Bibi Aisha: From the Taliban to Time Magazine

Time Magazine ran this picture for their edition of August 9, 2010. The accompanying story describes how her father, to satisfy some obligation, promised her to a Taliban fighter when she was just 12 years old according to a custom known as baad. This practice involves settling a dispute by trading a young girl as a type of payment.

Bibi Aisha was subsequently married at 14 and apparently abused not just by her husband but by her husband’s family; she was treated as a slave. At 18, she ran away but when caught, the local Taliban commander decided to make an example of her in front of the village to prevent any other young girls from trying to escape. While her brother-in-law held her down, her husband cut off her nose and her ears then they left her in the mountains to die.

She didn’t die but found her way to Kabul where she spent 9 months in a women’s shelter run by Women for Afghan Women (WAW). According to Time’s managing editor, the magazine, fearing some sort of backlash, made sure that this young woman was in protection and safe from possible repercussions after the publication of the cover picture. The release of the picture had the effect of bringing attention to the plight of women in Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban. We, in the Western world do not fully appreciate the circumstances under which some people live.

As a follow-up, media outlets reported on August 9, 2010 that Bibi had arrived in California, her trip sponsored by the Grossman Burn Foundation. She remains very much affected by what has happened to her. No reconstructive surgery has yet been done as it is felt she needs more psychological help. She does wear a prosthetic nose on occasions but apparently does like it because it has to be glued to her face. As of November, she has been staying with a host family on the east coast.

Will there be any justice? Recently, newspapers have reported that Bibi’s father-in-law, Haji Mullah Sulaiman has been arrested in his home district in the southern province of Uruzgan. He had been apparently hiding in Pakistan after the attack on Bibi. It is reported that Sulaiman helped to restrain her while family members, including her husband, Qudratullah, cut off her nose and ears. In addition to Sulaiman and his son, two other relatives are also suspects in the case. Qudratullah, Aisha’s teenage husband, is still in hiding possibly in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

However, I see reports about Afghanistan being well known for a corrupt system. Bribes can almost guarantee that anyone can escape justice and there is a good chance that Bibi’s attackers will not face any punishment.

In the blog entry Cruelty Knows No Bounds where I first showed the Time Magazine cover, I expressed my surprise to the extent some people can go in showing brutality to another human being. It somehow seems that if you stop seeing the other person as a human being but as some sort of piece of property, a thing you own, then anything you do is not cruelty; it is merely your right to do what you want with what is yours.

Fortunately, when one’s actions are held up under the light of international scrutiny, whatever justification you may feel backs up what you’ve done may not past mustard with others and then you will face the growing problem of being alienated in the world. Sooner or later, good will triumph over evil.

“When cruelty is inflicted on innocent people, it discredits whatever cause.”
– Ronald Reagan (American 40th US President (1981- 89), 1911-2004)

The Time Cover and the War in Afghanistan
On December 5, 2010, Britain’s Guardian newspaper ran the article Afghanistan’s propaganda war takes a new twist by Andrew Anthony in which the journalist not only talks about Bib Aisha but discusses the war in that country. Some people are for the war; some people are opposed. Mr. Anthony wrote:

Thus, for those who wished the NATO troops to remain, the photo of Aisha acted as a symbol of what they were fighting against, and for those who wanted to see them withdrawn, it was a piece of emotional propaganda or "war porn".

That, I believe represents the quagmire not only the United States but all of us face when looking at any war then putting a face to the war and trying to ignore it. After all, the big picture is the thousands of people killed, wounded or somehow affected during a conflict not just the one individual who ends up on the cover of Time. It may seem heartless but it does come down to a question of whether or not any of us would risk thousands of lives for a single person. Yes, we can think of the greater good but it is difficult or near impossible to keep thinking of the greater good when one has the picture in front of them of someone so ill-treated by the "enemy". Evil demands punishment.

Final Word
In Alexandria, Egypt, New Year’s Eve saw a horrific bombing at a Coptic Christian church which left 21 dead and 70 injured.

New Year church blast sparks Christian fury in Egypt – January 1, 2011

Horrific pictures emerge of Coptic church bombing, Egypt– January 2, 2011 (video)

pictures of church bombing in Egypt Warning: some graphic images

These were innocent people. They were not combatants, just everyday people doing what everyday people do. But the target is all part of what larger plan? Destabilize the region? Create sectarian strife? Drive out the infidels so the country is Muslim only? The people who did the bombing are the same people who cut off noses. Maybe not in name, not the exact same people, but the ideology of treating people as not being people, as being less than human, reduces them to things, things which can be manipulated, mistreated and discarded with no sympathy or regrets.

Let us not forget this lesson and as a final word of warning, let us not forget that this lesson is applicable to anybody. Remember the image we ourselves leave elsewhere in the world when pictures like Abu Ghraib end up published. Anybody is capable of forgetting that the other person is not a person but just a "thing". No peace, love and understanding there.

Click HERE to read more from William Belle

References

Wikipedia: Bibi Aisha
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibi_Aisha

Time Magazine: cover photo
http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20100809,00.html

Time Magazine: Afghan Women and the Return of the Taliban
By  Aryn Baker   Thursday, Jul. 29, 2010
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2007238,00.html

The Daily Beast: Bibi Aisha’s Tormentor Captured
by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon – Dec 9/2010

Google Images: "Bibi Aisha" 

Women for Afghan Women: Bibi Aisha
http://www.womenforafghanwomen.org/front_lines.php

The Guardian: Afghanistan’s propaganda war takes a new twist
by Andrew Anthony – Dec 5/2010
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/05/bibi-aisha-afghanistan-disfigured-taliban

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