When I first saw the photo of the mutilated face of Bibi Aisha on the cover of the Aug. 9 issue of Time, my first reaction was outrage. Not only outrage that the nose and ear of this beautiful woman had been savagely cut off, but that the image of her ravaged face was being exploited to justify the continuation of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. But then I thought, maybe it’s true that the U.S. has to stay to stop the Taliban.
A recent editorial in The Nation by Ann Jones entitled “Afghan Women Have Already Been Abandoned” provides a helpful perspective for those of us who are confused. Aisha told Jones a few weeks before the Time cover that her father-in-law caught up with her after she ran away and took a knife to her on his own. The Time version is that her husband mutilated her under orders from a Taliban commander, “thereby transforming,” Jones writes, “a personal story, similar to those of countless women in Afghanistan today, into a portent of things to come for all women if the Taliban return to power.”
Jones goes on to describe “the creeping Talibanization” of the Karzai government. “Our government complains that the Karzai administration is corrupt, but the greater problem—never mentioned—is that it is fundamentalist. The cabinet, courts and Parliament are all largely controlled by men who differ from the Taliban chiefly in their choice of turbans,” she says.
Jones supplies many examples of the intimidation and violence women experience. She writes, “Our long history of woeful policies has put us and Afghan women in a double bind. If we leave, the Taliban may seize power or allow themselves to be bought in exchange for a substantial share of the government, to the detriment of women. But if we stay, the Taliban may simply continue to creep into power, or they may allow themselves to be bought (or “reconciled”) in exchange for bribes and a substantial share of the government, all to the detriment of women, while we go on fighting to preserve that same government.”
Jones first went to Afghanistan in 2001 as a humanitarian volunteer and is the author of Kabul in Winter, an account of her experiences there. I recommend that you read the entire editorial here.