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 Reuters, 55 people are killed and 155 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

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. 

Mar 21, 2021

It's a new year in Afghanistan

I wrote this piece for CNN long time ago, I'm reposting here:

This year, the Nowruz festival holds even more significance and importance in the lives of Afghans since the United Nation’s General Assembly recognized March 21 as International Day of Nowruz.

Nowruz, banned under Taliban rule, begins on the day of the vernal equinox (the first day of spring) and marks the beginning of the new year. Every year, three days before Nowruz, tens of thousands of people travel to the northern Afghanistan city of Mazar-e Sharif to watch the elaborate ceremony.

Nowruz is celebrated for two weeks throughout Afghanistan. People wear new clothes, refurbish their house, paint the buildings and henna their hands. Young girls go with their mothers to holy shrines and pray to have a good future, a good life and a good husband and be fortunate while the boys have an eye on their parents to decide who is fair and suitable for him.

One of most famous of Nowruz traditions among Afghans is to forget and forgive mistakes of one another and start the New Year with new hopes and new goals. During the first three days of the year, families and relatives meet and visit each other’s houses. These are parts of Afghan traditions that date back centuries.

Jashni Dehqan, which literally means the festival of farmers, is also celebrated in the first day of year, in which the farmers walk in the cities as a sign of encouragement for the agricultural productions. For the last few years, President Hamid Karzai always participated in the festival of farmers and encouraged the farmers in agricultural productions and environmental green movement. This activity is being performed in Kabul and other major cities, in which the mayor and other high governmental personalities participate.

One of the most significant symbolic traditions of Nowruz in Afghanistan is haft mewa, or “seven fruits.” (haft sin, or seven “s,” is a similar tradition common in Iran.) The “seven fruits” table starts with seven dried fruits: raisins, senjed (the dried fruit of the oleaster tree), pistachios, hazelnuts, prunes (dry fruit of apricot), walnuts and either almond or another species of plum fruit. Haft mewa is like a fruit salad, served in the fruits’ syrup.

Haft mewa and haft sin’s philosophy is almost the same. The seven items symbolically correspond to seven creations and holy immortals called Amesha Sepanta (meaning “bounteous immortal” in the Avestan language) protecting them. The seven elements of life - namely fire, earth, water, air, plants, animals and human - are represented.

 Some Afghans have never forgotten the bitter period of their life during the Taliban regime when they were banned or excluded from the traditions. Celebrating Nowruz always involves music and various entertainments that from the Taliban point of view, were forbidden. Another reason that the Taliban banned Nowruz was that women have a significant role in the Nowruz ceremony. In the time of Taliban, women were not allowed to participate in any ceremonies that music played and dancing was involved.

Traditionally, Afghan women celebrate Nowruz with samanak: it is made of wheat germ and is a special Afghan female tradition. They cook it from late in the evening until daylight. During this cooking time, the women gather around and sing Nowruzi songs, accompanied with special drums and dancing. No men are allowed to take part in this ceremony.

According to BBC report, the director of the Nowruz festival in Mazar-e Sharif said that this year an estimated 120,000 people throughout the country are traveling to Mazar-e Sharif. The ceremony always taken place in the Shrine of Hazrat Ali, also known as the Blue Mosque.

One part of the Afghan New Year is a speech by President Karzai, outlining the events of the past year and his programs for the new year. After the official speech, the president calls upon the special security guard to start the New Year celebration with three shots of a cannon. Following the three shots, a huge flag is raised from the ground. People watch the movement carefully - if it rises hard and slowly, a bad year is predicted but if the flag is risen gently, the new year is predicted a fortunate and happiness year.

When the day’s ceremony ended, the night’s ceremonies arrive, full of music and concerts. Every year, top singers are invited by the government to travel from Europe and America to northern Afghanistan and sing for the new year celebration. Not only Afghan singers are invited but groups of musicians and singers from Pakistan, India, Iran, Turkey, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are included to participate and demonstrate their culture alongside Afghan artists. After the official ceremony, people head to a huge field for a game of buzkashi, an ancient traditional sport where riders on horses compete over a goat or calf carcass.

This year, all Afghans are hoping to start a good year with changes and improvement in security issues. Some refer to the Marjah operation as a successful example of fighting against the Taliban insurgency and wish that the Taliban will be wiped out in the southern region. Afghans are excited that from now on, Nowruz will be recognized by the United Nations as it becomes part of the world’s many heritages.

Mar 7, 2021

20th anniversary of the destruction of Buddha statues of Bamiyan

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the destruction of the two monumental Buddha statues of Bamiyan which were built in the 6th century AD. Twenty years ago, on March 02, 2001, the Taliban on the orders of their leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, began destroying the statues. The destruction process took several weeks. They first began with heavy artilleries but soon realized they couldn't destroyed. So, they forced the local men to descend the cliff and drill holes into the statues. Then they placed dynamites and blew them up. This was a tragic event but it is not the whole story.

When the Taliban took control of the city of Bamiyan, they first massacred the Hazaras who were residents of the city. The victims were mostly old men and women and children, too weak to fight, and too old to run. They were left behind and everyone else who could run, fled to the mountains and hid in the caves.

The people later died of starvation. A few months after the fall of the Taliban, the locals started searching for their loved ones in the mountains. They found their remains in the caves, torn by predators, and some that were leftovers of vultures still showed undigested grass in their stomachs. Trapped in the mountains, they consumed grass to survive but eventually succumbed to death.

When we talk about destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, it is important to first foreground the human cost of this tragedy. We need to highlight the Taliban's crime and atrocities against the Hazaras, the local population in the city of Bamiyan. For centuries, these people were neighbors with Buddha statues. We should ask ourselves, what it meant for these people to have lived there? What price did they pay because of being Hazaras and Shias? And what was their relationship with the statues of Buddhas historically and culturally?

The Western perspective and their understanding of the destruction of the statues are aesthetic, meaning they look at Buddhas and their demolition as objects that belonged to history but disregard the subjects of history. This is a colonial perspective, an epistemic violence that is integral to their practice of domination and subjugation. They have rendered this horrific human tragedy as a singular and abstract event.

This is cruel and violent because such narrative removes the Buddhas from its context, and that context is the Hazara people whose culture and history are intertwined with the statues.  I am not saying that we should not highlight the importance of historical tragedy of the destruction of Buddhas, my point here is that the objectification of the Buddhas solely as a tragic event not only trivializes and downplays the human costs but also leads to omission. 

We need to change the narrative in order to avoid any violence against the Hazara people. Every year, in this time, we should all come together and commemorate the death of people of Bamiyan alongside the destruction of their Buddhas. Finally, we need to talk and pay attention to the Taliban's atrocities that happened on a large scale and simultaneously think it as a warning sign as their return is looming.

Feb 22, 2021

An existential threat to Indian farmers

Farmers protest at the Delhi Singhu border in Delhi, India. Getty images
These ongoing protests of Indian Punjab farmers are just implications of what a far-right Hindu nationalist government would offer to its people. In hoping to reboot the economy, the government has passed laws that is, in someway, a form of dispossession and control over agricultural lands to which farmers have special relationship. These bills, that were introduced and passed by the parliament last year and then signed into laws are tailored to only benefit giant corporations while lacking any sustainable, ecological, social and economic integrity. 

What these laws would basically do is to replace the market that is ran and protected by committees of traders and land owners with a free market where farmers will have neither control over the circulation of their products, nor the market values. In the long run, this would result to self-indenturement of farmers to billionaires sitting in Delhi and buying stocks in the US. 

And there is always IMF as a hegemonic force from outside that offers its prescriptions. It is always there to advocate and support any offense a government commits against its citizen. It does not only co-opt neoliberal elites for enforcing their ideals but also crafts and promotes hegemonic norms, especially in developing countries where they are left with no choice but unconditional surrender.

The worse part of these laws is that it does not offer any future to farmers who may eventually lose control over their lands. Right now, millions of people work on farms, what will happen to them when their farms are taken by corporations? It is obvious that they will be replaced by a reduced number of workforce that’s also cheap, and that is what big corporations always do otherwise they can’t make surplus profit. At the time when the India's unemployment is at its highest rate, what opportunities will be available to these farmers who have no other skills than farming? There is not much prospect that these laws would do anything positive but to harm and exploit the lands whose farmers’ livelihood depends upon.

Feb 17, 2021

a time unlike now

I reminisce
that rotting wooden bench
on Louther street
next to the library and
across from the Lutheran Church
we used to sit
you always insisted
"let's tarry awhile"

a time
unlike now,
like ephemeral past
sends new nostalgic
errands

Feb 12, 2021

Happy Dawin Day

It's Darwin's Day. February 12, the day we, anthropologists, commemorate the birth of Charles Darwin in 1809, one of the greatest naturalists in our history. In 1831, he made a voyage to the Beagle in which he observed and collected specimens of plants, animals, rocks, and fossils, some were mostly on land, far apart from the sea. At the time, he was just 22 years old. (this makes me feel bad about myself, what a useless life I have lived so far). On his return, he published his findings in a book called The Voyage of the Beagle. His discoveries and ideas shaped our understanding about the natural world and ourselves. He showed that we humans are just another type of animal living on earth, a small branch on a big tree of life.

My field, anthropology, is deeply influenced by Darwin's evolutionary theories about human evolution. His ideas on the evolution of human traits and natural selections may have been disputed by recent studies on fossil records, but his fundamental arguments that we humans share similar traits with African great apes and that our ancestors first originated in Africa, remain valid.

To appreciate Darwin, let's take a moment and look back at nearly two million years ago to see how our opposable thumbs evolved to its current level of dexterity. Check out this fascinating article.

Feb 11, 2021

Bidel's Wikipedia page

Today, I got a chance to tweak Abdul Qadir Bidel's Wikipedia page. I corrected some of the references and added several others. I also entered that he was the greatest poet of Indian-Persian, next to Amir Khusrau, who lived most of his life during the reign of Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal emperor. This is very close to historical reality than branding him based on cultural biases. I noticed some entries labeled him as a Persian poet from Khorasan or from the Indian subcontinent (though the later has a modicum of truth). The fact of the matter is, he was Indian, born and raised and eventually died there. He belonged to that geographical area, to that culture and people and he should be studied within that context. Removing him from this context is unjust and discriminatory. 

I also added some other sections in his Wiki page, such as bibliography, notes, and works. I entered several bibliography entries, fixed some while redacted and retracted others. I hope others contribute to Bidel's page as well, so that those who are interested in learning about him can have access to an array of resources. 

On a final note, I added mostly references that are available in English language. That means, I disregarded books published in Farsi, Tajiki, Uzbek, and other languages.

Feb 7, 2021

With pots and pans against coup

The pots and pans ring across Myanmar against the military coup. It's a familiar ring for all of us but a special one for people in Myanmar, they use them to exorcise the evil spirit. For the past few days, it has been used against the military coup that seized power last week from a democratically elected - now detained- leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. Now the evil spirit is the military. It's pots and pans' clatter and clang that has become a utility of anger and the sound of dissent. Pots and pans have always been a utility of dissonance and so, sometimes became political tool in different manner. When every other means of communication is controlled and the internet is shut down, pots and pans can be the strongest tool for expressing anger and to protest against the military dictatorship. Let pots and pants' clink and clunk rattle the dictators' conscience if they have any, I don't think they do.

Feb 4, 2021

A lesson to be learned from the miners in Pakistan

This AFP news published on Dawn says that after the 10 Hazara miners were killed a few weeks ago, "Pakistan coal miners reluctant to work after Hazara killings." Around 15,000 Hazara miners stopped going to work and as a result, around 200 mines are about to close or slash their production.

The reason for Hazara's reluctance to return to work is obvious. They are not secure and their return to work means their might be potentially more attacks because there is no guarantee for their safety. The Hazaras in Pakistan have been systematically persecuted by various extremist Islamist groups and the Pakistani government has done very little to stop it.

Now that the businesses are getting closed and people are out of work, the government eventually understands what such precarity means and what it would do in the long run in the province of Balochistan. The Hazaras in Pakistan should turn their reluctance into a movement and use it to pressure the federal government to beef up security in their areas.

But guess what happens if Hazaras in Afghanistan takes this lesson and use it for their own struggle against the Afghan government's aggression. If Hazara leaders and elders call on the Hazara men and women, who are now in the battlefield fighting against the Taliban, to come home, the government would stop its onslaught on the Hazaras in Behsud and else where.

This is a trump card that can be used against this government for any type of negotiations. Hazaras would lose nothing and won't go hungry if their sons and daughters leave the army, in fact, they save their lives, not getting killed in vain by the Taliban.