The Blanket

Author's Choice: Rogelio Alonso

Zoya is 23 years of age. She is a member of RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. I met her in July at a conference on "Violence and Religion" at which she shocked all the participants. Her voice was calm and her life, as the lives of Afghan women, absolutely harrowing. She showed us a video recorded by one of the members of her organisation.

Under the "burka" that Afghan women are obliged to wear in order to cover their body the RAWA member had carried a small video camera. The film showed the executions that on a weekly basis take place in Kabul's football stadium. We saw human beings gathering in the capital enjoying the slaughter of other human beings. We saw a Taliban pointing his AK47 to a woman on her knees before her body fell on the ground surrounded by blood.

Some minutes later we saw what Zoya described as "the camel's dance." A man had his throat cut. Regulars to this horrendous show of death were particularly happy to see the deceased's body move while the decapitated head, separated from the body, made noises similar to those camels make. The inferno went on and one including hand's amputations.

Zoya had been showing that video around the world. But other than shock she had got very little help from governments and politicians. Some weeks before the Taliban had made international headlines because some Buddhist statues had been blown up in Afghanistan. Zoya was disgusted that the human rights violations of Afghan women had not received so much attention. At the end of the summer hundreds of Afghan refugees were stranded in Australian territorial waters. Nobody wanted them and nobody really cared much about them.

All of a sudden, after 11 September Tony Blair and George Bush have remembered that Afghan are also human beings. It was particularly repulsive to hear both of them justifying their so called "War on Terrorism" in the name of the Afghan people that the Taliban have oppressed. The Taliban conquered Kabul in 1996, but it seems that all those years in between and all the cruelty that has taken place since then never mattered.

On the same day that the atrocities in New York and Washington took place, it has been estimated that over 30,000 children died of hunger in the world. We haven't heard much of them and we haven't seen a "War on hunger and Poverty." If the political will existed this enemy would be easier to defeat than Osama Bin Laden, but probably it wouldn't require the display of the war machinery the Americans are arrogantly displaying on our TV screens.

The ultimate insult by the American government has been the cynical combination of bombs and food. Previous international experiences showed how that kind of aid is never going to reach the starving and most needed population. As happened in the past, it may even kill some of them when they try to reach it. Humanitarian agencies have denounced the action pointing out that American deliveries will disrupt food programmes and will raise prices worsening the already terrible situation endured by the Afghans.

In the middle of this worldwide hypocrisy it was disappointing to hear somebody like Fr. Aidan Troy saying that Northern Ireland together with Afghanistan are the only countries in the world where children are denied the right to education. A man who is tirelessly working for a resolution of the disgraceful protest in Ardoyne and who has worked in some of the most deprived countries in the world before coming to Belfast should know better.

Perhaps the children in Sierra Leone who are taken away from their villages by the Army, drugged and trained to kill their own would have something to say about their rights too. Chema Caballero is a Spanish missionary who has lived in the African country for some years. He is in charge of a project which tries to rehabilitate children who have been made soldiers at a very early age - some are as young as four. Sierra Leone's civil war has caused tens of thousands of victims and amputees but this country who is one of the main sources of diamonds in the world doesn't fit in the current "War on Terrorism" waged by the so called "international coalition." Chema works and lives with children who have murdered their own parents. As part of the ritual to initiate them, these children are brain washed and ordered to murder a relative. Then they must sever a limb which they will always carry with them because - so they are told - it will protect them while in combat. They are children too but we don't care enough to do anything about them.



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Winter 2002
Vol. 1 No. 1

Free Speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game.
Free speech is life itself.
- Salman Rushdie

Republicanism in Crisis

The Cracks in the "PNF"

A Journal of Dissent

Under the Foot of the Mountain: Brendan Hughes

Author's Choice: Rogelio Alonso, A Just War?

Interview: Marian Price

Books: Soul Wars

Books: Anthologies Package our Literary Past

Unionism and Decommissioning

Turkish Hunger Strike Report

Taking Sides in the War on Modernity

Writing This Issue



The Blanket




Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices