In the Spring of 1978, Afghan minister of social Affairs, Anahita Ratebzad, wrote, "Privileges which women, by right, must have are equal education, job security, health services, and free time to rear a healthy generation for building the future of the country … Educating and enlightening women is now the subject of close government attention." Soon afterward, the United States spent about a billion dollars to help keep her vision from coming to light.
Anahita Ratebzad was one of the founders of the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan. It was socialist, anti-clerical, anti-multi-national, and very pro-education. During its brief ascendance, the upward trajectory of women’s rights in Afghanistan reached its peak, only to rapidly decline as the battle between Soviet forces and their puppet Afghan government on one side, and covert U.S. forces and resurgent Muslim fundamentalism on the other side, ended in chaos. From that chaos emerged the Taliban.
The United States, in backing the fundamentalist Mujahidin, spent about a billion dollars to defeat the only regime in Afghan history that mandated equal educational rights for Afghan women.
One might hope that TIME Magazine, in an article on the plight of Afghan women, might make a passing reference to Anahita Ratebzad. It might have added depth to their incredibly shallow article, had they considered interviewing Ratebzad, who is 80, and from what I can tell, still alive.
The only reference by TIME Magazine to Ms. Ratebzad dates back to the time of Charlie Wilson’s War, which Time applauded, in a hit piece on the puppet government of Babrak Karmal:
Karmal, a 50-year-old bachelor, went into hiding with other members of the Parcham group. Among them was his longtime mistress, Anahita Ratebzad, who had been packed off as Ambassador to Yugoslavia.
Most references to the relationship between Karmal and Ratebzad are more kind, calling them "lovers" or "longtime companion[s]." TIME, whose love of Charlie Wilson’s War extended to their review of the Tom Hanks-Julia Roberts movie, giving the slick propaganda production a 1,100-word review. Some of TIME‘s praise for this bio-pic about the guy who thwarted the movement for women’s rights in Afghanistan:
The result, Charlie Wilson’s War, is that seemingly impossible object these days: a picture about war and politics that has manages to be both rational and inspirational. It is also the year’s funniest smart movie.
The December 2007 review by Richard Corliss, as lame as it is in some ways, is actually less shallow than this coming week’s cover story there, by Aryn Baker.
Most criticism of TIME on the story so far has been in their choice of a cover, showing a young Afghani woman who has been awfully mutilated by the Taliban for her leaving an abusive home environment.
More importantly, though, are articles critical of the viewpoint of the article itself. Here at The Seminal, Derrick Crowe’s brutal analysis of TIME‘s misrepresentation of the real situation in Afghanistan merits wide note. For instance:
This is something that folks who put together TIME’s cover better understand right now: the fox is already in the hen-house. There is a very powerful set of anti-women’s-equality caucuses already nested within the Afghan government that the U.S. supports. These individuals and groups are working to reassert the official misogyny of the Taliban days already, independent of the reconciliation and reintegration process. Given the opportunity, these individuals and groups in the U.S.-backed government will manipulate the reconciliation and reintegration process and leverage armed-opposition-group participation in the process to push through policies they’d prefer already as compromises with their "opponents." This is why the propaganda of TIME’s cover is so pernicious: the women of Afghanistan are caught in a vice already, stuck between their opponents in the insurgency and in the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. If one is concerned about the rights of women in Afghanistan, the question is, how do we give women the most leverage possible in this situation?
The post-invasion erosion of women’s rights in Iraq was, along with the dispossession of almost 100% of Iraqi Christians, one of our salient failures there. Before our invasion, women in Iraq were more highly educated than in any other Middle Eastern nation but Israel. Christians there had an important role in government, politics and civil administration (as did women). Though the U.S. Government purports to care about this, they are lying.
Afghanistan is even worse. TIME magazine’s disgustingly meretricious story on this is so shallowly dishonest, it may even evoke a favorable tweet from Sarah Palin.