the representation of women’s interests and the defence of women’s rights in Afghanistan’s new government has been seriously hampered by the inclusion of numerous fundamentalist warlords in the government. In attempts to increase security and support for the government, current and former warlords have been co-opted and given official positions and impunity from punishment (Human Rights Watch 2010, p. 6) This process began in the Bonn negotiations of 2001, where U.S. State department representative Zalmay Khalilzad made closed-door arrangements with numerous warlords in order to gain their support (Joya 2008, p. 54). This pattern of co-opting warlords was so pervasive that a Human Rights Watch report suggested that 60 percent of the members of Afghanistan’s first parliament were either warlords or their allies (Joya 2008, p. 124). These warlords were responsible for the destruction of Afghanistan under the Rabbani government from 1992 to 1996, and include men such as Abdul Rashid Dostum and Karzai’s first vicepresident Mohammad Qasim Fahim (Sands 2010). Thirty-four members of Afghanistan’s first parliament belonged to Hezb-e-Islami, the party once controlled by the warlord Gulbiddin Hekmatyar (Joya 2008, p. 125), who has been “known for throwing acid in the faces of women


who refused to wear the veil” (Hirschkind and Mahmoud 2002, p. 343). The party now denies being under the control of Gulbiddin, but this claim is contested (Joya 2008, p. 125). Regardless, the United States and President Karzai have shown interest in integrating Gulbuddin, the onceCIA patron who is now a powerful anti-government leader, into the Afghan government. Karzai has been so explicit as to publicly state that he would offer him a government position if he could help stop the conflict (Grono and Rondeaux 2010). The integration of warlords into the Afghan government poses a serious challenge to the political representation of women due to these men’s fundamentalist views on gender and their respective histories of pervasive human rights abuses. The willingness to co-opt these individuals into government suggests their fundamentalist orientation is less of a concern to the United States than often professed. The story of former-MP Malalai Joya is emblematic of both the low status of female Parliamentarians and the power of the warlords in Afghanistan. Joya, an outspoken critic of the warlords, was regularly silenced in parliament by having her mic cut off (Joya 2008, p. 127). In addition to attempts at silencing her, Joya received regular death threats not only from the Taliban and warlords outside of government, but also from her fellow parliamentarians. One of many examples would be the warlord-parliamentarian Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf, leader of the Islamic Unity Party, who Joya alleges turned to her in Parliament, and with a menacing motion told her something to the effect of “Shut up! I will make you silent forever.” (Joya 2008, p. 133). Joya’s enemies in parliament effectively silenced her on May 21st 2007 when they suspended her from parliament for the rest of her term for insulting her fellow parliamentarians. The event causing her expulsion was a television interview in which she compared the parliament to a stable. Joya says these comments were edited out of context from a statement in which she


divided parliament into two groups; “one working to uphold democratic principles, the other working to undermine them, thereby, she said, serving the Afghan population even less than animals in a stable” (Human Rights Watch 2009, p. 26). Since her expulsion Joya has been living in hiding and says she has not received protection from the Afghan government. Given her experiences, Joya did not run in the recent September 2010 parliamentary elections but has remained an outspoken critic of the War in Afghanistan and the Afghan government. Her story is illustrative of a number of challenges faced by Afghan women seeking political representation. In short, while the representation of women in the new Afghan government through genderquotas and their inclusion into the electoral process are significant gains, flaws with the quota system, the marginalization of female parliamentarians, excessive voter fraud, barriers to female voting and the broad representation of warlords in the Afghan parliament and government place serious limits on the representation of women in Afghanistan. The purpose of these examples is not to suggest all Afghan men are fundamentalist and repressive of women. They are not. Afghanistan had pro-women’s rights reforms as early as 1923 under King Amanullah and had women entering electoral politics as early as 1964 (AhmedGhosh 2003). Rather, what this analysis seeks to demonstrate is that the the rights of Afghan women have been systematically hindered by the explicit strategy of U.S. actors to co-opt fundamentalists into the Afghan government. Afghan women’s rights are defended by the Afghan constitutional but this protection is jeopardized due to ambiguous provisions for Islamic law and their interpretation by an overtly fundamentalist judiciary. Afghan women’s rights have been enshrined in a number of constitutional provisions including the crucial article 22 which states that “[a]ny kind of


discrimination and distinction between citizens of Afghanistan shall be forbidden. The citizens of Afghanistan, man and woman, have equal rights and duties before the law” (Choudhury 2007, p. 157). Despite the significance of provision, concerns about its capacity to protect the status of women have been raised due to article 3, which states that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.” (Sultan, Levine and Powley 2005, p. x). The ambiguity of this provision has raised concerns that it could be used by hardline fundamentalists to deny women’s rights. These concerns came into fruition with the announcement of Mawlavi Fazl Hadi Shinwari as the first Chief Justice of Afghanistan’s Supreme Court (Choudhury 2007, p. 157-159). Shinwari has publicly opposed the declaration of equality of the sexes in the constitution, and under his watch likeminded jurists have been appointed to all levels of the Afghan judiciary (Choudhury 2007, p. 181). Shinwari was replaced by a moderate reformer in Abdul Salam Hazimi in 2006, but the pervasive conservatism of Afghan’s judiciary remain a significant barrier to women’s equality. In addition to this, the passage of a number of laws which contravene women’s equality such as the Shi’a Personal Status Law in 2009 and a general disregard for women’s constitutional protections have seriously limited women’s legal equality. Thus, while women’s rights have been constitutionally enshrined these rights face ongoing challenges from a conservative judiciary, laws which contradict women’s equality and a general disregard for women’s constitutional protection. Girls’ access to education in Afghanistan has made notable improvements since the fall of the Taliban, yet enrollment levels remain unacceptably low. Between 1997 and 2002 the overall school attendance rate in Afghanistan doubled from 27% to 54%, and the attendance of girls tripled during this period from 13% to 40% (United Nations Development Programme 2005, p.


6). In early 2002 fewer than a million children were enrolled in school, but this number has surpassed six million by the 2008-2009 school year (Human Rights Watch 2009, p. 76). While these gains are laudable, girls’ educational attainment in Afghanistan remains unacceptably low more than nine years after the invasion. While school attendance drops for all Afghans at the secondary level, this is particularly pronounced for girls, of whom “only 11 percent of secondary school-aged girls are enrolled in grade 7-9” (Human Rights Watch 2009, p. 9). According to the United Nations Millennium Development Programme, Afghanistan is the only out of its sixteen regional compatriots considered “seriously off track” on achieving gender parity in girls’ primary education (United Nations Development Programme). While gains in girls’ access to education have been widely touted by Western governments to legitimize their presence in Afghanistan, one must keep these accomplishments in perspective and recognize that years after the invasion a majority of Afghan girls still do not attend primary school (Human Rights Watch 2009, p. 8). The insufficient progress in education reflects an overemphasis on the role of the military in the occupation of Afghanistan. When examined within the larger context of America’s role in Afghanistan the underinvestment in education cannot be justified. The investment in education has been paltry when seen as part of America’s overall role in Afghanistan. The cost of one soldier stationed in Afghanistan for one year is estimated to be $1 million dollars. With a deployment of nearly 100,000, the annual cost of America’s occupation is upwards of $100 billion (Klein 2010). For the cost of one soldier in Afghanistan for one year, the United States could build twenty schools in Afghanistan (Kristof 2010). Pulitzer Prize Winner Nicholas D. Kristof calculates that if America removed 246 soldiers from Afghanistan for one year it could pay for a higher education plan for all of Afghanistan, both men and women (2010). While it is


often contended that security must first be established before schools can be built, there is ample evidence to the contrary. For instance, Greg Mortensen, author of Three Cups of Tea, has overseen the construction of 145 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Likewise, CARE runs 295 schools in Afghanistan educating 50,000 girls (Kristof 2009). None of these schools have been attacked (Kristof 2010). The key, according to Kristof, is developing “respectful consultation with tribal elders and buy-in from them” (2010). Kristof’s analysis illuminates the insufficient and secondary focus on education in America’s policy in Afghanistan. While girls’ access to education in Afghanistan has seen marked improvement in recent years these gains remain woefully insufficient. Although investments in education have been made and noteworthy improvements have been achieved, these remain a tertiary priority of the occupation. In terms of their access to economic opportunities, Afghan women made significant strides after the fall of the Taliban, yet the deterioration of the security situation since then has resulted in a decline in women’s participation. In 2006, women represented 31 percent of all workers in the civil service. This figure reflects a tremendous increase from the Taliban period. Unfortunately, and extremely troubling for the prospects of women’s continued strides towards equality, this figure had dropped to 21.4 percent by 2009. In general, the percentage of female government employees deceased from 31.2 percent in 2005 to 22 percent in 2007, and women constitute less than 10 percent of employees in 16 of Afghanistan’s 25 Ministries (UNIFEM Afghanistan). In 2007, only 38.2 percent of women were economically active, and in 2004 women’s per capita income was US$402 compared to US$1182 for men, constituting a significant gap (UNIFEM Afghanistan 2007 p. 2). The decline in women’s economic participation in the public sphere can largely be attributed to the declining security situation and


attacks on Afghan women in public life. Women are often attacked for traveling without a chaperone, having connections to foreigners or even simply for being visible outside the home. In addition to these attacks, a number of high-profile attacks on women in public life have occurred in recent years, which are said to have a “multiplier effect” which deters women from occupying prominent roles outside the home (Human Rights Watch 2009). Thus, while women gained greater access to economic opportunities in the post-Taliban Afghanistan, evidence suggests that women’s access to employment and economic opportunities has been stalled and in many areas retrenched in recent years. Despite Afghan women’s measured gains in the areas mentioned above, they face serious threats to their basic safety and security. One cannot examine the impact of the occupation of Afghanistan on Afghan women without examining these threats. In this respect, one can observe two startling challenges posed to Afghan women’s basic security in the post-Taliban era; the high and increasing number of women killed indiscriminately of gender alongside men as civilian casualties of the war and the increased prevalence of targeted violence against women. In Afghanistan, 1,013 civilian deaths were recorded by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan in the first 6 months of 2009. This represents a 24 percent increase over the same period in 2008 (United Nations 2009). In 2010, civilian casualties worsened once again, with 1,271 civilian deaths recorded in the first six months of the year (Rogers 2010). The majority of these attacks were caused by the use of air strikes by pro-government forces and the use of improvised explosive devices from anti-government forces (Rogers 2010). When examining these statistics one must be mindful that the WikiLeaks Afghanistan war logs suggest civilian casualties may be significantly higher than have been reported (Davies and Leigh 2010). While


public figures have not been disaggregated by gender, one is likely to observe that a high number of both men and women have both fallen victim to the war. Studies conducted in 2001 and 2002 on the impact of war on civilians support this conclusion, finding that civilian casualties of war tend to be divided equally amongst males and females (Hynes 2004, p. 436). Thus, the modest gains women have made in political empowerment, legal protection and access to education and employment as a result of the occupation of Afghanistan have come at the cost of the lives of many Afghan civilians, both male and female, who have been killed as a result of the conflict. While weapons, bombs and combat kill male and female civilians indiscriminate of gender, women are also discriminately targeted for gender-based violence during times of war (Hynes 2004). As Hynes observes, few have highlighted the fact that civilians have been the greatest casualty of modern warfare, and “[f]ewer still have acknowledged that, among civilian casualties, women and girls are deliberately targeted and disproportionately harmed by war and its aftermath” (2004, p. 431). In Afghanistan, according to the United Nations Development Programme, “the pervasive violence against women is now considered ‘a silent epidemic’ that has its roots in the low status of women, and is compounded by long exposure to hostilities and conflict” (2005, p. 4). Violence against women in Afghanistan is so pervasive that, according to a nationwide survey of 4,700 Afghan women in 2008, 87.2 percent have “experienced at least one instance of physical, sexual or psychological violence or forced marriage in their lifetimes” (Human Rights Watch 2009, p. 6). Despite widely-held perceptions of the existence of epidemic-level violence against women in Afghanistan, however, the majority of cases go unreported due to women’s limited access to justice (Center for Policy and Human Development 2007, p. 26). Women continue to be specifically targeted, not only by the Taliban but also by


other armed groups. These attacks are especially pronounced for women in public life (Amnesty International 2008, p. 1). Such backlashes against women are unsurprising given Afghanistan’s tremendous changes since 2001 and the specific emphasis placed on gender. According to Abirafeh, [T]he increased levels of violence against women are attributed largely to poverty, the ongoing occupation, and the failure of the aid apparatus to make real changes to women’s lives. Backlashes against women in the aftermath are not unusual. There is worldwide evidence that violence against women predominates in situations of poverty, particularly where women gain economic independence while men remain unemployed. If such socio-economic changes provoke violence against women, perhaps more caution should have been taken in design of gender interventions. (2009, p. 146) In short, not only have Afghan women died indiscriminate of gender alongside men as civilian casualties of the war but they have also been targeted for specific gender-based violence which has emerged in large part as a backlash to gendered intervention. Thus, gains made by Afghan women in other areas must be tempered against the reality that the war has dramatically jeopardized their personal safety and security from violence as civilian casualties of the war alongside men and as victims of gendered violence. Nearly ten years later, the promises of liberation for the women of Afghanistan have gone unfulfilled. The occupation has resulted in notable gains for some women in education, economic opportunities and political and legal rights, but so too has it resulted in increased violence, death and suffering for many others. To legitimize the occupation in the name of the former is to condone the latter. Furthermore, as the discussion on the underinvestment in the development of schools and the co-optation of warlords into the post-Taliban government demonstrate, women’s rights have always been a tertiary focus of the occupation. To legitimize the occupation of Afghanistan in the name of increasing women’s education, economic opportunities and political


and legal rights is to ignore the possibility of achieving these ends through more peaceful, humane and inexpensive diplomatic and developmental alternatives. Research into the impact of war on women suggests the status of women is greatly diminished in situations of warfare, and conflict and warfare lie at the root of Afghan women’s oppression. There is no reason to have expected anything different to result from the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.


Chapter IV The Continued Use of the Rescue Narrative
Setting the Stage for the Re-Emergence of the Rescue Narrative As the war in Afghanistan waged on, the women of Afghanistan gradually faded into the background of the Western discourse. Once appeals to Afghan women’s rights had garnered significant moral legitimacy for the war in the minds of Western populations the coverage of Afghan women dissipated, and the political discourse on the war focused less on pledging to improve their circumstances. When support for the occupation waned, however, they were trotted out from the background as necessary to maintain the moral legitimacy for the effort (Bury 2003; Reichmann 2005; Lawrence 2009). Once again, as the July 2011 troop drawdown approached, the rescue narrative would be used to legitimize war in the name of women’s rights. This time, however, one can observe an expansion of the rescue narrative to include an understanding of withdrawal as abandonment. As this analysis demonstrates, this would serve as a powerful frame which shaped public perception and which critics of the war would be unable to effectively counter. From Occupation as Protection to Withdrawal as Abandonment In early-December 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a troop surge of 30,000 soldiers to be deployed in Afghanistan (White House 2009). Along with this deployment, the president announced a July 2011 deadline to begin America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Speaking before a television audience, President Obama stated that: [T]hese additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011 (White House 2009).


As time progressed and the prospects of a graceful exit came increasingly in doubt, discussion of an extension of America’s occupation of Afghanistan emerged. As pressure to extend the increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan mounted, the status of Afghan women came once again to the forefront of the discourse on America’s future in that country. Just as the initial invasion of Afghanistan was morally justified through the liberation of Afghan women, so too would calls for an extension of the occupation. During the summer of 2010, as time inched closer towards the July 2011 deadline, a powerful frame of abandonment emerged in the discourse surrounding America’s future in Afghanistan. This frame followed as a logical extension of the rescue narrative. If invasion was the liberation of Afghan women and occupation was their protection, it is only a logical extension to understand a U.S. military withdrawal as their abandonment. Thus, as a progression of the rescue narrative which justified America’s invasion of Afghanistan through the liberation of Afghan women from the Taliban, what emerged over the course of the summer of 2010 was a powerful abandonment frame in the discourse surrounding the future of America’s occupation of Afghanistan and its impact on Afghan women. This frame shaped the way the debate surrounding withdrawal from Afghanistan was understood. When perceived through the abandonment frame, the choice between extending the mission in Afghanistan and withdrawing was not one between continuing a costly and unsuccessful war and putting an end to it, nor was it one between choosing to prolong or end an occupation causing human suffering, civilian casualties and destruction. Rather, when understood through this frame the choice was a simple decision between continuing to protect the women of Afghanistan from Taliban oppression or abandoning them forever.


Explaining the Effectiveness of the Abandonment Frame The power of this abandonment frame in shaping the discourse surrounding the war in Afghanistan can be best explained by Lakoff’s work on framing in political discourse. As Lakoff explains, words evoke frames and, thus, repeated use of the word abandon evokes the abandonment frame. In addition to this, Lakoff contends that “[h]igher level moral frames limit the scope of the frames defining particular issues” (2002, p. 419). Thus, the abandonment frame limits the way one can understand the debate surrounding both America’s occupation of Afghanistan and the status of Afghan women. Moreover, frames are more than just a theoretical concept. Frames shape our understanding of issues and their ultimate political outcomes. As Lakoff explains, Frames are mental structures that shape the way we see the world. As a result, they shape the goals we seek, the plans we make, the way we act, and what counts as a good or bad outcome of our actions. In politics our frames shape our social policies and the institutions we form to carry out policies. To change our frames is to change all of this. Reframing is social change (2004, p. xv) Thus, the use of the abandonment frame in the debate surrounding America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan has serious implications. The abandonment frame was first laid out in the context of Afghan women by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on May 13, 2010 while speaking at a press conference with a group of senior female Afghan officials. Discussing the future of women’s rights in Afghanistan amidst speculation surrounding peace negotiations with the Taliban, Clinton pledged to the women of Afghanistan that “We will not abandon you; we will stand with you always” (Gorman et. al 2010). This statement was a powerful evocation of the abandonment frame, the power of which was made evident by its mention in the media coverage of the conference. The word


abandon was included in the title line of every article on Clinton’s address, with titles such as “Clinton Vows Not to Abandon Afghanistan’s Women” (Quinn 2010), “Clinton to Afghan Women: ‘We Will Not Abandon You’” (Ortiz 2010), and “Clinton: We Won’t ‘Abandon’ Afghan Women” (Gorman et al. 2010). The emotive power of appeals to Afghan women’s rights in framing the debate on the West’s future in Afghanistan was not lost on the United States government. A CIA Red Cell Memorandum released by Wikileaks from March 2010 entitled “Afghanistan: Sustaining West European Support for the NATO-led Mission—Why Counting on Apathy Might Not Be Enough” recommended European governments use appeals to Afghan women’s rights to garner support for an extension of the war. According to the memorandum, Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanizing the ISAF role in combating the Taliban because of women’s ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory. Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories with French, German, and other European women could help to overcome pervasive skepticism among women in Western Europe toward the ISAF mission (CIA Red Cell 2010). While this memo was directed towards encouraging America’s allies to appeal to Afghan women’s rights, this message was apparently not lost on domestic audiences. This memorandum suggests an explicit intent to capitalize on Afghan women’s suffering. The abandonment frame came to dominate the media discourse in the months which followed. A particularly striking example is Thea Garland’s New York Times Op-Ed piece from July 14, 2010 entitled “Will We Again Abandon Afghan Women?” (Garland 2010). Garland highlights the brutality of the Taliban and attributes their rise to America ‘walking out’ after it funded the mujahideen war against the Soviets. Thus, in calling for an extension of the military


occupation of Afghanistan Garland concludes that “[w]e must not allow the progress of the last nine years to be snatched away from the women of Afghanistan. We must not abandon them again” (2010). However, the most powerful and controversial use of the abandonment frame came from Aryn Baker’s August 2010 Time Magazine cover story entitled “Afghan Women and the Return of the Taliban.” The article depicts the story of Bibi Aisha, a young Afghan girl whose nose and ears were cut off by her husband for running away from home. Aisha’s face is pictured on the cover of the magazine; her well-groomed hair and make-up cause the gaping hole where her nose should be to stand out even further. Beside Aisha’s face is the caption “What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan”. The caption is noticeably missing a question mark, suggesting that such a fate is a foregone conclusion of an American withdrawal from Afghanistan. Time Magazine’s Managing Editor Richard Stengel claims Baker’s article was not published to influence public opinion on America’s future in Afghanistan in one direction or another, but a closer examination of his self-described intensions for running the article suggests otherwise. Given its controversial nature, Stengel felt it necessary to publish an editorial justifying his decision to run Baker’s cover story. According to Stengel, he put great consideration into whether or not to put Aisha’s image on Time’s cover. He claims to have “not run this story or show this image either in support of the U.S. war effort or in opposition to it” (Stengel 2010). Rather, Stengel claims the article is an attempt to illuminate the reality of life in Afghanistan. He states that the article is in part a response to the WikiLeaks documents. He contends the article and Bibi Aisha’s image contain “a combination of emotional truth and insight into the way life is lived in that difficult land and the consequences of the important decisions that lie ahead” which one cannot gain from the WikiLeaks documents (Stengel 2010).


While Stengel alleges his magazine is neither in support nor opposition to the war his convictions are evident. By his own admission Stengel states that his article seeks to influence readers’ feelings towards America’s future in Afghanistan, telling them that “I would rather confront readers with the Taliban's treatment of women than ignore it. I would rather people know that reality as they make up their minds about what the U.S. and its allies should do in Afghanistan.” (Stengel 2010). Thus, despite his professed neutrality, Stengel’s statement makes his own beliefs evident. Baker’s own story begins by recounting Aisha’s experience as a rescue narrative. “The Taliban pounded on the door just before midnight, demanding that Aisha, 18, be punished for running away from her husband's house” she tells readers (Baker 2010). According to Baker, a local Taliban commander then adjudicated over an ad-hoc mountainside trial of Aisha. She was quickly found guilty, after which the men removed Aisha’s nose and ears and “left her on the mountainside to die.” (Baker 2010). Luckily, Aisha survived the ordeal and is “[n]ow hidden in a secret women's shelter in the relative safety of Kabul, where she was taken after receiving care from U.S. forces” (Baker 2010). As Baker points out, “This didn't happen 10 years ago, when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. It happened last year” (2010). Interestingly, she appears seemingly unaware of the contradiction between this current reality and Time’s cover’s suggestion that this is what would happen if we leave Afghanistan. Baker’s article goes on to discuss the impending July 2011 troop drawdown, which “has made Taliban leaders feel they have the upper hand” (2010). Highlighting the Taliban’s oppression of women and the gains which Afghan women have experienced as a result of the American occupation, Baker stresses the crux of her


argument; that “[f]or Afghanistan's women, an early withdrawal of international forces could be disastrous” (2010). Baker’s depictions of the Taliban’s brutality are not misrepresentations, however her article is deceptive and misrepresentative because it selectively presents the reality of women’s oppression in Afghanistan to garner support an extension of the U.S. occupation. She is correct when she tells readers that under the Taliban regime “women accused of adultery were stoned to death; those who flashed a bare ankle from under the shroud of a burqa were whipped” (2010). Her account is misrepresentative, however, because while providing great detail of the Taliban’s brutality and the reign of that regime between 1996 and 2001, she fails to express the realities of life under the Rabbani Government which preceded the Taliban from 1992 to 1996, or explain the atrocities that members of this regime have committed during that era or since returning the power with the support of the West. Baker tells readers that fundamentalist oppression of Afghan women “wasn't always so,” and that “Kabul 40 years ago was considered the playground of Central Asia”, yet there is a notable lack of explanation of how Afghanistan arrived at its current state from where it once was (Baker 2010). To her partial credit, Baker highlights the ideological consistency between the Taliban and some within the current government, focusing on Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, Afghanistan’s Minister of Economy (2010). What Baker fails to express, however, is that the vast majority of power holders in Afghanistan are of this ideological tradition and that it has been the strategy of U.S. policymakers since the onset of the invasion to align themselves with fundamentalist Northern Alliance warlords. Thus, Baker’s piece selectively delivers the facts on the ground in Afghanistan in order to fit her story into the rescue


narrative and lead readers to perceive the debate surrounding America’s future in Afghanistan through the abandonment frame. As with the earlier discourse focused on women’s rights in Afghanistan, Aisha’s story is devoid of self-representation. According to a New York Times piece by Rod Nordland, Aisha not only could not read or write, which is tragically common for women in Afghanistan, but also she “had never heard of Time Magazine until a visitor brought her a copy of [the issue with her face on the cover]” (2010). Aisha’s only opportunity to speak in Baker’s article comes when, hearing that the Afghan government is seeking a political accommodation with the Taliban, she emotionally responds, “They are the people who did this to me... How can we reconcile with them?” (Baker 2010). This rightfully raises the question of the extent to which Baker’s story on Aisha exploits her situation to justify an extension of the occupation. Another particularly powerful example of the abandonment frame came from John Hughes’ article “Obama Must Not Let Taliban Rule Over Afghan Women Again” in the September 8, 2010 Christian Science Monitor. Hughes evokes the rescue frame in the article’s byline, which states that “[e]ven as Washington prepares to begin withdrawing US forces from Afghanistan next summer, it must not abandon newly-emancipated Afghan women to the Taliban brutality that would reassert itself in our wake” (2010). For Hughes and others, the invasion of Afghanistan liberated the women of Afghanistan, who have achieved “new-found freedoms since the invading US forces routed the Taliban in 2001” (2010). Thus, for Hughes, “[w]hat is clear is that if the US military departs Afghanistan before the Taliban is either defeated or has laid down its arms, the outlook for women’s rights is bleak” (2010). Hughes’ work reflects


a textbook example of the abandonment frame which uses emotive appeals to Afghan women’s rights to justify further occupation. As with the rescue narrative which emerged at the onset of the invasion, the abandonment frame is riddled with Orientalist depictions of Afghanistan. Hughes, for instance, homogenizes the experiences of Afghan women and those in the so-called Islamic world, as well as the Arab world, despite the fact that Afghans are not Arabs. “Although Afghanistan is not an Arab country,” he explains in a section entitled ‘Women in the Arab World’, “it is an Islamic one, and while there are some exceptions, the tribulations of women under the Islamic yoke throughout the Arab world mirror those of the women of Afghanistan” (Hughes 2010). In one sentence, not only is the status of women homogenized across an immensely diverse range of Arab and Islamic countries, but the complex and interconnected economic, socio-cultural, political, domestic and foreign roots of Afghan women’s oppression are summarized in one word; islam. For Baker, the struggle for Afghan women’s rights is one between tradition and modernity, and as she observes, “[t]raditional ways... do little for women” (2010). Across all representations is a contrast between Taliban brutality and the freedoms brought by U.S. invasion. These representations produce dichotomous distinctions between the West and the so-called Islamic and Arab world, modernity and tradition, Western liberators and Taliban oppressors which serve to reinforce the dichotomous decision between continued protection and the abandonment of Afghan women and render invisible the complex relations that have contributed to women’s oppression. The Response to the Abandonment Frame The notion that an American military presence in Afghanistan increases the safety of Afghan women has been publicly challenged by Congressional Democrat Barbara Lee. An


advocate for women’s issues and a staunch critic of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Lee cast the lone vote in opposition to the authorization of use of force following September 11th in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Over the course of the past nine years, Lee has maintained her opposition to the occupation of Afghanistan. On July 30th, 2010, Lee introduced the Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act, which would limit funding for Afghanistan to the safe and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops and military contractors (Lee 2010). On July 21, 2010, in an article in the San Francisco Gate Lee was quoted as saying that the U.S. troop presence hasn’t safeguarded Afghan women’s rights, and called for greater aid and diplomatic support alongside a troop withdrawal. In response to the notion that America needs to stay in Afghanistan to protect Afghan women, Lee told the press that, Women's rights throughout the world, in Somalia, Iran and Afghanistan, are of extreme concern to me but I don't believe increased militarization in Afghanistan will help secure women's rights... The security of women in Afghanistan is more dangerous with the troop presence. I've talked to several women from Afghanistan, and the results for them have not been good because of this war, some worse for women in certain parts. (Oustinovskaya 2010). Thus, Representative Lee contends the war has been to the detriment of Afghan women. Rethink Afghanistan, the anti-war in Afghanistan campaign and self-titled documentary by the Brave New Foundation, has also fiercely challenged the notion that the war in Afghanistan is helping women. Drawing on a wealth of expert commentary, their 2009 documentary dedicates a ten minute segment to documenting the ongoing plight of Afghan women and dispelling the myth that the NATO occupation has liberated Afghan women. To this end, the film highlights the hardships placed on Afghan women as a result of the war, their ongoing struggles against violence and oppression as well as the Karzai regime’s fundamentalist tendencies.


More so than any other evocation of the abandonment frame, Time Magazine’s cover story received a fervor of opposition from the anti-war left and a number of prominent women’s rights activists. Ann Jones, the author of Kabul in Winter, challenged the accuracy of Time’s depiction of Aisha’s experiences. Jones had met with Aisha several weeks before the Time article was published and questions the inclusion of the Taliban in Time’s depiction of the events. According to Jones, She told me that her father-in-law caught up with her after she ran away, and took a knife to her on his own; village elders later approved, but the Taliban didn't figure at all in this account. The Time story, however, attributes Aisha's mutilation to a husband under orders of a Talib commander, thereby transforming a personal story, similar to those of countless women in Afghanistan today, into a portent of things to come for all women if the Taliban return to power. (2010) Privamvada Gopal, British journalist and professor in the Department of English at Cambridge University, confronted Time’s cover head-on in The Guardian as “the latest cynical attempt to oversimplify the reality of Afghan lives” (2010). Gopal also questions the neutrality professed by Time Magazine editor Richard Stengel. Stengel alleges to have published the article to give “emotional truth and insight into the way life is lived in that difficult land” (2010), yet Gopal points out that “[t]he real effects of the Nato occupation, including the worsening of many women's lives under the lethally violent combination of old patriarchal feudalism and new corporate militarism are rarely discussed” (2010). As she reflects, “[f]eminists have long argued that invoking the condition of women to justify occupation is a cynical ploy, and the Time cover already stands accused of it” (Gopal 2010). Thus, Jones and Gopal have challenged Time’s use of the rescue frame head-on.


The Failure to Reframe the Debate Despite challenges to the notion that the United States’ occupation of Afghanistan is protecting Afghan women and even the outright identification and rejection of the abandonment frame, this frame continues to shape discussion of the status of the women of Afghanistan and the West’s future in that country. During the November 2010 NATO Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, the United States and NATO’s military engagement in Afghanistan was extended from 2011 to 2014. Following the announcement, the title of an article by Associated Press writers Julie Pace and Robert Burns widely distributed in The Wall Street Journal, ABC News, MSNBC, Businessweek and elsewhere read “NATO: We Won’t Abandon Afghanistan” (Pace and Burns 2010). An observer well-versed on the matter must naturally ask how such an understanding can persist despite the knowledge that: many groups within the Karzai fold are not much different from the Taliban; the problems of Afghan women are rooted in decades of conflict; war makes life worse for women; the Western presence has not changed life in Afghanistan in many parts of the country outside Kabul; and, that the war has cost many innocent women their lives. The answer to this question lies in the inability of journalists, politicians and activists who reject this frame to reframe the debate. The ineffectiveness of these critics can also be explained by Lakoff’s work on framing in political discourse. As discussed previously, Lakoff identifies a number of traps one can fall into in terms of framing which help to explain this failure. First, using the other side’s words evokes their frames which supports their perception of the issue. Thus, Ann Jones’ article entitled “Afghan Women Have Already Been Abandoned” accepts the abandonment frame, and its title might even give proponents of an extension of the occupation, who profess a desire to not


abandon Afghan women, moral high-ground over those suggesting they’ve already been abandoned. Likewise, the 2009 Rethink Afghanistan documentary falls into the same trap. The film’s content effectively dispels the notion that the war liberated Afghan women, but it uses the language of the rescue narrative and thus falls right into this frame. For instance, sections of the documentary’s segment on Afghan women are preceded with captions like “Were the Women of Afghanistan Liberated?” and “Will More Troops Help Women in Afghanistan?” (Brave New Foundation 2010). While the content of the documentary is clearly to the contrary, these titles evoke the frame of the rescue narrative and project the notion that Afghan women need to be liberated and that the U.S. military has an instrumental role in that process. The critics’ response to the abandonment frame contradicts a number of Lakoff’s other lessons. One of these is that “to negate a frame is to [evoke] that frame” (2002, p. 419). The classic example of this comes from Richard Nixon. When Nixon stood in front of America and declared “I am not a crook” he projected the image of himself as a crook (Lakoff 2004, p. 3). Likewise, when the Rethink Afghanistan documentary ends with the caption “War Won’t Liberate Afghan Women” it evokes the rescue narrative (Brave New Foundation 2010). When arguing for a cause, one must remember that “rebuttal is not reframing” and one must successfully impose their own frames before they rebut (Lakoff 2002, p. 420). Thus, one must reframe the debate in order to successfully refute the abandonment frame. Barbara Lee, the U.S. Representative for California’s 9th district, falls into this trap. Representative Lee strongly disagrees with the notion that the U.S. troop presence is protecting Afghan women and contends that it’s actually making life more dangerous. She calls for more aid and diplomatic support for Afghan women alongside a responsible and timely withdrawal of U.S. troops. Where


Representative Lee’s message fall notably short, however, is in its lack of delivery within a frame, and it fails to take hold as a result. Derek Crowe, Political Director for Brave New Foundation, delivers a pointed and wellarticulated rebuttal to Time Magazine’s use of Bibi Aisha to justify an extension of the occupation of Afghanistan, and attempts to dispel the underlying faulty premise of Time’s article. Crowe identifies the abandonment frame as the oversimplification of the realities of Afghan women’s lives which it is, telling his readers that “the issue is far more complex than the farcical ‘stay or leave’ choice framed up on Time’s shameful propaganda cover art.” (2010). Crowe sees the appeals to Afghan women’s rights for what they truly are, telling readers that, using the rights of women as a justification for extending our massive U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan is a recipe for failure on this issue and for the betrayal and heartbreak of those who care about the fate of Afghan women. (2010) Even more so than any other critic of Time’s article, Crowe is acutely aware of the frame it uses. Crowe explicitly identifies “the bad framing behind Time’s cover,” which suggests that “keeping a massive U.S. military force is ‘helping,’ while withdrawing troops is ‘abandoning’”. Crowe understands the importance of framing the issue of women’s rights in Afghanistan, concluding that, the frame set up on Time's cover serves to obscure the neglect of women's political equality in the current U.S. policy in Afghanistan, and if we want to support the struggle of Afghan women, we have to reject that frame (2010). Despite explicitly acknowledging the importance of framing the debate and being acutely aware of the specific frame used by proponents of an extension of the war, Crowe and the Brave New Foundation’s Rethink Afghanistan campaign are frustratingly unable to reframe the discourse and fall into many of Lakoff’s perils of framing. The Rethink Afghanistan campaign and its staff


break virtually all of Lakoff’s rules for successful framing, which helps to account for their limited success in shaping public opinion. Perhaps Lakoff’s most crucial observation on framing in political discourse is that “the facts themselves won’t set you free”, arguing one must properly frame messages in order for them to have the meaning one wishes them to convey (2002, p. 420). People’s understanding of the world are filtered through conceptual frames. The failure of all the anti-war movement and the feminists opposed to the occupation has been their inability to deliver their facts within an effective frame. As previously noted, when facts are presented in the absence of a fitting frame, the facts are deflected and one’s pre-existing frame is retained. Changing perceptions on the occupation of Afghanistan’s impact on women and dispelling the false dichotomy between protecting and abandoning Afghan women requires a reframing of the debate. The discourse surrounding the women of Afghanistan and future of America and other occupying countries in Afghanistan must shift to one which more accurately reflects the reality of the impacts of this war on women’s lives. The message that this occupation has caused a high number of civilian casualties and suffering, that war disproportionately harms women and that violence against women is on the rise in Afghanistan must be delivered within a frame which articulates how this occupation has put Afghan women in the line of fire and made a war zone of their communities. There is an irreconcilable contradiction in the fact that the United States has repeatedly highlighted and denounced the Taliban’s oppression of women while at the same time aligning itself with fundamentalist warlords ideologically aligned with the Taliban on women’s rights. This must be explained within a frame which identifies American appeals to Afghan women’s rights as the deception of the American public, the abuse of their goodwill


towards Afghan women and the betrayal of these women’s hopes for the future that it truly is. Using the suffering of Afghan women as an emotive tool to justify military occupation, war, and supporting and arming one fundamentalist regime to fight another is morally reprehensible. What is needed is a frame which encapsulates these messages and expresses the fact that Afghan women need peaceful disarmament, the opportunity for meaningful self-representation and inclusion in rebuilding Afghanistan, not exposure to never-ending conflict and paternalist protection from foreign occupiers. The key to dispelling the justification of the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan in the name of Afghan women lies in the ability of progressive American politicians, journalists and academics to reframe the debate.


Appeals to women’s rights and the co-optation of the feminist discourse are powerful emotive tools to legitimize war and occupation. Moral justification for war is garnered by constructing a rescue narrative to frame the public’s understanding of war. The rescue narrative involves a heroic protector, a victim to protect, and a villain from whom the protector must protect the victim. Using these three roles, Western actors portray themselves as the protectors of other societies’ victimized women from those societies’ villainous men. In doing so, they are able to frame invasion as liberation and occupation as protection. In the historical context the rescue narrative was used to legitimize colonial domination. In India, colonialism was deemed necessary to liberate Indian women from their barbaric men; in Algeria to free them of the veil. In Egypt, Lord Cromer justified his rule in the name of Egyptian women’s liberation, while at the same time being the founder and sometimes president of the Men’s League for Opposing Women’s Suffrage back in England. Flashing forward, the status of Afghan women quickly came to the forefront during the invasion of Afghanistan. Using the rescue narrative to frame the invasion, the United States and its allies gained moral legitimacy for their efforts. Thus, the use of the rescue narrative to justify the war in Afghanistan reflects a continuity of the use of appeals to women’s rights to legitimize occupation. The rescue narrative must not be understood as a previously undertaken strategy but rather as a frame whose use is ongoing and expanding. In the contemporary discourse surrounding the proposed July 2011 troop drawdown, this frame was extended from an understanding of occupation as protection to one of withdrawal as abandonment. This reflects an expansion of the frame to garner support and moral legitimacy for an extension of the mission.


The use of the rescue narrative to garner moral support for war and occupation is unfortunate because it masks the fact that it inflicts suffering on the very people it pledges to protect. The co-optation of the feminist discourse to legitimize war in the name of women’s rights has a disappointing track record of improving the lives of women. In the colonial context, these appeals were a blatant misappropriation of women’s bodies to wage an assault on indigenous Egyptian, Algerian and Indian society. This had a perverse effect on women’s lives by making women’s bodies a site of cultural struggle and by likening appeals to women’s rights with colonial domination in indigenous men’s minds. In Afghanistan, efforts at improving women’s lives have been a secondary focus of the occupation at best and efforts at alleviating the struggles of Afghan men, women and children have been greatly overshadowed by the war effort. These efforts are further undermined by the fact that violence against women escalates in situations of conflict and warfare. The tumultuous descent of the status of Afghan women since the 1970s was a direct result of the arming of the mujahideen fundamentalists and decades of persistent warfare and conflict. Since the invasion of Afghanistan, evidence suggests targeted violence against women has risen as time progressed, and both Afghan men and women have been lost as civilian casualties. Not only does the use of the rescue narrative negatively impact women, but it skews public perceptions of war and propagates misinformation. Using appeals to the rights of women to frame invasion as liberation presents a distorted and inaccurate explanation of the reasons for and impacts of war. It obscures the public’s understanding of the motivations for war and provides moral legitimacy and support where it might otherwise be lacking. In the context of a democratic society, a misinformed public lacks the capacity to make informed decisions on their


collective future and the proliferation of false information stifles debate and meaningful public engagement on the issue. Thus, by proliferating misinformation, the rescue narrative has a detrimental impact on the clarity of public perception and overall understanding of America’s role in Afghanistan. The use of the rescue narrative to legitimize war and occupation must be identified and rejected to prevent its negative impact on women’s lives and its misrepresentation of the reasons for war. The continuing use of the rescue narrative to garner support for war prevents any frank discussion of the oppression of women around the world and proposals for meaningful solutions. Rather, the rescue narrative invites orientalist, ethnocentric analysis of the oppression of women in other parts of the world which incorrectly pins the blame on local culture and prescribes warfare and destruction as the solution. Equally as important, the rescue narrative must be rejected so as to allow for meaningful consideration and analysis of the validity of the justifications for war. However, as the argument presented here demonstrates, this is not easy as challengers of the rescue narrative are disarmed by the power of these frames. As Lakoff’s lessons on framing have shown, the rescue narrative is a powerful frame which shapes the way one understands the issue. For that reason, one cannot dispel the notion that the occupation is liberating Afghan women without delivering this message within an effective alternative frame. A further obstacle to reframing the debate is that the rescue narrative is a tool propagated powerful actors in politics and government, used in the Afghan context by the President of the United States and key members of two consecutive administrations. These actors have legitimacy and access to the media unmatched by challengers of the rescue narrative. This provides them the capacity to shape the public discourse, which the mainstream media’s wholehearted adoption of


the rescue narrative emphatically demonstrates. Despite these difficulties, those who challenge the use of the rescue narrative must reframe the debate on both America’s future in Afghanistan and its impact on the status of Afghan women. Difficult as it may be, the rescue narrative must be dispelled to prevent misinformation and deception on issues of women’s rights and the reasons for war.


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