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Taleban point of view
Why we destroy statues? - i

Sayyid Rahmatullah Hashemi, the roving Ambassador of Afghanistan, recently gave the following talk at the University of Southern California on 10 March. It helps us understand the thinking of the Taleban.

I am just coming from a meeting with a group of scholars, and the first thing we started there was the statues. And the first thing we started here was also the statues. Its very unfortunate how little we see and how little we know. And it really confuses me, if people really know that little or not. Nobody has seen the problems of Afghanistan; nobody saw their problems before. And the only thing that represents Afghanistan today are the statues.

The problem of Afghanistan was not new. As you know that Afghanistan is called ĎThe Crossroads of Asiaí. 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. That reflects the image of the world. If you donít like the image in the mirror, do not break the mirror; break your face.

The problems in Afghanistan started in 1979. Afghanistan was a peaceful country and it was doing its own job. The Russians, along with their 140,000 troops attacked Afghanistan in 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 about this.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; 7 parties only in Pakistan and 8 parties in Iran who fought the Russian occupation. And after the Russians left, these parties went into Afghanistan. All of them had different ideologies, a lot of weapon[s]. 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 capital, Kabul. Seeing all this chaos, and the complete destruction of our country, and I donít have to forget that after the Soviets left, another million people migrated because of the lawlessness that existed in Afghanistanís 7 million people.

So seeing this destruction and lawlessness, a group of students called the Taliban, Taliban is the plural word of students in our language; it may be two students in Arabic, but in our language it means students, so a group of students started a movement called the Movement of Students. It first started in a village in the southern province of Afghanistan, called Kandhar. It happened when a war-lord, or a commander abducted two minor girls, raped them, and 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 their [the commanderís] people were also hanged. This story was told everywhere; and this was called the terrorist story of the Taliban, or the Students. BBC also quoted this story. Seeing or hearing this story, many other students joined this movement and started disarming the rest of the warlords, who were worse than these. I will not prolong this story so far, this same students movement controls 95% of the country; they captured the capital, including the four major cities. And only a bunch of those warlords are remaining in the northern corridor of Afghanistan.So our achievements are as follows. We are in a government for only five years, and the following things that we have done, and many of you may not know:

* The first thing we have done is reunify the fragmented country. Afghanistan was formerly fragmented into five parts. The first thing we have done is to reunify that country. The United Nations, the United States, everybody was confused as to how to reunify that country, and nobody could do it. First thing we have done is to reunify that country.

* Second thing we have done, which everybody failed to do, was disarming a population. After dealing [with] the war of the Russians, and the Americans I would say, every Afghan got a Kalashnikov, and even sophisticated weapons such as stinger missiles, and they even got fighter planes and fighter helicopters. So disarming these people was impossible. The United Nations in 1992 passed an appeal asking for 3 billion dollars to re-purchase these arms, to start a process of repurchasing those arms. And suddenly, because of its impracticability, that plan never materialized, and everybody forgot about Afghanistan. So the second thing we have done is to disarm 95% of that country.

* The third thing that we have done is to establish a single administration under Afghanistan, which did not exist for 10 years.

*The fourth achievement that we have that is surprising to everybody is that we have eradicated 75% of all worldís opium cultivation. Afghanistan produced 75% of all worlds opium. The drug, you know that opium? The Narcotics business? 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. Not at all. And this was not a 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. And this was our fourth achievement.

* The fifth achievement that we have, but itís a little controversial, some of our friends will not know, is the restoration of human rights. Now, you may think that is a violation of Human Rights, but from our perspective that is the restoration of human rights. Because usually [among] the fundamental rights of a human being is the right to live. Before us, nobody could live peacefully in Afghanistan. So the first thing we have done, begun [to give] to the people is a secure and peaceful life.

The second major thing that we have restored is to give them free and fair justice; you donít have to buy justice, unlike here. You will have justice freely. And you have criticized us for violating womenís rights; now, who knows what happened before us. Only some symbolic schools, or symbolic posts were given to some women in the ministry, and that was called the restoration of womenís rights. 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. The first thing we have done is to give the self-determination to women, and it happened not in the history of Afghanistan. Throughout the history of Afghanistan, during all the so-called civilized kings or whatever, they didnít give this right to women, so women were sold! They didnít have the right to select their husbands, or to reject their husbands. First thing we have done is to let them choose their future. And you will know that throughout South Asia, women are killed under the title of honour killings. It happens when a womanís relation is detected with a man, whether or not the relation was sexual, theyíre both killed. But now this is not happening in our country.

And the third thing that happened only in Afghanistan: women were exchanged as gifts. This was not something religious; this was something cultural. When two tribal tribes were fighting among themselves, then in order to get their tribal issue reconciliated, they would exchange women, and then [they]! would make, or announce reconciliation. This has been stopped. If we [had to give] fundamental rights of woman, we had to start from zero; we couldnít jump in the middle. Now you asked me about the rights of womenís education and the rights of womenís work. Unlike what is said here, women do work in Afghanistan. Youíre right that until 1997 I mean, in 1996 when we captured the capital Kabul, we did ask women to stay at home. It didnít mean that we wanted them to stay at home forever, but nobody listened to us. We said that there is no law, and there is no order, and they have to stay at home. They were raped before us, everyday. So, after we disarmed the people, and after we brought law and order, and now women are working. You are right that women are not working in the ministry of defense, like here. We donít want our women to be fighter pilot[s], 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. So, and we donít have any problem with womenís education. We have said that we want education, and we will have education whether or not we are under anybodyís 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 donít want our women to be educated. It is true that we are against co-education; but it is not true that we are against womenís education. We do have schools even now, but the problem is the resources. We cannot expand these programs. Before, our government there were numerous curriculums that were going on; there were curriculums which preached the king for the kings, and there were curriculums which preached for the communists, and there were curriculums from all these seven parties [the previously mentioned]. So, the students were confused as to what to study, and the first thing we have done today is to unify that curriculum, and thatís going on. But we are criticized, and we say that instead of criticism, if you just help us once, that will make a difference. Because criticism will not make a difference. If you talk of criticism from New York, thousands of miles away, we donít care. But if you come there and help us, we do care. So actually there are more girl students studying in the faculty of medical sciences than boys. This is not me who is saying this, it is the United Nations who has announced this. Recently we reopened the faculty of medical science in all major cities of Afghanistan and in Kandhar, there are more girl students than boys.! But they are segregated. And the Swedish committees have also established schools for girls. I know they are not enough, but thatís what we can do. So, that is what I say that we have restored. I donít say we are 100% perfect, and nobody will say that they are 100% perfect. We do have shortcomings, and we do need to amend our policies. But we canít do everything over-night.

* And the sixth problem that we are accused of is Ďterrorism,í or the existence of terrorists in Afghanistan. And for Americans terrorism or terrorist means only Bin Laden. Now you will not know that bin Laden was in Afghanistan 17 years before even we existed. Bin Laden was in Afghanistan, fought the Soviet Union, and Ronald Reagan, the president of America in that time, and Dick Cheney called such people freedom fighters or the Heroes of Independence, because they were fighting for their cause. So Osama bin Laden was one of those guys who was instigated by such media reports, so due to that provocation by these countries to go to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets there. And now when the Soviet Union is fragmented, such people were not needed anymore, and they were transformed into terrorists from heroes. So exactly like that Yasir Arafat was transformed from a terrorist to a hero. So we donít know as to what is the definition of Ďterrorism.í We do regret that the terrorist acts were actually horrible acts and they were terrorist acts. But if they are terrorist acts, what is the difference between those terrorist acts and the attacks on Afghanistan when in 1998 cruise missile were used on Afghanistan. Neither of the two were declared and both of them killed civilians. So we are confused as! to what is the definition of Ďterrorism.í If it means killing civilians blindly, both of them killed civilians blindly. And the fact is, Iím not going to be offensive or rude, or rude about this, Iím going to be frank. And I think it is sometimes honest to be rude. If the United States says that it has acted for its defense, lets see. 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 didnít know Osama Bin Laden then. I didnít 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 has attacked Afghanistan with 75 cruise missiles trying to kill one man. And they missed that man. Instead they killed 19 other students and never apologized for those killings. So what would you do if you were in our position; 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 if this happened? An instant declaration of war! But we weíre civilized. We didnít declare war. We had a lot of problems at home; we didnít want further problem[s]. And since then, we are 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 horrible 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 fact is that 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 showed us as to what they are doing to the people 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 is not going to blow his house, he must go to a court first. So, that was rejected. Our first proposal, despite all these things, was rejected. They said they will not believe in our judicial system, and we must give him to New York. The second proposal that we gave after the rejection of this first proposal was that we are ready to accept an international monitoring group to come to Afghanistan and monitor this manís activities in Afghanistan. So that he does nothing. Even that he has no telecommunications. That proposal was also rejected. And the third proposal we gave, six months ago, was that we were ready to try or accept a third Islamic countryís decision, or the trial in a third Islamic country, with consent of Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. That was also rejected. So we donít know, as to what is the problem behind. If bin Laden was the only issue, we are still very open minded, and for the fourth time, Iím here, with a letter from my leadership that Iím going to submit to the state department hoping that they will resolve the problem. But I donít think that they 'll solve the problem. Because we think, and I personally think now that maybe the United States is looking for a Bogey Man always. Remember what Gorbachev said? He said, that heís going to do the worst thing ever to the United States. And everybody thought that heís going to blow up the United States with nuclear weapon[s]. But he said, Iím 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 Bogey 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, causing deforestation, soil, air, and water pollution they are terrorist states; we are not. We cannot even make a needle; how are we going to be a threat to the world? So as I said in the beginning, the situation in Afghanistan is not our creation. The situation in Afghanistan reflects the worldís image. If you donít like the image in the mirror, do not break the mirror; break your face.Now, we are under sanctions. And the sanctions have caused a lot of problems. Despite that we are going under 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, here it is [holds up a pamphlet]. Seven hundred children died because of malnutrition and the severe cold weather. Nobody even talked about that.

Everybody knows about the statues. For us, we are surprised, that the world is destroying our future with economic sanctions. Then they have no right to worry about our past. Ever body is saying that they are destroying their heritage. They donít have any right to talk about that. They are destroying the future of our children with economic sanctions. How are they going to justify talking about our past? I know itís not rational and logical to blow up the statues in retaliation of economic sanctions. But this is how it is. After this announcements, I called my headquarters, and, I was really confused. I asked them, why are they going to blow up the statues. 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 or Sweden, had actually come, with a project of rebuilding the faces of these statues, which have been worn out by rain. So the council of people had told them to spend that money in saving the lives of these children, instead of spending that money to restore these statues. And these guys said: No, this money is only for the statues. People were really pissed off. They said: if you donít care about our children, we are going to blow up those statues.

I donít say that this is right or wrong, the decision is yours. Think for yourself. If you are in such a problem, 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 are coming and building statues here? What will you do? I talked to my headquarters today, and they said that the statues have not been blown so far. But the people are so furious. They are really angry, they want to blow them. And Kofi Annan is going. You know Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations? He went to Pakistan, and he said he is going to meet our representative there. This man never bothered to enter our country 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. And the OIC also sent a mission to go to Kabul and talk about those statues. So weíre really confused: the world is really caring about the statues, and they donít care about human beings.

I donít say we have to retaliate in blowing the statues; we have not done that. But if we were to destroy those statues, we would have destroyed them three years earlier, because we captured those areas three years ago. We didnít want to blow them. And now the situation has come, and its not our decision. This is the decision of the scholars and the people. And that the decision has been approved by the Supreme Court. We cannot reject this decision. So these guys are there, the OIC and some, even I think some ministers from different countries are there to save the lives of these statutes. I think they will not be blown because of the concerns of these people. But 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 Iím sure they donít care about our heritage. They only care about their one-time picnic site one time. Maybe they 'll have a good picnic site there, seeing those statues. They donít care about our heritage, Iím sure. If they were to care about our past, they wouldnít destroy our future. And Iím 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.

We are still open-minded. We have still open doors for negotiations, but our offices are closed everywhere. Our office was closed in New York a week ago.

They are trying to shut our offices in other countries, trying to isolate us, and they donít know that isolation is counter-productive. Because they donít have experts; the only experts they have are those people who speak English. They donít even speak the language. Those experts who are advising the sanctions, or the sanction committees have not even been to Afghanistan. And they are setting benchmarks for us to achieve (contd.).

Questions and answers followed this talk. An edited version will appear
in the next issue - ed.


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