Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Afghan anti-war movement grows

Coverage of Afghanistan's burgeoning anti-war movement is sadly quite scarce, though we have seen in this space some of the more interesting reporting (see here for example). Lately, however, there have been developments which shed some interesting light on the (mostly) non-violent Afghan anti-war movement.

The Afghanistan Solidarity Party (ASP) has a platform dedicated to "women’s rights, democracy, and secular society, a disarming of the country, and freedom of the press," according to a spokesperson interviewed by Sonali Kolhatkar and James Ingalls. Formed in 2004, the ASP has its roots in Maoist parties of the past, though it may be mentioned that Maoism in Afghanistan was often simply a label for anti-Soviet Marxists and socialists. In a manner typical of Afghan political parties, the ASP operates as a coalition of six parties and forms a part of a larger association of like-minded secular parties oriented toward democracy. It reports being active in most of Afghanistan's 34 provinces.

The party's pursuit of a human rights-centered value system has earned it many members. The internationally respected former Afghan foreign minister Dadfar Spanta, once a member of Germany's Green Party, joined the ASP a while after its founding.

As well, the ASP has won the admiration of widely-known Afghan activist Malalai Joya. When asked by an Italian audience last year about what groups they could financially support, Joya recommended RAWA, the Afghan Women's Mission and the ASP.

Indeed the ASP has gained a wide variety of supporters. Canada's own liberal war-boosters the Canada-Afghan Solidarity Committee have helped raise money for them. CASC's Terry Glavin, a pro-war fanatic if there ever was one, wrote in 2008:

It's heartening to see the Afghanistan Solidarity Party making a comeback after key party leader and co-founder Lal Mohammad was beheaded by the Taliban three years ago. ...

These are precisely the kind of Afghans the Canada Afghanistan Solidarity Committee wants Canadians to know more about, and to support, politically, morally and materially. (link)
At the time the ASP was involved in the kind of mobilizing that Western war advocates can easily get behind. The party headed up a large demo in Kabul that year in support of Pervez Kambakhsh, the student journalist who has since been freed from death row. The CASC, however, will no doubt be disappointed to hear that the ASP is now mobilizing against the US-led occupation of their country.

Here you can see a Youtube video of an ASP protest in Herat this past May condemning Iran's hanging of several Afghan nationals living in Iran. The video shows a woman lifting her burka to speak into a megaphone, some minor property damage inflicted upon the Iranian embassy as well as what appears to be tussling with police. Participants are evidently a fairly broad mixture of people from secular and religious walks of life.

The Herat protest was part of several which the ASP organized in various cities. You can see photos of those demos here. All of them featured rhetoric aimed at the United States as well as Iran, and ASP banners denouncing the American-led occupation were prominent.

On July 30, a significant event occurred on the streets of Kabul, near the American embassy. A DynCorp SUV was involved in a collision with a civilian vehicle, killing one and seriously injuring two more. Accounts differ as to what followed, as US officials deny that the security contractors opened fire on the gathering crowd. In any case, a spontaneous protest broke out among those present, resulting in rioting as two DynCorp vehicles, the first having been joined by another, were set on fire. While most reports say that demonstrators set them on fire, AFP has an interesting account:
It was unclear how the vehicles were set alight, as some security firms torch cars they are forced to abandon as a matter of policy, a security contractor in Kabul said, speaking on condition of anonymity. (link)
The DynCorp employees reported injuries from the rioting. Press photos show young Afghans joyously stomping on a burning American SUV as others wield clubs and throw rocks at the wreck.

The ASP soon organized a protest to harness the anti-occupation sentiment. On August 1, hundreds of Kabulis hit the streets behind ASP banners and placards of various anti-occupation themes, one of which featured the iconic media image of young protesters smashing a DynCorp truck. The photos from the demo appear to show young men using face coverings to hide their identities (see here and here in particular).

Here's the story in the Afghan press:
Kabul residents protest against foreign troops
By Abdul Qadir Siddiqui

KABUL, Aug 1 (Pajhwok) Hundreds of men and women protested against foreign troops on Sunday in Kabul and demanded their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The demonstration started at around 10am from Shah Do Shamshera area of Kabul toward Deh Aghanan square, where the protesters chanted "death to the invaders", "death to the countries which interfere in the affairs of Afghanistan" and "killers of Afghans should leave Afghanistan."

The demonstration follows the deaths on Friday of four civilians [later said to be one killed, several injured - DM] whose car apparently pulled out in front of an armoured vehicle belonging to an American Embassy contractor and was crushed. The accident drew large crowds who threw stones and set the contractors vehicles on fire.

The protesters also chanted slogans against Pakistan and Iran, two other countries they accuse of interfering in Afghanistans affairs.

They condemned the acts of US and its alliance in Afghanistan, said chairman of Afghanistan Solidarity Party, Daud Razmak, who led the demonstration. ... (link)
And the Washington Post has more on the August 1 protest:
"Many times NATO troops and these cars have killed our innocent people. They never care whether we are Afghans or animals," said Samia, 26, an activist from Kabul who took part in the demonstration.

Samia, who like many Afghans goes by only one name, said that she did not want the Taliban to return to power in Afghanistan but that NATO has only aggravated the situation over the past decade and fed a parasitic and dependent Afghan government.

"We want NATO troops and American troops to leave Afghanistan. Even with their huge army, they couldn't do anything in the past 10 years. And in the future, they won't be able to do anything." (link)