The recently published TIME’s article questioning whether children of the Afghan resistance leaders – the Mujahidin – are ready to take over leadership positions seems to have given the chills to those who are hell-bent on making sure that anyone who is remotely related to the Afghan Mujahidin is kept as far away from any future governments positions as possible. Unfortunately for those who wish for this to happen, the children of the Afghan Mujahidin are only just entering the political arena and they are here to stay.
Firstly, credit has to be given to the Afghan journalist who dared to write something about those related to the Mujahidin, let alone highlighting that they are or will be the new western-educated elite of Afghanistan. Over the past twenty years, especially after 9/11, the international community conveniently sidelined the Mujahidin leaders who helped overthrow the Taliban regime. Top that up with the enormous wave of anti-Mujahidin propaganda that followed by amateur journalists from all corners of the globe, including Afghan journalists, who consider themselves experts on Afghanistan after reading only a few books about the country. When reading the works of such journalists and analysts, it does not take long for one to realize that most of their sources are based on Chinese whispers about the Afghan resistance fighters. Catch phrases like “jihadist leaders”, “fundamentalists”, and “jihadis” became alternate words for the imaginary boogeymen of Afghanistan and misled many to believe that those who fought for the sovereignty of the country are the ones to blame.
This sharp contrast in the stereotypical image of the Mujahidin created by the media propagandists and those of their children, which is only just coming into the public spotlight, leaves many people in a state of cognitive dissonance – especially those who genuinely believed that the Afghan Mujahidin are Neanderthals whose time is long gone and over. If anything, a new generation of Mujahidin is only just making themselves known to the international community through social media and the hangover of connecting Mujahidin to violence and war by default is being confronted by the youth of the Mujahidin.
The Way People Write Tells a Lot About the Way People Think
The writer of TIME article begins by stating, “War made Abdul Mutalib Bek one of the most powerful men in the northern Afghan province of Takhar.” – I have a problem with that statement. What this statement implies is that war makes people powerful, and that is not true. People make other people powerful by supporting them and putting their trust in their leadership. This is one of the most common destructive assumptions and negative connotations people have of the Mujahidin: that they came to power through force, fighting and war. Why is it so hard for some people to admit and come in terms with the fact that Mujahidin leaders are where they are because of their own hard work and contribution to their communities?
Afghanistan has always been a country of people who have strong religious convictions and whether they practice those convictions or not, faith intertwined with traditional cultural practices plays a central role in the Afghan way of life. When criticizing the Mujahidin, many of the confused younger generations tend not to ask themselves the golden question: What would I do if I were alive during the Soviet invasion and my existence and everything I believed in was threatened? I cannot speak for all generation-Y of Afghanistan but if I were a university student back then, I would not hesitate to leave everything behind and fight for what I believed was right. I ask the younger generation of Afghans to put themselves in the shoes of the Mujahidin back in time and ask themselves if they would stand their ground and fight for their country and their people? Or will they join anyone who came in such force as the Soviet Union did? Or would they decide to stay away from it all and leave in pursuit of a comfortable life elsewhere? It is important for younger generations to ask themselves this question because this is the only way they will understand the true value and contributions of the Mujahidin and also because this is exactly what happened in Afghanistan. Many Afghans decided to succumb to the communist ideology, remnants of which still remain in our country and more disturbingly, many have returned and are active in government today (look forward to more on this subject in future posts). Many more decided not to get involved and left the country and millions more had to leave as a result of the uprising and the eventual war against communism in Afghanistan.
For many Muslim countries and people today, it is very difficult to understand what Afghanistan has been through. Would anyone believe or really understand that Afghanistan, the mighty Afghanistan with its mighty reputation of being a mortifyingly religious Islamic country was a place where only a few decades ago, anything Islamic was being annihilated? Today, we see many pictures of Afghans being portrayed as a group of very liberal people where women used to wear skirts and life was very good in those days. Yes, life was good, but only in Kabul. Life was also good, but only if you denounced Islam and succumbed to everything communist puppets forced down on your throat.
This is where the Afghan Mujahidin stand out: we do not compromise our rights and values, our love and loyalty to our people and country, and most importantly, our sovereignty when it comes to our people and our unity as a nation. The rebellious, resilient and tenacious nature of Mujahidin is the very spirit of the Afghan people and the longevity of Mujahidin leaders and their widespread support, in spite of great challenges and animosity, is the evidence for this. The TIME article was a stark reminder that whether you love them or hate them, you cannot ignore the Mujahidin.
Western Degrees, Eastern Minds and The Unfair Advantage
While the children of Mujahidin just entering the public eye in the Afghan politics may have the backing of their predecessors’ supporters and degrees from top western educational institutions under their belt, this does not reduce the challenges they have ahead of them. With the amount of reputational damage done to their predecessors, the new generation of Mujahidin will have to work, at least, twice as hard to win and retain international support. There is no doubt that Afghanistan needs to retain and also needs the return of its educated population. However, having university degrees does not mean having the competence to lead a difficult country like Afghanistan. More importantly, westernization of Afghans does not mean modernization of Afghanistan.
There is no doubt that younger generation of Mujahidin, just as other Afghans who are living in the western countries, have the unfair advantage of being privileged with having the opportunities of living abroad, having the support and the right connections needed to get a jumpstart in their political careers, and in a country like Afghanistan, even be immune to the laws that applies to other ordinary, underprivileged Afghans which constitutes 99% of the country. This unfair advantage creates many challenges for anyone who is a new face and who wants to enter Afghan politics. This is one of the main reasons why some have become very desperate and decide to berate the Afghan Mujahidin to get some short-term attention. Unfortunately for such new faces, this strategy has not worked to their advantage to successfully establish them as diplomats and leaders.
Mujahidin have fought far too hard for a sovereign Afghanistan so we – the younger generations of Afghanistan – did not have to. The least any Afghan around the world owes them is the respect and honor they deserve, and there is no denying that without their sacrifices, we may well not be speaking Dari or Pashto today, let alone have a nation of our own. We should never forget that they too had the option to leave and choose not to fight, and leave the risks, hard work and the sacrifices for others to take responsibility for. Just like their predecessors, the children of Mujahidin also have the option not to take up the challenge of moving Afghanistan to the next level as an active citizen of the international community. The fact that many have decided to return to Afghanistan is the first sign that the children of Mujahidin are ready to step up to the challenge and lead Afghanistan with a sense of direction.