Sep 18, 2015

Karzai! No One Cares What You Think

Who cares what Karzai thinks, today? No one, really. In a recent interview with the BBC, Hamid Karzai said, Americans have thrown hundreds of millions of dollars without any useful or beneficial purposes. Well, Karzai might be right on this partially, but it was his family members who benefited the most from American money than anyone else. Among members of his family, the one who directly received American money was Hamid Karzai's controversial half-brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai. (Wali was assassinated in 2011, and later, it was speculated that he was shot by one of his family members.) Ahmad Wali used American money for various purposes, one of which made him well-known and rich was illegal land grabbing, in Kandahar. While Wali was engaged in illegal land acquisition by using Karzai's influence, who also tried to cultivate power and buy support of Polpalzai tribesmen; others were engaged with Americans as private security contractors and they also owned several construction companies.

According to news sources, Major projects in Afghanistan had been first contracted to companies owned by Karzai's brothers, and then were subcontracted to other companies, but again, it was Karzai's family who collected major profits out American money which was supposed to be spent on construction.

When it comes to refugee crisis, Karzai appears utterly oblivious to the fact that it is his legacy and due his support of the Taliban insurgency throughout his term that has turned the country a dangerous place for all Afghans and particularly for the Hazaras who are being mercilessly targeted by the Taliban on daily basis. The majority of Afghan refugees who are now crossing the borders alongside Syrian refugees are the Hazara people. Karzai knows it, but he is afraid to pronounce it.

Charging and blaming Americans for wrongdoing is Karzai's favorite way for not only trying to dodge public disapproval and loathing, but also trying to win hearts and minds among the Taliban members whom he calls them his brothers. Like his successor, Ashraf Ghani - whose government is about to fall apart - Karzai is not a reliable person, at all. He says, he is not a coup maker, but he now is actively attempting to undermine the current government.

It is astonishing how Karzai relentlessly appears to be the number one enemy of the United States. He calls al-Qaede a myth and rejects that 9/11 attacks were planned in Afghanistan. His schizophrenic behavior is not new, in fact, his erratic temperament began in 2009, when Obama took office. At any rate, whatever Karzai believes or says today is not really important. He does not have anything new to offer for improvement of the current situation of Afghanistan, and its government, which is teetering on the brink of collapse.

Sep 10, 2015

What an Ignoble World we Live in

Lets imagine ourselves living in a boundary where lines have divided us from each other based on our colors, ethnicity and language. Imagine that we are being told throughout our lives that it is our noble duty to protect our national values from others; others who are different from us in many ways, and there might not be even a single sign of commonality between us and others. What would happen hereafter?

It is encountering others that sometimes ignites our sense of ignobleness, and it projects fanaticism, which then let us discharge hatred towards others. The sense of otherness that infuses with ire and then invades our conscience; and eventually replace our morality and ethics with zealotry. That is when humanity disappears.

Zealotry is a threat to human civilization; Petra Laszlo is a small example of what could happen if we let our conscious be governed by zealotry that is often reinforced by political entities. It might recur in the future. We are definitely experiencing a moral problem, not only that it reflects badly on journalism ethics, its mirrors dispassion and lack of consciousness that could be embedded not in an individual, but in a greater number.

As a final note, we should not forget that what Petra did was an insult to herself first, then to her profession, and most importantly it reflects badly on Hungary, and its people. If Franz Liszt would be alive, he would certainly be ashamed of his countrywoman's detestable manner towards vulnerable refugees who are escaping war in their countries.

Sep 7, 2015

Biases and controversies around the term "Afghan"

On Sept 5, 2015, a group of Pashtun protested against non-Pashtuns who don't want the word 'Afghan' to be printed in their new IDs. This banner in Pashto says: "If you are not Afghan, go out of my country."

The distribution of biometric ID card which was planned to be occurred this month is delayed again. The initial plan for issuing new IDs was set for 2014, but for some reasons, Ashraf Ghani’s government decided to postpone it again.

One of the most debated issues among Afghans has been the usage of the word “Afghan.” Non-Pashtuns have bitterly reacted towards government's decision for printing the word “Afghan” next to their names. Not all people in Afghanistan are Afghans, and it is not this fact per se that is problematic, there are some other issues involved as well.

But let us look at meaning of the term first. According to Encyclopedia Iranica, the word Afghan is only used to people who speak Pashto and and ethnically Pashtuns. 
From a more limited, ethnological point of view, “Afḡān” is the term by which the Persian-speakers of Afghanistan (and the non-Paṧtō-speaking ethnic groups generally) designate the Paṧtūn. The equation Afghans = Paṧtūn has been propagated all the more, both in and beyond Afghanistan, because the Paṧtūn tribal confederation is by far the most important in the country, numerically and politically.
Whenever we hear that some ethnic groups in Afghanistan have problem to be labeled as Afghan, it should not surprise us. It is a name for a particular ethnic group, not a name for all people living in modern geography called Afghanistan. There are a lot of biases against the word “Afghan” among non-Pashtuns. Here I’m going to explain some of them.

Here is the irony. Many Afghanistani scholars agree that the name "Afghan" was an invention of Farsi and Arab speakers but the Farsi speakers hate to be labeled as Afghan themselves. Originally, it was "Apgan," meaning non-pagan to distinguish with religious people. Since Arabic does not have "p" (پ), the p was replaced with "f," but here is the complication. How did it become "gh" (غ) then? To answer this question, it requires several blogposts that may happen one but not now. The purpose of this post is to provide a short explanation to why "Afghan" as an identity marker is problematic. Here is why.

In Farsi language, the word "Afghan" literally means whining, wailing, and bawling. The word also carries some negative connotations among non-Pashtuns. For instance, among Hazaras, Tajiks and Uzbeks, the word "Afghan" is metaphorically used to denote backwardness, uneducated, savage, and untrustworthy. Among ethnic Hazara, "Afghan" attains its meaning through a semantic shift as awgho. It is often used in the households to scare the children for obedience. For Hazaras, awgho evokes unpleasant memories, such as genocide, mass atrocities, and enslavement.  One of the most common scare tactics to get children to obey is to say "awgho is coming." Awgho is portrayed as a monstrous being that viciously kill and destroy everything. Historically, Hazaras have suffered at the hands of Pashtuns, and in their literature, Pashtuns are psychologically portrayed as evil and oppressor. This kind of portrayal has also shared among Uzbeks, Tajiks and Turkmen.

For example, in northern Afghanistan among non-Pashtuns, the word "Afghan" has also experienced a semantic change, which has become "awghan," and both metonymically and metaphorically used as a swear word to shame someone for wrong doing and in contemptuous way it means representing someone as an object of ridicule.

While all citizens of Afghanistan are identified as Afghan outside the country, inside, they go by their ethnic identity, such as Afghans (Pashtun), Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks. During his presidential campaign, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzi, deliberately and repeatedly used "Afghan" in order to unite all people under one identity: Afghan. Many people gratified his efforts, however, non-Pashtuns became skeptic and alerted for losing their ethnic identity by simply being called Afghans. The skepticism towards Ashraf Ghani's intention further aggravated when he refrained calling ethnicities' names during his campaign among non-Pashtuns.

No matter how great the idea was but the plan of issuing a new ID and calling all citizens as Afghan seems to be failed now. Ghani's ambitious program for nationalization and bringing unity is turning into an illusion. Nowadays, Ghani is limping on his right foot (his left foot is broken), it can be metaphorically exemplified his failure for not being able to fulfill his promises. Just for a final note, Ghani's failure could be also seen from a recent pool that shows his performance has plummeted and his popularity has dropped to less than 20 percent.

To understand how much the word Afghan has been controversial and has affected the current political climate of Afghanistan, read this article.