Journalism assistant professor and media scholar Azeta Hatef writes for the academic news site The Conversation that photos of Afghan suffering in the media fuels inequality and harm. Hundreds if not thousands of photos and videos emerged from Afghanistan in August as the U.S. military withdrew its troops, and Hatef’s research following the past 20 years of war in the country shows that “Afghans have been used as rhetorical and visual tools to justify ongoing war in the country.”
Hatef urges readers to learn from this as she closes the article:
People have a finite capacity to process and share in feelings of despair – a phenomenon known as compassion or empathy fatigue. Viewing graphic images may contribute to this feeling, as people may become overwhelmed and shut off from engaging with the issue at hand.
Twenty years of war have supplied the public with many images of Afghan suffering. The withdrawal of American troops from the country offers an opportunity to shift this narrative – not by looking away but by looking with care, seeking context and pushing back on the normalization of Afghan suffering.