WhyNot

Letter to the West

Words by Melis, 22 VIC

This article contains themes of sexual assault and violence which may be difficult to read or triggering to some readers. Readers in need can seek support from the following services or visit our Creating a Safe Space page to see a full list of support services.

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As a Turkish person I am heartbroken.

I am dejected to see my Afghan counterparts, not too far away from my own motherland, live through yet another disaster wrought with terror and uncertainty.

But I am further enraged, because I know what’s coming next.

I know that Western media and leaders will soon wield this tragedy to sharpen their Islamophobia and divert blame for a situation that they created.

After all, it was the United States who provided arms and finances to the Mujahideen, a militant and fundamentalist group who evolved to become the Taliban. The US’ aim was to overthrow Afghanistan’s left wing, socialist government, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), out of their petulant fear of the spread of communism and Soviet power. A memo from the US embassy in Kabul from 1979 read, “the United States’ larger interest would be served by the demise of the [PDPA]…despite whatever setbacks this might mean for future social and economic reforms in Afghanistan…the overthrow of the [PDPA] would show the rest of the world, particularly the Third World, that the Soviet’s view of the socialist course of history being inevitable is not accurate.”

Thus, the Middle East became the West’s twisted warning to the rest of the world that their imperialist and capitalist reign should not be questioned.

But they will never admit that. Instead, they will chalk this up to the inherent violence and primitivism of Islamic values, conflating the Taliban with all Muslims. They will use these painful events to inflate their Western egos, convincing themselves that this would ‘never happen here.’ As if misogyny and fascism is unique to the Middle East. As if the West doesn’t actively promote sexism and white supremacy and pardon perpetrators of such violence.

Westerners applaud themselves for being democratic and liberal, but how free is a society where men can rape, assault and murder women with near impunity? In Australia, one woman is murdered every week by her partner, to the indifference of our leaders.  Rape culture runs rampant on university campuses, often fuelled by the unchecked misogyny festering in private schools. Of the sexual assaults which are reported, few ever make it to trial and antiquated, misogynist legal requirements make a conviction rare, even where a court establishes that there was no consent given. Christian Porter, who is accused of raping a woman who died by suicide last year, has been promoted to one of the highest positions of power in our country. What a great country to be a woman.

Westerners sneer at the burqa, while remaining blind to the exploitative and oppressive beauty standards they prescribe themselves. Self-hatred is capitalism’s greatest export, and it ensures that girls in the West are bottle-fed thinness and insecurity so that they remain obedient consumers. Women’s bodies are compartmentalised- boobs, butt, legs – and used to sell products . Sexual objectification and exploitation are rebranded as liberation. All of this has lethal consequences, with eating disorders claiming the most lives of any mental illness.

And yet they still scoff at the ‘primitive’ and ‘backwards’ Middle East.

Already, mainstream media in Australia is saturated with headlines about the women of Afghanistan and how they are being brutalised by Muslim men. I am not denying the truth of these stories. But this is the same media which relentlessly chooses to humanise and support abusive white men in Australia and question the validity of their female victims. The same media which gives undue nuance and complexity to white supremacists and men who kill their partners, with excuses like ‘he was isolated and depressed, and the system failed him.’ When Hannah Baxter and her three children were brutally murdered and set on fire by her ex-husband, the newspapers described how he was “in a real bad place…because of the separation.” When a white supremacist terrorist murdered eight people, including six Asian women, the police noted that ‘yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.’

I have a very hard time believing these publications care about women’s rights. Instead, these headlines simply cement a long history of Islamophobic reporting which seeks to demonise Muslims as oppressive, violent and barbaric.

I know this imperialist indoctrination is working because I have encountered a frightening number of people, many of whom would consider themselves progressive, who seem to have no doubt in their minds that Islam is innately sexist and violent. They will pointedly refer to the Qur’an as concrete evidence that Islam is ‘objectively’ problematic. But religion and spirituality are not defined and limited by the words of a text. There is nothing objective about religion. Contrarily, religion is brought alive by the subjective interpretation of each person.  White supremacist terrorists often cite Christian proverbs in their manifestos, does this mean that all Christians are white supremacist terrorists or believe in the supremacy of the white race? Most Westerners would clearly rebuke this conflation as ludicrous. Yet they have an inability to extend the same logic to Muslims.

Unlike Westerners, ALL Muslims are burdened with the actions of a few oppressive groups. Groups that were created, radicalised and armed by the very Western forces which denounce them. No doubt, the US and other Western allies are secretly snickering, knowing that this is going to give them another excuse to expand their imperialism and justify occupation.

I am not interested in Western pity or performative concern for Muslim women. Instead, I direct all Westerners to feel guilt and shame over the villainous actions of their leaders and nations. They should recognise this is a direct consequence of their imperialism, not a product of Islam. They should feel an urgency to atone, to welcome all Afghan people needing refuge.

And if they really think that they live in such an enlightened and democratic society, they need to take a good look around.


More resources On the history of Afghanistan:

Illustration by AileenYou can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenetc

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