Friday, February 01, 2008

An Afghan appeal: "I would like to thank you. . . do not abandon us. Don't forget us."

As of this morning, the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee is now officially up and running. Says co-founder Lauryn Oates, who is also vice-president of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WA): “We as Canadians need to ensure that our values are well applied to any course of action we take in Afghanistan, and, like John Manley and his fellow panelists, we recognize that a withdrawal of Canadian troops from Kandahar would almost certainly lead to a total collapse in security. This paramount point has been in large part missing from our debates here in Canada. A Canadian withdrawal would contribute to conditions that would lead to a civil war, the return of the Taliban to power, and the further denial of the human rights of Afghans.”

Yesterday I spoke with Dr. Sima Samar, the head of Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission. Formerly a deputy president in Hamid Karzai's transitional government, Dr. Samar was also, briefly, Afghanistan's minister for women's affairs. Dr. Samar offered these words of welcome to the members of the Solidarity Committee: "I would like to thank you all for your support for the Afghan people. Please do not abandon us. Don't forget us. Keep helping us to reach the point where we can stand on our own feet."

There will be a diversity of views among the members of the committee, who numbered a few dozen yesterday (membership applications are coming in thick and fast this morning), but the committee's basis of unity is this simple position on Canada's engagement in Afghanistan: "Stay. Human rights are universal. The UN wants us there. A military component is vital and necessary." Membership is open to any Canadians who can support the principles enumerated here.

The website has the usual "about us" page and a list of the founding members, but I thought I'd just say a special thanks here to Rob Wilson, Ian King and Jonathon Narvey, who have done such great work in pulling together the website, among other things. I also want to pay the tiniest bit of a tribute to Lauryn Oates, who was quoted in today's press release.

Lauryn manages to somehow balance her work with CW4WA, the Solidarity Committee, her PhD studies at the University of British Columbia, and a variety of other duties that tend to bring her to Afghanistan for several months every year. For half her life, she has been deeply committed to the cause of solidarity with the people of Afghanistan.

She started when she was 14, when she managed to gather 450 signatures on a petition that she faxed off to the Taliban, protesting their savage oppression of women. Two years later, she was still raising hell, and she came to the attention of CW4WA, which asked her to set up a Vancouver chapter, not knowing Lauryn was only 16.

All this was before September 11, 2001.

She's never wavered. She's in for the long haul. Pay very close attention to what she says.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe she could give Jack Layton a kick in his ass and embarrass him into getting said anatomical part into gear instead of raising his white flag of surrender to the brutality of teh Taliban.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

I'm afraid Mr. Layton has probably never even heard of Dr. Samar. Judging by his speech in Ottawa this week, he appears not to have heard much in the way of basic facts about Afghanistan, or the country's history.

That might be the most uncharitable thing I've ever said about Jack Layton. And I'm being especially charitable at the moment.

5:28 PM  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

A post at "The Torch":

"Jack Layton: Simply ignorant or just plain lazy?"


3:43 AM  
Blogger Blazing Cat Fur said...

Jack is neither ignorant nor lazy, he simply plays to his audience.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Stephen said...

On many issues, I take positions conventionally considered to be "left" positions. I have respectfully disagreed with Terry at times in the past. Not on this one, though. We should stay. That is the principled left position on this issue.

Is the war unwinnable, as many have said? It may well be. However, staying and holding ground is a better solution than leaving and simply handing the country over to the Taliban. The hope in my mind lies in a negotiated solution, which will not happen if we leave.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Thanks, Stephen.

You should join us. You might not find much support for the "negotiatiated solution" bit - especially from the women among the membership; I can't see anything to negotiate with the Taliban except their surrender.

But there are all kinds of people who've joined. More from your (our) crowd would be just fine.


12:32 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Believe me, I'm no fan of the Taliban. If we could militarily defeat them without concession, no one would be more pleased than I. Negotiation bothers me as well, but realistically I don't see any other way. I'm happy to be proven wrong, though.

5:03 PM  
Blogger kurt said...

There are elements of the Taliban who would negotiate, and there's no shame in that. Although some of the finest of the Mujahadeen moderates were executed by the Taliban members who went viral, such as the infamous Mullah Omar, who lost an eye and probably the best parts of his mind when he was hit by Soviet schrapnel during that war. Read (google) Christina Lamb and Nelofer Pazira for some insights.

Canada must stand by its commitments, however.

6:45 PM  
Blogger Nick Barrowman said...

What do you make of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) who state:

Instead of defeating Al-Qaeda, Taliban and Gulbuddini terrorists and disarming the Northern Alliance, the foreign troops are creating confusion among the people of the world. We believe that if these troops leave Afghanistan, our people will not feel any kind of vacuum but rather will become more free and come out of their current puzzlement and doubts. In such a situation, they will face the Taliban and Northern Alliance without their “national” mask, and rise to fight with these terrorist enemies. Neither the US nor any other power wants to release Afghan people from the fetters of the fundamentalists. Afghanistan’s freedom can be achieved by Afghan people themselves. Relying on one enemy to defeat another is a wrong policy which has just tightened the grip of the Northern Alliance and their masters on the neck of our nation.

7:29 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Don't know what to make of RAWA; since the Taliban overthrow it appears to have returned to its Maoist roots. Makes good use of the kind of rhetoric that appeals to wealthy California liberal ladies, though.

Much prefer the Afghan Women's network, who prefer real rather than symbolic revolutionary behaviour (i.e. a focus on teaching girls how to read).

As with Malalai Joya, given to hyperbole and astonishing statements. Contradictory on NATO_ISAF presence. When says foreign troops should leave, is completely out of step with the overwhelming majority of women's rights leaders in Af'stan, and with the overwhelming majority opinion in Afghanistan. See among the dozen public-opinion documents on the CASC site.

Joya says she agrees that a NATO pull-out would plunge the country back into total civil war; routinely demands it anyway.

12:20 AM  

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