The tragic events of the last several weeks have left us increasingly more hopeless and numb. Each new shocks sends ripples through the URI family, flurries of prayer, concern for our CC members and their families, and then the longer process of helping our communities rebuild together rather than fracture further. In response to the attacks in Kabul, Afghanistan, we are sharing a much-needed alternative perspective on one of the countries that has dominated our newspapers most but which we understand the least.
The first entry is from Subhi Dhupar, our CC Liaison for North India. Below is another perspective from our Data Manager, Wella Mohibi.
How do we envision Islamic countries, who defines terrorism and what media content are we accepting?
To most of us, the first image that comes to mind of a terrorist is that of a violent, cruel, and intolerant Muslim…isn’t it?
On July 23, 2016, CNN reported on an attack in Kabul during a peaceful demonstration made up mainly of Hazara ethnic community members. The attack is allegedly the deadliest in the last 15 years with at least 80 dead and more than 200 wounded. Recent suicide bombings and attacks in Medina, Turkey, Bangladesh and many more cities have been in Muslim countries. The reign of terror that has been taking the lives of many and creating unrest in the world has been blamed on Muslims and Islam as a whole, rather than a radical fundamentalist group which has also targeted Muslims.
With every news story, we feel number about the realities of what this violence means. Can you feel the horror in the crowd? Imagine the scene of numerous bodies lying around in a pool of blood? Screeching voices of people searching for their loved ones? Imagine the carnage caused by the bombings?
Meanwhile the mainstream media’s video and photographs from conflict zones like Kabul show mountains, women in hijab, people being killed on streets, tanks, guns and armed forces—not a typical day in their lives, but the only representation that millions of people base their assumptions on.
Based on my personal visit to Afghanistan, I feel compelled to share my insights and experiences from the field in Afghanistan, and why I thought of connecting this country to our global URI family. My experience is based on my stay with families and many formal and informal discussions with people from several walks of life, ethnicities, and provinces. Unlike the field reports that have been commissioned and taken in closed doors, with selected people, I seek to bring the true story out in my limited capacities.
Several documents report the lack of development and the fall or complete lack of basic amenities of life, but my experience points to the fact that life is normal! Probably for those of us advocating for certain rights might have a different view, but considering that Afghanistan has been at war for more than four decades, it is as normal as can be expected.
People do not honk their car horns needlessly; there is comparatively a better system for drainage than a lot of less developed countries; young girls can be seen early in the morning going to school; people are engaged in the welfare of their nation and the changes they can bring at an individual and community level; the youth are interested to work for the underprivileged and national development; and the common people clearly want peace and are more open to the idea of diversity than is made out. Especially with increasing access to higher education and technology, there is subtle change. They might not surface in the mainstream headlines, but this change is becoming more evident in the vocabulary of common men and women, most interestingly in the form of visual and graffiti art on roads and outside government offices.
The country’s historical and cultural legacy means there is a difference in manner and respect for women, elders, and different ethnicities, but there is certainly more honor than what is reported to the world. Guests are treated like gods as even the Hindi proverb says, “Mehmaan Bhagwan saman hote hai” (guests are like gods).
Briefly then, is it time to question what we most often hear and see and base our opinions on?
At this point, we hear one voice through a visitor observing from within. But it is time that we should hear it from the people themselves; their stories and the truth. With this note I seek to warmly welcome our new members Women & Peace Studies Organization and Porsesh Research & Studies Organization from Kabul to our wonderful family that embraces diversity and values life irrespective of societal divisions and barriers. I would also like to thank Maria Crespo Director of CC Support, for being a great mentor and guide during the process of enlarging our URI community and thereafter.
I request and hope that our huge family would welcome our move towards a country that needs to be understood and supported from within and especially pray in these difficult days.
On the attacks on the Hazara community in Kabul last week, I must say as an Afghan, it affected me like thousands of other Afghans throughout the world. However, I felt worse when this heartbreaking and tragic attack did not draw a lot of attention from the media. My question is: has the international community forgotten about Afghanistan?
When I came into the office after the attack, my colleagues shared their thoughts with me and expressed concern about the wellbeing of my family, friends, and relatives in Kabul. I read so many posts on my friends’ Facebook pages, all of them painful and sad, and some which drew lines between Afghan people in this time of mourning.
Studying and living in the United States for almost six years, I do not hear anyone here talking about specific tribes, but about Afghans. To the world, we are just Afghans—why then do we draw lines between us as Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, or Uzbek? Why do we not live, act, and mourn as a unified nation of people? Why should we give anyone the chance to separate us from each other for their own agenda?
If we do not solve our own divisions and problems, if we do not become our own voice, who will speak or care for us?
I strongly believe that it is time to embrace happiness and sorrow as one nation and show the rest of the world that we are Afghans—with hopes and dreams, education, and plans for our country. No matter how many differences we may have within our communities, we need to stand beside each other and focus on building bridges between ethnic groups, faith, and regions. We cannot blame each other and let the enemies of humanity take advantage of our differences.
Now is the time for all of us Afghans to unite, embrace each other, and find strength in our differences.