It was Tuesday, the 12th of May when 16 people were killed including two newborns. As the forces came in for the rescue, women, and doctors were seen slouched against the beds and walls unmoving while protecting the newborns in their arms. The security forces battled the armed extremists for four hours; however, they could not save the 16 innocent lives lost that day.
Another similar massacre took place the same day when a suicide bomber killed 24 people at a funeral. Such a deadly spike of killings that has increased over time has put the peaceful state of Afghanistan at risk.
A quick flashback of the Afghan peace process
On 1st March this year, the United States and the Taliban signed up for a peace deal after numerous bilateral peace talks on the neutral ground of the middle east. They finally came to an agreement and agreed on four key points.
The first mutually agreed point included the withdrawal of the US troops for a period of fourteen months. The second point was an assurance from the Taliban that Afghanistan will not be the base for launching terror attacks against the US or provide grounds for extremist groups such as ISIS. The third point included the agreement of the Taliban to start an Intra-Afghan talk with the government of Kabul to bring henceforth peace in Afghanistan. The fourth and most important point of agreement was the cessation of violence in Afghanistan.
The deal was eventually made to end violence in Afghanistan to mutually agree to stop terror attacks in Afghanistan and the US. This was the first peace deal to last this long since the war on terror after the rise of the Taliban to power in the 1990s and the September 11 attacks.
With the bleeding economy, the US had no choice but to negotiate. Similarly, the Taliban in Afghanistan also didn’t have the capacity to continue to decisively prevail on the battleground and keep their families safe at the same time. Negotiations had to be made and the peace process was just too good to be avoided. With the ruling in Aghanistan divided into fragments, the Afghan politician and powerbrokers were also in constant negotiations to live in peace with each other.
The current scenario of the peace process
After the Tuesday massacre, a blame game started. The Afghan government blames the Taliban for the attack; however, the Taliban has denied any responsibility for its involvement in the killing. With the fear of more attacks on Kabul, Ghani has halted the peace talk and ordered the Afghan forces to start an aggressive operation against the Afghan Taliban.
On the other side of the story, both the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani military establishment have pointed fingers at India to plot against the peaceful situation of Afghanistan and sabotage the peace process. The Taliban chief negotiator, Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai in a statement said, “India has always played a negative role in Afghanistan. India supported traitors in the country,” to which Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected the Taliban’s claim and stated, “India is one of the biggest donor countries and has helped Afghanistan in the development and reconstruction areas, we appreciate their cooperation. We expect India and other neighboring countries to play a significant role in the Afghan peace process.”
The blame game in disrupting the peace process
According to Pakistan’s claim, India has been investing heavily in Afghanistan to support extremist groups. It has been following a similar policy to Pakistan to support groups in Afghanistan, but the extremist ones such as the IS in Afghanistan. According to Sabookh Syed, an Islamabad journalist, he states that such a conclusion by Pakistan has “prompted the US to send a message to New Delhi that India should pursue direct talks with the Taliban.” Earlier, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalid urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to support the Doha peace process deal, but India has so far been reluctant to engage in the peace process and claims the Taliban to be a Pakistan-sponsored organization.
The US, however, claims that the attacks were from the IS, the extremist group. The IS has yet to claim responsibility for the Kabul attack and with no reply from them, it is quite unlikely they will accept it in the first place. According to Sabookh Syed, “US Secretary State of Mike Pompeo categorically told President Ghani that IS, not the Taliban, perpetrated the attack.”
Role of the US in the aftermath of the massacre
The US secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has called the attack “an act of sheer evil”. The US so far has played a neutral role by urging both, the Afghan government and the Taliban to find a solution to this new crisis. According to the given statement, “the Taliban and the Afghan government should cooperate to bring the perpetrators to justice. As long as there is no sustained reduction in violence and insufficient progress towards a negotiated political settlement, Afghanistan will remain vulnerable to terrorism.” The statement was given as a reminder to both sides of the state to condemn any attacks against each other as they both had agreed to reduce it to 80% as was previously agreed.
Though The US agrees that only a political agreement is the best way to end the war in Afghanistan, the process will still be “a windy, bumpy road.”
The Taliban’s stance to hold onto the peace process
According to U.S officials, the Taliban’s statement by Mujahid highlighted that the Taliban have played a significant role in military operations and that their contribution has been at the forefront to reduce violence in Afghanistan. With the recent deadly massacre and 32 killed in ethnic Hazara and Shiite gathering in Afghanistan in the month of March, the US does not agree to full control of the Taliban in terms of contribution towards peace in Afghanistan and hence will continue their role through airstrikes as recently highlighted by the Pentagon spokesperson, Army Lt. Col. Thoms Campbell, “the US will continue airstrikes in defense of Afghan forces despite the resumption of offensive operations.” No matter how the chaos after this incident the massacre ends, the Taliban have to continue working towards a peace process to end the series of violence in Afghanistan.
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Death of Mahsa Amini: How Governments are Denying Women’s Right to Choice?
Millions of Muslim women proudly wear Hijaab as a symbol of their religion. What makes them different from those protesting against obligatory hijab in Iran is the women’s right to choose.
But when you widen your horizon, you’ll realize that the dilemma of women’s right to choose is apparent across borders. Be it Iran, India, France, or the US, women are constantly fighting for control of their bodies.
The History of Pro- & Anti-Hijab Protests in Iran
Looking at Iran today, it can be hard to picture that only four decades ago, Iranian women were protesting for the right to wear hijabs. The pro-hijab movement sparked when Iran’s Reza Shah Pahlavi government outlawed any type of veil or head scarfs in an attempt to westernize the country.
At times, the government even forced a complete ban on hijabs, with police scrapping off women’s hijabs in public. During this period of Iranian history, the hijab becomes the symbol of freedom, revolution, and democracy.
The pro-hijab uprising brought down Shah’s government and put Ruhollah Khomeini in office. The Khomeini government, however, was far from ideal. By 1983, the new administration mandated the hijab for Iranian women.
Women were now forced to wear headscarves to an extent where they were punished with prison and even lashes for not abiding by the dress code. The worst phase started after 2005 when Dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad introduced the Morality Police; a police department made up of both men and women to keep an eye on women’s clothing in public.
All this brings us to 13 September 2022, when Mahsa Amini, a 22-years old Iranian Kurdish woman, was arrested for violating the hijab code. In police custody, she was subjected to brutal violence that ended up taking her life three days later, on 16 September.
And it was her horrific death that sparked Iran’s historic anti-hijab protest we are witnessing today.
Women’s Right: The Death of Mahsa Amini & the Dirty Politics
The death of Mahsa Amini has sparked unprecedented protests in Iran. Despite a visible crackdown by the Iranian security forces, which includes mass arrests and internet interruption; women are taking the movement to the streets at a scale never seen before.
However, let’s put protests aside for this article. Because what’s happening in Iran right now is much more than just women fighting for their right to choose.
There has been no shortage of individuals, groups, and foreign entities weaponizing these protests to push their political and geopolitical goals.
Many gulf countries, for example, are using these protests to push back the nuclear deal. Backing on the demonstrations, the Western governments, including the US and EU, are considering further sanctions on Iran — even though the economic sanctions have already caused more than enough problems for Iranian women and their families.
And above all are Islamophobes who are using the protest to criticize hijabs, Muslims, and Islam in general. But how is any of this going to help the protesting women in Iran?
Everybody is currently striving to further their agendas, while Iranian women are risking their lives on the street.
Iran and the US: Not So Different Countries for Women’s Rights
Although the US and the Iranian government have polar ideologies, the US is in no state to police Iran morally regarding women’s rights.
It is the US, where a 10-year-old victim of rape from Ohio is not allowed to go through an abortion because of the new state law. Women in the US are protesting against the blanket ban on abortion, with no hope for reforms.
On the other hand, the anti-hijab protest in Iran has reignited the hijab debate in India. Why is it so difficult for the Karnatak government to respect the choice of Muslim women students to wear a hijab to college? It’s absurd that these students have to fight their own government for their choice to be respected.
But be it Iran, Pakistan, India, or the USA, the debate remains the same: do women have the right to choose? Or is the word choice totally non-existential for women?
The Courageous Women of Iran
Women protesting in Iran are not again the hijab but against the imposition of the hijab. But when religion takes over governments, it creates an illusion of unlimited power. This is the case of Iranian authorities who are practicing absolute power by virtue of morality police.
But is it acceptable to restrain women against their will like literal goons?
The protest that started with the death of Mahsa has now become an international movement for women’s right to choose. And, make no mistake, women are not alone here. Most Iranian male population stands with courageous Iranian women on the frontline against injustice in the name of religion.
Let Women Exercise their Right to Choice
Yes, when it comes to hijab rights in Iran, India, or the US, choosing the right side is not always straightforward. It’s complicated with numerous factors, including individuality, choice, and religion, at play.
We should stand with Iranian women protesting for their freedom, fundamental rights, and liberation. I will continue to speak against governments banning women from wearing hijabs and against regimes that force them to wear them.
Hijab or no hijab: how about we let women everywhere have the right to choose?
Child Marriage in Afghanistan: Poverty Bearing More Child Brides
It is difficult to be a young woman in Afghanistan. Parents stuck in poverty are forced to sell their underage daughters into marriages, and the horrible nightmare repeats itself. Over and over again, in a different family, a different young girl, a different village, but the same gloomy fate.
But, what is behind the increasing child marriage in Afghanistan? Here’s an in-depth report:
A Year into Taliban’s Afghanistan
Last week marked a year of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. And the sudden government shift and violence have given rise to a massive refugee wave in the country.
Since the takeover, this southeast Asian country’s poverty has gotten worse. From food and financial recourse to healthcare and education, the Taliban have made Afghanistan, a living nightmare.
And, amongst the worst hit are children, especially young girls.
Arranging marriages (monetary deals) in the rural regions of Afghanistan has now become a common practice. While the groom pays the girl’s parents to close the agreement, the young girls traded in the deal often stay with the parent till they are 15 years old.
However, even before the Taliban, child marriages were ordinary in Afghanistan. For example, between 2018 and 2019; UNICEF reported 10 cases of the sale of children and 183 child marriages in Baghdis and Herat.
But, the stark increase in poverty after the Taliban’s takeover has forced thousands of desperate families into this ridiculous practice for survival.
Child Marriage in Afghanistan
In the rural regions of Afghanistan, populated by people displaced by drought and war, families are desperate for food and money. So much so that they are forced to marry off (sell) their daughters.
Today, girls as young as five are traded for marriage. This CNN report records a heart-wrenching case of a 9-year-old girl sold as a bride to a 55-year-old man.
Aziz, a ten-year-old girl, is amongst thousands of other child brides of Afghanistan whose fates have been sealed at such a tender age.
These young brides forced into marriage are robbed of their childhood. In addition, they frequently confront barriers to education and a future they are not mentally, physically, or emotionally prepared for. Thus terribly affecting their health.
For example, maternal mortality is a serious repercussion of child marriage in Afghanistan, which is estimated to be 28% nationally. In Asia, Afghanistan has the highest rates of maternal and newborn mortality. Around 700 to 1,600 moms pass away for every 100,000 deliveries.
And the worse the deprivation, the more children will be sold off as enslaved people or child brides and more often.
The Taliban regime has imposed a prohibition on selling women and girls and forcing women into marriage some months after seizing power. Afghan families, however, claim that there have been unconfirmed reports of women and children being forced into marriages with males, including Taliban leaders.
But, the forced trades are not just limited to young girls.
Children for Sale: Child Trafficking On a Rise
In an interview with ABC news; when Nosheen described how her family decided to sell her unborn child, she remarked;
“Sad doesn’t even come close to how I feel.”Nosheen
With five other children to support, her husband Aziz, whose identity has also been altered, said they were forced to accept the $US565 offer for their unborn child.
When the families cannot secure food, they are left with no choice but to sell their young children. In cases like Nosheen, infants are sold to couples searching for a baby. However, most young girls are traded as wives too much older men.
Most trafficked children come from internally displaced populations: families either forced to flee by the Taliban or voluntarily displaced due to a lack of livelihood.
Child Marriage in Afghanistan: The Role of the Crippling Economy
As a country strained with decades of natural disaster, poverty, and insecurity, Afghanistan’s economy has suffered a steep downfall for years. And a year into the Taliban’s rule has further worsened the economic condition of Afghanistan.
Economic sanctions and banking crisis depict the sharp end of the country’s economic collapse.
Over 95% of households across the country are experiencing food insecurity. Afghan children are starving. A report by UNICEF estimates that over 13,700 newborn babies have already died in 2022, as per data from the Ministry of Public Health.
The reasons are clear, the forced removal of women from the workforce and school is taking a toll on the country’s economy. An analysis by UNICEF highlights that depriving girls of education has cost the Afghan economy at least $500million in the last 12 months.
Humanitarian Aid: Drastically Under-funded
Life is tough in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Poverty is rampant, and families who, despite all atrocities, have managed to be together are forced to send their underage children out for work. Many parents unable to make the excruciating choice of selling their children are selling their organs to make ends meet.
Afghans need humanitarian needs now more than ever. But, despite seeking the largest ever humanitarian monetary aid of $4.4 billion; the dire humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is drastically underfunded.
Ayman al-Zawahiri Killed In a Drone Strike By The US
The US killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, in an Afghani drone operation over the weekend, confirms President Bidden.
United States President Joe Biden has revealed that the US killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, in an Afghani drone operation over the weekend. The operation killed him on Sunday during a CIA counterterrorism operation in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. He was one of the most wanted terrorists in America and collaborated with Osama Bin Laden in the planning of the 9/11 attacks. The United States confirmed that it was a CIA drone that attacked and killed Zawahiri. The US claims that his death is the biggest blow to al-Qaeda since it killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.
Zawahiri was rumored to be hiding in the tribal region of Pakistan or within Afghanistan prior to his killing. A senior administration official told reporters that Zawahiri had been hiding for years. He confirmed that the operation to find and kill him was the result of “careful patient and persistent” work by the counter-terrorism and intelligence community.
Justice Has Been Delivered- Claims US President Joe Bidden
Bidden who was isolated by a recurrence of covid-19 was aware of the attack on Zawahiri. He spoke outdoors on Monday from the Blue room Balcony at the White House. He said that he had given the final approval for the “precision strike” after months of planning. This strike comes a year after Biden gave the order to remove US forces from Afghanistan. It was immediately afterward that the Taliban captured power there.
Talking about the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan, Bidden made the following statement. ” I made the decision that after 20 years of war. The United States no longer needed thousands of boots on the ground in Afghanistan to protect America from terrorists who seek to do us harm. And I made a promise to the American people, that we continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond. We’ve done just that.”
“Our intelligence community located Zawahiri earlier this year — he moved to downtown Kabul to reunite with members of his immediate family,” he continued.
Biden further stated that “For decades, he was the mastermind of attacks against Americans.”
“Now, justice has been delivered and this terrorist leader is no more. People around the world no longer need to fear the vicious and determined killer,” Bidden said.
Ayman al-Zawahiri After The Killing Of Osama Bin Laden
Zawahiri, who turned 71 this year, had continued to be a prominent international face of the organization. This happened during the11 years after the US killed Osama bin Laden. He had served as bin Laden’s personal physician, political partner, and right-hand guy at one point. Al-Zawahiri had occupied the official page of the FBI under the “Most Wanted” title. The FBI page informs from the color of his eyes to his various aliases. Under his name the page mentions “Murder of U.S. Nationals Outside the United States; Conspiracy to Murder U.S. Nationals Outside the United States; Attack on a Federal Facility Resulting in Death”. It also mentioned that the United States Department of State offered a reward of up to $25 million for ‘information leading directly to the apprehension or conviction of Ayman Al-Zawahiri’. On Monday the FBI updated its Most Wanted Terrorist poster with Zawahiri’s status as “Deceased.”
Who was Ayman Al-Zawahiri?
Zawahiri was born in Egypt in 1951 and raised in Maadi, several miles from the capital Cairo. As a student, Syed Qutb’s work greatly influenced him. Qutb was an Egyptian writer who was one of the foremost figures in modern Sunni Islamic revivalism. Zawahiri became a highly educated professional and trained in one of the country’s leading universities. He went on to become a doctor and an eye surgeon to the successor of Osama bin Laden.
When he was fifteen years old, he organized his first movement in an effort to overthrow the then Egyptian government. He made headlines for himself for the first time in a courtroom cage. It was following the 1981 assassination of the then Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat. The court apprehended Al-Zawahiri for his involvement in the assassination as a member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Al-Zawahiri rose to prominence as a veteran of the Egyptian Islamist jihad. The government detained him along with a large number of other Islamists.
Merger with Al-Qaeda
Al-Zawahri fled Egypt shortly after Sadat’s murder and he made his way to Peshawar, where he joined Osama bin Laden. The Gulf war and the entry of the American troops into Saudi Arabia impacted Zawahiri’s ideology. It was due to these reasons he believed that Sadat had betrayed the Islamist cause. Soon Osama bin Laden completely shared his thoughts and made a similar opinion about the House of Saud. However, at one point al-Zawahiri advocated for striking the ‘distant enemy’ (the United States) first. He believed it would be better to topple the ‘close enemy’ (the Arab governments) later.
After bin Laden’s death, Ayman al-Zawahiri formally became the new leader of Al-Qaeda Central. Instead of a natural leader, his role in Al-Qaeda had always been that of a strategist and master planner. However, Zawahiri held the organization together. Under his leadership, Al Qaeda and its affiliates grew from an estimated 400 members on 9/11 to possibly 40.000 now.
Also, read How Russia Built A Channel to Taliban
How The World Reacted to The Killing Of Ayman Al-Zawahiri
A statement from the foreign ministry of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday hailed the US declaration of Zawahiri’s killing. “Thousands of innocent people of different nationalities and religions, including Saudi citizens, were killed,” it stated. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia welcomed the announcement by US President Joe Biden of the targeting and killing of the terrorist leader of Al-Qaeda Ayman Al-Zawahiri,” it said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Twitter after the news of al-Zawahiri’s killing came out.
“The death of Ayman al-Zawahiri is a step toward a safer world. Canada will keep working with our global partners to counter terrorist threats, promote peace and security, and keep people here at home and around the world safe.” he tweeted.
Australian PM Anthony Albanese spoke in Parliament and sent his prayers to the family of the victims that died.
“For two decades, this man fled the consequences of his crimes. Our thoughts today are with the loved ones of all of his victims.
“So many lives have been lost and so much blood has been spilled since, including all those Australians who served, sacrificed, and gave their lives in Afghanistan,” said Albanese.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Monday confirmed an airstrike conducted by a drone in Kabul. He said the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan views that as a clear violation of international principles.
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