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WIMN’s Voices: A Group Blog on Women, Media, AND…

Sonali Kolhatkar

Sonali Kolhatkar is the host and producer of KPFK Pacifica’s popular morning drive time program Uprising, based in Los Angeles, California. She is also the Co-Director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a US-based non-profit solidarity organization that funds the social, political, and humanitarian projects of RAWA.

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Sonali Kolhatkar's Blog Introduction

Women, Media, AND...US Foreign Policy

Ever since the Bush administration began waging a war to “end terror” and “liberate women” in Afghanistan, I’ve been following the rhetoric of war, along side its devastating consequences. Afghan women in particular attracted my attention because of my solidarity work with RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan since 2000.

The “war on terror” is nothing new. It’s an old war with a new name, taken to a never-before-seen extreme. In Afghanistan, it’s just “business as usual.” Afghan women saw their rights falling apart since the late 1970s when US-backed religious extremists began imposing their reactionary and misogynist agenda in Afghanistan. Well before the Taliban appeared on the scene, Afghan women were struggling against US-backed fundamentalists. Today, after the defeat of the Taliban the US has once more engineered a return to power by the fundamentalists. Like in the 1980s, these “warlords” as they are called, are also drug lords, and have catapulted Afghanistan back to the largest heroin producer in the world.

It’s not just Afghanistan – Iraqi women too are experiencing a curtailment of rights in the aftermath of the US invasion. The fundamentalist Bush regime seems bent on developing misogynist regimes in its image, and in the wake of its wars. In response, women are leading the struggle against fundamentalism AND imperialism, realizing that both forces feed one another and squeeze out ordinary people and their freedoms.

But the mainstream media does not get this. It seems bent on portraying women of the Muslim world as voiceless victims who need liberating. The 2001-02 press coverage of the bombing of Afghanistan made the media complicit in the crimes against women. Afghan women had to dodge bombs in addition to surviving continuing poverty and fundamentalist rule. Bombs don’t liberate women – women liberate themselves, if given the chance.

Media coverage also objectified women through the constant use of images that symbolized their oppression through their burqa. Once the laws on forced veiling were removed, Afghan women were simplistically portrayed as “liberated.”

In my blog I plan to critique not only the Bush agenda in West and Central Asia as it impacts women, but also mainstream Western media coverage of these issues.


Sonali Kolhatkar's Biography

Sonali Kolhatkar is the host and producer of KPFK Pacifica’s popular morning drive time program Uprising, based in Los Angeles, California. Currently a weekly version of Uprising is syndicated to various community radio stations nationwide. In February 2004, Sonali has been awarded by community organizations such as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Korean Immigrants Workers Advocates, and Sunset Hall (Los Angeles) for her work in media. In 2004 she was given the Phenomenal Woman Award by the Cal State Northridge Women’s Studies Department.

Before turning to public radio, Sonali was an Applications Developer at the California Institute of Technology, testing software for a NASA space telescope. She has a Master of Science in Astrophysics from the University of Hawaii (Manoa), and a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Bachelor of Arts in Astronomy from the University of Texas (Austin).

Sonali is also the Co-Director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a US-based non-profit solidarity organization that funds the social, political, and humanitarian projects of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). Sonali has spoken widely at college campuses, conferences, community centers, churches, etc about US policies in Afghanistan and their impact on the people, and particularly, women of Afghanistan.

She has published widely as a print journalist – from Commondreams to Alternet, the Berkeley Women’s Law Journal to the Harvard International Review. She has contributed to the following books: “September 11, 2001: Feminist Perspectives,” and “STOP THE NEXT WAR NOW! Effective Responses to Violence & Terrorism.” Sonali recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan this February and is working on her first book – about US policy in Afghanistan to be published by Seven Stories Press and co-authored with her partner, Jim Ingalls.

In her spare time, Sonali likes to tinker with web design, cooking, singing, sewing, painting, and other creative pursuits.


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