“An American Woman Held Captive in Afghanistan” by Dr. Phyllis Chesler

UPDATE: The kidnapped American, Cyd Mizell, belongs to a church in Mechanisville, Virginia. She played the keyboard and sang at Sunday services. Her church, the Atlee Community Church, is planning a prayer service for her and may be contacted at (804) 730-3676.

The East is much wilder than the Wild West of yore and once again, an infidel “do-gooder,” 49 year-old Cyd Mizell, who taught English and embroidery to Afghan girls and women and helped them with “income-generating” projects , has been kidnapped in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Mizell worked for the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation. The fact that she wore a burqa and spoke Pashto did not keep her safe. The Afghan government is currently hunting for her and her 35 year-old driver, Hadi Mahdi, but as yet, no group has taken responsibility or issued any demands.

Kidnappings are a permanent way of life in this part of the world; they are undertaken for ransom and revenge, out of lust, when one is in need of a domestic or sexual slave, and as a form of communication with one’s enemies, be they intimate or foreign. In short, one violently takes what one covets or requires. There is no prohibition against doing so.

Once, long ago, I was held captive and kept in fairly posh purdah in Afghanistan. Whenever I would escape, my Afghan husband would beg me to keep my “adventurousness” in check lest it lead to my being kidnapped (yet again) and to his subsequent “shame and ruin.” Actually, he terrified me with tales about other wives who had been kidnapped and raped which, in one instance, led to a husband’s suicide.

Westerners and other infidels have, notoriously, been captured , albeit by strangers and not by husbands, in the Wild East before. Barbary Pirates attacked shiploads of Europeans and sold the male captives into slavery and the female captives into harems. The blonde French-Carribbean mother of a future Sultan was brought to Turkey in chains. Such kidnappings were so commonplace that both Mozart and Rossini featured the theme in their respective operas, Abduction from the Seraglio and An Italian in Algeria.

But people have forgotten all this. We are infinitely susceptible to the faux-photograpic moments created by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (who gave us the Mohammed al-Dura and Darkness-in-Gaza hoaxes) . And, we remain in a deep sleep —a veritable coma—in terms of this larger historical narrative.

Thus, for the record, let me remind us that Britain’s notorious convert to Islam, Yvonne Ridley, was once kidnapped and briefly held by the Taliban in Aghanistan. Even they released her rather quickly—but that brief experience led Ridley to convert and to publicly and aggressively become a champion for Islam, Jihad, and Palestine in the West. When I debated her on al-Hurrah, she wore a version of Lawrence-of-Arabia headggear which would have led to her arrest for male impersonation had she been living in Mecca, not London.

More recently in Afghanistan: in separate and serial incidents, Red Cross and other humanitarian aid workers, journalists, photographers, and construction workers from Germany, Italy, France, and Columbia, as well as Christian missionaries from South Korea were kidnapped, and either killed or ransomed. Sometimes, their Afghan drivers and bodyguards were be-headed “Arab” style.

Many “infidels” (the phrase is not mine) have been kidnapped by jihadists in Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Some (Daniel Pearl, Nicholas Berg) have been grusomely be-headed on video; some (Margaret Hassam) have been forced to beg for their lives on video before they were killed. After extended ordeals, infidels have also been ransomed by their governments or employers.

Today, infidels dare not travel without a driver and a bodyguard in this part of the world. They remain high-profile targets, even if they are grassroots aid workers trying to comfort and aid the civilians who have been caught in the cross-fire of history and war.

Must I remind us that American diplomats were once held hostage in Teheran for 444 days in 1979-1980? Of course, America’s critics insist that such jihadic and Islamist gestures are essentially due to American foreign policy.

I respectfully disagree. Kidnappings are part of the indigenous barbarism of the region and long pre-date any outside presence or influence. In fact, more Muslims are kidnapped by Muslims (and blown up as well) than infidels are. War (intra-family, and between families, tribes, and nations) is a permanent way of life here.

Perhaps Mizell will simply be used for propaganda purposes and released just in order to tell the world how kind her captors really were.

In a brilliant Orwellian move, the provincial governor, Asadullah Khalid, described Mizell’s kidnapping as “against Afghan culture” and described her kidnappers as “the enemy of Islam and the enemy of Afghanistan.” Of course, he is also right. Perhaps his words will lead to a popular religious uprising against her kidnappers. I rather doubt it.

Cyd Mizell is not a soldier or a missionary. She is a ministering angel, just the kind of quiet, grassroots, politically correct “do gooder” that so many western critics of the West seem to admire. Perchance, are they planning to ransom her with private monies? Or, will they merely launch one of their famous Petitions, this time directly addressed to the Taliban, to explain that Mizell is one of the “good” Americans, not one of the crusader-imperialists? Such distinctions make no difference. Appeals to mercy or reason rarely work.

But for Mizell’s sake, I hope I am wrong.


Dr. Phyllis Chesler is the well known author of classic works, including the bestseller Women and Madness (1972) and The New Anti-Semitism (2003). She has just published The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom (Palgrave Macmillan), as well as an updated and revised edition of Women and Madness. She is an Emerita Professor of psychology and women’s studies, the co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology (1969) and the National Women’s Health Network (1974). She is currently on the Board of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and lives in New York City. Her website is www.phyllis-chesler.com.
We are delighted to have Dr. Chesler as a contributor to the Jesus is Lord, A Worshipping Christian’s Blog.

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