Corinne Fowler


The following discussion is based on an extensive survey of UK mainstream television news reports broadcast between September and December 2001 during the military attacks on Afghanistan, known as Operation Enduring Freedom. Also conducted was a survey of British radio and print media published and produced within the specified period. I argue that the 2001 news media coverage of Afghanistan was an important precursor to current debates about Muslim women in Europe and the United States since it highlights many of the contradictions and hypocrisies housed within western public discourses on women’s rights. Detailing numerous examples, I contend that the prevalent theme of women’s liberation on international news agendas did nothing to alter the prevailing norm of news media coverage, which denied Afghan women access to media spaces throughout Operation Enduring Freedom. Afghan women were invariably the subjects rather than the agents of such debates. Moreover, regardless of their gender, the vast majority of journalists reporting the 2001 conflict failed to recognise and confront the co-option of women’s rights for the purpose of justifying military aggression on humanitarian grounds. I argue that this has grave implications, not merely for future reporting on Afghan women, but for the widespread practice by mainstream politicians and their associates of co-opting the discourse of women’s rights to justify military conflict.

Author Biography

Corinne Fowler now works as a postdoctoral researcher at Lancaster University on an AHRC project called Moving Manchester, which examines how the experience of migration has informed and influenced creative writing in Greater Manchester since 1960. Her monograph, Chasing Tales. Travel writing, journalism and the history of British ideas about Afghanistan is forthcoming (Rodopi: December 2006). Her research interests include ‘devolved’ diaspora studies, travel writing about Islam, the ethics of travel and collaborative ficto-criticism.