Wed, 24 July 2024

Afghanistan’s lost legion

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by Mark Porter in Edinburgh

In January we highlighted the case of Faisal, a journalist who for the past 10 years worked hard for western news agencies enabling them to cover events in Afghanistan. He and his wife and two tiny children are amongst the many whom time is in danger of airbrushing amidst the carnage and genocide taking place in Ukraine.

For the headlines have cruelly switched focus, leaving journalists, translators and fixers in the dark as the Taliban ratchets up its baleful hold on the country. In the past month they have have segregated parks, banned foreign media such as the BBC and introduced traditional dress codes for government workers.

Faisal is a Hazara, a viciously persecuted minority, who are being killed and tortured for being from the ‘wrong’ tribe. Now there are deep divisions within the Taliban. ISIS and other groups are preparing for more suicide attacks. “Assassinations and suicide attacks continue each day and last week there was a deadly deadly series of attacks on schools in Kabul,” said Faisal this morning (Tues).

We started a GoFundMe campaign in January and very quickly raised more than €300 to assist Faisal and his family to obtain visas and passports to escape to Pakistan. For which, many thanks to those of you who kindly donated, though the total cost is likely to be considerably more than that.

The news that is getting out about the Taliban on its return to power is only a fraction of what is really going on. A very small part of the tragedy. It is horrible and hard to imagine what is happening to people all over the country. Particularly against non-Pashtuns, especially Hazaras.

“After the murder of an innocent woman attending a wedding there was a forced migration of 400 Hazara families in Gizab-Daykundi; the forcible eviction of ethnic Uzbeks in Northern Afghanistan. Arbitrary torture of people by members of this group. The killing of four women including a human rights activist in northern Afghanistan. And the killing of more than 100 former Afghan security forces by the Taliban, not to mention the slaughter of youngsters for the “crime” of listening to music.”

The list of horror goes on and on.

For some western governments the Legion of the Left Behind, like Faisal and Sara, are merely embarrassing statistics, recriminating figures on an excel spreadsheet. But like a stubborn stain, they refuse to go away, no matter how much the actualité is massaged.

They have refused to reopen girls’ secondary schools, banned women from travelling alone on planes and forced officials to grow beards. This is how the hardline Taliban clerics are demonstrating their renewed grip on Afghanistan’s government.

The reintroduction of repressive policies has also graphically exposed the limited influence foreign governments have over the Taliban authorities, said analysts. Even as the country staggers under a humanitarian crisis caused by the withdrawal of overseas financial support, the “Taliban care less than we in the international community have assumed”, said Asfandyar Mir, a south Asia expert at the US Institute of Peace.

“Once the benefits of engaging with the international community have become less clear . . . we see the Taliban leadership reneging on some of the commitments that they’ve made.”

Help Faisal and his family escape to Pakistan from whence they will go to Europe for a new beginning.

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