Saturday, August 9, 2008

Western liberals ignore Afghan opinion

From the Guardian's Conor Foley, who is a former humanitarian aid worker and has considerable experience in Afghanistan:

Afghanistan's future is female

Conor Foley

Aug 5 - [...] Zakia (not her real name) is a former director of an Afghan non-governmental organisation (NGO) the humanitarian Assistance for Women and Children in Afghanistan, established in January 1999...

"We need peace," says Zakia. "The Americans' bombs are not the answer. The two sides will have to sit down and talk some day, so the only question is how many of us have to get killed before that happens." I press her about whether she would accept a role for the Taliban in government and she pauses before replying:

"Yes, this would be a big price to pay, but if they lay down their guns and accept the constitution, why not? After all, people with the same attitudes are already in the government. What is happening at the moment is worse because while the conflict continues our whole society is being Talibanised and corrupted." ...

Zakia stresses that she is a Muslim and a patriot who is as sickened at the corruption of true Islamic values by the fundamentalists as she is by the continuing destruction of her country by foreign forces.

Many western liberals seem to have a particular problem understanding people like Zakia, but the views that she expressed are representative of hundreds of conversations that I have had with Afghan friends and colleagues over the years. These express relief at the overthrow of the Taliban – and real gratitude to the international community for its initial intervention – tempered by frustration that the opportunity was not used to break the grip of the warlords and gangsters who have consolidated their position over the last six years.

More recently I have also felt a growing anger at the ineffectiveness of the international community's assistance strategy and the inept and brutal conduct of its military campaign. There is still a window of opportunity to change the broad direction of western policy towards the country, but it is getting smaller by the day. (link)

Foley is quite right when he points out that western liberals ignore voices like Zakia's. Recently, we heard from Sonali Kolhatkar, who remarked that:

Women like Malalai Joya are "inconvenient" for the Bush administration. That's because Joya echoes the will of her people in calling for an end to warlords, AND an end to the US occupation.
(More on Malalai Joya here, here and here.)

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