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IUK: Fisk - Watching the war from Kabul's rooftops
By Robert Fisk
18/10/2001 3:18 pm Thu
[Ini adalah pendapat pelarian yang tidak menyetujui Taleban. Tetapi beliau
nampaknya keresahan kerana Amerika yang datang itu lagi tidak boleh diharapkan.
Tetapi sempadan sudahpun ditutup untuk dia kembali pulang jika ingin berjuang.
Dia sudahpun tertipu dan kini hanya mampu memandang sambil diiringi luka yang
Watching the war from Kabul's rooftops
Robert Fisk in Peshawar
18 October 2001
Mohamed saw the "Arabs" of Kabul leaving at dawn the day after
the suicide attacks in New York and Washington, with their families
and their guns.
"They were taking their possessions out of their homes with their
wives and children and they were in a hurry,'' the 63-year-old
driver says. "I had just heard about the attacks on Iranian radio
and I was driving around Kabul very early on 12 September and
they were everywhere leaving: Taliban and their families, Arabs
and their people.
"The Arabs had Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.
One of their trucks had a tarpaulin over the top so no one could
see what was inside.''
Shirahmed - whose surname, like Mohamed's, has been withheld
so he cannot be identified - was in Kabul to sell the 10-roomed
family home he built 19 years ago with his own hands. He saw the
exodus of the "Arabs" and went to call a friend from the central
telephone office. "There was an Arab there trying to get through on
the phone to Sudan and four other Arabs in a car outside," he
says. "They were shouting and angry. The man couldn't get
through to Khartoum. They left at speed in their car. All the big
Taliban families went the same day.''
Mohamed noticed that the Arab fighters were wearing Taliban
clothes, complete with black turbans, but their children wore white
caps with a rectangle cut into the front. "That is the way the
children dress in Kandahar,'' he says.
The Arabs fleeing their suburban apartments in Shahrenov,
Kalfatullah, Parwaneseh and Merken knew what was coming.
Everyone in Kabul knew. "I listened to the Persian service of the
BBC and Voice of America and to Iranian radio and the moment I
heard about New York and that it might involve Osama [bin
Laden], I thought there would be a war in Afghanistan,'' says
Shirahmed, who is in his sixties. "That morning, everyone rushed
to the shops to buy food and livestock and prices went very high.
Later, when the American attacks started, they went very low. No
one thought about Osama. They had their own problems.''
Listening to the two men - Shirahmed now a permanent refugee in
Pakistan, Mohamed waiting for Pakistani permission to return home
to Kabul - it is clear that a kind of frightening normality settled over
the Afghan capital in the month after the attacks in America.
Pro-Taliban Pakistani fighters were seen all over Kabul. Mohamed
remembers that the Taliban carried out one of their bloody
punishments on 22 September: the amputation of the left hand of
three men for theft and rape.
"It was the last of the punishments,'' he says. "Once the American
attack started on 7 October, the Taliban wanted to be very friendly
with us. They would say: 'OK, we are all brother Muslims, we have
to be united. We will rebuild the country. Allah will help us.' But
people didn't believe them - they knew the Taliban very well.
They knew the Taliban's links with Pakistan were cut. They were
all alone now."
Neither Shirahmed nor Mohamed are Pashtuns, so you would not
expect them to like the largely Pashtun Taliban. Even so, their
memories of the American bombardment seem extraordinarily clear
and precise. Both remember how, for the first three days, US
aircraft would start their attacks at 9pm. Shirahmed watched the
flash of explosions of the first raid from the roof of his brother's
home in Khaikhana.
"The first we heard was the roar of an aircraft and anti-aircraft fire
from the Taliban side about two miles from the airport," he says.
"Everyone was frightened, but they were also happy because they
thought this would change the Taliban government.
"But I think the Americans have made their biggest mistake: if they
want to get the Taliban or Osama, that's fine. But they don't have
to kill innocent people. The Pashtuns were very angry, although
many had left Kabul before the attacks."
The American aircraft would bomb their targets every 10 minutes
for three hours, one after another, "one aircraft at a time in the
sky'', according to Mohamed. Shirahmed noticed how, after four
days, the Americans appeared to open a "second stage" -
attacking at 9pm, breaking off after a few hours, then resuming at
"So many people went to the roof of their homes to see the
bombing, it was like a cinema show,'' he says. "On the third night,
the Americans bombed the medium wave transmitter tower at
Yekatut and Radio Shariat [the Taliban station] went off the air.
Nobody listened to it anyway."
But Mohamed did. "The Taliban radio told us to stay in our homes
and not to leave Kabul. They said 'everything is normal and
Taliban morale is very high and we are preparing to resist the
Americans.' [They] started to act very kindly towards us. Most of
the checkpoints disappeared. The prices came down. Ninety-eight
kilograms of flour before the attacks cost 1,600,000 Afghanis;
afterwards, it went down to 750,000.
"People were happy to think the Taliban might collapse because
most of them had no jobs. When the Americans bombed, officials
were told not to go to work, which meant they were not paid - and
that made the Taliban even more unpopular.''
Four days into the bombings, Shirahmed heard the television
transmitter tower at Kohe Asmai was under attack. "I heard that
women and children were killed near the airport but saw no bodies
Mohamed, living in the centre of Kabul, left his wife and family late
last week on routine work for the charity in Peshawar for which he
works. At the border at Torkham, the Taliban - suddenly friendly
towards non-Pashtuns - pleaded successfully with the frontier
guards to let Mohamed cross. He is now trapped in Pakistan: he
has not been able to return across the border.
Shirahmed, having sold his family home, left in near misery over
the mountains south of Torkham. "I built that house myself and four
of my five children were born there," he says. "It had a basement
and two storeys and a little garden and we were happy, and now
we are sad. Now seven members of my family live in one room in
Peshawar and we pay $40 a month in rent.''
As for Mohamed, he is thinking of the winter. "If the American
attacks continue, the people will be in a terrible situation,'' he
says. "The roads will be closed, the snow is coming, there will be
no food, no warmth. It will be a catastrophe for us.''