[Update: Jonathan Turley reminds us that Muslim fundamentalists are not the only ones throwing acids in the faces of the women who challenge the religio-patriarchal order, Orthodox Jews in Israel have done it as well. It fits, of course, as acid is not only horribly painful but disfigures, that is, destroys what misogynists think women are only good for, beauty as sex appeal… note how one of the young teachers below has internalized this and is repeated mindlessly by the article (19, not married, afraid of being disfigured).]
Via The New York Times,
“No students showed up at Mirwais Mena girls’ school in the Taliban’s spiritual birthplace the morning after it happened.
A day earlier, men on motorcycles attacked 15 girls and teachers with acid.
The men squirted the acid from water bottles onto three groups of students and teachers walking to school Wednesday, principal Mehmood Qaderi said. Some of the girls have burns only on their school uniforms but others will have scars on their faces.
One teenager still cannot open her eyes after being hit in the face with acid.
”Today the school is open, but there are no girls,” Qaderi said Thursday. ”Yesterday, all of the classes were full.” His school has 1,500 students. (…)
Qaderi said he believes there were multiple teams of assailants because the attacks took place at the same time in different neighborhoods. Provincial Police Chief Mati Ullah Khan said three people have been arrested. He would not provide further details because the investigation was not completed.
The country has made a major push to improve access to education for girls since the Taliban ouster. Fewer than 1 million Afghan children — mostly all boys — attended school under Taliban rule. Roughly 6 million Afghan children, including 2 million girls, attend school today.
But many conservative families still keep their girls at home and the acid attacks are a reminder that old biases remain.
”They don’t want us go to school. They don’t like education,” said Susan Ibrahimi, who started teaching at Mirwais Mena four months ago. She and her mother, also a teacher at the school, were wearing burqas on their walk to work when the motorbike stopped next to them.
”They didn’t say anything. They just stopped the motorbike and one of the guys threw acid on us and they went away,” Ibrahimi said in a telephone interview.
The acid ate through the cloth covering Ibrahimi’s face and left burns down her left cheek. The acid also burned her mother’s hand.
”I am worried that I will have scars on my face,” said Ibrahimi, who is 19 years old and not married.
Fifteen people were hit with acid in all, including four teachers, Qaderi said.”
This is not an isolated incident, girls schools have been targeted for such terrorist attacks, because that is what it is: terrorism.
“Arsonists have repeatedly attacked girls’ schools and gunmen killed two students walking outside a girls’ school in central Logar province last year. UNICEF says there were 236 school-related attacks in Afghanistan in 2007. The Afghan government has also accused the Taliban of attacking schools in an attempt to force teenage boys into the Islamic militia.”
It would be nice to see the government be actually proactive in protecting these women and girls from these obviously preditable attacks. Obviously, the assailants are not exactly hiding. Because, apparently, it appears that it is all left up to the courage of the teachers and their students to show up every day under the threat of these horrific acid attacks.
One cannot help but see the similarity in tactic between the Taliban and the anti-choice crowds that gather at clinics to bully women into submission to the patriarchal order. The social representation is the same: a woman’s body is a public image of her moral status as social object. As such, it can be mutilated (as in female genital mutilation), used for the public infliction of social sanctions (acid attacks) or taken over for the reproduction of the patriarchal order (forced pregnancy).
Culturally, there is a whole industry dedicated to the promotion of feminine norms of beauty and fitness, and others to make sure that women conform to these ideal norms of beauty and femininity. All these social practices have to be understood as a continuum of structural gender oppression.
As such, women live more deeply in the surveillance society than men as their actions, behavior, bodily display are all to be publicly interpreted as statements of conformity or deviance (with the corresponding sanctions) to culturally-established norms. In this sense, the terrorism of which they are victim in Afghanistan, and other places, is a strong means of social control, not a deviant act. Let’s call it Institutional Terrorism.