Bleeding In Our Hearts
As director the Afghan-Canadian Community Centre in Kandahar and as a school teacher and principal, I was deeply saddened and outraged to hear about the United Nations employees who were killed in cold blood on Friday in Mazar-i-Sharif. On behalf of the Afghan men, women and children who have been given a chance because of the sacrifices and humanitarian services of our international friends, I can tell you that we are bleeding in our hearts.
Here in Kandahar City there is a lot of smoke — tires are burning, markets are burning, cars are burning. All day Saturday there were gunshots. Some were very close to my house but I stayed in the school both days of the weekend violence to make sure our students and teachers were safe. I am advising our students and teachers to stay home.
At one point I was able to use a trick to save my school from demonstrators just as they arrived close to our gate. When the demonstrators entered our street, I asked the guards and drivers to rush through the back door and join the demonstration and to divert it from our gate. They did this, and as soon as the demonstration passed I called them over the phone to tell them they could separate from the demonstration. They were safe. We did this because, otherwise, anything could have happened to us.
We condemn the brutal killings. We deeply believe that justice will be done, that people who love peace will prevail, but now the grief is deeply shared by all of us. With every such tragic loss, we bleed in our hearts.
Our school is making it possible for people to live a peaceful and prosperous life. Our school owes its existence to the sacrifices of our international friends. The opportunists who committed the murders in Mazar-i-Sharif do not represent the wider public of Afghanistan.
The American pastor Terry Jones burned one copy of the Qur’an, but the perpetrators of violence who claim to be the defenders of the Qur’an have burned tens of copies and hundreds of Qur’anic verses here in Kandahar during their three days of violent demonstrations, looting and burning. I hope the West will not punish us for their actions.
I also would like to tell those who push for a withdrawal of your soldiers that, without restoring peace, this would cause many problems, including worsening the humanitarian situation and the infiltration of terrorism into western nations. If the West is going to run away and accept defeat, what then becomes of its claims to uphold justice, human rights, women’s rights, equality and democracy?
We admire and respect our international friends for their sincere and caring services, for their love of humanity, and their love of children. We also respect them for the noble purpose of ending the scourge of terrorism, oppression, extremism and human rights violations in Afghanistan and around the world.
Afghans know that the withdrawal of western troops would lead only to more war and more terror. Afghans would lose any hope of peace. Our country would plunge into another bloody civil war.
We know that our dear international friends have made great sacrifices in the lives of their beloved sons and daughters, and in the precious wealth of their citizens. We also know that without these sacrifices, Afghans would have no hope for freedom. Any hasty withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan would embolden terrorists to inflict more cruelty like 9/11, the Madrid bombing, the London bombings, the Bali bombing and the Mumbai massacre.
My country still faces many terrible challenges — illiteracy, poverty, injustice, violence, disease and discrimination. We are still struggling to emerge from 35 years of war. Our country’s entire social structure was destroyed. Extremists and warlords still trample our human rights.
But Afghan women now serve in the police, and are working as doctors and teachers and civil servants. Millions of girls, once forbidden from education, go to schools. Afghan girls may have a future now. But this is possible only if violence and extremism are confronted and if warlords and drug lords are not allowed to rule.
As long as the Karzai administration and the Afghanistan upper and lower houses are a network of notorious warlords, tribal lords and drug lords, the people of Afghanistan will continue to express their grievances by any means available to them. They will attack, hijack and loot, and all the extremists, including the far-right Iranian regime and the far-right Afghan Sunnis and the Pakistan ISI, will continue to take advantage of us.
For now, we at the Afghan-Canadian Community Centre are fine — it was another school that was burned. But there is still tension and we don’t know what will happen tomorrow, so anything is possible.
Please pray for us.
Ehsanullah Ehsan is a teacher and principal at the Afghan-Canadian Community Centre in Kandahar, Afghanistan.