Looking Beyond the Veil In Afghanistan
By Ramzy Baroud
For Afghanistan, the past twenty years, starting with the Soviet invasion in December of 1979, to the present, can only be viewed as a long uninterrupted tragedy with new victims falling daily. For somewhat obvious reasons, a great lack of interest has surfaced among Muslim as well as non-Muslim nations regarding the resolve of the lengthy and costly conflict. As a result, most parties, which one would presume to be courteous enough to interfere, sit afar and either bashfully urge peace, condemn terrorism and the treatment of women, label, sanction and demonize Afghani individuals or parties.
So, whose business is Afghanistan anyway? The Taliban and its rivals? Muslim nations, near and far? The United Nations? Or should we shrug our shoulders and move on like many, who see the ongoing struggle as part of "Afghanistan's tribal nature"?
As the Mujahideen chased the Red Army out of Kabul, chanting crowds roared in the streets of many world capitals, celebrating the astounding victory of the "weak and righteous" against the "strong and wicked". Some Muslims saw the victory as the first step toward many battles to be fought against the injustices of their time. Political analysts saw the victory as a triumph for the Islamic ideology which some predicted would soon replace most of the Muslim world's borrowed ideologies.
Such predictions mounted fear among many regional governments who have long succeeded in suppressing Islamic movement members who sought presence and influence in their own nations. The moral victory of Afghanistan was followed by the homecoming of non-Afghani Mujahideen. New mini wars have ignited in other places outside Afghanistan, and the least concern of many at this point is the plight of Afghanis and the future of Afghanistan.
A short victory celebration soon ended as Afghani factions began battling one another. The war atrocities inflicted by the Russians, were, in certain cases, exceeded by the Afghanis themselves. The war torn nation was ripped to smithereens, time and again by the hands of those who vowed to redeem and rebuild it.
The silent reaction of Muslim nations and governments was predicted. Afghanistan was not a place that many governments were fond of to begin with. After all it was the territory where many of its local Mujahideen learned the art of armed struggle, and came back with ideas viewed as security threats. But also, the end of the war could mean the return of more Mujahideen, the re-rising of the Islamic state ideology, and perhaps the funding of Islamic movements by whomever would emerge as a victorious Afghani faction.
The interference of the United States in the first ten years of the war (with Russia) and its withdrawal in the second phase symbolizes the expected war philosophy of the west. Since the cold war is over, although death and destruction have resumed soon after, the west found Afghanistan a unexciting place where a bunch of tribes were fighting one another for no apparent reason. But one final opportunity was left in Afghanistan that if employed wisely, the Afghani tragedy could still be used for the west's interests. For decades the west, has been leading a campaign against Muslim society, religious and non-religious, long before the word "Mujahideen" was even recognized as an English term. When the Afghans struggled against the "evil empire", they somehow were seen as men with courage and integrity. Not long after, they were demonized and used to defame Muslims and Islam altogether.
But the west did not lose complete interest in Afghanistan. Instead it shifted to selected areas of interest. If you live in the west, it is highly unlikely you have heard of the cases of Polio that are crippling hundreds of Afghanis, mostly children each year. Moreover, it is very likely you have heard of the enforcement of the veil on women. It is highly unlikely you read an article about the devastating drought that is forcing mass migrations of entire Afghani villages, and resulting in the death of thousands of animals, but you may have heard about how girls are not allowed to attend schools and boys are. If the veil is now seen as Afghanistan's greatest miseries, how should we value the death of innocents, the drought, the extreme poverty, the loss of hope, the loss of a future, the hundreds of thousands crippled by the war, the unemployment, and of course, the ongoing war.
The situation in Afghanistan is a much larger dilemma than what is seen through the west's narrow scope. There is a real devastation that can hardly be viewed apart from foreign influences, internal problems, and of course the Muslim world's apathy. But before we try to analyze who is more or less responsible, perhaps we ought to remind ourselves of the real victim in all of this, the Afghani people, who once sought freedom but now dream of mere survival.