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

Democracy, allies and lies: the case of stochastic dystopia

In the last few days on our newspapers we have read a series of news which seems to have attracted not so much attention within academia, but which are an important social political indicator. Although I am not going to discuss them in detail, I am referring to the cases of Irfan Raja, Awaab Iqbal, Aitzaz Zafar, Usman Malik and Akbar, whose conviction of Internet terrorist activity has been quashed by the Court of Appeal on Wednesday, 13 February 2008; the government apologies over the rendition flights on 21 February 2008; the full apologies of the US government for lying to the British one over the rendition flights; the quashed control order against the convert to Islam Cerie Bullivant because of a total lack of the secret evidence provided by MI5 (merely that the accused knew some people involved or engaging in ‘terrorist activities’); and the increasingly substantiate allegation that British troops executed and tortured Iraqi prisoners. Continue reading