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It is time we remember Afghan men are also victims of this war

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As the world witnessed the Taliban take control of Afghanistan as the United States finalised the withdrawal of its soldiers from the country, the West’s major concern appears to be what will now happen to Afghan women.

“The Taliban’s Return is Awful for Women”, says the Atlantic. “Women in Afghanistan Fear Return to a Repressive Past Under Taliban” reports the New York Times. “Afghanistan: Why there are grave fears for women” is the title for a Sky News story.

These news reports aim to not only create the assumption that the West truly cares about Afghan women’s rights, but also implies women’s rights were in fact protected under the American occupation of Afghanistan.

While the plight of Afghan women is being used to whitewash the US invasion of Afghanistan, men and boys are almost completely omitted from mainstream conversations about “the victims” of this war, and instead, there is a conscious erasure of their humanity.

Maya Mikdashi – in her article, Can Palestinian Men Be Victims? – examined the gendering of Israel’s war on Gaza in 2014 and the emphasis placed on women and children in the conversations about the victims of that onslaught. She explained how this approach accomplished many discursive feats, two of which are most prominent: “The massifying of women and children into an undistinguishable group brought together by the ‘sameness’ of gender and sex, and the reproduction of the male Palestinian body (and the male Arab body more generally) as always already dangerous.” The status of Palestinian men as victims, she pointed, always remains circumspect.

Similarly, Afghan men are almost never categorised as victims of war. At least in the West, it is always open to question whether they can be dispossessed, fear the violation of their civil and human rights, or can be considered a refugee that deserves compassion. Their experience is often speculated and almost never reported on. A simple Google search of “Afghan men” clearly shows that they are represented in Western research papers, news reports and social media posts merely as latently misogynistic perpetrators of violence.

In order to truly understand the reasons behind the demonisation of the Afghan man, however, we must look at why America and the West are so interested in “saving” Afghan women.

Shortly after George W Bush declared his so-called “war on terror”, the plight of Afghan women under the Taliban became a prominent talking point in America. Then-First Lady Laura Bush, in a radio address to the nation,........

© Al Jazeera

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