Afghanistan and the war of pictures: the case of ‘ethical’ suffering?

When I checked the news today, the horrific picture– selected by Time as a front-cover–of Aisha’s face, an 18-year-old Afghan woman whom was sentenced by the Taliban to have her nose and ears cut off for fleeing her abusive in-laws greeted me. International newspapers reported the news and the picture is now one of those icons of Afghanistan, which, interestingly enough, are often released in an apparent attempt to provide an ethical dimension to a war (particularly after Wikileaks leaked the massive documentation on the Afghan war) which is increasingly difficult to justify. Indeed, I am sure that many will remember the National Geographic split cover image that contained two photos of Sharbat Gula, the first having been taken at the time of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the second at the end of the Taliban regime. While in the first picture she is a beautiful young girl with intense green eyes and her hair gently covered by a burgundy scarf, in the second she lifts the oppressive burqa to reveal a hardship-worn face that has been marked, as the article explains, by life under the Taliban. Continue reading