HOW AFGHANS TASTED THE FLAVOR OF FREEDOM
Years ago, Afghanistan was in a critical situation; there was chaos and the peoples’ future was uncertain. Unemployment was wide spread across the country, and there was a serious drought that led people to pray for rain in the desert out of desperation.
In the 1990s Afghans started leaving their country in droves, but the majority were not able to head to the West. Millions remained in Iran and Pakistan and were mostly referred to the immigration department and Western embassies to be granted asylum, especially Shiites (Hazaras) who were receiving severe punishment over their religious affiliation.
More than four million Afghans migrated to Iran, Pakistan and the West, mostly while the Taliban started ruling. This era was also called the “brain drain era” as intellectuals were fleeing the country. At the same time, armed opportunists in Afghanistan started misusing people by extorting them. Every day was a bloody day in the country; dead bodies of the fighters remained on the streets for days.
This confusion stemmed from the rise of the Taliban. Who are they, what is their mission and vision? I will use my personal experience as an Afghan to give you some insights into the Taliban.
From my point of view the Taliban militants are a group of dissidents composed of mostly unwise clerics, who oppose the Afghan government, and refer to the Hanafi and Wahabism schools of Islam. Their narrow-minded interpretation of Islam dominated Saudi Arabia and was spread with a lot of money from there to the Hindu Kush during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. (Originated in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but supported by Saudi Arabia).
The Taliban were new and unfamiliar for Afghans until 1995. They quickly gained notoriety as the faction took power by capturing Afghan city after city in the power vacuum left by the Soviets after 1989. The Taliban managed to seize almost all country in less than five years and this is where misfortune came to knock at the doors of the Afghan people.
Taliban are narrow-minded and merciless, they set up uncommon and strict rules for everyone to follow. To give you a few examples: it is forbidden to shave beards or listen to music, and women in particular are targeted, they can no longer work outside of their home or even walk outside while unaccompanied by men. Essentially women were deprived of their basic civil rights, and known as second class human beings below any male.
The destructive power of the Taliban went unnoticed by the international community for many years. After kicking out the Soviets, Washington lost any interest in the country. This changed only after the bombing of the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in 2001. On the September 11th, the international community realized the threat the Taliban posed with their support of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.
By the end 2001 the Northern Alliance of Afghanistan, which includes mostly non-Pashton forces, commenced fighting the Taliban with the strong support of the West. Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and other minority tribes fought against the Taliban, being strongly supported by the West, particularly the United States of America.
With the quick first victory, a new page was turned in the history of Afghanistan. The Taliban were defeated, beards were shaved, music was turned on, women headed to work – the lifestyle changed. Afghans started learning foreign languages and new technologies, a number of positive developments were seen in other fields as the country began to change.
This new era was enjoyable for Afghans; hundreds of schools and universities were opened in major cities of the country because of the financial support of the international community. Girls were once again allowed to attend schools and many young people resumed higher education, abroad willingly returning home after to share their experience and knowledge.
Progress from public education to domestic products conquered every corner starting in 2002. Within a decade after destroying the Taliban’s dark regime, peoples’ hopes for the future were raised.
Ashraf Shejah, a resident in Mazar-e-Sharif and an educated young Afghan, currently working with the German Organization for International Cooperation, GIZ, believes that Taliban regime was barbaric and Afghanistan never experienced such a government system in its history. He notes that Afghans were aware of the Taliban’s inhumane actions while they were in power and thus they will never let them come to the power again.
Habibullah Yamin who is working as a Medical Doctor with the Afghanistan National Army Forces, ANA, hospital in the North of the country states that he is both, a doctor and a military officer and if needed he will skip his medical profession and will take up arms to fight the Taliban; a tough switch.
Many think like both men in Afghanistan now: Never again the Taliban and never back to the old bad days of terror and totalitarianism!
Afghans are more aware and smarter than ever before as they all have tasted the flavor of freedom.
To reach this, thousands of Afghan and foreign forces lives were lost mostly from the United States of America and more than 800 billion dollars invested in the infrastructure and educating the ANSF.
The U.S. and foreign media show new attacks by the Taliban in Kabul and the countryside. Does this mean the Taliban have returned? Will Afghanistan turn into a lost victory like Iraq?
Once in a while, the terrorist networks launch some destructive actions and show up in some parts, but it would be hard for Afghans to lose the game and almost impossible to win for terrorists. Everyday people get more aggressive about the Taliban’s philosophy and their vision as they don’t care about the non-military ones. Despite the support the Taliban receives from their channels, they will not win the war.
Recently Mullah Omar leader of Taliban died and within hours was replaced by Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour a previous affiliate to the Hezbi Islami (Islamic Party) faction being led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a warlord who was engaged in the attacks against Kabul residents in the 1990s. His appointment sparked much speculation over the future of the Taliban and the impact it would have on the country of Afghanistan. It is worth mentioning that Mullah Mansour had joined the Taliban in 1995, after he got famous and reliability of the team by providing proves.
The Taliban elected Mullah Mansour to fill their leadership gap while Afghans got optimistic following the death of Taliban leader, but the recent bombing attacks in Afghanistan show that they are strict on their no-peace talks, and have resumed cruelly shooting innocent people.
According to the experts, Afghanistan must get stronger; policy and changes are needed in three main areas which are sustainable: inclusive development, government, and resource management.
Therefore it is necessary that the Americans will not make the same mistake like pre 9/11 and abandon Afghanistan to the forces of evil and terror and inhumanity again. This is the will of most Afghans and in the national interest of the United States of America as well. Afghanistan is still full of women in burqas, the full-length shroud that covers even the face, but now many of the burqa-clad women are out on their own or only with other women.
Afghanistan is currently suffering from an economic perspective, but it is said that the country has got intact mines and reserves which are said to provide billions of dollars in resources. If this happens, the country’s economy will accelerate rapidly, so, the good days are still ahead; the optimistic blossoms will shine, if things go in the right direction.