Wednesday, November 26, 2008

10 Arrested in Acid Attack on Afghan Girls


I am routinely horrified by the violent, random crimes that are done against women in the Middle East. Today's misogyny can be found in Kabul, Afghanistan, where 10 Taliban militants were arrested and confessed to dousing battery acid all over a group of Afghan schoolgirls and their teacher on November 12.

I found an article by CTV News in Canada that reported what happened two weeks ago. According to CTV News, two men on a motorcycle hurled acid at 8 school girls who were walking into a high school in Kandahar. The Afghanistan government had condemned it as an "un-Islamic" act and accused the Taliban of this incident. Of course, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi promptly denied that any insurgents were involved.

Today, Abdul Waheed Wafa of the New York Times is reporting that the Taliban militants have confessed to the attack because a high-ranking member of the Taliban had offered them a reward of a 100,000 Pakistani rupees (approximately $1,275) for each girl that they were able to burn. The article also said that the probable cause for such a show of violence is "because the girls had been attending high school."

This might be just a small sample of the horrors that are perpetrated by the Taliban against Afghanistan civilians everyday, but it rankled me that if the Taliban were trying to garner more supporters in Afghanistan, perhaps riding around flinging acid in women's faces is not the way to do it. If anything, it helps to strengthen the belief that anyone affiliated with the Taliban is "un-Islamic," a the government pronounced them, and militant. Whatever happened in the teachings of Islam that led a group of people to believe the awful, evil things that they believe? Islam, as I have studied in primary school in Singapore, is a religion about peace, and it angers me that a group of individuals have decided to take the religion into their hands and twist the teachings so that it comes out absolutely different from the origins.

But this is not something new I am saying– give me a penny for anyone who has ever written about militant Islam. Isalmofascism, anyone? No, this blog is about journalism, and in the newspaper, the editors (or whoever decides these things) decided that the pull quote for this story should be "An assault that drew anger from the American first lady." That sentence is what the Times have decided to highlight, out of all the choice-y content in that entire article?

Laura Bush was mentioned at the end of the article, almost like an afterthought, like it was the writer's effort to pad his word count. He wrote that First Lady Bush had said that the acts of the Taliban was "cowardly" and "shameful." She is also an advocate for women's rights in Afghanistan during President Bush's tenure.

Though it is kind of the First Lady to bring attention to this issue, it seemed to me that it was a cheap attempt by the paper to grab attention using a famous name. Like "Angelina Jolie is Visiting Children in the Congo" when really, the story is about how the reason she's visiting children in Congo is because that country has the highest rate of rape cases. It's like the media decides that we should care about Darfur because George Clooney is there.

It sounds like I am trying to discount the kindness and humanitarian acts of individuals– I'm not. I'm just wish that we didn't live in such an infotainment world that even news such as an acid attack on school girls (If you look at the headline, you can see the fabulous alliteration) has to be peppered by comments from a famous person in order for it to be more newsworthy.

If it were up to me, my pull quote would be "Eight girls doused with acid by two men, apparently because they go to high school."

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