The Psychology of Fear: Syrian Refugees in the UK and U.S.


sr 1The thirty-second president of the United States boldly addressed a nation of distressed citizens in his inauguration address in 1933, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat in advance.” Roosevelt’s words could not ring truer now as the UK and the U.S. face the threat of Isis and must welcome global neighbors fleeing war-torn countries. Through discovering what is the psychology of fear, this will explore the screening process for refugees in the U.S. and the UK and seek to understand the reasoning behind Islamophobia, xenophobia, and nativism with solutions to overcome those fears.

It wasn’t a particularly uncommon argument between my friend and me two weeks ago; rather it was quite common that we disagreed on decisions of the U.S. government. Except this fight felt unjustly wrong as my friend tried to defend Texas’ Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to not let Syrian refugees into the Texas under suspicion that “terrorists might use the refugees as cover to sneak across borders” (Gov. Greg Abbott). While this has the potential to be true, the U.S. vetting process is one of the intensive vetting processes in the world, and there are added layers of security when checking Syrians, beginning with referrals from the U.N.’s refugee agency registration, then the U.S. consultation screening assessing economic and social factors of each individual refugee which can take anywhere from twelve to twenty-four months.

In the case for Syrian refugees, the U.S. takes extra precaution by involving the State Department, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, interviewing applicants, using biometric information and checking and rechecking historical information on the applicants. According to Time, just over 50% of applicants pass the screening process and it takes anywhere from eighteen to twenty-four months to be processed and approved and, about half of those accepted are children and 25% are adults over age sixty (Altman). With this security one would believe that the U.S. is prepared to allow 10,000 refugees into the U.S. without severe repercussions.

Compared to U.S., Britain is taking twice as many refugees as the U.S. but, the process takes longer. Prime Minister David Cameron said in his September 7th speech that the UK would take in 20,000 Syrian refugees but that process would be spread out over five years. After background checks enacted by the U.N. and the British government, the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, enacted in 2014, will expand to include 20,000 more immigrants from refugee camps in Syria, Turkey and Jordan. Although both the U.S. and the UK are doing their part, one could say, in an effort to help relocate disadvantaged and vulnerable refugees, many critics from both sides of the spectrum are calling for more or less action from their governments.

In the U.S., there is an overwhelming call across Republican governors to claim that they will not let Syrian refugees into their states: Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted: “Texas will not accept any Syrian refugees & I demand the U.S. act similarly. Security comes first” (Gov. Greg Abbott), and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told Hugh Hewitt “The fact is that we need appropriate vetting and I don’t think orphans under five are being, you know, should be admitted into the United States at this point” (Krieg). According to Bloomberg Politics Poll, 53% of Americans think that the best approach for the U.S. to take with refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria is to not accept any refugees in and only 28% agree with President Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 refugees without religious screening and 11% want to resettle only Christian refugees. The fact is that many Americans are afraid of allowing Syrian refugees into their country while there has been some British criticism to allow the refugees into the UK. In fact, Britain has been criticized for not doing more to allow refugees in. Compared with Germany, France and other EU countries, the UK is right above the U.S. in the amount of Syrian refugees being let in. Many political leaders from the Labour Party commend Cameron on his decision to welcome 20,000 refugees but believe they could take in up to 4,000 by the end of 2015.

Statistics aside, the fact is that an overwhelmingly amount of Americans do not want refugees coming into the U.S. despite the support shown in many E.U. countries. In my opinion, which agrees with the majority U.S. Democrats, is to let the refugees in and it is baffling to me that the majority U.S. is not welcoming refugees, when in fact we have let in over 750,000 refugees since the 9/11 attacks in 2001. If xenophobia and nativism fears were sparked then and we continued to let refugees in, then what is the problem with letting them in now? If our security is the best in the world, if we are taking excruciating measures to ensure the safety of Americans now more than ever before, if we are limiting our intake of refugees than that of competitive countries like the United Kingdom, then why is there such a strong fear of refugees?

Fear can do amazing things to people and it is overtaking the minds of many Americans and some British citizens. With this issue there are three major fears exaggerated in American and British citizens psychology: Islamophobia, xenophobia, and nativism. Now, fear can be used as a good thing, it’s human and normal, and in a response to terrorism, can be helpful. But, fear of an idea is spreading much more rapidly than people believe it is, that idea, that religion, is Islam. People are becoming more and more afraid of Islam and Muslims and this fear is helping to feed into radical extremist Islamic group Isis, increasing their authority and power over Syria and the surrounding countries. Comments like that of republican candidates’ Ben Carson comparing refugees to rabid dogs (Ben Carson) or Donald Trump’s abrasive statement, “If I win they’re going back” (Donald Trump) help feed into this fear and mistrust of refugees, many of whom are Muslim. Islamophobia is very basically, the hatred and prejudice against Islam and Islamic people, but in my opinion, extends beyond Muslims to include Arabic, Middle Eastern, and Indian peoples whose ethnic origin interconnect with Islam. In both the UK and the U.S., Islamophobia contributes to the oppression of Muslims by misinterpreting the Koran, giving way to negative stereotypes claiming Islam is “anti-women, cruel, and intolerant” (Achmad).

Living in London has given me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, understand the differences that create community, and enjoy the welcoming environment that constructs London’s multi-cultural atmosphere. But, despite it being one of the most diverse cities in the world, it has one of the highest rates of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the UK (Allegretti). Remona Aly says it best in The Guardian, “There is a strong sense… that difference is seen not as positive diversity, but as negatively alien: so alien that the basic humanity of others is not even acknowledged.” This fear stems from the psychological response of feeling threatened, creating the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ boundaries to be used on a person-to-person basis (Resnick). The recent events of one Isis member posing as a Syrian refugee in France who contributed to the Paris massacre would naturally magnify that boundary line so; logically people’s fears are heightened. Among other examples, the world is now feeling the same way that Syrians have been feeling and living with for the past fifteen plus years since Assad became president of Syria. From my own personal experience in London I can recount times I’ve seen others treating women wearing hijabs or niqabs differently, giving them double takes and even staring at them fervently. The best possible solution to Islamophobia in democratic societies such as the U.S. and Britain is education. If my generation had grown up reading the Koran and understood from a young age the empowerment and peacefulness of Islam we would not exhibit Islamophobic behaviors today. There needs to be a comprehensive curriculum surrounding Islam beginning in elementary school giving children the chance to attend mosques and museums to look at traditional and modern views on Islam. By starting discussions on social media like the trending video I’m Muslim, But I’m Not… (I’m Muslim) by Buzzfeed that has over 1 million views or Is London Islamophobic? (IS LONDON) discovering peoples word associations with the world Muslim, we can help rid the negative connotations surrounding Islam.

Another common fear of ‘the other’ is xenophobia, which involves an ingroup (the U.S. and Britain separately) fearing the outgroup’s (Syrian refugees) motives, and potential to devalue and deconstruct the ingroup’s societal norms. But instead of fearing the other’s identity, the ingroup focuses on the possibility of losing their own identity. Xenophobia is commonly used to refer to foreigners and immigrants in the context of discrimination and prejudice. The U.S. and UK were keen on helping migrants gain admission into the country, especially the UK, until the Paris massacre shook us up and reclaimed the best of our fears. With the news of a Syrian Muslim working with Isis being able to cross from Greece to France without suspicion raised our concerns, further increasing the potential to display xenophobic attitudes. But, it was the collective patriotism of U.S. representatives that exploited nationalistic attitudes. In a study conducted by New York University researchers tested and measured threats to an ingroup’s social identity finding that when an ingroup feels threatened by an outgroup’s potential to be closer to them (moving into their country) the ingroup’s value is undermined, and that the concept of social identity form from traditional cultural values. The psychological protective mechanisms are only triggered when the ‘enemy’ has the potential to ‘invade’ for lack of a better word, the ingroup’s territory (Xiao). Surprisingly, their research concluded that in order to “mediate the effects of identity threat” we should keep the outgroup closer by changing our physical representation of the world. In an attempt to change our physical representation of the world, we, as a global community, need to be voicing our grievances over this discrimination and empowering minorities to speak out against prejudice they experience. The media easily picks up on stories but, the media needs to use it’s influence to change the discussion on xenophobia. One of these voices is the first Muslim U.S. Congress member Keith Ellison in his Democracy Now! Interview, “They (Republican lawmakers) operate under a philosophical underpinning that the West is at war with Islam and Islam is at war with the West in a defensive posture.” Ellison goes on to say that Republicans are using their own fears to defend their position on refugee asylum but what they are not realizing is their stance will have dire consequences in future economic relations with the EU and the Middle East.

Finally, the final and most illogical fear of Americans and the British is nativism; usually a political notion but, psychological as well, that certain cultural traits are native to one’s country and is used to discriminate immigrants from migrating to that country. Nativism is displayed all over the U.S. and UK from small comments like Jimmy Kimmel asking Emily Blunt if she feels like one of us now that she recently became a U.S. citizen to massive political parties devoted to the opposition of immigration like UKIP. The U.S. and the UK have been highly advocating nativism over the past century, the U.S. with their ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ resulting in the Chinese Exclusion Act and then again in the 90’s and continuing into the 2000’s dealing with illegal immigration of Mexicans. The U.K. is infamously known for the 1980’s riots and formation of the British National Party, threatening and eventually killing British Muslims and African-Americans due to racist and nativist fears. These fears are being sparked once again, encouraging U.S. and British citizens to exploit patriotic values of inclusion and pride. Being patriotic creates community but when it excludes immigration, it does more harm than good (Goodman).

The best solution to this hysteria is not to create more fear but to open up discussion over media platforms, educate others about what Islam is and who Muslims are, to not only sympathize with the plight of Syrian refugees but, empathize with them by stepping into their shoes, understanding the prejudice they feel, the hatred they receive for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They devote themselves to a religion, as many Americans and British do, that has brought them peace and love, but now, is being misunderstood and discriminated against, resulting in hate, mistrust, and devastation. Fear has a history of raping culture from diversity and trust and encourages behaviors associated with Islamophobia, xenophobia and nativism and needs to end in order for humanity to thrive, giving rise to love and respect.


Works Cited

Achmad. “Islamophobia and Overcoming Stereotypes.” Voices of Youth. Unicef, 2013. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

Allegretti, Aubrey. “Cameron’s Crackdown On Islamophobia Comes A Little Too Late.” The Huffington Post UK. AOL (UK) Limited, 13 Oct. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

Altman, Alex. “This Is How the Syrian Refugee Screening Process Works.” Time. Time, 17 Nov. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

“Ben Carson: Screen Syrian Refugees like They’re Rabid Dogs – Video.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 20 Nov. 2015. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

“Donald Trump on Syrian Refugees: ‘If I Win They’re Going Back'” Business Insider. Ed. Lamar Salter. Business Insider UK, 1 Oct. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

Goodman, Amy. “”Nativist Hysteria” Against Syrian Refugees Echoes U.S. Rejection of Jewish Refugees in 1930s.” Democracy Now! Democracy Now!, 24 Nov. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

“Gov. Greg Abbott Says Texas Will Not Accept Any Syrian Refugees.” ABC13 Houston. ABC Inc, 16 Nov. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

I’m Muslim, But I’m Not… Dir. Buzzfeed. YouTube. YouTube, 15 Sept. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

IS LONDON ISLAMOPHOBIC? (SHOCKING ENDING!). Dir. Khaled Siddique. YouTube. YouTube, 10 Sept. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

Krauthhammer, Charles. “Charles Krauthammer: In the Face of Obama’s Failed Middle East Policy, GOP Candidates Slide into Xenophobia.” The Kansas City Star. Kansas City Star, 30 Nov. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

Krieg, Gregory. “Christie on Refugees: Not Even 5-year-old Orphans –” CNN. Cable News Network, 17 Nov. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

Resnick, Brian. “The Science behind Why People Fear Refugees.” Vox. Vox Media, 18 Nov. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

Xiao, Jenny Y., and Jay J. Van Bavel. “Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.” See   Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer: Social Identity and Identity Threat Shape Representation of Physical Distance 24.10 (2006): 969-70. New York University, 17 Apr. 2012. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.


Major Problems and Proposed Solutions for Women’s Education in Afghanistan

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A major social problem in many developing countries is the educational system. For women and girls in Afghanistan, attending schools has not been possible due to the forceful laws and control of the Taliban, which is a militant Islamic fundamentalist political group in Afghanistan. Since the defeat of the Taliban group in 2001, women are slowly coming to recognize their full potential both within the educational system and other aspects of their daily lives. The U.S. and Afghani governments have funded projects to help the educational system but lack in policing them has led to shaky stability in these projects that takes time and constant monitoring. The work of NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) and non-profit organizations have provided international engagement by all humans but their efforts are not fully recognized. The power of social media is untapped and bursting with opportunity for global campaigns that have harnessed its power and used it to benefit women’s right to an education among other priorities. Many obstacles hold back the education of women in Afghanistan, primarily the interpretation of Shari’a law, but the work of governments, NGO’s, and social and mass media can provide immediate and long-term benefits to women’s basic right to an education in Afghanistan.

To know how to best move forward, one must understand the past. Since the late 1970’s, Afghanistan has been a country of conflict, with wars waged between Afghanistan’s mujahideen troops (jihad guerilla fighters) and the Soviet regime. The United States military supported mujahideen in their opposition against the Soviets until the early 1990’s when Soviet forces retreated (Afghanistan 2). During this time period many oppressive laws were enacted which restricted women’s rights. In Culture and Customs of Afghanistan, Hafizullah Emadi states, “Women are subordinated to men and are obligated to obey them… Women are regarded as creatures who have no other social function but to please their husbands” (168-169). These kind of thoughts were norms that turned into tradition in the Afghan culture and way of life. Once the Taliban militia started gaining control of Kabul, (Afghanistan’s capital) legal rights of women declined immensely. Women were deprived of their right to an education or to hold a job as Taliban law forbids any form of public schooling or any type of employment outside of the home and is considered a crime. One out of every twenty girls received an education starting in the early 1990’s (Afghanistan 2). Once Al Qaeda attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001, U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan which ended the Taliban regime. The U.S. had its own agenda in establishing a unified government as it encouraged elders and leaders to create a democratic government. Afghan President Hamid Karzai was elected interim president by the loya jirga in 2002 and was later voted in as president in 2004.

Under the new democratic government women were finally released from the oppression they had received for decades. At this point only 13% of female adults were literate (Benard 38). With so few literate females in Afghanistan, any chance for the rise of women-empowerment groups was slim to none. As the U.S. government helped to establish the new Afghanistan constitution, women leaders from the U.S. worked with any literate  women leaders in Afghanistan to secure the their rights. After a few established women groups in Afghanistan grew stronger, a notion to state and secure their rights was formulated. Under Article Forty-Four of The Constitution of Afghanistan, verbiage reads that “The state shall devise and implement effective programs to create and foster balanced education for women, improve education of nomads as well as eliminate illiteracy in the country” (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan 12). Women groups finally had something in writing to encourage their basic right to education and begin reconstruction of the ruined educational system.

After separately examining the human rights’ violations conducted under Shari’a law and the Taliban one can conclude that education is the most important goal in the nation-building of this country. A report of citizen’s concerns reveals that education is the number one priority (Ayubi, Table 1). In 2005 the female adult literacy rate was measured at approximately 21 percent (Education 95). And in 2011, it was measured at 13% (Afghanistan Country Office Education Factsheet UNICEF, Table 1). For more statistics on women’s education in Afghanistan please refer to Afghan Statistics Part I.

While violence against women remains an extreme problem and limits some young women from attending school, violence against women has always been an issue in Afghanistan and is not considered a new cause that limits women’s education. There are four major limits on women’s education that include underage marriage, attacks at newly built schools, the lack of female teachers in the school system and the interpretation of Shari’a law. The interpretation of Shari’a law will be the major focus in this evaluation of the educational system currently in place in Afghanistan. While child marriage is against the law, many families residing in rural and remote parts of Afghanistan practice baad, which allows parents to sell their daughters to either settle disputes, or more commonly, receive necessities like refrigerators or cars. Surprising statistics reveal that “60 to 80 percent of all marriages in Afghanistan are forced marriages and that 57 percent of girls are married before the age of sixteen” (Afghanistan 7).  While child marriage is a common practice which inhibits female access to education, a more disruptive occurrence happens within the educational system when schools are attacked by small groups associated with the Taliban.

“The Taliban have increasingly attacked soft targets such as schools, teachers, and girls attending schools, as well as NGOs working in schools, to instill terror in the population. Attacks on educational facilities and personnel, throughout the country, increased by 24 percent from 236 incidents in 2007 to 293 in 2008… According to UNICEF, in 2008, 92 people were killed and 169 injured as a result of such attacks” (Afghanistan 8).

These attacks influence females to not desire attending school as they are afraid of being harmed or even killed. Additionally, parents do not want their children attending school in fear for their safety and security (Education 99). Finally, the lack of female teachers in the school system has led to more male teachers who tend to prefer to teach boys only. A generation gap occurred when Afghan women who should have been receiving high school and college education were deprived of that right in the 1990’s and 2000’s. “Women are under-represented as teachers at all levels, and this is compounded by a lack of educated and employable women to fill positions in various sectors” (Education 98). Those women could be fulfilling the female teaching roles that are so desperately needed, but are receiving that education now instead of then. As twenty-seven percent of all teachers in Afghanistan are currently women, it is a goal for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, which is a government office that deals with women’s rights and programs in Afghanistan, to have at least half of all teachers to be women as well as other roles and to train at least 150,000 women in different skills according to their talents in the coming years (Education 97).

The Shari’a law, also known as the authoritative word of God in Islamic religion, has played the most important role and is the leading cause of oppression of women in Afghanistan. The Koran (religious text of Islam) generally states that women are lesser than men though many would argue that it protects the rights of women although it does state that men are the dominant sex. Shari’a is the law of the land that has been interpreted by councils of tribal members since the early 600’s when the rise of Islam began. Since then, Shari’a has always stated that while men are the dominant sex, it does not claim men to be abusive to women, whether that be in the household, in public areas, in schooling, or any other ways. In fact, women are almost as equal to men in all regards except some disputes among property rights and household claims. The interpretation of Shari’a law primarily led to the oppression among women in the mid 1900’s and gained immense support in the 1990’s when the Taliban regime rose to power. Imams are authoritative figures of the Shari’a law who, generally in rural areas, dictate Shari’a law as determined by their own judgment along with the opinions of the elders of the area. Beliefs that derive from these interpretations turn into sociological norms that are rooted deep into the culture and tradition of Afghanistan.

“In Afghanistan, historical tribal organizations has created a set of practices built on two main principles regarding women. The first is that they are subordinate to men in society; the second is that they are responsible for the honor of the family and the extended family. These long-standing cultural traditions often usurp any legal code that exists, even where people are aware of its existence. A number of the practices related to these tribal traditions are strongly detrimental to the rights and well-being of women” (Benard 73).

While laws made under the constitution are in writing and spoken to crowds of people proclaiming democracy, many rural areas like those in rocky terrains with no roads, groups of Muslims still live under the practices of tradition and Taliban-like culture. In Culture and Customs of Afghanistan, “Hanafi jurisprudence recognizes consensus, analogy, and private opinion in administering laws and does not stress a literal interpretation of the Quran” (Emadi 57). Families discourage women who seek an education and dismiss them from the family, tribe, or even village for having such radical ideas of wanting to seek such an education. Some families’ beliefs hold on to the idea that that female roles are solely in the home. They make a case that their children might not have a mother and there will be no one to do the work at home. If girls leave to seek primary or secondary education, they will not be able to help their mothers with the chores or learn proper training to be a wife. But if women and girls are to even begin taking the first steps of gaining an education, the families must be supportive of their rights. This cultural stigma is a leading deterrent which may hold women back.

The major road in countering the influence traditions of Islamic culture have on society is to begin a new way of thinking. Beginning to implement the idea that both males and females are equal to one another in the early stages of children’s development will pave the way for women’s rights to be accepted as cultural norms. As stated in article Twenty-Two in the Afghan Constitution, “The citizens of Afghanistan, man and woman, have equal rights and duties before the law” (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan 9). Once these ideas are introduced and accepted into one generation, they will be accepted as a norm in society in the following generations. From this a new tradition will begin and light the path in the reformation of education and the rebuilding of Afghanistan as a nation. Major developing organizations are following the pursuit of change by bringing up documents to the new government that include programs and steps to manage the process of change.

One of these documents has been brought up by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) called the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA); which is thoroughly researched and provides the major problems Afghan women face and clearly defined solutions to these problems. In Chapter Nine in the NAPWA titled Education, it states “A vigorous campaign in the value of female education and training will be pursued. Parents and communities… will be encouraged to form support groups to ensure their involvement in girls’ education” (Education 101). MoWA understands that there is an unspoken cultural norm where mostly men in rural and remote areas believe that women and girls should not receive any education. MoWA is working on setting up these new cultural norms that reflect how American families practice education. The plan calls for surveys to be performed so the MoWA may have a better idea of the need for education in the years to come. Other groups have come in to change traditional mindset as well.

While Afghanistan’s government has their own way of providing a solution to the education problem, the U.S. has placed different departments in the government in charge of providing support and help to women’s groups. The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) came out with a Special Report in December 2012 that addresses lessons learned within the past ten years and includes specific goals that the U.S. government is committed to further advance. Some goals of the USIP will be to work within the religious sectors in communities to ensure women’s rights (United States 3). Seeing as how the Shari’a law is based on their religious beliefs, it seems understandable to work within the religious system to begin the push for equality of women’s rights. This goal is used as a solution to the interpretation of the Shari’a law problem and will help men understand the equality of sexes, also solving the problem of the lack of women teachers because men will be more receptive of equality in the school system. The enforcement of the EVAW law that constitutes child marriages, baad, and other matters of illegal marriage practices as criminal acts and will also be used as a solution to one of the major problems that limit women’s education, child marriage. Other government support comes from SIGAR, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction that provided $627 million from 2003 to 2010 for women and girls in Afghanistan (2 United States i). Congress directed these funds to provide NGOs (non-governmental groups), MoWA, and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission the necessary support to begin training and reconstruction of the education system in Afghanistan among other priorities.

Although the government support programs benefit Afghanistan immensely due to the amount of funding they include, the help of groups like The Asia Foundation and UNICEF tend to attract more people because of their dedicated missions and constant monitoring of the educational systems in Afghanistan. Citizens around the world can contribute financially or volunteer with these organizations to secure women’s rights immediately. One of the programs of UNICEF was a back-to-school campaign which resulted in 400 schools reopening. Children can be educated in schools sponsored by UNICEF’s training programs and curriculum but most recently UNICEF has built Cost Effective Schools giving more than 148,000 children schools to attend as well as learning and teaching materials to instructors and students (Afghanistan Country Office Education Factsheet UNICEF 1). The Asia Foundation has been working in Kabul to provide projects and reports about the conditions of different aspects of Afghanistan’s culture. Overall, the work of these NGO’s shows a  devoted commitment to the empowerment of women in Afghanistan but the work of these organizations could be advertised in a more efficient way to show the true potential of their programs and the help they are providing in women’s education.

Mass media seems to be an untried solution towards gaining support for women’s education in general, projects introduced by NGOs, and providing visual and written truth of their school system. While the effect of media is great, its potential has been untapped.  The magnitude of media’s effect spans across the globe rather than just affecting those who work in governmental matters, or are limited to just the country of Afghanistan. One of the best examples of the journalists working the power of media comes from a documentary, Girl Rising which has been shown at Baylor and has been reviewed under numerous newspapers and stations in written and televised forms. Girl Rising comes from the works of a global campaign, 10X10, for girls’ education. Pulling journalists from all over the world, Girl Rising tells the personal stories of nine girls from countries that have experienced some type of problem in their educational system and how those girls are pursuing their education despite obstacles. 10×10 believes that the use of filmmaking, a powerful social-media device, draws an audience by the use of compelling storytelling and hard-hitting statistics coming from credible sources that 10X10 works with (Girl Rising). The point of the message is simple, to share. In this news-hungry society humans live in today, people want to know what is happening now, not yesterday, but currently, and the more people know about something, the more people are informed with what is happening. Change begins with the involvement of many people, “The more people who share that message – through social networks, at the dinner table, in boardrooms, in rural villages – the more support we build” (Girl Rising).  While statistics are still being surveyed, one can see the effect Kony 2012 had in its global campaign. In 2012, a campaign was launched to make Joseph Kony, a war criminal and leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army ‘famous’ by the release of a YouTube video that became viral within a few months. According to the Invisible Children website, “The experiment yielded the fastest growing viral video of all time. 3.7 million people pledged their support for efforts to arrest Joseph Kony” (Invisible Children). Although support grew rapidly, it faded just as fast. No new videos were released to encourage or support the efforts made by humans all around the world to make him famous and Kony has yet to be captured. As well, Jason Russell has lost most of his credibility as the co-founder of Kony 2012 because of his naked mental breakdown in San Diego. Lesson learned: as media can make you, it can also break you. But a final example of media comes from the film, The Stoning of Soraya M., which tells the true story of Soraya whose husband wanted to marry a young girl but rather not support his wife and their two daughters. He calls the imam of the village and other elders to form a mob ruling in where she is accused of a crime she never committed and eventually have her stoned to death. The original story was documented by a French journalist, Friedoune Sahabjam who happened upon this village in 1986 and published the story which, although has taken many years to become globally acknowledged, has reached international attention as they received runner-up against Slumdog Millionare for an award at the Toronto International Film Festival (The Stoning of Soraya M.).

These examples show media at its best and worst, but the impact it has on society is unforgettable. These stories from films, articles, and reports make headlines and call for action to be done. If women’s education in Afghanistan wants to receive the most support so that people can know they are treated and expend proof that there is a problem, media has to be the best answer. It starts with journalists becoming involved in an idea to provoke society’s norms and dive into the lives of these women to show what is really going on and how others can help. The Asia Foundation has released numerous reports on girls’ education from journalists working in Kabul and UNICEF releases documents annually about the progress reported in their work and what the work includes. These are all forms of social media as these documents are shared on the web but are not marketed to more websites or news sources. As for the U.S. government, reports come out usually under the radar because Congress is working on current U.S. issues and in Afghanistan’s government, not all proclamations or laws are recognized by its people due to limited web access and little care for these declarations. But the use of journalists conveying information and stories comes as the best way to provide support both financially and physically by creating a call to action internationally.

In conclusion, media is an outlet where anyone can express and share ideas, but why not use a daily part of humans’ social life to make a change in the world? More journalists need to recognize the acceptance of media in all forms from worldwide usage. While the major problems that limit women’s education in Afghanistan remain child marriage, lack of female school teachers, the terror attacks at schools, and the traditional interpretation of Shari’a law hinder the goals of governmental sectors, non-governmental and non-profit women and international groups, a solution that has yet to be released in the form of social media from films, articles, and concerned journalists.

 Works Cited

“Afghanistan.” Def. A. Encyclopedia of Human Rights. 2012. 2009. Oxford Reference. Oxford

University Press, 2009. Web. 6 Apr. 2013. <


“Afghanistan Country Office Education Factsheet UNICEF.” Ministry of Education, Education

Interim Plan (2011): n. pag. UNICEF. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.  <>.

Ayubi, Najla. “Women’s Biggest Problems in Afghanistan.” In Asia Weekly Insight and

Analysis from The Asia Foundation (2007): n. pag. The Asia Foundation. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.


Benard, Cheryl, et al. Women and Nation-Building. Santa Monica: RAND, 2008. Print.

“Education.” National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA) 2008-2018. N.p.:

Ministry of Women’s Affairs, 2008. 95-105. Ministry of Women’s Affairs Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 2008. Web. 15 Apr. 2013. <>.

Emadi, Hafizullah. Culture and Customs of Afghanistan. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2005.


Girl Rising. Dir. Richard Robbins. 2013. Ten Times Ten and Vulcan Productions, 2013. Film.


Invisible Children. Fifty and Fifty, n.d. Web. 2 May 2013.


Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The Constitution of Afghanistan. Kabul: GPO, 26 Jan. 2004.

Web. <>.

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United States. Institute of Peace. Center for Gender and Peacebuilding. United States Institute of

Peace Special Report: Peacebuilding Efforts from Women in Afghanistan and Iraq Lessons in Transition. 319. Washington: GPO, 2012. Ed. Kathleen Kuehnast, Steven Steiner, and Hodei Sultan. Dec. 2012. Web. 2 Apr. 2013. <>.

2 United States. Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Office

of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction Greater Coordination Needed in Meeting Congressional Directives to Address and Report on the Needs of Afghan Women and Girls. SIGAR Audit-10-13. Arlington: GPO, 2010. Ed. John Brummet. 30 July 2010. Web. 2 Apr. 2013. <>.