Afghanistan: Independence day marked by protests

August 28, 2010

August 19 marked 91 years since Afghanistan gained its freedom from the British Empire, following three bloody wars of independence.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has issued a video statement to mark the occasion. It’s worth watching, if only to appreciate the new Empire’s irony-laden platitudes.

In her greetings of “friendship”, Clinton wished Afghans a “happy and safe Independence Day”. She said: “On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I want to congratulate the people of Afghanistan on 91 years of independence.

“This is an occasion to celebrate the freedom your nation achieved more than nine decades ago — a proud moment in your long and rich history. It is also a chance to look to the future — a future that people across Afghanistan are working hard to build, in partnership with citizens from many nations, joined together in a shared vision of a secure, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan.”

Of course, for almost nine years now the US-led occupation has denied freedom and independence to the people of Afghanistan. Whatever sheen of consent and legitimacy the US/NATO project once had is now long gone.

Wikileaks has just confirmed some of the reality that Afghans have been facing: year after year of increases in soldiers and overall violence, and a Special Forces war running rampant on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

I reached Malalai Joya, the Afghan feminist and campaigner against the occupation, somewhere in Kabul on August 18 over a crackling phone line. She told me Afghans would mark their independence day by protesting against the NATO occupation.

She explained that for security reasons she would be personally unable to attend, but that she knew of supporters planning to take part in anti-occupation protests in Jalalabad. The New York Times reported on August 19 that residents there had already taken to the streets in response to the type of brutality that puts the lie to Clinton’s goodwill message.

The conflicting casualty reports detailed in the NYT article are now very familiar to anyone remotely paying attention to media coverage of the war. The article reported on allegations occupation forces had killed two civilians in a night raid: “The disputed raid occurred early Wednesday in the Surkh Rod district of Nangarhar Province, about nine miles from Jalalabad, the largest city in eastern Afghanistan.

“It was at least the third raid in the district in four months, and in each, the military’s account and that of local people have been sharply at odds, with local residents insisting that those killed were civilians and the military asserting that there were Taliban present.

“Hundreds of suburban residents of Jalalabad blocked its main east-west highway on Wednesday to protest the killings.”

Meanwhile, on the home front, the propaganda war continues. Time magazine’s August 9 cover story about Afghan women earlier this summer has been widely discussed and debated.

Long-time correspondent Ann Jones joined a number of other commentators who have called into question the veracity of the narrative with an August 12 article titled “Afghan women have already been abandoned”.

A number of organisations have responded to Time, explaining the real political and historical context of Afghan women and the war. One noteworthy statement responding to Time, which I was happy to sign, was issued by the South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI) and published at

I hope this statement makes the rounds of the networks that make up the mostly-dormant US anti-war movement. It’s well past time to shake off the slumber induced by the election of US President Barack Obama and seriously mobilise for an end to this war.

That would be the least we could do for Afghans, who continue to show resilience “in the face of so many challenges” as Clinton put it, by fighting for a true and lasting independence from foreign domination.

[Reprinted from Rabble.]

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