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This Is Why That Famous Picture Of Women In 1970s Kabul Is Being Shared Again

"It's unrealistic. It does not represent Afghanistan at all," one Afghan journalist told BuzzFeed News about a viral picture's reported influence on Trump.

Posted on August 22, 2017, at 3:03 p.m. ET

This is a picture of women in Afghanistan's capital Kabul, taken during the 1970s. You've probably seen it before.

The image has been frequently used and shared over the years by people of all political persuasions and often goes viral when shared.

'history pics' accounts always share those photos of Afghan women. They're also widely shared in anti-Islam social…

@RossalynWarren / Twitter / Via Twitter: @RossalynWarren

On Monday night, President Donald Trump said the US would continue to maintain a presence in Afghanistan, and the picture reportedly played a role in that decision.

Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The Washington Post reported that national security adviser H.R. McMaster tried to convince the president that a continued presence in the country was worthwhile by showing him that picture, which is believed to have been taken in 1972.

Of course, once this info was out there, a lot of people had thoughts about it — and the president.

Of course McMaster could only get Trump' s attention by objectifying women.

Many Afghans were just tired of their country being reduced to a single *highly selective* image.

Andrew Renneisen / Getty Images

Ali M. Latifi, a freelance journalist based in Kabul, said the use of the picture was ridiculous and not representative of Afghanistan as a whole at all. "It's all just a cliche."

"That was a very small percentage of privileged people in a few cities," he told BuzzFeed News from Kabul. "Nowadays you see a lot of people (including once the US embassy) use pictures of the communist era (not even the kingdom or the republic) to talk about 'miniskirts' as if that in itself is some kind of progress because it's not. There was mass disenfranchisement at that time."

Latifi said it was "ironic" that Trump was persuaded to continue intervention after reportedly seeing that picture.

So McMaster employed the biggest, most meaningless cliche in Afghan history "miniskirts" in 1970s (among a minuscul…

@alibomaye / Twitter / Via Twitter: @alibomaye

He noted the double standard applied by many to the image. "It's sexist," he said. "Imagine if they did that in the US or the UK. But then again, it's the reality host who said 'grab 'em by the pussy.'"

Others thought it was typical of the current president, in addition to being hugely "unrealistic."

Now it all makes sense.

@NilofarMassoud / Twitter / Via Twitter: @NilofarMassoud

"I find it pathetic and embarrassing that it took a photo of a miniskirt to persuade the President of the United States to make a decision about policy regarding Afghanistan," Nilofar Massoud told BuzzFeed News. "Shows how little he actually cares about Afghanistan.

"It's unrealistic. It does not represent Afghanistan at all," she said. Massoud, who splits his time between Kabul and Dubai, continued that even should the country become peaceful, "it might never be like that again."

Others thought maybe using the picture was a good thing.

Afghan student Sharif Hassan, currently studying in New York, said the picture represented a "golden age" for his country. He wasn't sure how much the photograph had influence Trump, but reckoned it was "a good move" by McMaster.

"Now, I am happy that Trump knows that Afghan women had the right [of] what to wear and what to do," he told BuzzFeed News. "Trump may not have known that."

Ali Adili, based in Kabul, thought that as he broadly approved of Trump's strategy for Afghanistan, it didn't matter "what tools were used to make him adopt this strategy".

But, he noted, the picture was from past and didn't represent Afghanistan today. "There are many issues facing our country, including women's rights, that can be used to convince the international community to maintain their presence and support.

"They do not need to see this picture to make a strategic decisions," he told BuzzFeed News.

Outside Afghanistan, people also had strong reactions to Trump's reported decision-making process.

Man I know it's cliche to say this but I literally thought this headline was a joke

@anniegowen / Twitter / Via Twitter: @anniegowen

Trump being swayed to keep troops in Afghanistan by a picture of women in skirts seems like the most Trump thing ev…

@Hamasshole / Twitter / Via Twitter: @Hamasshole

⁉️WHAT⁉️ In addition to coloring books, McMaster showed "Dear Leader" Trump w/photos of Afghani women in miniskirt…

@DrDenaGrayson / Twitter / Via Twitter: @DrDenaGrayson

@DrDenaGrayson Ironic isn't it? Gen. McM had to explain to T that feminism used to exist in Afghanistan, so pics of…

@grantstern / Twitter / Via Twitter: @grantstern

And made this excellent, if somewhat worrying, point:

Please, nobody show Trump pix of 1970s Tehran!

@ghoshworld / Twitter / Via Twitter: @ghoshworld


Nilofar Massoud is female. A previous version of this article misstated Massoud's gender.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.