Monday, October 1, 2007

Interview - Ragstar and Skinner

Back in the summer, we ran excerpts of Mike Skinner's travelogue of Afghanistan (starting here). Today we run an excerpt of an interview on the Dominion site with Skinner and fellow Afghan-Canada Research Group member Hamayon Ragstar. Skinner and Ragstar spent one and three months in Afghanistan on their recent visits, respectively (Ragstar was born there).

[Skinner:] ... We were told that the Canadian military is forcing evacuations of villages. Many people also suffer human rights abuses such as home invasions, arbitrary arrest and detention.

We occasionally hear about some of the worst cases of civilian deaths in the Canadian media, but most of the damage our military is doing remains undocumented.

...I think that probably the largest number of [the population of Afghanistan] actually had some really mixed feelings[about the US/NATO invasion]; a lot of people said initially they’d hoped there would be some progressive change. The Taliban were a repressive regime, certainly an incredibly anti-woman regime so people held out hope for some progressive change. But that hope has dissipated in the past 6 years because those changes have not occurred. ...

We asked for a list of CIDA projects from the Canadian embassy in Afghanistan and they said they would contact us and we never heard back from them. We stumbled across one CIDA project that was an artificial insemination project – with a sign on an office – it was closed and the windows were broken. ...

[Question:] RAWA (Revolutionary Association of Afghan Women), Malalai Joya (former Afghan parliamentarian), and sections of the international ‘left’ who recognize the presence of warlords and drug barons in the Afghan government, but who say the regime as a whole cannot be dismissed. That is, they claim that people like Karzai are different from these warlords, and can still be worked with. Do you agree with this assertion?

Hamayon Ragstar: I don’t agree with this position at all because it does not reflect the reality on the ground. Hamid Karzai’s government is corrupt from A to Z –Hamid Karzai’s brother himself, Ahmad Wali Karzai, is the largest drug lord in the southern provinces. ...

[Skinner, on the Canadian Forces:] The Canadian military will give 24 hours warning to a village, they’ll tell the people ‘we are coming to your village – evacuate!’ and if you don’t evacuate you risk being killed. So of course people evacuate. The forces come in, they are looking for weapons, explosives. But because it is considered unsafe to go into a building because it might be booby-trapped, they just destroy every building: they destroy the homes, they destroy the farm buildings, they destroy the wells because there might be weapons hidden in the well. And then they leave and tell the people they can go back. Then for some reason the Canadian military is shocked when these people become refugees instead of going back and starting all over again to rebuild their homes and their farms... (links: part 1; part 2)

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