The west has lengthy had a fascination with “saving” Afghan girls – a theme we have now seen in lots of media reviews since August when Kabul fell to Taliban forces. It was a story which was additionally entrance and centre in 2001 when the administration of US president George W Bush launched the “battle on terror” and the invasion of Afghanistan, along with his spouse Laura claiming that “the battle in opposition to terrorism can also be a battle for the rights and dignity of girls”.
In Britain, this justification was additionally utilized by Tony Blair’s authorities, which joined the worldwide coalition claiming that the marketing campaign was wanted, amongst different issues, to “give again a voice” to Afghan girls disadvantaged of human rights beneath the Taliban regime.
However whereas it’s true that Afghan girls confronted violent injustices beneath the Taliban rule, you will need to analyse the misrepresentations which have accompanied this “saviour” narrative.
Paradoxically, this message has discovered frequent trigger on either side of the political spectrum, and has even been a uncommon instance of the language of feminism and the language of colonialism coming collectively to say primarily the identical factor. On this means, the Afghan lady has come to characterize the other of what the west sees as its defining virtues in that she is represented as backward and powerless.
The ‘white saviour’ narrative
The issue with this white saviour narrative is that it’s laden with the identical orientalist civilising rationales. It’s an age-old fantasy that was used to justify colonial wars – a traditional instance is Lord Cromer’s condemnation of the best way Islam handled girls when Britain colonised Egypt within the nineteenth century.
This kind of considering continues to foster the concept battle can each free Muslim girls from their oppressive menfolk and liberate the west from Islamic terrorism. But, when girls have been assaulted by the US-backed Afghan authorities and Afghan warlords earlier than the Taliban’s takeover, the worldwide neighborhood remained silent.
Afghan girls’s lives are actually in peril from the Taliban – however they’ve all the time confronted male violence
And, whereas the far proper usually expresses xenophobic and discriminatory positions in opposition to Muslims, some teams have been fast to piggyback on the Taliban takeover to advertise their very own anti-woman and anti-liberal agenda. Inside these debates – and for each the far proper and fundamentalists – girls are represented in a number of completely different and necessary methods.
For Islamic fundamentalists, Muslim girls are all the time seen as key representatives of their tradition, thus the significance of “correct” behaviour and “correct” gown. In the meantime, some far-right teams – regardless of their xenophobia – have been cheering the Taliban’s victory. Each of those positions are dangerous to Afghan girls.
On the identical time, liberal feminists on the left additionally categorical considerations for the abuses of rights of the “unvoiced” Muslim lady. However opposition to the Taliban particularly and components of Islamic tradition and society extra usually units up an issue for sections of the left which might be cautious of opposing Islamist ideology because of residual colonial guilt, the honourable want to respect different cultures and a few perceived frequent causes with some Islamist teams.
Consequently, when I’ve recognized as a secular Muslim feminist and argued that Taliban are a hazard to girls, I’ve been accused by each Islamic fundamentalists and sure leftists of being a “mouthpiece”, and a “sellout” who helps western imperialism.
Too usually the skin world adopts broad generalisations concerning the deeply complicated political, historic and social historical past and points which have formed the cultural milieu of Afghan girls. We have to perceive that the targets and needs of Afghan girls might not exactly match the “freedoms” envisioned by white feminism.
What do Afghan girls really need?
In the long run, in opposition to all this background noise, the precise voices of Afghan girls are sometimes silenced. It could be simpler for outsiders, however sticking neat cultural representations of the “victimised Muslim lady” over messier historic and political narratives will get us nowhere.
Afghanistan: girls are on the forefront of protests in opposition to the Taliban
Clearly it’s not useful to disregard the hazards confronted by Afghan girls and the oppression of Muslim girls usually. However it’s necessary to acknowledge the vastly completely different social, financial and political dynamics which have created the contexts through which these girls dwell.
It’s additionally necessary to grasp that “Muslim girls” usually are not a set, static or homogenous group. And we have to ask ourselves about what we really imply after we use phrases like “company” and “victimisation”. The fact is way extra complicated.
We have to recognise that Afghan girls (a various group), would possibly need various things than what westerners (additionally a various group) would possibly need for them. We have to acknowledge that, with or with out the Taliban, Afghan girls are the one ones who’re in a position to withstand their oppressive situations. Due to this fact, we must always take heed to how they consider we will greatest assist.
Hind Elhinnawy doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that may profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.