Earlier this week, while I was reading the news, I came across something that not only shocked me but truly disgusted me as well.
As a Pashtun living in Canada, I love this country. I love it a lot. And had my parents not immigrated here some 16 years ago, I doubt I’d become the woman that I am today. However, what happened on November 17th – a day commemorating the lives of those who fought for the freedom and independence of fellow Canadians (also known as “Remembrance Day”) – was truly despicable. What was supposed to be a day reminisced in silence and solidarity, was rudely disrupted by a bunch of ignorant, frustrated, and utterly immature Afghan students, who screamed and yelled slogans pertaining to the Afghan war and how they wanted NATO out of Afghanistan, because they claimed that they were killing innocent civilians.
However, I don’t want to waste this blog post on those ignoramuses, because they are not worth my time. Yet, I have a problem with those “western” Afghans who are constantly speaking against NATO and how desperately they want them out of Afghanistan, while they, themselves, enjoy the comfort and luxuries that the west has to offer, without even bothering to go back home to solve the plethora of problems that their people, especially Afghan women, are facing. These are people who pick every single opportunity to hate on the west — hate on the “white” people, going as far as using extremely despicable racial slurs against them — while enjoying the freedom and independence that this beautiful country has to offer. And while they call such despicable acts “activism,” it’s nothing but a pathetic attempt to seek attention. Little that these boorish “children” realize is that if they were to use this sort of “activism” back home, they’d literally be stoned to death!
Further, these are individuals who want NATO out of Afghanistan, because they make it seem like NATO’s whole and only mission is to kill civilians and rape and murder women. But the question I want to ask is: What about the Taliban? Do they support their rising to power? I mean what would happen if NATO were to leave and suddenly the Taliban were to come to power? Women would become even more “worthless” than they already are. And whatever education that some have managed to acquire would be no more.
So, I ask: How would one have to go about this? We want Afghanistan to go forward, not backwards. But if the Taliban were to come back and take over, women would become lower than mere insects. We need to keep personal sentiments aside and try to understand what would happen if and when they (the NATO) were to leave. We realize that their presence in Afghanistan has not necessarily been a positive one, however, there are no alternatives to the solution either; especially pertaining to Afghan/Pashtun women, who are suffering already, and will perhaps suffer even more once they leave.
Also, I want clear the misconception that these women suffering is not only on account of men only, but other women as well, and I deeply disagree that NATO troops are the only ones responsible for the exploitation of female bodies. The reason being is that it is no secret that some, not all, Afghan men do this to their own women as well. Yes, they sell their little daughters in marriage; they make prostitutes out of them; and they exploit them. So, we can’t just say that NATO are the only ones raping and degrading Afghan women, because some Afghan men are no better. That’s the tragedy of this whole situation, which many fail to realize due to personal sentiments or strong feelings against/towards the west. And what bothers me is that they will be very quick to pick on NATO, but they will never protest against the wicked warlords, corrupt politicians, and other individuals who kill and exploit Afghans, particularly Afghan women.
Just to make it clear to my readers here, I don’t mean to imply that I necessarily support North America’s presence in Afghanistan, but I am simply looking at this through an unbiased perspective. We need to be unbiased and try to look at the other side of the spectrum. What have we, Afghans/Pashtuns, done for our people, our women? Why are our own men exploiting our women this way? And I honestly don’t understand what “version” of Islam these people are following, for nowhere does it state that women should be banned from education or attaining access to other forms of freedom and independence. Also, the Taliban have their own agenda and as soon as NATO leaves, they won’t waste any time to take over and implement their extremely primitive laws, which we all very well know of, especially when it comes to women.
I realize that having outside forces meddling in the country’s affairs is not necessarily the solution, but it pretty much is a Catch-22; if NATO stays in Afghanistan, Afghans/Pashtuns suffer, and if they leave, they will suffer even more, for they (the Taliban) are following a “version” of Islam where it’s pretty much forbidden for women to attain any iota of education or independence. And this is something that has been ingrained in them for decades. Most are even convinced that education for women is a “thing of the west” and that anything “western” is taboo and should be eradicated by all means, because it’s “corrupting the women.” Education has nothing to do with the west, but most fail to realize this blatant fact. Also, there is no way anyone could ever explain this to the Taliban, if and when NATO were to leave; especially those Afghans pretending to be “activists” and claiming to fight for the freedom of Afghans living in Afghanistan. These western Afghans would never do it, because that would mean giving up their own freedom (living in the west, that they claim to “hate” so much). Yeah, go figure!
Perhaps, a better alternative would be to organize a communal revolt of some sort, but then the question is: Do communities even have the resources and courage to organize something like this; use a radical method of collective action to fight and attain personal growth, cooperative spirit, and the freedom from manipulation from both internal and outside forces? (Egypt managed to do it and succeeded; can Afghanistan do it too? Perhaps. Who knows?) For the philosophy of the said collective action would underlie its social vision, which can be found in the premise that freedom and independence needs to draw on materials from the everyday life of local communities, with minimum intervention from the state/government, and maximum participation of people in defining, controlling and experimenting with their own environment.
Take the Republic of Buryatia, in Russia, for example. They had been struggling to maintain/regain rights to land, identity, and culture in the face of colonialism for many years. And in Russia, it appears that government policies have pushed for European Russian/Soviet nationalism in an attempt to diminish or erase non-European identity. So what did the indigenous people decide to do? They staged large protests in administrative offices, and called for a reversal of the land legislation, return of greater autonomy for the Buryats, and more Buryat-language education. As a result, this massive revolt helped them to preserve and protect shamans; scholars; students; spiritual activities; language, promotion; demonstrations and petitions; revival of previously taboo historical figures and topics; and conferences bringing indigenous people together to consider common experiences, as well as seek strategies to strengthen their indigenous identity
However, I don’t mean to imply that a revolt is the ultimate solution for Afghanistan. No, not at all, actually. There are drawbacks, yes. And it’s not very easy to organize and even motivate people and communities to get involved, especially in a country like Afghanistan due to the fact that it has been a hub for a plethora of internal ethnic conflicts. Also, how would a politically oppressed group learn the skills and gain the experience and confidence to organize against a more powerful repressive force (which, in this case, would be the Taliban)? And how would a community engage in a revolt in an extremely restrictive socio-political environment, for example, many countries have laws forbidding unauthorized meetings, critical public statements, and collective action. So how would these citizens overcome their fear of violent retribution in order to come together and partake in such revolutionary activities?
I guess what I am trying to say is that it’s meaningless to have these feeble protests and pretend to be an activist when you don’t know the first thing about what these people, who are actually living in Afghanistan, are going through. Don’t be a voice for a people whom you are not willing to sacrifice your comfort for. Hating the west and not living in it is one thing, but to live here, enjoy the luxuries and then use these pathetic attempts to degrade the very country that salvaged you and your family when you moved here as refugees is deeply uncouth and completely undermines whatever “mission” you’re fighting for.
So, my suggestion is that if you’re so passionate about your homeland, pack up our bags and move there; live among your people and experience the horror they’re going through. Understand the consequences of what their lives will be like if NATO were to leave. Living in ignorance and showing unnecessary hatred for the west, especially Americans/Canadians is not the solution. It’s never the solution.