Islamic Voice
Shawwal/Zul-Qada 1422
January 2002
Volume 15-01 No:181

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Features


Rebuilding Afhanistan


Rebuilding Afhanistan

When the Buddha statues of Bamiyan were being demolished the morld heard about it non-stop. But nobody has had time for the death of Afghans every five minutes for the past 20 years.

Afghans

By A Staff Writer

"U.S. Meeting Envisions Rebuilding Afghanistan" read the headline in the Washington Post of November 21. After a one-day meeting in Washington of leaders from two dozen nations and international organisations, US and Japanese officials said they had developed an "action program" for the long-term rebuilding of the war-ravaged country. But no concrete action has been taken since then, perhaps it is likely a lot more propaganda here than substance.

It's a remarkable pattern. The United States has a long record of bombing nations, reducing entire neighborhoods, and much of cities, to rubble, wrecking the infrastructure, ruining the lives of those the bombs did not kill. And afterwards doing nothing to repair the damage. The surrender of Kandahar by Mullah Mohammed Omar may, as far as the West is concerned, mark the end of militant Islam in Afghanistan. But the magnitude of the tasks before the world community is of daunting proportions.

According to the various reports the U.S. military campaign has made it impossible for international relief organisations to deliver the food aid necessary to prevent the starvation of millions of Afghan civilians in the winter. The scattered aid efforts of the United States have been roundly criticised as insufficient, or even counter-productive. A massive humanitarian crisis remains.

The facts are simple. Massive food distribution programs put in place in response to widespread famine were derailed by the anticipation of and then the actual U.S. bombing campaign, and have been even further affected by the Taliban's retreat. According to the New York Times of November 30, 2001, "In the past two weeks, the tonnage of aid delivered dropped to a pace less than half of what it had been in the previous two weeks." The problem is that the "towns and cities are so chaotic that relief agencies cannot safely operate. Many roads are off limits because of banditry."

The Guardian (London) of December 4, 2001 reports: "I don't even want to think about the body count last night, but it will only be the beginning because the aid agencies have still not got the access they need to do their job effectively. There are people with no tents, no warm clothes. We're going to see a lot more child deaths." The immediate priority is to feed, clothe and shelter millions through the winter. UN experts believe 7 million people are at risk, a humanitarian challenge that dwarfs other recent refugee emergencies such as Kosovo. According to a report by Georges Dutreix in The Toronto of December 4, 2001: “Conditions in Afghanistan are getting worse and the stability of the country is very precarious," said Dutreix, who is the head of mission for Medecins sans frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).

Afghanistan has an area of 7,00,000 square kilometres. People live in cavernous valleys. According to available figures, Afghanistan had a population of 20 million in 1992. In the past 20 years, and since the Russian occupation, about 2.5 million Afghans have died as a direct or indirect result of the war – army assaults, famine or lack of medical attention

The American-led bombing of Kandahar has reduced Afghanistan's second-largest city to a shell, forcing 85 per cent of the 8,00,000 population to flee. Iranian film maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf in an eye witness account published in a recent issue of Himal South Asian said "Around the city of Heart, I witnessed about 20,000 men, women and children starving to death. They could not walk and were strewn on the ground awaiting the inevitable. This was the result of the recent famine. In Dushanbe in Tajikistan I saw 1,00,000 Afghans running from south to north, on foot. It looked like doomsday. Such scenes are never shown in the media anywhere in the world. War-stricken and hungry children had run for miles and miles, barefoot. This fleeing crowd was attacked and refused asylum in Tajikistan. They died in their thousands in a no-man’s land between Afghanistan and Tajikistan and neither you found out nor anybody else. As a Tajik poet put it: ‘it is not strange if someone in the world dies for so much sorrow that Afghanistan has. What is strange is why nobody dies of this grief.’"Makhmalbaf has travelled within Afghanistan and witnessed the reality of life in that nation. In 13 years he had produced two feature films on Afghanistan – The Cyclist (1988) and Kandahar (2001).

The Tragedy in Statistics

Afghanistan has an area of 7,00,000 square kilometres. People live in cavernous valleys. According to available figures, Afghanistan had a population of 20 million in 1992. In the past 20 years, and since the Russian occupation, about 2.5 million Afghans have died as a direct or indirect result of the war – army assaults, famine or lack of medical attention. In other words, every year 1,25,000, or about 340 people a day, or 14 people every hour, or one in about every five minutes have either died or been killed.

When the Buddha statues of Bamiyan were being demolished the world heard about it non-stop. But nobody has had time for the death of Afghans every five minutes for the past 20 years. The number of Afghan refugees is even more tragic. According to the more precise statistics available, Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan total 6.3 million (before the current and continuing exodus). If this figure is divided by the year, day, hour and minute, in the past 20 years, one person has become a refugee every minute. This number does not include those who scurry from north to south and vice versa to survive the civil war.

"I personally have no knowledge of any nation whose population has been reduced by 10 per cent via mortality and 30 per cent through migration and yet faced so much indifference from the world" said Makhmalbaf.

Threats from Mines

‘Every 24 hours, seven people step on mines in Afghanistan. A Canadian group that had come to defuse mines found the tragedy simply too vast, lost hope and returned. According to the group, over the next 50 years, the people of Afghanistan must step on mines in large numbers to make their land safe and liveable. The reason is that every group or sect has strewn mines against the other without map or plan. And when, it rains hard, surface water repositions these devices, turning once safe remote roads into dangerous paths. Very simply, a nation has mined itself to the brink of extinction.

William Blum the author of "Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II” says: "Whoever ends up ruling Afghanistan will be conspicuously unable to block the establishment of US military bases, electronic listening posts, oil and gas piplelines, or whatever else Washington would like to build there. As to the United States doing some building for the Afghan people, they may have a long wait".

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