The ‘clash of civilisations’ between America and Islamic jihad has seen a number of manifestations from terror to takeover to abandonment to anarchy. The casualty - human rights.
Graphic brutal horrifying images from Kabul of people latching onto wheels of an airplane desperate to escape a Taliban ravaged and torn, violent and chaotic Afghanistan drowning in smoke, explosions, destruction & debris are forever etched in memory. Against this backdrop we also saw burkha clad afghan women taking to the streets to protest for their rights. Locked between amnesty and terror Afghanistan continues to be a turbulent region of hope, dreams and desire for a better future. Unfulfilled.
Advancing Taliban forces executed officials, conducted raids on government officials and tortured civil society. Muzzling freedom of press and restricting women’s rights being other by-products. Civilian casualties soared, displacing people, turning families into refugees further destabilising a region that battles drought and a fragile aid system.
Access to education and employment has become a matter of Taliban’s whim and fancy. The resultant economic anxiety has added to the already growing social insecurity and emotional distress. Uncertainty looms large over the future of Afghanistan. The life Afghanistan’s people have known in the last two decades has vanished overnight. For a region that was beginning to find its feet where girls went to school, women progressed at work and development was not just a phrase, the best case scenario today is for people to remain unharmed. Wither progress.
Human rights is a sovereign guarantee to a citizen. In Afghanistan, human rights are hard fought hard earned (if at all) and near impossible to keep. Educators, activists, authors including other functionaries have fled the region with existing glaring deficiencies further drowning hope, scare as it is, of enlightenment into abyss. Women have been stopped on streets and barred from conducting business or going to places of education and forced to be unwilling captives at their homes. This has increased their dependence on family and left them exposed to abuse at home. The rapid escalation of human suffering, torture and consequent displacement is one for the record books.
Decades of conflict, compounded by drought and a frail socio-economic revival system has left Afghanistan increasingly unstable and turned back time on the region. Clampdown, beatings, extra judicial killings, hostages, torture and executions summarise present day Kabul. United Nations has reported that half of Afghanistan’s population - nearly 18 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Raises questions like- should America not have completed evacuation before withdrawing all troops? Should the Bagram Air Base been left exposed with 40,000 civilians to be eventually taken hostage by Taliban? The West took upon itself to civilise a region and continues to face the dark consequences of it’s creation by an abrupt withdrawal. After all International relations says one region’s jeopardy is another’s responsibility.
One of the biggest tragedies seen in recent times is that of human suffering where a region that grew for two decades that saw liberalism, culture, literature, music, art, sport and business thrive, came unstuck. Shoots of liberalism that gradually took shape, stemmed from Arab Spring have become the next biggest casualty. Hope still stems from that fact that while Taliban continues to tighten screws, we see and hear of protests and demonstrations demanding life back. The Islamic rejection of progressive values to give primacy to regressive dogma has seen and continues to face widespread opposition. The struggle is poised to lift the region out of uncertainty as it shows no signs of receding. After all, the last 20 years have left the people empowered and armed for battle.
Having said that it is indeed heartbreaking to see Afghanistan’s streets lined with protests and a string of demonstrations for rights ‘guaranteed’. Jeopardy and uncertainly have become a way of life for a region that had come to know of progress and prosperity. Cultural strife and regional domination has reduced the region to a battleground where the real stakeholders are reduced to passive spectators as they sit and see their future go up in smoke. (Though they have made it amply clear that they are not in the mood to take it lying down this time around.) If this keeps going on, we would soon come to a point where there would no one region left to destabilise and no one people left to stifle. Control of a country seized is the fate of humanity sealed. When will we learn?
(Amiti Pande is a Madhya Pradesh Youth Congress General Secretary and social worker. She runs Anant Roshni, an NGO catering to the emancipation of senior citizens, women and children. Also a contributing columnist and an advocator of democracy and liberalism).