Referring to Pakistan (because apparently no cultural knowledge of Afghanistan is available, or, the geographic displacement allows the writers to malign and stereotype a related culture without endangering their relations with Afghans), the website of the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System states the following:
“Similar attacks have been carried out in Pakistan against women working in professional capacities outside the home in rural areas.”
That is on a page allegedly dedicated to the memory of Paula Loyd, who was attacked by Abdul Salam in a market in Afghanistan on November 4, 2008, set on fire, and she died from her injuries more than two months later, on January 7, 2009. She worked for a U.S. military program at the time of her death, and had served several years in the U.S. Army, both full time and later as a reservist. She was a staff sergeant. She also had a Bachelor’s degree in anthropology.
What Loyd’s many online mourners and sympathizers — one must be careful and say alleged mourners and sympathizers — have done is to use the fact of her death as a way of reproducing a stereotype of all cultures and all men in Afghanistan. In the process, they miss some outstanding facts, and even put Loyd herself in disrepute, hence alleged supporters, because they do her memory no favours.
Paula Loyd was supposedly a cultural specialist when it came to Afghanistan. She also had a degree in anthropology, not an advanced one, but a degree nonetheless. She had spent several years in Afghanistan. According to Paula Loyd herself, she was not subject to the same rules and standards as Afghan women — please read this, because the last time I produced this quote, it was conveniently ignored by bigots whose only mission is to verbally defecate on another nation, in support of their imperial conquest:
“Sometimes I’ll be talking to the men in a village and they’ll turn to the interpreter and say, ‘Is that a man or a woman?’ But I haven’t had any problems with them. They’ve all been very nice,” Loyd said….Loyd said Afghans do not expect their societal norms to apply to her because she is not from their culture. “So the fact that I’m a woman doesn’t mean I need to be in a burka and they can’t deal with me. They take me for who I am, they accept me for who I am. And they’re willing to work with me,” she said. (source)
She apparently reflected this very thinking in speaking to Abdul Salam. Whatever Afghan norms may be regarding professional women and so forth, Loyd says they were not applied to her. This attack, therefore, cannot be understood as “another example” of how Afghan men treat women, and therefore the focus of so many American commentators is entirely misplaced to begin with — that is, if we believe Loyd. (Apparently, her employers at the Human Terrain System do not believe her, and have a fundamentally different interpretation which they seek to push, on a page dedicated to her memory.)
If we do not believe Loyd, and most of her online mourners do not realize that they in fact undermine her credibility and her knowledge, then there are only two options available: Loyd was ignorant, and really did not understand Afghan culture; or, she did understand, she persisted regardless, and she would have expected such an attack, and therefore she was just stupid. Either way, her supposed mourners and sympathizers put her in this position, not me.
Keep in mind, none of her teammates apparently thought anything was unusual about a local man speaking to Loyd, since none intervened immediately sensing possible danger.
Now, what do the many online American critics of Salam like to say repeatedly? The attack on Loyd is representative of Afghan culture (they think there is only one), which does not discriminate between local and foreign females, and all independent and professional females are to be targeted for murder. So they know better than Loyd.
Moreover, they use the opportunity of her death to stereotype and malign a culture. Then why are Americans there? Is it to teach Western norms of gender equality, and thereby to “civilize” these people? If so, what civilizing lessons are taught by gunshots to the head, applied to detainees who are supposedly protected by the very international conventions on war crimes to which the U.S. is a signatory, and with which the U.S. refuses to comply?
Salam was murdered by foreign occupiers in his own country. Those claiming to have any interest in “equality,” can begin by addressing that perverse equation, their own imperial hypocrisies, their guttural cultural slander, and then their misplaced sympathies and third grade sentimentality.
In the meantime, the official website of the Human Terrain System continues to use Paula Loyd to pander to vulgar cultural racism.
[see also: “Dr. Rat: Defender of the Rat People.”]