Donnerstag, 8. Januar 2015

Worlds divided

On a day like this, after yesterday's murder of nearly the whole editorial staff of the French satiric weekly Charlie Hébdo (see for international reactions on cover and front pages here here, including in media of some islamic countries), it seems appropriate to highlight some of the drawings Afghan cartoonists have put out with the pen in the last thirteen years or so. They contain different answers to the question above and can be found in greater number in Afghan print and online media. From Kabul, I was sent an edition of Hasht-e Soubh ('8 am'), considered one of Afghanistans leading and fairly modern (partly liberal) newspapers, that had this photograph on its front page, paying tribute to the freedom of press under attack.
All things considered, the Afghan landscape has showed two folded-reactions to the events in Paris. On the one hand and according to Afghan media, President Ashraf Ghani condemmed the attacks saying there was no justification for a brutal act against civilians (see here and also Afghan Women's Writing Project), while in Mazar-i-Sharif, activists of the Afghan civil society in northern Balkh province urged the UN to play a leading role in preventing insults against the Prophet Mohammad and help avoid such bloodshes. On the other hand, Pajhwok's News Agency correspondent in Uruzgan, a central Afghan province with a population very exposed to ISAF's negative consequences of anti-terror strategies and thus with a certain amount of sympathy towards the policy of the Taliban, writes that "hundreds of enraged people took to the street in support of two assailants that had attacked the French Charlie Hebdo newspaper office in Pairs. The protesters dubbed the attackers as heroes". (see also here) And Radio Free Europe to note that "Taliban took the opportunity to publish an article on its website on January 8" describing the killings as "an alarm bell for those who have in the past insulted Islam and the Prophet" but stating at the same time that the group "did not go so far as to openly support the attack." So an (Afghan) world divided, once more. // The following drawings look at some cartoons by Aghan satire collegues that deal with politics and the foreign intervention from 2001 more generally. Different things strike the eye when looking to this personal choice of Afghan cartoons and trying to put them into perspective: - the representation of prophets is often not an issue with Afghan cartoonists when it comes to dealing ironically with the Western presence. // - The narrative of human and/or women rights is portraied as a dialogue of naively and sometimes forcefuly introduced arguments into a society where males have often not been taken into consideration or been included into the dialogue. From this observation one sees a series of parallels running to our own Western societies. - We get an understanding, in a way reassuring, that far from leading to an ever more aggressive and disproportionate discourse on cartoons – an interpretation in the face of satire can be an eye opener in itself and can serve as an interpreting tool, taking it away from the cliché of the role of agent provocateur in the western-islamic context. The cartoons I introduce here - on the scale of the sole Afghan war but also beyond - open up a field for arguments, a new debate. Yesterday's killers seemed to have no arguments other than the gun. // Interestingly, I had suggested to different partners, institutions and relevant German media in the past ten years and in regular intervals to expose and exhibit the work of Afghan cartoonists as the war unfolded, but none of them took up the initative so far. The intercultural context and challenge behind it is evident. So far, most Western and German cartoonists on Afghanistan have come along with simplistic black-and-white narratives, with some rare exceptions. // It is to say that Afghan cartoonists have more than the Taliban and religious extremists as enemies. The fight for full freedom of press and of information has reached a new legal stance last month with the publication of a new law for on 'Access for information' for all Afghan citizens. (A blog on the law is to follow in one of the next editions.)