A Common-Man Security Yardstick

Okay, so I got an offer of full tuition, room, board and laptop scholarship from Berea College. I accepted it, enrolled and got approved of a student visa after passing an interview at the American Embassy in Islamabad. But some of you might know that last year I traveled to Bamian for research for an upcoming book I am co-authoring. Also, that on my way to Bamian, I nearly got killed.

Well, it had been in the pipeline for months that I go there once again for more research. But due to the security situation, I find myself unable to make the trip. That’s because in the past two weeks, there have been two separate incidents involving civilian passengers who were slaughtered by Taliban. In one of the incidents, seven Hazara passengers in a public van were hand picked, abducted and slaughtered in cold blood. In another one, four Hazara travelers were killed the same way after their car was stopped by the Taliban. Both incidents occurred on the highway between the restive southern province of Bamian and the capital Kabul.

The Hazaras are one of the four main ethnic groups of Afghanistan. They have a long history of oppression, ethnocides, genocides and subjugation, mainly fueled by ethnic and religious prejudice in the hands of different governments. And I, being an ethnic Hazara, find it extremely risky to make a trip to my home country for the purpose of writing a book that portrays the culture, history and current situation of my people.

Considering that after the fall of the Taliban till the recent past, security on the highways was generally good. But events have taken a turn to the worse in the past few months. Now, not only the cities and streets are unsafe, but so are the roads and highways too. I don’t care what the news reports say or don’t; I don’t pay much heed to how government or international memos describe the situation in my country–because they are biased more often than not. But if I, as a common man, am unable to travel for fear of my life, it is a cause for alarm–and a real indicator of the degree of trust that I and people like me have on our government, its  security institutions and the international forces.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

An Adventure With Death: How I Survived NATO Firing

I and my father, along with two other passengers, are driving through the streets of Kandahar, a “troubled” province in the South, on our way to Kabul. Suddenly, in its usual and unpredictable manner, pops a convoy of NATO armored personnel carriers (APCs).

A guy sitting on top of the first APC is signaling all cars to move right and clear the way. The two cars in front of us follow his orders. Now it’s our car which the person is signaling to move right. Our driver, who has had a quarrel with another driver some 20 minutes ago, is too deep in thoughts to notice his signals. I see every gesticulation from the NATO soldier and am expecting the driver to turn at any moment.

We get closer and closer to the convoy and the driver doesn’t show any sign of clearing the road. The NATO soldier grows increasingly desperate. His desperation reaches to a point where he fires four “warning” shots in an attempt to get the attention of our driver. I am watching all this; and at this point, everything seems like a Hollywood movie or perhaps a CNN video from a troubled zone. I feel no urgency to act and inform the driver to change course; perhaps because I can’t believe this is happening to me.

Bullets race overhead—shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot—that’s four of them whooshing in quick succession. And now, even after the warning shots, we have still not cleared the road for the APC. The NATO soldier at the top of the APC can’t take it anymore. He thinks that we are perhaps a gang of Al-Qaeda or Taliban suicide car bombers about to strike his vehicle. Instincts take over him and he lowers his gun barrel in a bid to take offense and exterminate the perceived threat. Maybe, in the meantime, he was thinking of the honor to have shot and foiled a terrorist plot in preemption.

So, as he brings his gun barrel down to shoot the driver first, our driver notices it and takes a desperate swerve to the right. The NATO soldier shoots his first bullet. Thanks to the turn we take, the bullet hits the side screen window and somehow misses all of us. Glass scatters everywhere. We’re all sitting there aghast, looking at the unfolding drama in disbelief. A second bullet comes in quick succession to the first one. Again, miraculously, it rips through the thin strip of plastic that holds the rearview mirror onto the car.

Because we have taken a turn and cleared the way, the NATO soldier realizes that we are no suicide car bombers and stops firing. At this point, we all start checking our limbs and bodies to make sure everything is intact. All seems okay. We have been able to escape death in the hands of NATO soldiers.

Moments later, I begin to think: Escaping Al-Qaeda, Taliban and other threats lurking around, we come under threat by the very force which claims to be “protecting” us. Although I acknowledge there’s an idiocy factor involved from our driver, I can’t help but wonder how many people have lost their lives in such incidents that have been labeled “encounters with terrorists.”

From my observations it appears as if such incidents are quite common. In the three trips that I have made to Afghanistan in the last two years, I have had two encounters of this nature with international troops, the first one being a lot less dramatic. It now seems to me that the international peacekeeping forces are quite at ease in opening fire at almost anyone.

Greetings from Bamian!

pa310028.JPGThis post comes to you from the heart of
Asia, roof of the world, and, sadly, a used-to-be treasure trove of Buddhist relics, Bamian. Yes, I’m writing to you from an internet café located under the majesty of the remains of the giant Buddha statues destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban.

 

I am here to work on a book which is about the culture and history of the Hazara people of Afghanistan. It will contain stories for children about the struggles of daily life in this cold but historic province. The book aims at introducing these people to the children of the
United States whose country is spreading “freedom” and “democracy” in that region. The Hazaras are one of the three largest ethnic groups in Afghanistan and are of Turco-Mongolic ancestry (I am a Hazara myself, if you’re curious).

 

I will be staying here for a few more days. During my stay, I’m going to take lots of pictures and do many interviews of the people to get to know more about their troubles and travails.

 

I will also visit the picturesque Band-e-Amir, a group of lakes situated outside the Bamian city. I will hear from the locals the many folk stories associated with this lake.

 

From my first impressions of Bamian, I am humbled by the magnificence of what remains of the two Buddha statues, and saddened by the barbarity that went into destroying them. I am also enchanted by the beauty of this valley and the warmth of its people.

 

Bamian is the safest of all provinces in Afghanistan. And if all goes well, I will  hopefully be back home in after a week. Then, I will blog and post some of the pictures I take. The internet situation here is shaky due to which I am not be able to post from Bamian.

 

See you all on the other side of the border. Till then, stay safe and good wherever you are.

Partial Justice Is No Justice

halabja.jpg

For crimes he committed against humanity, Saddam has been sentenced to death by hanging.

“The former Iraqi leader was convicted over the killing of 148 people in the mainly Shia town of Dujail following an assassination attempt on him in 1982.

“However, some legal experts have argued that Saddam Hussein’s ongoing trial for atrocities committed against the Kurdish population should be allowed to reach a verdict before he is executed.”

But the “legal experts” and the international media are missing the bigger picture: Partial justice is no justice at all. His execution, even if carried after the verdict of his Kurdish case, will deprive the world of a man who could well be tried for crimes he committed in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. During the eight-year war, through international backing, he used chemical agents not only against the Iranian army, but also against Iranian civilians.

The execution of Saddam means the end of a process of justice, which, if pursued ideally, could have even dragged high-profile warmongers such as the Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, for his backing of Iraq’s army and chemical program during the war. Unsurprisingly, however, Rumsfeld’s involvement seems only to be the tip of the American iceberg: Donald Reigle, the head of a Senate Committee reports:

UN inspectors had identified many United States manufactured items that had been exported from the United States to Iraq under licenses issued by the Department of Commerce, and [established] that these items were used to further Iraq‘s chemical and nuclear weapons development and its missile delivery system development programs.

The report continues:

The executive branch of our government approved 771 different export licenses for sale of dual-use technology to Iraq. I think that is a devastating record.”

Unfortunately, this devastating record doesn’t end here. America, through countries like the Saudi Arabia and Italy, conducted most of its aid in a bid to make sure Iraq won; because, Iraq’s defeat in the war, in Rumsfeld’s words, “would be contrary to U.S. interests.” America even voted against a Security Council resolution condemning Iraq’s use of chemical agents during the war.

But it wasn’t only these countries that were involved in making the bloodbath happen. Germany, U.K., France and Spain have all had their fair share of monetary profits in return for the blood of the 20,000 Iranian soldiers and thousands of civilians who lost their lives.

It seems as if today everyone has forgotten about the souls of these individuals and those who lost their lives as a result of the Iranian retaliation. This rotten system, which does almost nothing other than ensure corporate benefits, is endangering the percipience of humankind. We are no longer noticing all the bad that’s being done because bad is no longer “bad.”

Take, for example, the “aid” that is being given to the poor countries of the world. For every dollar given in aid to poor countries, 13 dollars are squeezed out in various forms; and this voracious corporate appetite is being supplied form the stomachs of the 780,000,000 people who starve to death every year due to a shortage of food. These are the people who neither contracted the aid nor received any portion of it.

Peace, amity, humanity—all are becoming mere political gibberish and are losing their true values…to me at least.

Further Reading:

Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’m back

I am back home and back in form. I have fully recuperated and am slowly getting used to a normal life again. I want to thank all of you for the support you have provided through your comments and wishes.

The test went well and I expect a good result. The results are due in two to three weeks. Meanwhile, I plan on starting a new blog which will document my progress toward a college admission in the United States. I will be providing the latest about my admission progress and seeking advice from those of you with the experience of dealing with college admission red tape.

I have been trying to come up with a suitable, all-encompassing name for the new blog, but so far I have been unsuccessful. Do you have any ideas which may convey the sense of an Afghan with almost no financial means trying to pursue his dreams through a college degree in the U.S.? Your suggestions are welcome.

Taking Important Test

To all readers of MyScribbles: Write-ups of an Afghan:

Just a notice to tell you that in the last few weeks I have been busy preparing for the SAT–the entrance examination for American universities. It’s now time to take it. The test is very, very important for my future as its result will determine whether or not I will be able to get into a U.S. college, and, subsequently, study journalism.

The test center is in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. It is going to take me a gruelling, 26-hour bus ride to get there. Things are not easy, but I will do my best.

Meanwhile, thank you all for putting up with the long gaps between posts. I shall start posting as soon as I return.

Peace.

14 Pregnant Women Die as US Soldiers Seige Their Town

JALALABAD, Sep 24 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Thousands of residents of the Korengal Valley in the eastern Kunar province are facing acute shortages of food and medicines due to US forces’ alleged blockade of roads leading to the valley.

Speaking at a news conference here on Sunday, elders from the area complained around 60,000 residents were facing shortages of food and medicines due to the blockade for the past one month.

The five elders said the blockage had created an awful situation in the valley as people are finding it hard to get medicines and food. They said 14 women had so far been died during delivery due to non-availability of proper medicines in the health clinics. More

The American way of winning hearts and minds?


Welcome!

I no longer update this weblog due to academic and other preoccupations. However, feel free to browse through its older entries. Thanks.
                      ---
This is a weblog where a journalism enthusiast Afghan student writes about hot contemporary issues from an Afghan perspective. Enjoy your visit! Contact: mail . myscribbles @ gmail . com

Pictures from Afghanistan

12

11

10

9

8

7

More Photos

Blog Stats

  • 66,829 Visits Since March 2006

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.