My op-ed column on Outlook Feb 15
Heart cries for the five kids and widow of the security guard who, along with his fellow guard, was killed by suicide bomber yesterday in the attack on Kabul City Center. Heartfelt tributes to the brave souls who stopped the Taliban bombers from entering the famous shopping mall at the heart of Kabul. One of the guards was the lone breadwinner of his family, five kids and wife. Soon after the attack, there was a Breaking News statement on the website of Taliban in Pashto, giving details of the bomber who had blown up himself. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid sent cell phone text messages to reporters claiming responsibility for the attack. The statement on Al-emarah website published as Breaking News says Zabihullah from Badakhshan made the first attack on the “security post” and killed one. “Three other bombers, Alam Gul, Hamidullah and Janat Gul gunned down the security guards,” says the Taliban statement adding that “the invaders have been saying Mujahideen cannot carry such attacks.”
Yesterday’s attack comes two weeks after the suicide bombing of Finest Market in Kabul, where an entire Afghan family of six and several others were killed. Both attacks targeted the famous shopping centers of the city and the targets were innocent civilians. It’s not new that Taliban send suicide bombers to blow up among crowd of innocent civilians.
While reading the Taliban Breaking News statement, watching the horrors of yesterday’s attack on TV and listening from friends who had come from the scene, I thought of the Live debate on 1TV in Kabul recently, in which the host Sami asked “Are the Afghan forces ready to take over the security responsibilities?” with an instant reply of General Murad Ali, commander of ground forces of ANA saying “YES!”. The “Yes” is not what I want to mention here, but a question asked by a woman in audience right after the “YES” of General Murad. “You can’t even secure the capital despite the presence of thousands of foreign forces. How will you secure the country when they leave?”, asked the woman in that televised debate attended by Afghans, men and women, young and old, having their concerns heard.
The security concerns about the capabilities of Afghan forces after 2014 drawdown and withdrawal deadline is a topic that needs many more such public and experts’ debates, but what I want to further quote from the 1TV live debate is the part of discussion about “Taliban are our brothers”. One of the audience had said, “The Taliban are our bothers” referring to the general perception of some who believe the insurgents are just a bunch of common people like us, but have chosen to fight for their angers. But I am glad there were people in the audience who think otherwise. That “brother” comment by a man had quite enraged many, mostly women, in the audience. One of them, a woman named Khatera, asked “how can you call Taliban our brothers? They have no respect for anyone. They want war and not peace. What will be our future if they come back to power?” It represents the deep concerns of absolute majority of Afghan women–half of our population–who never get their voice heard through media to the policy makers in Kabul and Washington. Majority of the people in audience, men and women, talked against the Taliban.
Actually the phrase “our brother Taliban” has been used many times by President Karzai while asking the insurgents to join the negotiations process, but each time his request has been responded by a suicide attack either in Kandahar or Kabul. What is weird is that President Karzai has even used the phrase “our brothers Taliban” while addressing ceremonies of Defense Ministry or Afghan National Army. Our soldiers are trained against the “enemy”—Taliban whom the Afghan security forces are trained and supposed to fight—yet their Commander-in-Chief calls them “our brothers”, which creates an absolute confusion in the minds of our soldiers about whom are their enemy and whom “brothers” leaving them with confusion about the very basic ideology and understanding of enemy.
The civil society, Afghan human rights organizations and activists should engage public about denouncing Taliban atrocities. After each suicide attack killing innocent civilians, leaving kids orphaned and women widowed, it strongly calls for conscience of those calling Taliban “our brothers”. Brothers never blow up among their own brothers. It’s obvious that the silent majority of Afghans not only strongly denounce the merciless bloody suicide attacks of Taliban, but also most hate the medieval Taliban views about education, women rights, and other social liberties. We, the Afghan opinion makers, human rights activists and members of civil society should engage and encourage people to express their concerns and condemnation, which they mostly prefer not to utter because of the fear of Taliban intimidation. But how long will we fear them keeping silence against their atrocities?
Hours before the suicide attack on Kabul City Center, Taliban released a statement calling the people to revolt against the Government as the Egyptians did against Hosni Mubarak. The statement said Taliban prays to Allah to grant further success to Egyptians to succeed in establishing an independent “Islamic” government. It seems that the Taliban did not follow the Al-Jazeera Arabic coverage of the uprising in Cairo; otherwise they would have seen the Christian and Muslims hand-in-hand on Tahrir Square for democracy in their country, not a Taliban-like Sharia State. Seems like they have missed the Arabic live interviews of men and women Egyptians from Cairo denouncing the myth expressed by some Western pundits that Muslim Brotherhood will come to power after the uprising, or that Islamist organization has any role in the uprisings.
The Taliban statement also predicted of “a popular uprising, if god willing” in Afghanistan. It doesn’t suit Taliban talking of “popular uprising” or public reaction, because they believe in violence, suicide bombing of civilian places to spread terror, not a peaceful democratic struggle. They shy away from the fact that the uprising in Egypt is a slap on the face of Islamic fundamentalists by the silent majority of Muslims choosing to stage a peaceful protest for weeks, despite the state-violence, to express their anger and demand for change which ensures civil liberties and freedom of expression, that Taliban doesn’t believe on. Seems like Taliban didn’t watch or read about the young male and female Egyptians demanding democracy, not a Totalitarian Sharia State which the people of Afghanistan experienced under Taliban for a dark period of our history, or they are distorting facts about the Egypt events for their propaganda.
At the conclusion of the statement, Taliban call the people to stand for a popular Islamic revolution. If it was the public desire, why millions of people escaped the country under their dark period? Why thousands of Afghans fought against the totalitarian Taliban regime for their rights? Or else, the Taliban mean to say that their takeover was not an Islamic revolution, which they have been claiming previously, it was.
The last sentence of the Taliban “appeal” says, “The Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate are at your service and side.” Then people would ask, what is your agenda with the years of suicide attacks killing thousands of innocent Afghan civilians, mostly children and women? The latest of which at Kabul City Center comes at the same time with your appeal to masses. The answer is Taliban stands for Terrorism, and they must be defeated!