Letters: “We are responsible to safeguard our dignity”

By: Shafaq Rahimi

It was 3 AM of February 29, 2020. A deep silence had descended over the town. I was encapsulated with disturbing memories and thoughts of my early life under the Taliban rule. I was trying to make sense of what was going on by scrolling the Twitter to read about the US-Taliban peace deal that was expected to be signed in coming hours.

I was not surprised seeing that most of my friends had not slept the night and they were anxious about the content of the agreement.  I kept recalling the times that my hometown—Jaghori district of Ghazni—was on the verge of falling to the Taliban when I was a 3rd grader. Our break times were filled with chatters about the Taliban that had killed our math teacher while he was returning from Mazar-e- Sharif. The Taliban had indiscriminately massacred Hazara men, women, and children in Mazar-e- Sharif, and Bamyan. Food scarcity had soared since Jaghori was under siege. Wheat bread disappeared abruptly, replaced with less tasteful gray lentil bread. I and my classmates had become very kind and generous to one another. We spent more time with each other to mentally prepare for what could come next. We shared the best products of our fruit gardens, saying that it is better we eat them before the Taliban come to kill us and destroy our belongings. We had decided to escape to the mountains once the Taliban enter our villages because we didn’t want our mothers see us getting killed. We had prepared to die in a different way than the children who were killed in Bamyan. The ghost of death and the terror of being killed had occupied our childish minds and spirits.  I don’t remember any of my friends praying for our survival while we did craft simple weapons using nails and woods to defend ourselves if we had to.

After an arrangement with the Taliban, Jaghori’s resistance forces ceased fighting and the Taliban agreed to enter our hometown without shedding blood. My family decided to move to Kabul to join my father. On our way, in the midnight, we faced the first group of Taliban fighters riding Toyata pickups towards Jaghori. It was my first encounter with the Taliban fighters. They looked cheerful and victorious, just as they do these days.

The capital Kabul was like a ghost town one would see in horror movies. Long-bearded ragtag Taliban militias were carrying Kalashnikovs, truncheons, and bayonets. Under dark clouds, the city seemed like a wounded soldier taken hostage by his old unforgiving dogged foe. Women in burqa, men in turban, and children in fear portrayed a tortured Kabul: a Kabul in pain.         

Sometimes I had trouble finding my mom among many burqa-wearing women. People were living in despair. Under the Taliban rule, life was a real challenge for us. We were forced to flee the country. Our eventual fleeing to Pakistan was like a move from hell to heaven.

After the 9/11 developments, as a generation, we had high hopes to prosper and live a dignified life. We got education and skills and leveled up our living standards while delivering services to our country in the midst of a yet another war that continued to take lives of our dear and near ones.

Principally, we are responsible to safeguard our freedoms, dignity, and rights, with or without the international community.

From the beginning, the US had made it clear that its invasion of Afghanistan was not for any goal other than countering terrorism that was threatening American lives. But they did eventually invest in reconstruction, state-building, democracy, and human rights in Afghanistan to win their counterterrorism campaign. As a beneficiary of international assistance to revive Afghanistan, I am grateful to the international community including the US for helping us to shape a more progressive Afghanistan.

I believe history will most likely repeat itself if the US irresponsibly withdraws, following this bad deal with the Taliban. In retrospect, the US backed the Mujaheddin, providing them with weapons and money, but abandoned Afghanistan soon after the Soviet withdrew in 1989. Not to mention that the same Mujaheddin, who were America’s allies in the US war against Soviet Union, messed up my country and gave rise to the Taliban who hosted al-Qaeda leaders.

After two decades of a deadly war, this agreement might serve US objective to pull out of this quagmire, but for Afghans, it will cost their lives and hard-gained achievements.

This poorly structured agreement seems doomed to failure. Not only it sidelines the Afghan population and the Afghan government, the Doha deal is not clear on core human principles which guarantee stability in a society. It hardly holds the Taliban accountable and there is no mention of justice for the victims.

Principally, we are responsible to safeguard our freedoms, dignity, and rights, with or without the international community. This responsibility is nothing less than defying a second Taliban rule or the so-called Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

Shafaq Rahimi is a Kabul-based law practitioner. He holds a bachelor degree in law.