The recent cover of Time magazine featuring the photo of Aisha has sparked debate about the US presence in Afghanistan and what it means for women’s rights there. Here at MMW, the overwhelming sentiment seems to be that the image is yellow journalism at its finest, reinforcing the antiquated rhetoric of “saving women” and exploiting Afghan women by intimating that US occupation has kept Afghan women safe.
Riz Khan of Al Jazeera seems to be cognizant of the sensationalistic effects of the image. In a recent episode of his self-titled show, he addresses “Women’s Rights in Afghanistan.” Khan discusses the Time image as well as whether the foreign military presence in Afghanistan is helping or hurting Afghan women.
Viewers are introduced to Khan’s two guests: Wazhma Frogh and Gayle Lemmon. Wazhma Frogh is an Afghan activist who received the U.S. State Department’s 2009 International Woman of Courage Award for her work on human rights in Afghanistan.
Also there to weigh in was American author Gayle Lemmon, who has written a book on Afghanistan titled: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, which tells the story of an Afghan girl whose business created jobs for more than 100 women in Kabul during the Taliban years.
The first half of the show discusses the Time cover image as Riz Khan poses the question of whether the picture hurts the image of Afghan women. Frogh believes that
“By showing images as such we actually detach the social realities that deteriorate the situation of Afghan women on the ground; we actually remove the situation of Afghan woman from a social perspective [and] from a governance perspective. The more accountability is fading from Afghanistan, the more we see that such acts are happening so I don’t know how much it can help. It might help one person to get her out of Afghanistan, but what happens to the hundreds of Afghan women who go through the same or worse situation on a daily basis.”