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The Invisible Afghanistan [Mesti Baca]
By Sayyid Rahmatullah Hashemi
16/10/2001 2:14 pm Tue
The Invisible Afghanistan
The Qur'an says, "O you who believe! If a rebellious evil person comes
to you with a news, verify it, lest you harm people in ignorance, and
afterwards you become regretful to what you have done." [Al-Hujurat
[Sayyid Rahmatullah Hashemi is the roving Ambassador from Afghanistan
who recently visited the US. The following is the edited version of the
transcription of a lecture given by him at the University Of Southern
California in Los Angeles, on March 10, 2001]
I was just coming from a meeting with a group of scholars, and the first
thing we started talking about there was the statues. And the first
thing we started talking about here was also the statues. It is very
unfortunate how little we see and how little we know. Nobody has seen
the problems of Afghanistan; nobody saw their problems before. And the
only thing that represents Afghanistan today are the statues.
Afghanistan is called the Crossroads of Asia. So, we are suffering
because of our geo-strategic location. We have suffered in the 18th
century, 19th century, and we are still suffering in this century. We
have not attacked the British. We have not attacked the Russians. It was
them who attacked us. So the problems in Afghanistan you see are not our
The Soviet Invasion
The recent problems in Afghanistan started in 1979. Afghanistan was a
peaceful country. The Russians, along with their 140,000 troops attacked
Afghanistan in the December of 1979, just 21 years ago, stayed there for
a decade, killed one and a half million people, maimed one million more
people, and six million out of the eighteen million people migrated
because of the Russian brutalities. Even today, our children are dying
because of the landmines that they planted for us. And nobody knows
After the Russians left during the Russian occupation, on the other
side, the American government, the British government, the French, the
Chinese, and all of the rest, supported the counter-revolutionaries
called the Mujahideen; There were seven parties only in Pakistan and
eight parties in Iran who fought the Russian occupation. And after the
Russians left, these parties went into Afghanistan. All of them had
different ideologies, and a lot of weapons. And instead of having a
single administration, they fought in Afghanistan. The destruction that
they brought was worse than the destruction the Russians brought. 63,000
people were only killed in the capitol, Kabul. Another million people
migrated because of this lawlessness.
The Beginning of Taliban
Seeing this destruction and lawlessness, a group of students called the
Taliban, i.e. a group of students (Taliban is the plural of student in
our language; it may be two students in Arabic, but in our language it
means students) started a movement called the Movement of Students. It
first started in a village in the southern province of Afghanistan,
called Kandahar. It happened when a war-lord, or a commander abducted
two minor girls and violated them. The parents of those girls went to a
school and asked the teacher of the school to help them. The teacher of
that school, along with his 53 students, finding only 16 guns, went and
attacked the base of that commander. After releasing those two girls,
they hanged that commander, and so many of his people were also hanged.
This story was told everywhere. BBC also quoted this story. Hearing this
story, many other students joined this movement and started disarming
the rest of the warlords. This same students movement now controls 95%
of the country including its capital. Only a bunch of those warlords are
remaining in the northern corridor of Afghanistan.
We have been in government for only five years, and the following things
that we have done, and many of you may not know:
1.) The first thing we have done is reunifying the fragmented country.
Afghanistan was formerly fragmented into five parts. We unified it when
nobody else could do it.
2.) Second thing we have done, which everybody failed to do, was
disarming the population. After the war every Afghan got a Kalashnikov,
and even sophisticated weapons such as stinger missiles, and they even
got fighter planes and fighter helicopters. Disarming these people
seemed to be impossible. The United Nations in 1992 made an appeal
asking for 3 billion dollars to re-purchase those arms. And because of
its impracticality, that plan never materialized, and everybody forgot
about Afghanistan. So the second thing we have done is to disarm 95% of
3.) The third thing that we have done is to establish a single
administration in Afghanistan, which did not exist for 10 years.
4.) The fourth achievement that we have that is surprising to everybody
is that we have eradicated 75% of world's opium cultivation. Afghanistan
produced 75% of worlds opium. And last year we issued an edict asking
the people to stop growing opium, and this year, the United Nations Drug
Control Program, UNDCP, and their head, Mr. Barnard F. proudly announced
that there was 0% of opium cultivation. Zero, zilch, none at all.
Incidentally this was not good news for UN itself because many of them
lost their jobs. In the UNDCP, 700 so called experts were working there
and they got their salaries and they never went into Afghanistan. So
when we issued this edict, I know that they were not happy. And this
year they lost their jobs.
5.) The fifth achievement that we have, is the restoration of Human
rights. Now, you may think that we are involved in violation of Human
Rights. The reality is exactly the opposite. Among the fundamental
rights of a human being is the right to live. Before us, nobody could
live peacefully in Afghanistan.
The first thing we have done, is to give to the people a secure and
peaceful life. The second major thing that we have restored is to give
them free and fair justice; you don't have to buy justice, unlike here.
In Afghanistan justice is free and readily available.
We have been criticized for violating women's rights. Do you know what
happened before us? I can see some Afghans living here, and they will
agree with me, that in the rural areas of Afghanistan, women were used
as animals. They were sold actually. We stopped this abominable
They didn't use to have any say in the selection of their husbands.
First thing we have done is to let them choose their future.
Another thing that used to happen in Afghanistan was women were
exchanged as gifts. Of course, this was not something religious; this
was something cultural. When two fighting tribes wanted reconciliation,
they would exchange women. And this has been stopped.
Another thing that used to happen in Afghanistan was women were exchanged as gifts. Of course, this was not something religious; this was something cultural. When two fighting tribes wanted reconciliation, they would exchange women. And this has been stopped.
Unlike what is generally said women do work in Afghanistan. True that
until 1996 when we captured the capital Kabul, we did ask women to stay
home. It didn't mean that we wanted them to stay at home forever. We
said that there is no law, and there is no order, and you have to stay
We disarmed the people, and we established law and order, and now women
are working. True, that women are not working in the ministry of
defense, like here. We don't want our women to be fighter pilots, or to
be used as objects of decoration for advertisements. But they do work.
They work in the Ministry of Health, Interior, Ministry of Education,
Ministry of Social Affairs, and so on.
Similarly we don't have any problem with women's education. We have said
that we want education, and we will have education whether or not we are
under anybody's pressure, because that is part of our belief. We are
ordered to do that. When we say that there should be segregated schools,
it does not mean that we don't want our women to be educated. It is true
that we are against co-education; but it is not true that we are against
We do have schools even now, but the problem is the resources. We cannot
expand these programs. Before, our government numerous curriculums were
going on. There were curriculums that preached for the kings,
curriculums that preached for the communists, and curriculums from all
the seven parties. So, the students were confused as to what to study.
We have started to unify the curriculum and that is going on.
Recently we reopened the faculty of medical science in all major cities
of Afghanistan and in Kandahar. There are more girls students studying
in the faculty of medical sciences than boys are. But they are
segregated. And the Swedish committees have also established schools for
girls. I know they are not enough, but that is what we have been able to
Osama bin Laden
We are also accused of sponsoring terrorism. And for Americans terrorism
or terrorist means only bin Laden. Now you will not know that
Afghanistan, or bin Laden was in Afghanistan for 17 years before we even
existed. Bin Laden was in Afghanistan, fought the Soviet Union, and Mr.
Ronald Reagan, the president of America at that time, and Mr. Dick
Chaney called such people freedom fighters or the Heroes of
Independence, because they were fighting for their cause. And now when
the Soviet Union is fragmented, such people were not needed anymore, and
they were transformed into terrorists. From heroes to terrorists. This
is exactly like Mr. Yasser Arafat who was transformed from a terrorist
to a hero.
What is the difference between those acts that bin Laden is blamed for
and the 1998 cruise missile attacks on Afghanistan. Neither of the two
were declared and both of them killed civilians. If it means killing
civilians blindly, both of them killed civilians blindly.
The United States government tried to kill a man without even giving him
a fair trial. In 1998, they just sent cruise missiles into Afghanistan
and they announced that they were trying to kill Osama bin Laden. We
didn't know Osama bin Laden then. I didn't know him; he was just a
simple man. So we were all shocked. I was one of those men who was
sitting at home at night, I was called for an immediate council meeting
and we all were told the United States had attacked Afghanistan. With 75
cruise missiles they tried to kill one man. And they missed that man;
killed 19 other students and never apologized for those killings.
What would you do if you were in our situation. If we were to go and
send 75 cruise missiles into the United States and say that we were
going to kill a man that we thought was responsible for our embassy, and
we missed that man, and we killed 19 other Americans what would the
United States do? An instant declaration of war. But we are polite. We
did not declare war.
Rather we have been very open-minded on this issue. We have said, that
if really this man is involved in the Kenya/Tanzania acts, if anybody
can give us proof or evidence about his involvement in these horrific
acts, we will punish him. Nobody gave us evidence. We put him on trial
for 45 days and nobody gave us any kind of evidence. The United States
told us they did not believe in our judicial system. We were surprised
as to what kind of judicial system they have? They just tried to kill a
man without even giving him a fair trial. Even if one of us is a
criminal here, the police are not going to blow his house; he must go to
a court first.
So our first proposal was rejected. They said they do not believe in our
judicial system, and we must extradite him to New York. After the
rejection of this first proposal was we said we were ready to accept an
international monitoring group to come into Afghanistan and monitor this
man's activities in Afghanistan. So that he does nothing. Even that he
has no telecommunications. That proposal was also rejected.
The third proposal we gave, six months ago, was that we were ready to
try or accept the trial of Osama bin Laden in a third Islamic country,
with the consent of Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. That was also
We are still very open minded. And for the fourth time, I m here, with a
letter from my leadership that I m going to submit to the state
department hoping that they will resolve the problem. But I don't think
that they'll. Because we think, and I personally think now that maybe
the United States is looking for a boogey man always. Remember what
Gorbachev said? He said, that he's going to do the worst thing ever to
the United States. And everybody thought that he's going to blow the
United States with nuclear weapons. But he said, I m going to remove
their enemy. And then he fragmented Soviet Union. And he was right.
After he fragmented Soviet Union, a lot of people lost their jobs in the
Pentagon, in the CIA, and the FBI, because they were not needed anymore.
So we think that maybe these guys are looking for a boogey man now.
Maybe they want to justify their annual budget, maybe they want to make
their citizens feel that they are still needed to defend them.
Afghanistan is not a terrorist state; we cannot even make a needle. How
are we going to be a terrorist state? How are we going to be a threat to
the world? If the world terrorism is really derived from the word
terror, then there are countries making weapons of mass destruction,
countries making nuclear weapons, they are terrorist states; we are not.
Now, we are under sanctions. And the sanctions have caused a lot of
problems. Despite that we already had been going through so many
problems--- the 23 years of continuous war, the total destruction of our
infrastructure, and the problem of refugees, and the problem of land
mines in our agricultural lands --- all of a sudden the United Nations,
with the provocation of Russia, is imposing sanctions on Afghanistan.
And the sanctions have been approved; we are under sanctions. Several
hundred children died a month ago. Seven hundred children died because
of malnutrition and the severe cold weather. Nobody even talked about
that. Everybody knows about the statues.
Renovating Statues as People Die
When the world is destroying our future with economic sanctions, then
they have no right to worry about our past. I called my headquarters, I
asked them, why are they going to blow the statues, and I talked to the
head of the council of scholars of people, who had actually decided
this, he told me that UNESCO and an NGO from Sweden, or from one of
these Scandinavian countries Norway, Sweden, one of these they had
actually come, with a project of rebuilding the face of these statues,
which have worn by rain. The council of people told them to spend that
money in saving the lives of these children, instead of spending it to
restore these statues. And these guys said, "No, this money is only for
the statues." And the people were really pissed off. They said that, If
you don't care about our children, we are going to blow those statues.
If you were in such a situation what would you do? If your children are
dying in front of your eyes, and you are under sanctions, and then the
same people who have imposed sanctions and are coming and building
statues here? What would you do?
And there is Kofi Annan. You know Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of
United Nations? He went to Pakistan, and he said he is going to meet our
representative there. This man never bothered to come, to talk about
these children, he never bothered himself to talk about six million
refugees, and he never talked about the poverty of Afghanistan. He only
goes to that region because of these statues.
It is really, really ridiculous. These people do not care about
children, about people who are dying there, about the foreign
interference that still exists; they only care about the statues. And I
am sure they don't care about our heritage. They only care about their
picnic site one time. Maybe they'll have a good picnic site there,
seeing those statues.
And I'm sure these sanctions which are imposed on our government will
never change us, because for us, our ideology is everything. To try to
change our ideology with economic sanctions will never work. It may work
in the United States, where the economy is everything, but for us, our
ideology is everything. And we believe that it is better to die for
something than to live for nothing.