I came across this terrific Letter From Kabul by Fotini Christia the other day. She writes about Afghans fears for themselves and their country when the US troops withdraw. Of what state the country will be in economically, politically and socially. Of the diplomatic strategy that Obama is choosing not to use right now. And she says what I think. The deals have been done. The money has been made. The Taliban will be back. People are expecting war. But she also asks this question of the Obama administration:
‘The administration has so far avoided defining what success in Afghanistan actually means and it cannot be vague any longer. There is much confusion on the ground, and the Afghan girls and women attending school and the others sacrificing their lives fighting against the insurgency deserve a straight answer as much as the people in the United States do.’
I first felt fear, real life or death fear, in Kabul in 2008. While I was there volunteering for Mahboba’s Promise, I was savagely attacked by my guard dog, Mike. No, it wasn’t a Taliban raid or kidnapping. It wasn’t an IED or a shoot out. It wasn’t a roadside hold up or robbery. It was a dog attack. Something that could have happened in my own backyard in Melbourne. Something I never thought would ever happen to me.
It also wasn’t the ‘ordinary’ fear of sending your children across the city to school with the threat of suicide bombers every day. Or the fear of being in a room full of men you don’t know because your last experience of this wound up in rape. Or the fear of neighbourhood men, men you have known your whole life, lording their power over you as you shop. Or the fear of being seen outside your house after dark. Or the fear that all of this (and worse) will return, get worse, in months to come.
I can’t really imagine what it must be to be an Afghan woman (or in fact any Afghan without access to money or power) right now. The fear could almost be debilitating. Paralsying. And yet, Afghans keep going. Afghans are a resilient people. The nation will probably get through whatever is to come, but it would be so much better if they didn’t have to ‘get through’ anything ever again. The Afghan people have been let down by us, their Government, their police and their army. They don’t deserve the widespread bloodshed and terror that is probably inevitable now. And the freaky thing is, that we escape it because we happen to live in this country. Luck. That’s all it is.
You’d think we’d be acutely aware of our luck, everyday, and therefore be more actively empathetic to asylum seekers and refugees of all descriptions. You’d think that, wouldn’t you.