Afghanistan: From Under the Veil

From under the veil to under the knife:
Western media and body image in Afghanistan

Newhouse graduate student Azeta Hatef traveled to Kabul, Afghanistan in December 2013 after she learned of the sudden rise in cosmetic surgery within the country. Afghanistan is a place where a significant number of people face grave issues due to years of war. Considering this discord, she found the growth in cosmetic surgery surprising. Shocked to learn how painful and expensive these procedures are, she questioned the patient’s motivations for choosing to undergo cosmetic surgery. As a student of media studies, she began an investigation into the mass media in Afghanistan and the financial assistance it receives from various countries. She found that the United States, particularly during the reintroduction of television, radio and film in the early 2000s, was a significant contributor. She spent approximately one month in the city of Kabul immersed in the culture to experience the media messages that the locals engage with on a daily basis. She met and interviewed patients and doctors at various hospitals to better understand the cosmetic surgery phenomenon, drawing on their personal experiences. This study examines the globalization of media and beauty to assess the extent to which media influence beauty and body image ideals in Afghanistan. Hatef’s work suggests that Afghanistan’s financial dependence on the United States–specifically in rebuilding media–has lead to the transference of Western ideologies, thereby influencing culture in the country.

Azeta Hatef


Hatef is a second-year graduate student in the Newhouse School’s media studies program. She is interested in critical cultural communication studies. Her research focuses on identity creation and the interdependence between race, gender and power in media. She also studies issues pertaining to beauty ideals and body image in today’s society.