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<nettime> Afghan Eyes
Jo van der Spek on Mon, 8 Apr 2002 15:48:37 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Afghan Eyes



watching "In search of the Afghan girl" on National Geographic channel
in Holland incited this comment:

In search of the Afghan girl.

The mystery of the burqa is presented to the western eye as an icon of
banality. The banality of Islam. No difference made here between a Burqa

and a scarf.
However, the Burqa, also inspires voyeurism. Triggers a desire for
revealing. If not revelation of the banality of western eyes.

Or ripping it off. In a semiotic sense, it appears that once again women
are
raped twice. First they were forced to disappear from the street, the
public space and the public eye, by men like Mujahideen and Taliban.
Next, that is after 911 they were forcibly brought back into the media
landscape
by western camera's.

It happened before. Remember the western reporters visiting camps for
Bosnian refugees back in 1992. "Anybody raped here and speaks english?".

Now this  is epitomized by National Geographic. Photographer Steve  goes
back to
Pakistan to catch the girl that made him famous in 1984 through his
photo of her
impressive green eyes. It made the cover of NG Magazine.
Seventeen years after, like a mediated Indiana Jones, he is struggling
with
cultural constraints like being dependent on a husband for permission to

see his wife. To verify if she is really the one he can buy assistance
from
elders and local journalists. But he has to do some serious symbolic
masturbation, while waiting for permission. He goes to his favourite
barbershop, where they do a decent head massage. He goes round in
Peshawar
looking at the pirated copies of his photo. When he begs for a "special
price" for his own photo, and only gets 20 percent off, you feel he
would
like to kill the salesman. But he doesn't, in front of his own camera.
He
remains polite, although cynical enough in his comment.

Of course, the final proof is not looking into the eyes of the girl.
"Cultural constraints" stand in the way. The girl is too shy.
No need for further explanation or investigation. No attempt is made to
go beyond
flying in and out the camp to get her picture and the proof that she is
what she is
dubbed to be: the girl wit the green eyes, the symbol of suffering of a
nation.
We, western eyes, know enough We don't really want to know who she is,
or what
she went through. We don't want to hear her story. Her comments or
conclusion.
We are her for eyes only, remember?

So we take another photo and rush off to our lab to check and compare
the
iris scan with our advanced verification technologies.

Gotcha!
Commando Solo has struck again.

(commando solo was the nickname of the Pentagon sponsored  radio program
aired from over the Indian Ocean
to the wind-up radio's that were dropped on Afghanistan, together with
cluster bombs and food parcels)

--
Jo van der Spek,
radio journalist, program maker & tactical media consultant
H. Seghersstraat 46
1072 LZ Amsterdam, the Netherlands
tel. +31.20.6718027
mob. +31.6.51069318
jo {AT} xs4all.nl
http://www.xs4all.nl/~jo

**************************************
better a complex identity than an identity complex


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