Scenes of thousands of Afghans flooding Kabul International Airport to flee the country as Taliban fighters quickly consolidate their control over the capital, raised many questions, including who are these people and why are fleeing- they ?
In the United States and other Western media, the answers were readily available: most of them were “translators”, Afghans “collaborating” with the United States and other NATO countries. ; “militants” fleeing the brutality that awaited them once the Americans and their allies left the country, and so on.
In fact, the answer is far more complex than that offered by Western officials and media, which ultimately gave the impression, albeit inaccurate, that NATO armies were in Afghanistan to protect human rights, educate women and bring civilization to a seemingly barbaric culture.
Although political dissent is a basic human right, there is a clear and final line between the legitimate right to challenge one’s government / regime and to collaborate voluntarily with another – especially when such collaboration can have disastrous consequences for one’s own people. .
In the United States and Europe, there are thousands of political dissidents from many parts of the world – South America, the Middle East, East Asia and others – who are, sadly, used as cheerleaders for political and military interventions, either directly by some governments, or indirectly, through pressure and lobby groups, academic circles and the mainstream media.
These individuals, often promoted to âexpertsâ, appear and disappear whenever they are useful and when their usefulness expires. Some may even be sincere and well-meaning when they denounce, for example, the human rights violations committed by certain regimes in their own country of origin, but the outcome of their testimonies almost always translates into selfish policies.
Thousands of Afghans – political dissidents, NATO collaborators, students, athletes and workers seeking opportunities – have already arrived in various Western capitals. As might be expected, many are used by the media and various pressure groups to justify the war on Afghanistan in retrospect, as if it were a moral war. Desperate to live up to expectations, Afghan âactivistsâ are already appearing on Western political platforms, speaking of the Taliban’s dismal record in terms of human rights and, in particular, women’s rights.
But what is the point of appealing to Western moral conscience after 20 years of a deadly NATO-led invasion that cost Afghanistan hundreds of thousands of innocent people?
In Afghanistan, an alternate narrative is evolving.
On September 11, hundreds of Afghan women demonstrated at Kabul University, not against the Taliban, but against other Afghan women who claim to speak from Western capitals about all Afghan women.
“We are against these women who demonstrate in the streets, claiming that they are representative of women,” said one of the speakers, Agence France Presse reported.
While AFP reiterated that the demonstrators “promised” their commitment to “all the tough policies of the Taliban in terms of gender segregation”, stressing how they were all covered “from head to toe”, the event was significant. Among many issues, it asks the question: who represents Afghan women, those who have left or those who have stayed?
A large banner held by demonstrators in Kabul read: âThe women who have left Afghanistan cannot represent us.
The truth is, no one represents Afghan women except those who are democratically elected by Afghan society to represent all sectors of that society, including women. Until true democracy is practiced in Afghanistan, the struggle will continue for true freedom, human rights, equality and, of course, representation.
This fight can only take place in an organic and local Afghan context – whether in Afghanistan or outside the country – but certainly not through Fox News, the BBC, or the US Senate hearings.
The late US-Palestinian scholar, Professor Edward Said, had repeatedly warned against the pseudo-reality painted by âindigenous informantsâ – supposed political dissidents recruited by Western governments to provide a practical description of reality in the country. Middle East and elsewhere, as a moral justification for war. The consequences, as the war and invasion of Iraq in 2003 demonstrated, can be horrific.
Said challenged a particular ‘indigenous informant’, the late Fouad Ajami, a Lebanese scholar, whose ideas about Iraqi enthusiasm for the US war, though disastrously wrong, were used by George W. Bush and others as proof that the looming war was meant to be a “cake”.
Ajami’s ideas have long been discredited, but the political machinations that still favor âindigenous informantsâ over genuine human rights defenders and good scholarship remain in place. Many of the Afghan escapees will certainly be strategically placed through the same channels, which continue to promote interventions and sanctions as sound policies.
The war in Afghanistan is hopefully over for good, but the conflict over who represents the people of this war-torn country remains unresolved. It is up to the Taliban to keep their promises of equal representation and political plurality, otherwise there are many others abroad who will be ready to claim the role of legitimate representation.
In the Middle East, in particular, we have already seen this phenomenon of west-based âlegitimateâ democratic representations. In the end, these “governments in exile” only resulted in further political deception, division, corruption and continued war.
War-torn Afghanistan – exhausted, injured and in dire need of a break – deserves better.