(En)Gendering the War on Terror

Rada Akbar has made two documentary films describing the life and hardship of Afghan women. One of her documentaries "Shattered Hopes" was selected for The Panorama Hindukusch-Film Festival in Köln, Germany 2009. Currently, she is working with GIZ-BEPA (Basic Education Program for Afghanistan), and she hopes her success can inspire other Afghan women. Discover more:http://www.afghanphotographynetwork.com/Rada-Akbar-1

Rada Akbar, the photographer, has made two documentary films describing the life and hardship of Afghan women. One of her documentaries “Shattered Hopes” was selected for The Panorama Hindukusch-Film Festival in Köln, Germany in 2009. Currently, she is working with GIZ-BEPA (Basic Education Program for Afghanistan), and she hopes her success can inspire other Afghan women. Discover more: http://www.afghanphotographynetwork.com/Rada-Akbar-1

“One of the most remarkable and lasting war stories is that the war on terror is being waged in order to protect women’s rights and liberate Muslim and Arab women in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Thinking back to the initiation of war in Afghanistan, images of burqa-clad Afghan women represented as victims of ‘barbaric, unshaven, cave-dwelling fundamentalists’ dominated the media and provided the basis for the Bush administration’s rhetoric that this war would liberate Afghan women. A similar pattern emerged in Iraq as gendered and racialized representations of the war were used to convince Americans that the invasion of Iraq would liberate the Iraqi people from a brutal and misogynist dictator. This engendering of the war not only constructs the ‘victimized women to be rescued’, but also their ‘hyper-masculine rescuers’ and ‘cowardly oppressors’.

For many feminists, this war story about women’s liberation served to camouflage the Bush administration’s past and present record on women’s rights. For example, before 9/11 the Bush administration was engaged in political negotiations with the Taliban about the development of oil pipelines even though they were aware of the Taliban’s treatment of Afghan women… There [were] also emerging reports that Coalition forces have sexually assaulted imprisoned Iraqi women as well as female coalition soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq… In the aftermath of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, women’s experiences of the war on terror continue to stand in stark opposition to the stories of liberation told by the Bush administration.

Moreover, this war story about women’s liberation deflects attention away from the violence that women, in particular, suffer as a result of war, including sexual violence, loss of male family members, and the burden of caring for the young, old, and injured. It also justifies violence in the name of women, implicating all women in the direct and indirect violence and destruction that occur form war… As Katharine Viner correctly notes, “…[F]eminists are left with the fact that their own beliefs are being trotted out by world leaders in the name of a cause which does nothing for the women it pretends to protect. This is nothing less than an abuse of feminism, one which will further discredit the cause of western feminism in the Arab world… (Viner, 2002).” —(9-11, Hunt and Rygiel) Chapter 1: (En)Gendered War Stories and Camouflaged Politics in (En)Gendering the War on Terror (2006)

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