The crisis of western intervention in Afghanistan is described by Mitra Qayoom in this transcript of her speech delivered to last weekend’s Stop the War Coalition Conference.
Mirwais, son of Hayatullah Haideri. He was 1½ years old and had just started to learn how to walk.
Abdul Hadi, son of Abdul Ghani. He was not even a year old and was already trying to stand.
Naghma and Nazia, the twin daughters of Musa Jan. They were only 3 months old and just starting to roll over.
Ismail, the son of Juma Gul. "He was never warm in his entire life," his mother said. "Not once." It was a short life, 30 days long.
These children are among at least 24 who froze to death in refugee camps in Kabul last month, their families fled war zones across Afghanistan.
The death of these innocent children are a direct consequence of this so called ‘war on terror’ which has led to nothing but more instability, suffering, and increased poverty in Afghanistan.
Since the occupation thousands of Afghans have been made homeless, driven to refugee camps in Kabul where they live without heating or electricity and left there to freeze to death during one the coldest winters Afghanistan has experienced in years. They have had to flee war provinces due to increased attacks carried out by US and NATO forces on their homes and villages, to avoid death and protect their children.
Recent incidents include the death of a woman and a child who were amongst six civilians killed in a ground and air raid on Dewa Gul Vally, in the Chawki district of Kunar province.
Another NATO air raid left 7 children and a 20 year old who has special needs dead in the Kapisa province of Afghanistan.
In a separate attack in the Kapisa province 8 children were left slaughtered by a NATO air strike. These children were just out grazing their animals when they were attacked.
During a demonstration, one woman said: “we can’t leave our homes anymore; you have the Westerners on one side of the road and the Taliban on the other side, shooting at us but not each other.”
The civilian death toll has hit a record high. Last year alone a total of 3,021 civilians were reported killed. That is an 8% increase on the previous year. However, these are only UN statistics. How many are actually dead? Who knows?
Afghan men, women and children continue to be killed in this war in ever increasing numbers and have been the ones who have paid the highest price of this war on terror.
Now let’s recap and take a look at some of the reasons why the US and its NATO allies said they invaded Afghanistan and the changes made so far.
The US and its allies said they invaded Afghanistan because they wanted to liberate its people from the evil of the Taliban. But they soon replaced them by another evil: the warlords. The same evil warlords who took the lives of thousands of innocent people during the civil war. The same warlords, who seized people’s homes and farms, raped their daughters, abused and robbed the population.
Afghanistan’s government today consists of these corrupt warlords and a President that the Afghan people have denounced as a puppet of Washington.
The US and its NATO allies say they are still in Afghanistan to tackle opium production. Today Afghanistan produces 90% of world’s opium. Opium production has greatly increased in the last 10 years under the watchful eye of the NATO which has left some Afghans wishing for the return of the Taliban.
Why? Because under the Taliban regime opium production had greatly reduced. Those smuggling drugs in Afghanistan also pressure farmers to grow opium. These farmers are very poor and in desperate need of money to feed their families. Those farmers whose opium farms have been cessed and destroyed by the government and unable to repay the smugglers are left with two choices: either to re pay them with money or with a daughter.
Since they are too poor to repay them with money they are left with no choice but to give away their children. These girls are called opium brides. Girls as young as 6 years old are victims of this deadly bargain that farm families have been forced to make with drug smugglers in order to survive.
The US and its allies said that another why they invaded Afghanistan was to liberate its women. Last year I returned to Afghanistan after 20 years and one of the biggest changes I was really looking forward to seeing was a change in women rights.
I can tell you from what I saw and heard there has been no change in women’s rights or human rights. Domestic violence is on the rise. One day I visited my uncle’s office in Kabul. He is a lawyer and I was interested to see what type of cases he dealt with most. I was shocked when he put 15 files in front of me and said: “Mitra these are the cases I’m dealing with at the moment, they are all cases of women who have been domestically abused by their husbands.” I looked through the files and I can not describe to you how heartbreaking and shocking the crime scene pictures looked.
I also visited a shelter home where women who had escaped their abusive husbands and families came to take refuge. Most cases involved forced marriage of girls as young as 13 years old, or child brides as we call it here, which is still greatly practiced in Afghanistan. No law has been enforced against this practice in the last 10 years.
Women are even mistreated by the police. Those women who go to the police to complain of abuse are in most cases put in jail for doing so.
Some of you may be aware of the case of Gulnaz, a young woman who was raped by a family member, got pregnant by him and then sent to jail when she complained to the police. She was then given a choice to either marry her rapist or spend the next 12 years of her life in prison. President Karzai pardoned her case and instead of punishing her attacker he further punished her by making her marry the same man that ruined her life. Her case is one in many hundreds in Afghanistan.
No laws have been enforced in the last 10 years to stop cruelty towards women either. Afghanistan has recently been ranked as the second most dangerous country, after the Congo, for a woman to live in. It is clear that bombing Afghan women will not liberate them and that it is not the answer to their freedom.
Today Afghanistan is also known as one of the poorest countries in the world where many children don’t live long enough to see their 5th birthday. I cannot understand how a country so rich in natural resources is starving today.
Other signs of failure of this war on terror include:
Recent war crimes, including that in which the US troops urinated on the corpse of Afghans who they claimed were Taliban and the rape of two Afghan children by British soldiers which has outraged the Afghans.
Afghans have been holding demonstrations across the country, not only because of the recent burning of the holy Quran, but also against the ten and a half year occupation of the country, against NATO’s ground and air raids which have destroyed homes and villages and left so many homeless and children orphans. Children have also been walking on the streets of Kabul with banners that say: ‘Stop killing the Afghans.’
Apologies are not enough anymore. They are demonstrating because they are frustrated and want the rest of the world to know that they have had enough.
Today, I stand before you as an Afghan and as a member of Afghans for Peace. I ask you to continue demonstrating and fight against this occupation which has claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Afghans. Let us show through our demonstrations and by creating awareness that we are with the Afghan people, that we have heard their cries, that we know the names of each innocent child that has died, that we care, that they are not alone and forgotten by the rest of the world.
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