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[Nettime-nl] NYTimes.com : Taliban Plead for Mercy to the Mise
Eveline Lubbers on Thu, 13 Sep 2001 10:56:07 +0200 (CEST)


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[Nettime-nl] NYTimes.com : Taliban Plead for Mercy to the Mise


This article from NYTimes.com
has been sent to you by evel {AT} xs4all.nl.

Enigzins hoopvoldat the NY Times zo'n
stuk schrijft.

Taliban Plead for Mercy to the Miserable in a Land of Nothing

By BARRY BEARAK

KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 12  If there are Americans clamoring to
bomb Afghanistan back to the Stone Age, they ought to know that
this nation does not have so far to go. This is a post-apocalyptic
place of felled cities, parched land and downtrodden people.

 The fragility of this country was part of the message the Taliban
government conveyed in a plea for restraint issued late tonight.
 It said in part, "We appeal to the United States not to put
Afghanistan into more misery because our people have suffered so
much."

 Whatever Afghanistan's current cataclysm, its next one seems to
require little time to overtake it. Wars fought by sundry
protagonists have gone on now for 22 consecutive years, a
remorseless drought for 4. Since 1996, most of the nation has been
ruled by Taliban mullahs whose vision of the world's purest Islamic
state has at least as much to do with controlling social behavior
as vouchsafing social welfare.

 The accused terrorist Osama bin Laden has found a home here,
angering much of the world. In 1998, America fired a volley of more
than 70 cruise missiles at guerrilla training camps reportedly
operated by the Saudi multimillionaire. Now, there seems to be the
prospect of another barrage, with Afghan hospitality to the same
man as the cause.

 As fear of an American attack mounted, the Taliban's senior
spokesman in Kandahar, Abdul Hai Mutmain, called the few foreign
reporters here to issue the statement, which in part defended Mr.
bin Laden:

 "These days, Osama bin Laden's name has become very popular and to
an extent it has become a symbol. These days, even to the common
people, Osama bin Laden's name is associated with all controversial
acts. Osama bin Laden does not have such capabilities. We still
hope sanity prevails in the United States. We are confident that if
a fair investigation is carried out by American authorities, the
Taliban will not be found guilty of involvement in such cowardly
acts."

 The statement also said, "Killing our leaders will not help our
people any. There is no factory in Afghanistan that is worth the
price of a single missile fired at us. It will simply increase the
mistrust between the people in the region and the United States."

 Whatever else there is to say about this entreaty, one part that
is indisputably true is that this land-locked, ruggedly beautiful
nation is in absolute misery.

 Here in Kabul, the capital, roaming clusters of widows beg in the
streets, their palms seemingly frozen in a supplicant pose.
Withered men pull overloaded carts, their labor less costly than
the price of a donkey.

 Children play in vast ruins, their limbs sometimes wrenched away
by remnant land mines. The national life expectancy, according to
the central statistics office, has fallen to 42 for males and 40
for females.

 The prolonged drought has sent nearly a million Afghans  about 5
percent of the population  on a desperate flight from hunger. Some
have gone to other Afghan cities, others across the border. More
than one million are "at risk of starvation," according to the
United Nations.

 Famine is the catastrophe Afghans are used to hearing about. Few
yet know of the threat of an American reprisal. The Taliban long
ago banned television, and the lack of electricity keeps most
people from listening to radio.

 The nation's 100 or so foreign aid workers suffer no such
telecommunications handicaps, however, and today many of them began
to flee their adopted home, fearing either the havoc of American
bombs or the wrath of subsequent Afghan outrage.

 Around noon, a special United Nations flight evacuated the first
of the expatriates. The remaining foreigners are expected to leave
on Thursday, as will three, and perhaps all four, of the American
parents here to observe the trial of their children, among eight
foreign aid workers accused by the Taliban of preaching
Christianity.

 As foreigners left, the Taliban took unusual precautions: they
began searching every vehicle entering government compounds.
Visitors were carefully frisked.

 But however much the Taliban hierarchy was beginning to fret,
streets and bazaars were a picture of normality. Word has spread
slowly about the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. And
even when everyday Afghans heard the news, there were no
accompanying video images to sear the horror into their memories.
Personal conversations only carried the dull stimuli of abstract
words: hijacked planes and collapsed buildings.

 Khair Khana, a man selling fertilizer in a market, knew just a bit
about the attack. He thought a plane had crashed into the White
House. And he considered the perpetrators, whoever they are, to be
"enemies of God," though he also felt "Americans should look into
their hearts and minds about why someone would kill themselves and
others" in such a way.

 He had not thought much about an American retaliation against
Afghanistan. When he did consider it, standing in a ramshackle
collection of stalls, he shrugged and said: "Americans are powerful
and can do anything they like without us stopping them."

 Nearby, a tailor, Abdul Malik, saw God's justice in America's pain
because, as he understands it, the United States has armed the
Afghan resistance to fight against the Taliban. "So they at least
now know how it feels in their own country," he said.

 As for Mr. bin Laden, the tailor considered judgment of him to be
God's affair. "If Osama is Islam's enemy, he should be gotten rid
of," he said. "But if he is a good Muslim and wants Islam to
prosper  and if America wants him dead  then we hope he destroys
America."

 The common people of Afghanistan are often circumspect with their
opinions. As one man said today: "Nobody here talks wholeheartedly
any more; it can be dangerous."

 The Taliban are credited with improving safety. They disarmed the
population, they put an end to banditry. But the security has come
at a steep price.

 Women have been forced into head-to-toe gowns known as burqas and
evicted from schools and the workplace. Men are obligated to wear
long beards or face jail. Banned are musical instruments,
chessboards, playing cards, nail polish and neckties. Cheers at
soccer matches are restricted to "Allah-u-akbar,"or God is great.
Freedom of speech has bowed to religious totalitarianism.

 Various Taliban police forces patrol the streets. Today, in a
derelict building that is used as a precinct office, one
25-year-old constable sat on the floor beneath a single dangling
light bulb. His name was Muhammad Anwar. He had heard something
about the attack in America but he had no idea how many were killed
or what cities were involved. Indeed, it seemed unlikely that he
had ever heard of New York.

 "Attacks like these are not a good thing because Muslims live all
over the world and Muslims may have been killed," Mr. Anwar said
hesitantly. By his reckoning, Americans were enemies of
Afghanistan, as were Jews and Christians. He thought about this a
bit more and retracted it partially. "There must have been all
kinds of people in the building, not just bad Jews but good Jews,
not just bad Christians but good ones."

 He remembered something he had learned in his madrassa, or
religious school. "It is un-Islamic to kill innocent people," he
said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/13/international/asia/13AFGH.html?ex=1001370439&ei=1&en=8b200941d5bf
e61c

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