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The awakening within Afghanistan

By Kellie Tranter - posted Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Testifying to a US House of Representatives Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights on 31 October 2001, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan said:

After years of neglect, the desperate situation of the Afghan people is receiving much needed attention. However, the people's voices are rarely heard, and are at risk of being drowned out entirely by the horrific crash of war and global geo-politics… RAWA's work is also aimed toward giving voice to our downtrodden people, especially the women - and empowering women and men not to forget that they - we all - deserve human rights and freedoms and to look toward a day when the guns and rockets will stop and we can begin to rebuild… The current humanitarian situation is grave, and being made worse each day by the continued fighting, the US bombing, and the destruction and fear both continue to cause.

Ten years later, has anything changed? Media spin now supplements the roar of war and the grind of geo-politics to keep drowning out the voices of those Afghans who simply want to be free to liberate themselves.

The protests in Afghanistan on April 1, 2011 were widely reported as having been caused by Florida Pastor Terry Jones burning the Koran. He did that nearly two weeks earlier, on March 20, 2011. Did you buy that? Think about it - the sole reason?

Could Der Spigel's publication on March 21, 2011 of photographs of US soldiers posing with the dead bodies of Afghan civilians they killed have had something to do with the protests? That seems to have been the word at NATO headquarters, but why should that get in the way of a global "Prentiss McCabe"-style news production effort!


Did you notice that the protestors' signs didn't say "Up yours Terry"? They actually said, "We Want these bloody Bastard Americans With All Their Forces To Leave Afghanistan". See for yourself.

Afghans for Peace reported that:

The demonstration in Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh was organised ahead of time by community leaders at the local mosque, Balkh University, and Provincial Council. They had informed the Provincial Governor and Police Chief early on that they planned a peaceful protest while some even intended to hand in a resolution to the UN. Many in the crowd of protesters were undoubtedly condemning the Koran burning, yet it was not what motivated all 20,000 people in Mazar-e-Sharif to take to the streets. Witness reports, along with photographic and video footage show that the demonstration consisted of people protesting against both the Koran burning and NATO forces.

Furthermore, the protest in Mazar-e-Sharif was not an isolated incident, rather a nation-wide protest spanning the following provinces Balkh, Herat, Kandahar, Kabul, Laghman, Nangarhar, Parwan, Paktia and Helmand.

Advance notice of the demonstrations certainly correlates with a Security Announcement referred to by OSAC on April 1, 2010.

What makes the protest even more interesting is that one occurred in Mazar-i-Sharif, in the north, where just weeks before president Karzai had announced that Afghan forces would take over security from NATO in Mazar-i-Sharif.

So are we making progress in Afghanistan or not? Does this all explain reports of Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef slipping in and out of the UK backdoor?

So what are these protests really about?

Afghan women's rights activist and author Malalai Joya describes it in this way:

The "kill team" images will come as a shock to many outside Afghanistan but not to us. We have seen countless incidents of American and NATO forces killing innocent people like birds. For instance, they recently killed nine children in Kunar Province who were collecting firewood. In February this year they killed 65 innocent villagers, most of them women and children. In this case, as in many others, NATO claimed that they had only killed insurgents, even though local authorities acknowledged that the victims were civilians. To prevent the facts coming out they even arrested two journalists from Al-Jazeera who attempted to visit and report from the site of the massacre.

The Karzai regime is more hated than ever: it only rules through intimidation, corruption, and with the help of the occupying armies. Afghans deserve much better than this.

However, this does not mean more Afghans are supporting the reactionary so-called resistance of the Taliban. Instead we are seeing the growth, under very difficult conditions, of another resistance led by students, women and the ordinary poor people of Afghanistan. They are taking to the streets to protest against the massacre of civilians and to demand an end to the war. Demonstrations like this were recently held in Kabul, Marzar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad and Farah.

Slowly, bit by bit, we're seeing the Afghan nation rising up. On March 31, 2011 RAWA News reported that the expression of revolutionary sentiments by Afghan youth is facilitated by phones, private TV channels and social networking. It also said that "According to the national census two years ago, 67 per cent of the population is younger than 25. Most of the youth, particularly those living in big cities in Afghanistan, are tech-savvy and educated".

Would we all be surprised if, as is occurring in North Africa, progressive young city-dwellers mobilised to overthrow the ruling regime? Assuming the improbable, that the invading powers allowed widespread public protest to swell and threaten the Karzai government, how would that sort of movement be portrayed in the press releases that cross directly into the mainstream media?

But what is even more disturbing about the real news from the ground is that if the national census data is correct then we are, by and large, engaged in a war against kids. Are we fighting in Afghanistan for any purpose greater than repressing the revolt of a dispossessed generation who simply want to regain a degree of personal freedom and a modicum of self determination? Perhaps our Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister could take a little time out from pulling one another's hair to read "Please Stop Killing Us", a letter from the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. If they could speak to those issues when they try to justify our involvement in Afghanistan they might engage the minds of the many Australians who no longer believe the "news" that is reported from there.

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About the Author

Kellie Tranter is a lawyer and human rights activist. You can follow her on Twitter @KellieTranter

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