Academic journal article International Education Studies

Educating Prisoners of Tradition: Visual Narratives of Afghan Women on Social Media

Academic journal article International Education Studies

Educating Prisoners of Tradition: Visual Narratives of Afghan Women on Social Media

Article excerpt


More than a decade after the US-led intervention of Afghanistan, traditional and tribal customs still play a significant role in the everyday lives of people, especially women. History has proven that women have been playing a significant role in shaping the course of Afghanistan but unfortunately, they are always subjected to different degrees of force by patriarchy and traditions. By examining the historical perspective of women's status in Afghanistan and by analyzing two Youtube documentaries on women's imprisonment, we argue that 12 years after the US-led intervention, women are still suffering from traditional and tribal laws. This paper seeks to demonstrate that untraditional education is a "sine qua non" for the women of Afghanistan to overcome negative aspects of tradition and tribal laws.

Keywords: Afghan women, tradition, patriarchy, education

1. Introduction

At different points throughout history, Afghan women have been the subjects of policies drafted to curtail their rights and status where varying degrees of coercion have been recruited to impose these policies. However, it is only the last decade that issues of violence against women and their social suffering have received substantive attention, especially in Taliban era. The plights of women under the Taliban rule served as a justification for the Western military powers in the name of freedom of women. Following 9/11, America and its allies focused their attention to Afghanistan and the imminent military action. Concomitant with claims about punitive action for this attack, the west administration accused Taliban with violations of women's right. In the then First Lady, Laura Bush's radio address to the nation on November 17, 2001, she asserted: "Life under the Taliban is so hard and repressive, even small displays of joy are outlawed. Children aren't allowed to fly kites; their mothers face beatings for laughing out loud." In her final remarks that day, she concluded that "the brutal oppression of women is a central goal of the terrorist." She stated that the Taliban's treatment of Afghan women and children is an obvious picture of "the world the terrorists would like to impose on the rest of us."

Shortly after Laura Bush's radio address, the State Department issued a report on "The Taliban's War against Women." Almost a month later, to reinforce this statement, George W. Bush said: "for several years the people of Afghanistan have suffered under one of the most brutal regimes in modern history. A regime allied with terrorists and a regime at war with women." This leads one to the question of "whether women's status and conditions are any better after the US-led invasion of the country?" Women of Afghanistan might have gained some freedoms such as venturing in the streets without the company of their men but traditions still play an important role in their lives. Once the Taliban were driven from power, women's hope was raised up but in vain because of traditions. It is important to note that this paper has no intention whatsoever to reject all the traditional rules and practices in Afghanistan as there are positive customs and traditions as well. Its attempt is to highlight patriarchal enforcements of some customs and traditions which affect women. By highlighting them, we bring these negative traditions to the attention of educational policy-makers and the educated segments of the society to change these traditions and to pave the way for a positive future. Traditions such as severe discrimination, forced marriages, child bride marriages and sexual violence still persist to inflict the lives of women and girls throughout the country. Penitentiary is the response to the sporadic violation of traditions. The mainstream media is still fraught with documentaries portraying women in shapeless burqas which previously served to solidify the justification of "war on terror". There are also a great number of documentaries on social media such as Youtube which probe and narrate the lives of Afghan women whose status has not improved since Western allies drove the Taliban from power. …

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