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Stress In The City

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
I've found myself in a very unusual situation this evening, of trying to write a blog while being overtaken by the very events I'm writing about, and it's proving hard to keep up. If we, in what I'll loosely term the western democracies, think we have  stress  in our lives, we should be thankful we don't live in one of the world's crisis hot spots - Myanmar, Somalia, Syria, Yemen... or Afghanistan, scene of the latest unfolding humanitarian disaster. One of Donald Trump's many crass and insular decisions (as he looked to boost his chances of getting elected for a second term as the worst president of the USA), was his commitment to pull all American forces out of Afghanistan by mid-2021, a policy that his successor has been unwilling to reverse. We are seeing the consequences of that policy for the Afghan people right now, as the Taliban roll over town after town and province after province and the citizens from those areas flee in their thousands to the capital Kabul. Imagine the stress in that city right now and the absolute stomach-churning dread of what is going to befall millions of decent, ordinary Afghans, particularly women and girls, as the oppression of a hard-line fundamentalist Islamic rule takes hold once again. The US (and Britain in its wake) knew what the consequences would be. They just didn't expect them to come so swiftly. Only a month ago Biden was ridiculing the notion that the Taliban could ever come to power again.  Even this morning the White House was predicting Kabul might not fall for weeks yet. Right now it looks like it will succumb before the week-end is done.Of course, Afghanistan is already an Islamic republic, but for two decades it has been a relatively enlightened one in which democratic principles have been respected and the hard-won rights of women to education and employment have been upheld, ever since the allies agreed (in the aftermath of 9/11) to wage war on the Taliban and the militant fundamental groups like Al Qaeda that the Taliban gave protection to. The US-led intervention was called 'Operation Enduring Freedom'. Ironically, when the allies moved into Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban offered an unconditional surrender which the Americans rejected. Since then, the war on the one hand and the reconstruction/humanitarian effort on the other has cost many allied soldiers' lives and trillions of dollars and pounds. But the political will in the West was not there to sustain the gains, the Taliban continued to recruit and grow - current strength approximately 60,000 full-time fighters- funded by the heroin trade which they control (Afghanistan is the world's leading producer of opium), and now they've taken their chance as soon as they saw the allied commitment falter, effectively rendering the last twenty years in vain. Everything is about to change for the worse, the liberalisation and democratic advances are bound to to be rolled back and freedom will once more prove illusory. Consequently, millions of Afghans feel betrayed by the West, and who can blame them? They have become refugees in their own county, homeless, hungry, helpless and hopeless about the future.
Stress In The City
Some, who have served the allied cause, will be evacuated for their own safety, along with most foreign nationals who are scrambling to quit the country before the Taliban regime is fully installed. Many will probably try to flee even beyond Kabul if it falls, across the border into Pakistan. There is a concern that female MPs, women's rights activists and professional women (doctors, teachers, lawyers, artists) will be targeted, possibly murdered, that schooling and university education for girls will be curtailed, that the progressive reforms of two decades will be swiftly reversed, for the Taliban despise educated girls and emancipated women.
I can anticipate hand-wringing from our leaders in the West, expressions of surprise that it has all ended like this, calls on the soon-to-be new Taliban government to respect the rights of women - and it will all be to no avail. I think there will be widespread horror and moral indignation from humanitarian organisations and from ordinary people, and a deep sadness and shock that Afghanistan has been abandoned in this way. But I bet the abiding concern of the governments in London and Washington will not be for the people of Afghanistan so much as a worry that the fundamentalist regime, when re-established  in Kabul, will once again be a safe haven and training ground for groups such as Al Qaeda in their holy war against the West.
Stress In The City
I find it difficult to craft good poetry to short order, so this latest is a work-in-progress from a heavy heart (with a few nuanced changes thanks to input from my fellow poets in Blackpool & Fylde Stanza group). I nearly called it A Second Slavery Beckons and may not be complete....but then nor is the momentous event it seeks to recognise, as the Taliban poise to turn the clock back on twenty years of fragile but joyous emancipation.
AfghanistanAfghanistan, the sun sets on you.Dread spreads along your streetsand fear fills many female hearts,for a second slavery beckons.
Husbands and fathers take care.The well-trodden path to water*is hard on wives and daughters,for a second slavery beckons.
Homes stand deserted, hope fades,thousands seek to flee their fate.Lamp-posts wait on human fruit,for a second slavery beckons.
Hide your baubles and your books,your certificates and song-sheets,dissemble maidens, if you can,for a second slavery beckons.
The flowering of your womanhoodwill wither soon, narcotic poppiesprove the only acceptable bloom,for a second slavery beckons.
Can there be too high a price to payfor trying to make a better world? Tonight in Kabul, the reckoning,for a second slavery beckons.
*The literal meaning of Sharia is: the clear, well-trodden path to water.
As a musical bonus (before women are prohibited from singing in public in Afghanistan), here's Aryana Sayeed performing: Za Spina Jeli Yama (Just click on the title of the song to activate the link.)
Thanks for reading. Never undervalue our freedoms, S ;-) Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook

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