Dec 1, 2021

Clash on the border of Afghanistan-Iran

There is some sporadic news coming out of western part of Afghanistan that the Taliban militants have clashed with the Iranian soldiers on the border of Nimroz province. It is unclear what has caused the confrontation but one thing is clear and must be understood by the Iranian government is that the Taliban will not be their friends--the thing that they hoped. It is known that Iran aided the Taliban in taking over districts and provinces across its eastern border, and even convinced government officials in Herat to give in to pressure mounted from the Taliban. No one expected the swift fall of Herat had it not been the help and pressure from Iran. 

Now this short skirmish is the beginning of a bitter and difficult future for Iran to deal with a terrorist group it helped to take over Afghanistan. The Taliban see Iran and its people as Rafidis, a derogatory term used by Sunni Wahhabi and Deobandi followers to delegitimate and dehumanize Shiite adherents as Muslims. Iran was not alone in helping the Taliban, Pakistan was another neighbor that provided significant support throughout the past two decades, which may experience the consequences of their actions since the Pakistan Taliban are getting motivated and bolder to fight the army.

Nov 27, 2021

the state of turmoil

The Taliban are constantly bombarding people with propaganda through all sort of media, most effectively through the Internet because they know how to lie to the world (if the world really cares about Afghanistan and its people any longer) about the situation they have created since mid-August when they took full control of Afghanistan. The Taliban prime minister, Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, in his first public address, said that they have brought security to the Afghan people and blamed the current state of turmoil to the previous government ran by Ashraf Ghani. Apart from all these lies, he said that the Taliban government has granted amnesty to everyone who aided foreigners or worked with the previous regime, but the reality on the ground debunks all his/Taliban's claims and promises. 

The Taliban members have been breaking into people's homes in broad daylight, arresting them, taking them to unknown places, some were summarily killed at the spot. This morning I talked to someone from my village who fled to Kabul, the Taliban, he told me, have taken away his car that he used for hauling passengers and now he doesn't know what to do since there is no job and money in the country. He is a Hazara and the Hazaras are the most vulnerable people who suffered during the Taliban regime in the 1990s and are suffering now.

As the fall quarter begins to wind down and the shock and trauma of Afghanistan's mess gradually fading away, I feel I need to return to routine blogging. I hope short post like this one becomes routine.

Sep 1, 2021

Why did Kabul fall so easily into the Taliban's hands?

They came, yes, the Taliban came at last, the vampires to drink the human blood, they are still thirsty though they have spilled too much blood for the past 20 years but it seems not enough. 

People were expecting this calamity but no one expected it to such a degree that overnight everything fell apart. The political turmoil in the months of May and June featured a doomy future. It became a reality in July when the Taliban's offense metastasized across the country. This catastrophe should be blamed on the stubborn and arrogant Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, who did not want the army to take the offensive.

I heard Biden saying that the Afghan Army did not fight. That is not true. How to fight with your hands tied? The decrepit old man who was an illegitimate president and with his fascist team did not allow the Army to fight the Taliban. Most of those generals and senior ranks of Afghan forces who wanted to fight were ousted or replaced with lower rank officers. In some cases, some generals faced mandatory retirement like Lt. Gen. Murad Ali Murad. In the past two years, nearly 35 generals were forced into retirement.

Now they are trying to explain why the Afghan central government collapsed. Well, if anyone followed the events evolving in the past three months, it was certain that the government would collapse eventually, only the narcissist leader, Ghani, stubbornly refused to believe it. He intentionally did not allow the army to fight against the Taliban and when they asked for air support, they were left alone to die at the hands of the Taliban. This gradually eroded the morale of the Afghan Army fighters. 

Not only Ashraf Ghani did not allow the Afghan Army to fight, but he and his team in the government suppressed popular uprisings against the Taliban. So, any local resistant groups from non-Pashtun that stood up against the onslaught of the Taliban, Ashraf Ghani's government considered it a threat, but ironically, not the Taliban who were inching close to the capital as districts after districts and provinces and provinces were falling to the hands of the Taliban.

Jul 29, 2021

racial scapegoating

if you have ever wondered what would racial profiling or racial scapegoating look like, here is a classic example:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state troopers on Wednesday to begin pulling over vehicles whose drivers are transporting migrants who pose a risk of carrying COVID-19, escalating his hardline approach on immigrants and eliciting outrage from advocates calling the order a ticket to racial profiling. Read the rest here

this is sad and scary; sad because racist ideology is persistently targeting immigrants and minorities; scary because it doesn't only permeate the airwaves and social media sites, it saturates the power structure that can put their pernicious ideology into practice, like what the governor of Texas is doing. what astonishes me is not the practice of pulling over by state troopers because it has been mandated for awhile, but the malleability of racial scapegoating, specially when it's related to covid-19 and anything that would be align with partisanship.

Jun 1, 2021

traveling into the past through smell

Yesterday, I went on a hike on nearby hills that were lavishly covered by sagebrush, a familiar shrub with abundant memories of my childhood. In the Hazaragi vernacular, it's called butta, they are strongly aromatic and can be felt from a distance. Back in the village, we used to collect them every fall. Sagebrush is arid-adapted shrubs that grow in harsh habitats in the mountains, deserts and steppes. 

When I was very young I used to go with my mother to nearby hills and mountains for collecting sagebrush. We burned them to cook our meals or heat our house in winter. I remember, my mom used to wear a long colorful gown with velvet flowers, contrasting the pale greenish landscape. I often drifted away from her, following my own passion, running after marmots, stalking them at their dens or climbing  up on boulders and rocks until I heard my mom’s worrying call “where are you?” “Here, coming,” I would respond. Then I followed her through the sagebrush that some were taller than me. Occasionally, she would need my assistance, especially when her skirt stuck in bushes or needed help removing thorns and thistles from her long beautiful skirt that was decorated with delicate flowers. 

It was the first time to see sagebrush plants in this country. I was so excited as soon as I found myself among them. I walked off the trail to pace through a sea of sagebrush to feel them, to pick up the strong pleasant scent on my clothes while at the same time caressing the petals with my hands. As memories flew in, suddenly, a powerful sense of being removed overwhelmed me. I found myself back in the village, on the mountains and hills that were so immensely familiar. I felt my mother's hands, the fragrance of the sagebrush on her hands, on her clothes, on her homemade leather gloves that she used to wear when collecting shrubs and on the way back, I used to carry them. I sat under a sagebrush and wept.

If the war and its horrible consequences wouldn't have happened, I would have been in the village, in that pristine and healthy ecosystem, having a normal and peaceful life, walking on hills and mountains with my mother. Yesterday, ambling through the sagebrush and picking up its fragrance was a revisit to my childhood, a moment that harked back to the good old days that will never repeat.

May 27, 2021

endless mode of injustice

The United States says Israel has the right to defend itself, meaning it can drop as much bombs as it can that disproportionately impact Gaza's civilian population. The US has now pledged $ 75 million to the Palestinians to rebuild Gaza. I read somewhere that the reconstruction of the destroyed areas in Gaza from a decade ago is still going on. 

During the brutal Israeli attacks that lasted 11 days, about 2,000 houses were completely destroyed and more than 15,000 others were damaged. It will take another decade to rebuild, but several thousand more homes may be demolished before they get reconstructed because US unconditional support for Israel's oppressive government's brutality is endlessly encouraging.

But there is a bitter irony in American benevolent aid to Palestinians. That is, we support Israel to do everything in its power to destroy you, but we also help you rebuild. That is, we share in both your destruction and reconstruction. Can you see the endless injustice?

May 21, 2021

out of desperation

This morning I heard on NPR that a truce between Palestinians and the state of Israel is ensued. A correspondent was reporting from the streets of Gaza where people came out to celebrate the ceasefire. In the background, the sound of drums and singing could be heard. It seemed that everyone was happy that the cruel and oppressive apartheid state has finally agreed not to pour bombs on people's homes and kill children any longer.

What a sad world we live in that now people are taking to streets to celebrate their survival and to produce euphoria that they were not completely eliminated. Concerning about human rights and respect for humanity? Forget it, that is a joke for the Israeli government and its accomplice, the US.

Unwavering support for Israel and the statement that it has legitimate right to defend itself produce more violence and further apartheid and persecution. The question is, how long will this unequivocal support lasts? Only time will tell.

May 8, 2021

Targeted killings of Hazaras by Sunni Islamist Militants

Today, Islamic militants have targeted school children belonging to ethnic Hazara in Dasht-e Barchi, a predominantly Hazara community in west of Kabul. A car bomb blasted right outside of the main gate of Sayed al-Shuhada, a secondary school as students, mostly girls, were exiting. Eyewitnesses have told that the explosion was followed by mortars and some residents have even heard gunshots as well. According to CNN, 85 people are killed and 150 others are wounded. It is still early, the number of casualty may grow.

My heart is bleeding with sorrow for children who died today. Sunni Islamist militants are committed to their beliefs and principles inspired by their holy book and god to kill us and our children. The enormity of such a crime is so horrendous that cannot be fathomed and cannot be put into words or described other than being indignant at your inability to do anything but to begin wringing your hands in silent rage amidst incessant weeping.

For the past few years, Hazaras have been systematically targeted across Afghanistan. This attack is part of a series of targeted killings of the Hazaras. The Afghan government is unable to protect them, in fact, the Hazara population look on government and its local authorities with growing suspicion. There is no option left for the Hazaras but to pick up arms and protect their own communities. As the US and other foreign forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan, the risk of relapsing into a renewed civil war is very likely. Hazaras must be prepared for the worst.

Apr 29, 2021

getting the covid vaccine

I waited long enough to make sure that I'm not among the privileged ones to receive the covid vaccine before those in need. Given my field of occupation, I fall under the category 1b, meaning that I am eligible for covid vaccine as those essential workers at stores, transportation, etc. I thought it is a privilege that other don't have and it made me uncomfortable because I've never considered myself to be in that position. 

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I went online on the university's health portal, I saw several openings. I was hesitant. I went back a week after and saw more openings. Then, I was convinced that perhaps a lot of people have vaccinated in my community, then I registered. The following day, I received my first shot of Pfizer vaccine which wasn't too bad except that I felt soreness in my arm that I was told is a common effect. I couldn't do workout for the next 24 hours but it went away quickly. There wasn't any serious side affect involved but the second shot was completely different. 

Yesterday, I received the second dose of the covid vaccine. I took it in the morning and I felt fine throughout the day but in the middle of night I felt chills in my body. It knocked me down for at least 12 hours. I recovered pretty quickly without taking any tylenol or ibuprofen. I was told to take pain relief medication but I ignored it and jokingly told a friend that I am a caveman and can make covid vaccine sick. It was the other way around. My body responded but lightly. Last night at midnight, I went for a mid-night stroll in the alleys and the surrounding streets. It was deserted except for the cars that were occasionally passing by. I came back and slept. I woke up in the morning. I felt extremely well. I feel relieved to have received the vaccine and I hope everyone receives it so that we get back to normal. 

Victim of conspiracy theory

No wonder why misinformation has become such a serious problem. Here's an example of how conspiracy theories are so alluring that even grown-ups can fall prey to it. It has become so dangerous that it can render its victims devoid of faculty for practical judgement, which ultimately lead to the deprivation of individual's agency because it erodes the very foundation of knowledge that is imperative to social agency.

In a video clip shared on twitter (see below) Donald Wagner, a GOP lawmaker of the Orange County asks doctor if vaccines had tracking devices. At first, it sounds like a joke but it is not, it's real. I quote what he says in the video clip: 

Is there any--in the vaccine--we heard about the injection of a tracking device. Is that being done anywhere in Orange County?

It took a few seconds for the top health official Clayton Chau to figure out what he just heard. The doctor's answer is NOPE. 

It is very unfortunate that Wagner is elected in that capacity, it is so embarrassing to have him in that position because politicians like him can drive people to danger and that can be more lethal than the coronavirus itself. Maybe it is not very surprising to hear such an absurdity since one of the super-spreaders of covid-19 misinformation, Trump suggested whether coronavirus might be treated by injecting disinfectant into the body.

If he would be seriously worried about tracking and surveillance, tracking happens through other means, for instance through fitbit, cookies, http referer, smartphones, smartwatches, and other virtual assistant AI. Wagner is currently representing 600,000 residents in District Three (Anaheim Hills, Irvine, Orange, Tustin, North Tustin, Villa Park, Yorba Linda, and the unincorporated canyons) and previously served as a mayor of Irvine. His profile says, he is "a vigorous advocate of public safety," considering his denials, the right wording would, he's a threat to public safety.

Apr 24, 2021

Armenian genocide and the Hazara massacres 1888-1893

Fearing of alienating Turkey, for decades US presidents have tried to avoid recognizing the events of 1915-1923 that led to 1.5 million death of Armenians at the hands Turks as "genocide." Finally, today, Biden is going to acknowledge the Ottoman Turks atrocities as genocide. It is considered to be the most monstrous crime against humanity to have occurred in the outset of the twentieth century. But it is not the only one, in fact, almost 25 years before another genocide occurred against indigenous population of the Hazaras in Afghanistan.

Abdul Rahman khan, a Pashtun leader organized a mass genocidal campaign between 1888 and 1893 in order to subjugate the Hazaras in Hazarajat, a geographical area in central Afghanistan. The Pashtun Sunni mullahs declared fatwas that the Hazaras are infidel and they must be killed. Suddenly, every Pashtun rose up to become ghazi, someone who kills non-Muslim for pleasing the Muslim God and wishes to enter to heaven. 

In addition to government forces, ordinary Pashtuns joined the onslaught. Between 1888-1893, more than 60% of the Hazara population was vanished, some were displaced but the majority of them were massacred while thousands of others sold in slave markets such as khiva, Bukhara, Bombay, Kabul, and Kandahar. 

Here is a piece of news dated October 19, 1893, published in The Argus, a local newspaper based in Brighton, UK. It says: "Advices from Cabul [Kabul] state that the Ameer [Amir abdul Rahman khan] has sold 10,000 of the captive Hazaras as slaves in order to defray the expenses incurred in suppressing the rising."

This crime is one of examples that was reported and documented but not all events were reported, especially the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent Hazaras, displacement of hundreds of thousands of others who permanently left their native land. Human rights groups have moral responsibilities to dig into history and investigate the crimes, so that one day, the mass atrocities against the Hazaras by Pashtuns also be recognized as a genocide. 

As we are going to hear today Biden's acknowledgment of Arminian genocide, I hope the young generation of Turks today take a moment and think what had their ancestors done against the Armenians. Instead of being ashamed, they should feel sympathetic and acknowledge those events as genocide. Equally, I hope young Pashtuns today feel the same whose ancestors committed atrocities against the innocent Hazaras. They should come out and acknowledge our historical pain and suffering so that we can hope and realize a better future alongside each other.

Related topic:
Massacres of Hazaras in Afghanistan by the Taliban between January 2001 and May 2000

Apr 21, 2021

Vartan Gregorian Passed Away at 87

I am very saddened to hear that Vartan Gregorian just passed away. There is an obituary of him published in the New York Times that chronicles his academic and philanthropic achievements as well as his service to American people. He was born the city of Tabriz to a Christian family who moved to the US at age 22. I have been knowing him from his book, The Emergence of Modern Afghanistan: Politics of Reform and Modernization, 1880-1946 (1969). Initially it was written as a dissertation but later he turned it to a book. 

Among many books written on the modern history of Afghanistan, I found Gregorian's book remarkably comprehensive. He highlights every turn of events between 1880 and 1946 to carefully analyze and provide a clear picture of how modern Afghanistan has tumultuously been emerging. After I graduated from college, I wrote him an e-mail to inquire whether he was looking for a research assistant because I heard from Jeffrey that he was planning to rewrite his book on Afghanistan. At the time, he was the president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. He kindly replied to my e-mail, ironically dated April 11, 2014, he died on April 15. 

My dear Nasim:

 

Thank you for your email.  I am glad that you enjoyed The Emergence of Modern Afghanistan.  I am very grateful for your interest in research assistance.  However, I have completed the bulk of the research for the next edition of the book and do not have a need for help at this time.  I will hold on to your contact information, however, in case I embark on further updates or publications and find myself in need of someone with your expertise.  Thank you again.

 

With best wishes,

 

Yours,

Vartan Gregorian

I am not sure whether he had a chance to publish it. I hope someone will take it to a publisher, it will be a huge contribution to the body of knowledge on Afghanistan, a country that has been engulfed in violence and turmoil for centuries. I am curious what he wanted to add and what informed his decision to rewrite the book.

Apr 19, 2021

Unfinished Job and Hasty Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan

I am reposting this piece that I wrote for CNN in December 2009 when Obama planned to send more troops to Afghanistan to "finish the job" and bring back the troops. I argued that sending more troops doesn't help, instead, the US should allocate all those resources to train Afghan security forces. This year, Biden has decided to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan leaving behind nothing but a shaky, discriminatory and corrupt administration with weak and worn out security forces. 

After a long debate over increasing troops in Afghanistan, finally, President Obama said that he has decided to send around 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan. Now, deploying 30,000 troops to Afghanistan is a good idea but I’m doubtful that this will work as a long-term strategy to “finish the job.” A long-term strategy to mitigate the violence and end the war in Afghanistan is to train and equip the Afghan National Army.

No so long ago in July 2009, around 4,000 U.S. Marines alongside 650 Afghan police and soldiers took a massive operation called Khanjar (dagger) in Helmand in southern Afghanistan. It was supposed to wipe the Taliban out of the area but ultimately nothing remarkably happened. The Taliban mobilized their insurgency against international forces, Afghan Army and police in different areas and especially started moving to the northern Afghanistan. Northern Afghanistan, which has been quite peaceful since 2002, in the spring 2009 became insecure and unstable - hindering the peaceful life of every Afghan. More troops will be unhelpful unless there is an explicit strategy towards the future. If the Obama administration does not plan a clear strategy for the next four or five years, sending triple number of these troops will not be helpful.

One of the reasons for failing in southern Afghanistan is that after the NATO troops cleaned the area of Taliban, they didn’t stay in there and the ANA (Afghan National Army) was not capable to take the security. Ultimately, the Taliban returned to the area. Horribly, the poor villagers who helped NATO forces and the ANA were targeted or killed by the Taliban. Musa Qala is one of the districts in Helmand that the most intensive operation took place. In 2006, it was turned into a terror university for Taliban and deemed to be influenced by Al Qaeda. The British troops fought against the Taliban and cleaned the area but they left the region for elder leaders and villagers that promised keep their own security. But a few months later, the Taliban attacked those whom worked and helped NATO forces and some were beheaded by the Taliban.

Unfortunately, since then, the locals lost trust towards foreign forces. This created a lack of confidence between foreign forces and Afghan locals because the locals are 100 percent sure that foreign forces will leave the area sooner or later but the Taliban will be back. The locals do not have interest in Taliban but they have no choice, they are exposed from both sides and ultimately they prefer the Taliban. It will take time for the Afghan government and its supporters to reshuffle its relationship among locals but still it is possible to regain.

It is imperative to plan a clear strategy alongside of extra troops in Afghanistan. Specifically, if the United States and its allies help and train the Afghan National Army they will be able to handle the task well. For the last eight years this was not taken serious and less money spent on training the army and more money spent on foreign forces. On November 12, the ministry of defense said that if the world communities fulfill their commitment to train and equip the ANA, within four years they will be capable of taking responsibility of security across the country.

Since 2002, especially when the insurgency increased in the southern region, training ANA wasn’t so much in demand. But within the next four years, if the Afghan government with the support of the United States and its allies focus on increasing the capability of ANA, soon we will witness that they will triumph over the enemy. And finally, by increasing the ANA capabilities, the United States and its allies will be able to finish the job, but not so hastily.

Apr 18, 2021

relentless gullibility

Here's an example of relentless gullibility from a representative, Luaren Boebert. I looked her up and found that she dropped out of high school in her senior year, and didn’t attend college, nothing to blame her there, but she still can educate herself by looking things up on google or in a book or ask someone to define what Marxism is. A Ponzi scheme is a product of Capitalism, not Marxism which theoretically sees a classless society where everyone is equally contributing to a common good. I suspect one reason that she tweeted about Ponzi scheme is because Bernie Madoff just passed away. I feel sorry for her and for the people who sent her to congress. Apparently, she is also a QAnon enthusiast.


Apr 16, 2021

they are leaving

They came, made a mess, and now they are going back. Then there are the unfortunate and defenseless people like the Hazaras who have no way to escape and no ability to confront the most evils on earth. These evils (the Taliban) are celebrating the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, they call it a "defeat" because they claim to have brought the Americans to their knees. No, you didn't brought them to their knees, their mission is over. It has always been like this, in times of war, they come and destroy, and then return to where they came from.