CAUTION TO READERS: The opinions expressed in this article are mine alone and do not represent any other person or entity, living or dead. Please DO NOT read this article if you are easily offended!
Afghanistan is one of the most beautiful countries I know of but she is always in the news for the wrong reasons. Every time you hear of Afghanistan in the news, it is mainly about violence against women, suicide bombings, Taliban, or some other tragedy. After more than forty years of war and at least two generations growing up without a speck of political stability, our country’s name has become synonymous with war and terrorism.
Last week on Wednesday, 31st of May 2017, Kabul city witnessed the worst bombings since the US invasion where at least ninety people were reported to have been killed and over four-hundred injured in a blast near the German embassy in the diplomatic district of the capital. Just before this incident, as many 140 Afghan soldiers were killed by Taliban attackers apparently disguised in military uniforms in the deadliest attack ever on an Afghan military base in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Following the carnage of the bombing and the growing frustration of the citizens, civil rights activists along with university professors and students staged a protest on Friday 2nd of June which was met with bullets fired by the Afghanistan’s presidential police force leading to an additional ten deaths. It was confirmed by one of the protesters that the presidential palace’s snipers had killed one of the protesters who was unarmed. An unverified grainy footage surfaced on Facebook here (Warning: GRAPHIC CONTENT). Here is another clip where protesters are being showered with bullets. Other citizen journalists have recorded a number of clips here. (Warning again for graphic content)
One of the victims was the son of the deputy speaker of the Upper House of the Afghan Parliament who was shot in the head. His pictures soon started circulating on the Afghan social media leading to more anger amongst the Afghan public. Activists participating in the protest confirmed on Twitter that the gunfire was the direct order of the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani who was reported later in the day to have taken ‘gone’ to the Bagram airbase by a helicopter – AKA gone to take refuge under the US military protection or probably asking for their support in calming the protesters.
While social media has helped the Afghan youth connect to the world in many ways despite the hardships of life in Afghanistan, it has also been misused and uncovered another war that most Afghans refuse to speak of openly: the ethnic war. Soon after the support for Kabul protest grew on social media, it was obvious that there is a clear divide in the opinions of Afghans in what constitutes hooliganism versus civil and human rights of Afghan citizens supposedly living in a democratic society. The social divide has the nationalist Pashtuns on one side and everyone else on the other.
Immediately after reports of Tajik political figures joining the protesters march, nationalist Pashtun Afghans working in global media from BBC, VOA, and Reuters to Washington Post could not wait to put the attention on the Tajik political figures and using it as their opportunity to digress the attention of global watchers of Afghanistan. Within minutes, the purpose of Kabul protest was diluted into an online war of ethnicity with nationalist Pashtuns claiming Tajik leaders were being political opportunists and dismissing the legitimate plight of hundreds of other protesters.
Pashtunism and The Expansionist Agenda
The western-sponsored Ashraf Ghani administration has pushed the Pashtun expansionist agenda to such extreme levels that blatant displays of superiority complex and racism against minorities has become second nature to nationalist Pashtuns living anywhere from Kabul to London to Washington DC. This sense of entitlement to governing power in Afghanistan and expanding Afghanistan’s borders beyond the Durrand Line and into Pakistan, as endorsed by previous western-sponsored Pashtun Afghan leaders like Hamid Karzai, is the reason behind much of the ethnic division amongst the Afghan population today. Instead of uniting towards a common cause of demanding the government to provide security and accountability to the deaths of Afghan citizens during Kabul protest, nationalist Pashtuns put their ethnicity first and rejected the authenticity of the protesters by claiming they had a political agenda.
Sana Safi, a substandard journalist from BBC Pashto even went as far as tweeting that the protesters preferred “warlordism, rape, civil war, and thuggery.” (more on Sana Safi on my next blog so make sure to come back for more blogs). Of course, the civil rights activists on twitter were not having it and here’s just one of the many reactions:
The idea of a purely nationalist Pashtun government leading Afghanistan is not new to Afghans. The best representation of it was the brutal Taliban regime that represented the pre-millennium ISIS of the globe and international terrorism who, just like the IS of Iraq and Syria today, believed in building an Islamic caliphate that would rule the world, had the agenda of ethnic cleansing of minorities, and routinely conducted public beheadings and violence against women. It was with the most militant version of Islam ever known to Afghanistan or the world. Unfortunately, there was no social media or smartphones in 1990s to document the similarities of the Taliban with those of ISIS but enough people have survived their atrocities to tell the story.
This propensity of Afghanistan’s nationalist Pashtuns to be the self-declared natives and the eternal custodians of Afghanistan’s governance can best be described as Afghanistan’s ‘Zionist syndrome’. After billions of dollars poured into the Afghan war since 9/11 attacks, it is becoming more evident by the day that all the money and effort from the international community will not bring Afghanistan to the 21st century.
In order to do that, nationalist government of Afghanistan will have to self-reflect and understand that a Taliban suicide bomber will not differentiate between any ethnicity, age or gender in Afghanistan before he detonates himself. We all pay the price for violence and it is nothing short of injustice to the victims of terrorism in Afghanistan when the essence of the nationalist rhetoric is to call the Taliban their ‘brothers’ and ignore the calls of the civilians which has been gaining increasing momentum in the ongoing sit-in protests.
Social media users have been using hashtags like #AfghanAwakening, #KabulProcess, and #AfghanSpring to bring attention to the plight of the protesters. I will continue to use #AfghanAwakening until we have a movement of pluralism that holds the government accountable where firing of government officials from their positions alone is not sufficient – we need to get to the root cause of why there is endless insecurity in Afghanistan and what actions will the government take to resolve them.
Afghans cannot deny how heavily the country is divided today because of the ‘Zionist syndrome’ of nationalist Afghans like President Ashraf Ghani. We are at a time where we desperately need an inspirational leader and Ghani has lost all credibility as a leader and certainly not ‘the chosen one’.
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