Afghan ambassador to US leaving post following embarassing photo release
Said T. Jawad, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, announced today that he will be leaving his post on Sept. 22 after seven years.
Jawad gave no reason for his departure, although reports from Kabul said he was fired. He indicated that he would be leaving public service, saying that he was committed "to continuing to contribute to Afghanistan's future in my private capacity as well as through the newly formed Foundation for Afghanistan." Jawad announced the creation of the aid organization in a speech at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in March.
Abduljalil Ghafoory, a spokesman for the Afghan embassy, told Nukes and Spooks that there was nothing unusual about Jawad's departure, saying that "an ambassador has a fixed period of time to serve." And he insisted that there was "no connection" with the publication several weeks ago in Afghan newspapers and on several websites of pictures purportedly taken at an Afghan embassy party that appeared to be part of an elaborate smear campaign against Jawad that succeeded in igniting a political firestorm back in poor, war-torn and highly conservative Muslim country.
The pictures showed men and women clad in Western dresses with bare arms and legs sitting together on a carpet at the embassy. They were listening to a noted Afghan singer, Mozdah Jamalzadah, who was wearing a tight-fitting dress, the hem of which ended above her knees. Other photos showed Jawad's son dancing with a young woman, as other women danced around them, as well as Jawad, his wife and son posed in front of a booze-filled bar.
Such conduct would be regarded as culturally and religiously offensive in overwhelmingly Muslim Afghanistan, where dancing between the sexes is rarely, if ever, permitted, alcohol consumption is banned and women traditionally wear clothes that at the very least cover their legs, arms and necks - most also drape scarves over their hair - and many wear full-length body-embracing burkas.
As if that wasn't enough, the picture captions claimed that the event was held on Aug. 12 to break the daily fast on the second night of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The resulting outrage in Afghanistan provoked by the photos included a call from a senior lawmaker for Jawad's resignation.
But Jawad was quoted in an Aug. 20 story in Newsweek as saying no such party took place and that he was on an official trip to South America on the night that it supposedly took place. He contended that the photos were either old or faked. The story also quoted a spokesperson for the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, who is posed in one picture with Jawad and his wife, as saying that Holbrooke had not been to a party at the Afghan embassy in more than a year.
Newsweek also noted that the clothes worn by Jawad, his wife and son in the photo taken in front of the bar were different that those they were wearing in other photos.
So the release of the photos appeared deliberately aimed at dealing a serious political blow to Jawad. Still, there is little doubt that they were real and depicted him and his family in highly un-Islamic situations that would have been highly embarrassing to his boss, embattled President Hamid Karzai.