The Invisible Afghanistan
Posted: 20 Zul-Hijjah 1421, 16 March 2001
Sayyid Rahmatullah Hashemi
Beginning of Taliban
The Qur'an says, "O you who
believe! If a rebellious evil person comes to you with a news, verify it, lest
you harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful to what you
have done." [Al-Hujurat 49:6]
[Sayyid Rahmatullah Hashemi is
the roving Ambassador from Afghanistan who recently visited the US. The
following is the edited version of the transcription of a lecture given by him
at the University Of Southern California in Los Angeles, on March 10, 2001]
I was just coming from a meeting
with a group of scholars, and the first thing we started talking about there
was the statues. And the first thing we started talking about here was also
the statues. It is very unfortunate how little we see and how little we know.
Nobody has seen the problems of Afghanistan; nobody saw their problems before.
And the only thing that represents Afghanistan today are the statues.
Afghanistan is called the
Crossroads of Asia. So, we are suffering because of our geo-strategic
location. We have suffered in the 18th century, 19th century, and we are still
suffering in this century. We have not attacked the British. We have not
attacked the Russians. It was them who attacked us. So the problems in
Afghanistan you see are not our creation.
The recent problems in Afghanistan
started in 1979. Afghanistan was a peaceful country. The Russians, along with
their 140,000 troops attacked Afghanistan in the December of 1979, just 21
years ago, stayed there for a decade, killed one and a half million people,
maimed one million more people, and six million out of the eighteen million
people migrated because of the Russian brutalities. Even today, our children
are dying because of the landmines that they planted for us. And nobody knows
After the Russians left during the
Russian occupation, on the other side, the American government, the British
government, the French, the Chinese, and all of the rest, supported the
counter-revolutionaries called the Mujahideen; There were seven parties only
in Pakistan and eight parties in Iran who fought the Russian occupation. And
after the Russians left, these parties went into Afghanistan. All of them had
different ideologies, and a lot of weapons. And instead of having a single
administration, they fought in Afghanistan. The destruction that they brought
was worse than the destruction the Russians brought. 63,000 people were only
killed in the capitol, Kabul. Another million people migrated because of this
Seeing this destruction and
lawlessness, a group of students called the Taliban, i.e. a group of students
(Taliban is the plural of student in our language; it may be two students in
Arabic, but in our language it means students) started a movement called the
Movement of Students. It first started in a village in the southern province
of Afghanistan, called Kandahar. It happened when a war-lord, or a commander
abducted two minor girls and violated them. The parents of those girls went to
a school and asked the teacher of the school to help them. The teacher of that
school, along with his 53 students, finding only 16 guns, went and attacked
the base of that commander. After releasing those two girls, they hanged that
commander, and so many of his people were also hanged. This story was told
everywhere. BBC also quoted this story. Hearing this story, many other
students joined this movement and started disarming the rest of the warlords.
This same students movement now controls 95% of the country including its
capital. Only a bunch of those warlords are remaining in the northern corridor
We have been in government for only
five years, and the following things that we have done, and many of you may
1.) The first thing we have done is
reunifying the fragmented country. Afghanistan was formerly fragmented into
five parts. We unified it when nobody else could do it.
2.) Second thing we have done,
which everybody failed to do, was disarming the population. After the war
every Afghan got a Kalashnikov, and even sophisticated weapons such as stinger
missiles, and they even got fighter planes and fighter helicopters. Disarming
these people seemed to be impossible. The United Nations in 1992 made an
appeal asking for 3 billion dollars to re-purchase those arms. And because of
its impracticality, that plan never materialized, and everybody forgot about
Afghanistan. So the second thing we have done is to disarm 95% of that
3.) The third thing that we have
done is to establish a single administration in Afghanistan, which did not
exist for 10 years.
4.) The fourth achievement that we
have that is surprising to everybody is that we have eradicated 75% of world's
opium cultivation. Afghanistan produced 75% of worlds opium. And last year we
issued an edict asking the people to stop growing opium, and this year, the
United Nations Drug Control Program, UNDCP, and their head, Mr. Barnard F.
proudly announced that there was 0% of opium cultivation. Zero, zilch, none at
Incidentally this was not good news
for UN itself because many of them lost their jobs. In the UNDCP, 700 so
called experts were working there and they got their salaries and they never
went into Afghanistan. So when we issued this edict, I know that they were not
happy. And this year they lost their jobs.
5.) The fifth achievement that we
have, is the restoration of Human rights. Now, you may think that we are
involved in violation of Human Rights. The reality is exactly the opposite.
Among the fundamental rights of a human being is the right to live. Before us,
nobody could live peacefully in Afghanistan.
The first thing we have done, is to
give to the people a secure and peaceful life. The second major thing that we
have restored is to give them free and fair justice; you don't have to buy
justice, unlike here. In Afghanistan justice is free and readily available.
We have been criticized for
violating women's rights. Do you know what happened before us? I can see some
Afghans living here, and they will agree with me, that in the rural areas of
Afghanistan, women were used as animals. They were sold actually. We stopped
this abominable practice.
They didn't use to have any say in
the selection of their husbands. First thing we have done is to let them
choose their future.
Another thing that used to happen
in Afghanistan was women were exchanged as gifts. Of course, this was not
something religious; this was something cultural. When two fighting tribes
wanted reconciliation, they would exchange women. And this has been stopped.
Unlike what is generally said women
do work in Afghanistan. True that until 1996 when we captured the capital
Kabul, we did ask women to stay home. It didn't mean that we wanted them to
stay at home forever. We said that there is no law, and there is no order, and
you have to stay at home.
We disarmed the people, and we
established law and order, and now women are working. True, that women are not
working in the ministry of defense, like here. We don't want our women to be
fighter pilots, or to be used as objects of decoration for advertisements. But
they do work. They work in the Ministry of Health, Interior, Ministry of
Education, Ministry of Social Affairs, and so on.
Similarly we don't have any problem
with women's education. We have said that we want education, and we will have
education whether or not we are under anybody's pressure, because that is part
of our belief. We are ordered to do that. When we say that there should be
segregated schools, it does not mean that we don't want our women to be
educated. It is true that we are against co-education; but it is not true that
we are against women's education.
We do have schools even now, but
the problem is the resources. We cannot expand these programs. Before, our
government numerous curriculums were going on. There were curriculums that
preached for the kings, curriculums that preached for the communists, and
curriculums from all the seven parties. So, the students were confused as to
what to study. We have started to unify the curriculum and that is going on.
Recently we reopened the faculty of
medical science in all major cities of Afghanistan and in Kandahar. There are
more girls students studying in the faculty of medical sciences than boys are.
But they are segregated. And the Swedish committees have also established
schools for girls. I know they are not enough, but that is what we have been
able to do.
Osama bin Laden
We are also accused of sponsoring
terrorism. And for Americans terrorism or terrorist means only bin Laden. Now
you will not know that Afghanistan, or bin Laden was in Afghanistan for 17
years before we even existed. Bin Laden was in Afghanistan, fought the Soviet
Union, and Mr. Ronald Reagan, the president of America at that time, and Mr.
Dick Chaney called such people freedom fighters or the Heroes of Independence,
because they were fighting for their cause. And now when the Soviet Union is
fragmented, such people were not needed anymore, and they were transformed
into terrorists. From heroes to terrorists. This is exactly like Mr. Yasser
Arafat who was transformed from a terrorist to a hero.
What is the difference between
those acts that bin Laden is blamed for and the 1998 cruise missile attacks on
Afghanistan. Neither of the two were declared and both of them killed
civilians. If it means killing civilians blindly, both of them killed
The United States government tried
to kill a man without even giving him a fair trial. In 1998, they just sent
cruise missiles into Afghanistan and they announced that they were trying to
kill Osama bin Laden. We didn't know Osama bin Laden then. I didn't know him;
he was just a simple man. So we were all shocked. I was one of those men who
was sitting at home at night, I was called for an immediate council meeting
and we all were told the United States had attacked Afghanistan. With 75
cruise missiles they tried to kill one man. And they missed that man; killed
19 other students and never apologized for those killings.
What would you do if you were in
our situation. If we were to go and send 75 cruise missiles into the United
States and say that we were going to kill a man that we thought was
responsible for our embassy, and we missed that man, and we killed 19 other
Americans what would the United States do? An instant declaration of war. But
we are polite. We did not declare war.
Rather we have been very
open-minded on this issue. We have said, that if really this man is involved
in the Kenya/Tanzania acts, if anybody can give us proof or evidence about his
involvement in these horrific acts, we will punish him. Nobody gave us
evidence. We put him on trial for 45 days and nobody gave us any kind of
evidence. The United States told us they did not believe in our judicial
system. We were surprised as to what kind of judicial system they have? They
just tried to kill a man without even giving him a fair trial. Even if one of
us is a criminal here, the police are not going to blow his house; he must go
to a court first.
So our first proposal was rejected.
They said they do not believe in our judicial system, and we must extradite
him to New York. After the rejection of this first proposal was we said we
were ready to accept an international monitoring group to come into
Afghanistan and monitor this man's activities in Afghanistan. So that he does
nothing. Even that he has no telecommunications. That proposal was also
The third proposal we gave, six
months ago, was that we were ready to try or accept the trial of Osama bin
Laden in a third Islamic country, with the consent of Saudi Arabia and
Afghanistan. That was also rejected.
We are still very open minded. And
for the fourth time, I m here, with a letter from my leadership that I m going
to submit to the state department hoping that they will resolve the problem.
But I don't think that they'll. Because we think, and I personally think now
that maybe the United States is looking for a boogey man always. Remember what
Gorbachev said? He said, that he's going to do the worst thing ever to the
United States. And everybody thought that he's going to blow the United States
with nuclear weapons. But he said, I m going to remove their enemy. And then
he fragmented Soviet Union. And he was right. After he fragmented Soviet
Union, a lot of people lost their jobs in the Pentagon, in the CIA, and the
FBI, because they were not needed anymore. So we think that maybe these guys
are looking for a boogey man now. Maybe they want to justify their annual
budget, maybe they want to make their citizens feel that they are still needed
to defend them.
Afghanistan is not a terrorist
state; we cannot even make a needle. How are we going to be a terrorist state?
How are we going to be a threat to the world? If the world terrorism is really
derived from the word terror, then there are countries making weapons of mass
destruction, countries making nuclear weapons, they are terrorist states; we
Now, we are under sanctions. And
the sanctions have caused a lot of problems. Despite that we already had been
going through so many problems--- the 23 years of continuous war, the total
destruction of our infrastructure, and the problem of refugees, and the
problem of land mines in our agricultural lands --- all of a sudden the United
Nations, with the provocation of Russia, is imposing sanctions on Afghanistan.
And the sanctions have been approved; we are under sanctions. Several hundred
children died a month ago. Seven hundred children died because of malnutrition
and the severe cold weather. Nobody even talked about that. Everybody knows
about the statues.
Statues as People Die
When the world is destroying our
future with economic sanctions, then they have no right to worry about our
past. I called my headquarters, I asked them, why are they going to blow the
statues, and I talked to the head of the council of scholars of people, who
had actually decided this, he told me that UNESCO and an NGO from Sweden, or
from one of these Scandinavian countries Norway, Sweden, one of these they had
actually come, with a project of rebuilding the face of these statues, which
have worn by rain. The council of people told them to spend that money in
saving the lives of these children, instead of spending it to restore these
statues. And these guys said, "No, this money is only for the
statues." And the people were really pissed off. They said that, If you
don t care about our children, we are going to blow those statues.
If you were in such a situation
what would you do? If your children are dying in front of your eyes, and you
are under sanctions, and then the same people who have imposed sanctions and
are coming and building statues here? What would you do?
And there is Kofi Annan. You know
Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of United Nations? He went to Pakistan, and
he said he is going to meet our representative there. This man never bothered
to come, to talk about these children, he never bothered himself to talk about
six million refugees, and he never talked about the poverty of Afghanistan. He
only goes to that region because of these statues.
It is really, really ridiculous.
These people do not care about children, about people who are dying there,
about the foreign interference that still exists; they only care about the
statues. And I am sure they don't care about our heritage. They only care
about their picnic site one time. Maybe they'll have a good picnic site there,
seeing those statues.
And I'm sure these sanctions which
are imposed on our government will never change us, because for us, our
ideology is everything. To try to change our ideology with economic sanctions
will never work. It may work in the United States, where the economy is
everything, but for us, our ideology is everything. And we believe that it is
better to die for something than to live for nothing.