Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

I was worth 50 sheep

November 29, 2013

In Afganistan, women are chattels, to be bought and sold.

Sabere was only seven years old when her father died in war. Her cousin inherited her, and following a long-practiced tradition in Afghanistan, he sold her when she was 10 years old to Golmohammad, a man in his 50s and a member of the Taliban. Over the next six years, she became pregnant four times, miscarrying each time. The cause may have been her youth, or the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband. On a trip to Mazar-e sharif, Sabere managed to escape and make her way to a women’s shelter.

Meanwhile, Sabere’s mother needed to remarry quickly to avoid bringing shame on the family with her widowhood. According to tradition, ownership and betrothal of a widow transfers to the deceased’s cousin. So Sabere’s mother marries the cousin, and gives birth to a daughter named Farzane (Sabere’s half-sister). The family struggles to make ends meet, so when Farzane is 10 years old, her father sells her to a man in western Afghanistan. Her price: 50 sheep and a piece of dry-farming land. As a kind of installment plan, the buyer pays Farzane’s father 10 sheep per year, and will take possession of her when she is 15 and the full amount has been paid.

After six months of searching, the women’s shelter tracks down Sabere’s mother and her stepfather and invites them to the shelter for a meeting. When they discover the deal to sell Farzane, the shelter’s managers realize they not only need to help Sabere, but Farzane as well.

I Was Worth 50 Sheep is the tale of these two sisters and their struggle for human dignity and freedom in a war-torn country caught between ancient traditions and a modern world.

It begs the question, why has the US and UK sacrificed many young men for these evil people, men who sell-off ten-year-old girls to be raped.

The Bookseller of Kabul describes similar treatment of women and girls.

A few years ago, at an international film festival, I asked a young Afghan film-maker who had gone under cover in Afghanistan to film, one advantage of wearing a burka, she explained, I asked her if what I had read in The Bookseller of Kabul, was a true reflection of life in Kabul, the treatment of women. She said no, it is far, far worse.

This is not Islam, it is what fundamentalists practice as Islam. In The Koran, women are granted rights.

The ideology behind Lee Rigby’s murder is profound and dangerous. Why don’t we admit it?: Tony Blair launches a brave assault on Muslim extremism after Woolwich attack

June 3, 2013

There is only one view of the murder of Lee Rigby: horrific. But there are two views of its significance.

One is that it is the act of crazy people, motivated in this case by a perverted idea about Islam, but of no broader significance.

Crazy people do crazy things. So don’t overreact.

The other view is that this act was indeed horrible; and that the ideology which inspired it is profound and dangerous.

I am of this latter view.

So of course we shouldn’t overreact. We didn’t after July 7, 2005. But we did act. And we were right to. The actions by our security services will undoubtedly have prevented other serious attacks.

The ‘Prevent’ programme in local communities was sensible. The new measures of the Government seem reasonable and proportionate.

However, we are deluding ourselves if we believe that we can protect this country simply by what we do here. The ideology is out there. It isn’t diminishing.

Consider the Middle East. As of now, Syria is in a state of accelerating disintegration. President Assad is brutally pulverising communities hostile to his regime. At least 80,000 have died. The refugees now total more than one million. The internally displaced are more than four million.

Many in the region believe that the Assad intention is to ethnically cleanse the Sunni from the areas dominated by his regime and then form a separate state around Lebanon. There would then be a de facto Sunni state in the rest of Syria, cut off from the wealth of the country or the sea.

The Syrian opposition is made up of many groups. The fighters are increasingly the Al Qaeda- affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra. They are winning support, and arms and money from outside the country.

So I understand the desire to look at this world and explain it by reference to local grievances, economic alienation and of course ‘crazy people’. But are we really going to examine it and find no common thread, nothing that joins these dots, no sense of an ideology driving or at least exacerbating it all?

There is not a problem with Islam. For those of us who have studied it, there is no doubt about its true and peaceful nature. There is not a problem with Muslims in general. Most in Britain will be horrified at Lee Rigby’s murder.

But there is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology that is a strain within Islam. And we have to put it on the table and be honest about it.

Of course there are Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu ones. But I am afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.

At the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists, but the world view goes deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit. So by and large we don’t admit it. This has two effects. First, those with that view think we are weak and that gives them strength.

Second, those within Islam – and the good news is there are many – who actually know this problem exists and want to do something about it, lose heart. All over the Middle East and beyond there is a struggle being played out.

On the one side, there are Islamists who have this exclusivist and reactionary world view. They are a significant minority, loud and well organised. On the other are the modern-minded, those who hated the old oppression by corrupt dictators and who hate the new oppression by religious fanatics. They are potentially the majority, but unfortunately they are badly organised.

The seeds of future fanaticism and terror, possibly even major conflict, are being sown. We have to help sow seeds of reconciliation and peace. But clearing the ground for peace is not always peaceful.

The long and hard conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have made us wary of any interventions abroad. But we should never forget why they were long and hard. We allowed failed states to come into being.

Saddam was responsible for two major wars, in which hundreds of thousands died, many by chemical weapons. He killed similar numbers of his own people.

The Taliban grew out of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and made the country into a training ground for terror. Once these regimes were removed, both countries have struggled against the same forces promoting violence and terror in the name of religion everywhere.

Not every engagement need be military; or where military, involve troops. But disengaging from this struggle won’t bring us peace.

Neither will security alone. We resisted revolutionary communism by being resolute on security; but we defeated it by a better idea: Freedom. We can do the same with this.

The better idea is a modern view of religion and its place in society and politics. There has to be respect and equality between people of different faiths. Religion must have a voice in the political system but not govern it.

We have to start with how to educate children about faith, here and abroad. That is why I started a foundation whose specific purpose is to educate children of different faiths across the world to learn about each other and live with each other.

We are now in 20 countries and the programmes work. But it is a drop in the ocean compared with the flood of intolerance taught to so many. Now, more than ever, we have to be strong and we have to be strategic.

— Tony Blair

This self-justifying stomach churning garbage from war criminal Tony Blair was originally published in The Mail on Sunday. From the comments on-line, it was more than even Mail readers could stomach.

The Woolich killings can be see in two different lights. Either a senseless killing on the streets, no different apart from its brutality to other street killings, or an act of terrorism.

It was treated as the latter by David Cameron, which has the downside of elevating the killers to martyrs. Though if David Cameron had not reacted as he did, and it was the start of a wave of killings, he would have been rightly criticised.

How does a war criminal become a Middle East Envoy? One only has to look at Iraq today, to see the legacy of Tony Blair.

The Blair article is riddled with errors.

Do many in the Middle East believe the aim of Butcher Assad is to cleanse the region of Sunni Muslims? Yes, it has descended into sectarian violence, as has Iraq (the Blair legacy), but that is not how it started. It started with Assad gunning down peaceful protesters. Only later did the opponents of this repressive regime take up arms to defend themselves. And shame on Putin for supporting Assad.

Blair claims Assad has used chemical weapons. What is his evidence? The UN says there is suspicion, but have not been allowed in to collect evidence.

Blair claims he sees at first hand what is happening in the Middle East, and specifically Israeli occupied Palestine. He sees, does he, Israeli settlers destroying olive trees, of occupying land that is not theirs?

Blair claims the ‘Taliban grew out of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and made the country into a training ground for terror’. This is to completely rewrite history. The Americans provoked the then USSR to invade Afghanistan to create their own Vietnam. It was the CIA and MI6 and Pakistani ISI, with the help of Saudi money that created the Mujahideen to fight the Soviets, that morphed into the Taliban. Bin-Laden was our creation. The extreme form of Islam in Afghanistan was exported from Saudi Arabia, but still we arm the Saudis.

Blair claims Afghanistan was a terrorist training ground. It was not, but it is now, as is Iraq and many other parts of the world. The Taliban were willing to hand over Bin Laden, were they given the evidence to justify doing so. Afghanistan is now a major poppy producer, bogged down in corruption, women have no rights.

Blair mentions Pakistan, but does not mention the drone strikes by the Americans, and now the British, and the impact that is having. He does not mention the rampant corruption and cronyism in Pakistan.

There is a problem with Muslim extremism, that is not rooted in the Koran, with ignorant preachers of hate who should be kicked out of the country.

Young men are being fed poison in the Mosques, but what is then ignored by both the media and the mainstream political class, not just Blair, is self-brainwashing. Young men are fed poison in the Mosques, but they do not then have to watch videos on the net (though there are many to watch), they simply watch the mainstream news. They see the drone strikes in Pakistan, they see the ethnic cleansing and genocide committed by Israel against Palestinians, a few like the Glasgow car bombing, the 7/7 London Bombings, the brutal killing on the streets of Woolwich, are spurred to act, to attack what they see as the enemy slaughtering fellow innocent Muslims.

For nearly a decade, the British security services have been warning governments about the growth of terrorism as a result of disaffection in relation to the Afghan and Iraq wars. Former head of MI5 Dame Eliza Manningham Buller told the Chilcot inquiry that she had given such a warning to Tony Blair’s government over Iraq. We have evidence from these latest attackers and from those previously charged with terrorist offences that the wars are one of their major grievances.

Our wars, have destabilised large parts of the world, turning them into terrorist training grounds, into which head brainwashed angry young men, who came back primed and loaded as killing machines.

Drone attacks

October 31, 2012
drone atatcks

drone atatcks

One of the problems with drones is that they are easy to use. Another is that they are proving to be counterproductive.

These are in essence one and the same argument. Easy to use, compared with say sending in the SAS who may take casualties.

Easy to use in that we seem to have no comeback. The same of could could be said of firing rockets, except as the Palestinians find, lob a few rockets over into Israel and all hell breaks out.

Soldiers in Afghanistan are seen as legitimate targets, as we see from what seems to be a daily toll of killings.

When we use drones, one of the problems is that we are not taking out the right people, this leads to more terrorists not less. The drones are launched from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, which is then seen as a legitimate target.

On the Moral Maze this evening, a dire programme at the best of times, Melanie Phillips tried to claim only one or two civilian casualties (just one example of the garbage she came out with). Maybe she would like to explain why Imran Khan led a demonstration against drones, why he was questioned by US Immigration Official as he tried to enter the US from Canada?

One of the questions that hangs over the is of drones, is the lack of democratic accountability. We see the civilian deaths in Pakistan, but what we are not seeing is any discussion on their use.

Another is that of legitimacy. Their use may be illegal under International Law.

Anyone who wonders what it is like to be on the receiving end, talk to those who were in London when the Germans used V-bombs

Unlike a missile, drones are relatively low technology, easy to build, easy to acquire, easy to use. Soon everyone will have them, then we will find out what it is like to be on the receiving end.

Since June 2008, UK forces have carried out around 300 airstrikes in Afghanistan using armed unmanned aerial vehicles (commonly known as drones), controlled from thousands of miles away. Although there is some public information about US drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, there is almost no public information about drone strikes carried out by the UK in Afghanistan.

There are serious ethical, moral and legal questions about the growing use of armed drones which need to be properly debated. However, it is impossible to have such a debate while information is being kept secret. At the very least, it seems that public discussion is being controlled.

Drones have enabled a huge increase in targeted killing is also causing deep disquiet amongst legal experts and scholars.

However, perhaps the greatest concern relates to what is seen as one of the key capabilities of drones – their ability to loiter over an area for hours or even days. Evidence is beginning to emerge that the persistent presence of drone sitting over remote villages and towns, simply looking for ‘targets of opportunity’, leads to an increase in civilian casualties.

Despite growing public concern, the UK is to double the number of armed Reaper drones in operation by 2013 and is also pressing ahead with plans to develop new armed drones over the next decade, all without public debate or parliamentary scrutiny.

There are serious questions about the use of drones:

  • Does the geographic and psychological distance between the operator and target make attacks more likely?
  • Does using unmanned systems mean attacks will happen more often?
  • Does the supposed accuracy of drone sensors and cameras mean that commanders are more willing to undertake ‘riskier’ strikes (in terms of possible civilian casualties) than they would previously have undertaken?

All of these questions, and many more, need to be debated openly and honestly, requiring careful analysis and judgement based on evidence. Unfortunately, that evidence is being kept under wraps. While it may be necessary to keep some information secret, we do not believe it is appropriate or legitimate to refuse to disclose any and all information about the circumstances in which Reapers have been used over the past four years. There is, at the very least, a sense that public discussion is being stifled.

With the use of armed drones set to increase, we need a serious, public – and fully informed – debate on all these issues.

A petition has been drawn up to David Cameron asking for an open debate on the use of drones.

More information on drones and their use can be obtained from the Drone Campaign Network.

What is incredible is that the video feed is not encrypted. The targets on the ground can see what the drone can see.

In the last decade, nearly 3,000 people have been killed by drones.

Women’s Rights are Non-Negotiable in Afghanistan

May 22, 2012

More than ten years after the overthrow of the Taliban, modest advances have been made for girls and women in Afghanistan, but much remains to be done. Peace talks between the Taliban, Afghan government and the U.S. jeopardize even these modest gains as the U.S. searches for a quick exit.

Amnesty International urges the U.S. government to adopt an action plan for Afghan women to ensure that their rights are not traded away in the transition. The U.S. should make clear that human rights are non-negotiable and ensure mechanisms are in place to uphold those rights after any agreement is reached.

Meryl Streep, Sting, Joan Baez, Cynthia Nixon, Yoko Ono and Sir Patrick Stewart signed their names to an Amnesty International open letter released Sunday to President Obama and President Karzai, calling on them to give women a voice in the conversation about Afghanistan’s future. The letter was released by Amnesty International as it staged a “Shadow Summit for Afghan Women” hours before the NATO Summit got underway in Chicago.

Joining the artists as signatories were authors, including Stephen King, Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner) and playwright Lynn Nottage (Ruined, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark).

Signatories included former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, feminist Gloria Steinem, Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams and Shirin Ebadi, along with a roster of leading Afghan women’s rights advocates.

“The women of Afghanistan have come too far to see their rights vanish,” said Frank Januzzi, head of Amnesty International USA’s Washington office. “They must be part of the conversation about the future of Afghanistan or that future will look very bleak indeed. No one wants a return to the days when the Taliban banned women and girls from schools and work, and held them as virtual prisoners in their own country. This would be the ultimate catastrophe after a decade of gains for women. We hope the voices of these notable signatories will add to the pressure on Presidents Obama and Karzai to follow through on the promise of human rights for all women in Afghanistan.”

Amnesty International urged Presidents Obama and Karzai to adopt eight key steps to make sure Afghan woman can continue the progress they have made on rights and freedoms after the troops leave in 2014.

Reflections on 9/11 ten years on

September 12, 2011

Our Grief is not a Cause for War — banner in New York ten years ago

9/11 was a terrible tragedy, nearly 3,000 killed as the Twin Towers were demolished in New York, a plane crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth plane crashed in a field.

Questions, questions, questions.

Why were fighters not scrambled to intercept the hijacked planes and shoot them down? For the fourth plane it was probably shot down as the crash site was that of a plane that had broken up in the air, the wreckage spread over a large area.

To bring the towers down as they came down would have required a highly skilled demolition crew, careful timing and placed charges.

The fires in the Twin Towers were fuel rich, oxygen poor. Most of the fuel burnt off in a fire ball on impact.

The towers were designed to withstand a plane crash. The steel cage structure would have conducted away the heat. Similar towers with top-to-bottom fires have not collapsed.

Why did WTC7 collapse?

Why was the crime scene not preserved?

At the Pentagon, why fly all the way around and come in on the one wing not occupied due to building work? Had they flown straight into the Pentagon they would have taken out the top brass. Why were people picking up the wreckage? The image on the building before the roof collapsed did not match the plane. Why did no missile defence system take out the plane?

I know where I was when the towers were hit. I was sat on the step of my French Windows. I thought World War III had broken out.

It was an affront. The attack was on US soil.

The attackers were Saudi, not Afghan. Why bomb Afghanistan back into the Stone Age?

The Taliban offered to hand over Osama bin Laden if the US provided eveidence of his involvement.

It was a crime, a heinous crime, but not a call to war.

Pakistan was given a choice: You are with us or against us. If against, we bomb you into the Stone Age.

The day before, a senior Afghan leader was killed. Was it the trigger?

US is in Afghanistan to control pipeline routes for US oil corporations.

Bill Clinton had reached agreement with the Taliban for pipeline routes, even down to the price for using the pipelines. This fell through due to pressure from human rights and women’s rights groups.

There were plans to attack Afghanistan before 9/11. 9/11 gave the pretext.

Iraq was nothing to do with 9/11. It was a distraction. But US wished to control Iraqi oil.

Christian fundamentalists rode into town on the coattails of the US military. Their meddling has led directly to the slaughter of Iraqi Christians.

US and British corporations rode in to share the spoils of war.

All three countries have been destroyed, the region destabilised by the US.

The dust from the collapse of the Twin Towers was toxic. New Yorkers were told it was safe. It is kept in secure containment.

Jimmy Cliff – We Don’t Want Another Vietnam in Afghanistan

June 25, 2011

Jimmy Cliff at Glastonbury 2011 singing We Don’t Want Another Vietnam in Afghanistan.

Arithmetic on the Frontier

January 23, 2011
Drummer James Roddick of the 92nd Gordon Highlanders, defending Lieutenant Menzies during hand-to-hand fighting in Kandahar 1880 (1894) -  William Skeoch Cumming (1864-1929)

Drummer James Roddick of the 92nd Gordon Highlanders, defending Lieutenant Menzies during hand-to-hand fighting in Kandahar 1880 (1894) - William Skeoch Cumming (1864-1929)

A great and glorious thing it is
To learn, for seven years or so,
The Lord knows what of that and this,
Ere reckoned fit to face the foe—
The flying bullet down the Pass,
That whistles clear: “All flesh is grass.”

Three hundred pounds per annum spent
On making brain and body meeter
For all the murderous intent
Comprised in “villanous saltpetre!”
And after—ask the Yusufzaies
What comes of all our ‘ologies.

A scrimmage in a Border Station—
A canter down some dark defile—
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail—
The Crammer’s boast, the Squadron’s pride,
Shot like a rabbit in a ride!

No proposition Euclid wrote,
No formulae the text-books know,
Will turn the bullet from your coat,
Or ward the tulwar’s downward blow
Strike hard who cares—shoot straight who can—
The odds are on the cheaper man.

One sword-knot stolen from the camp
Will pay for all the school expenses
Of any Kurrum Valley scamp
Who knows no word of moods and tenses,
But, being blessed with perfect sight,
Picks off our messmates left and right.

With home-bred hordes the hillsides teem,
The troop-ships bring us one by one,
At vast expense of time and steam,
To slay Afridis where they run.
The “captives of our bow and spear”
Are cheap—alas! as we are dear.

Arithmetic on the Frontier was Rudyard Kipling’s condemnation of the senseless slaughter of the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880). Written 130 years ago and published in Departmental Ditties and Other Verses (1886), it is as appropriate now as it was then.

I heard this read today on Poetry Please on BBC Radio 4.

Karen Woo

August 9, 2010
Karen Woo

Karen Woo

Karen Woo was in Afghanistan to help the poor. She paid with her life.

see

The death of my friend Karen

Murdered doctor’s family rejects claims that she was spy and missionary

Taliban barbarity still shocks‎
UK medic may have been killed for working with Christian group

Blog reveals Afghanistan medic Karen Woo’s dedication

UK medic Karen Woo named as Afghanistan shooting victim

Karen Woo’s fiance says ‘I will miss her love for life’

Afghan politician Abdullah praises killed medics

On the death of 10 of the 12 Nuristan Eye Camp team members

The Bookseller of Kabul