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

Plutocracy of blood? Afghanistan post-election

How much blood has been spilled in Afghanistan? It is very difficult to say; official estimates speak of an improbable 12,000 to a more probable, but still conservative, 32,000 casualties. Of these deaths, the “insurgents” of various affiliations (so not only the Taliban) would have been responsible, according to very conservative statistics, for almost a sixth. Certainly, as repugnant as they may be, the suicide bombers and road-side bombs as well as the Taliban’s punitive and revenge killings cannot be compared to the 30000lb air-bombs dropped by NATO.   Continue reading

From the Taliban to the Taliban: the case of Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh

Why did our European and US governments invade Afghanistan? How many of us can recall the general rhetoric of a Just War fought in the name of an ‘Enduring Freedom’ to liberate Afghan women from their burqa and Afghan men from their long beards, as well as bringing to justice bin-Laden? The Afghan campaign has been a half military success, with US and Nato generals blaming each other for the other half failure, while bin-Laden, if not dead by natural cause, can celebrate Bush’s most evident flop. The Afghan war, while facilitating a new form of old corruption in the cities and capital, has increased the suffering of the rural population, often caught in battles of which they are only the victims. Yet some say that Afghanistan is now a better place since it is on the route toward democracy, though a fictional and corrupted one. Continue reading

Unknown soldiers and the double paradox of the new Afghan šuhadā

After World War I western nations have their own Unknown Soldier to commemorate those soldiers who lost their life serving their countries and whose identity was lost forever together with their lives. Some nations, like the UK, used their main churches to host the grave of the Unknown Soldier, others, like Italy, built monumental shrines. Yet the intention in any case is the same: to glorify self-sacrifice in the name of the nation. Although marked by an aura of religiosity, the monument is very much secular paraphernalia. Painted as a symbol of civil piety, the Unknown Soldier is a self-glorifying institution of Durkheimian mimesis. Continue reading