The people of Afghanistan sacrificed so much to give democracy a chance, and today, the “great protector and promoter of democracy” is leaving 35 million people at the mercy of the Taliban.
The word irony doesn’t do justice to the recent announcement of a “Democracy Summit” in December by the Biden administration. One must wonder how many "democracies" will participate. More importantly, how will they manage to turn a blind eye to the tragic irony of watching democracy being ravaged in Afghanistan?
While writing this, I received a text from a friend stating, "Our Mazar has also fallen," followed by a photo of some government officials leaving the city. It is hard to explain how I feel right now; I certainly can't feel my fingers typing. However, there is this feeling that there may be a few more seconds left; maybe if I don't stop writing, the world will see the human suffering and create a miracle.
The only thing I am doing is crying and apologising to my sister Natasha Khalil who was killed because she chose democracy. I failed because I chose it, as did many Afghan women and men. I failed because I could save neither Natasha nor anyone tonight who is losing everything for democracy.
Many Afghans, if they are still alive in December, will be interested in the motto of this Summit. Will the notion of democracy still be a "government of the people, by the people, for the people"? Or will "people" be replaced with individual leaders, elite positions, party politics, short-term thinking of elected presidents and media barons of the world who drew a narrative about a country at the expense of human suffering?
The “people” in democracies, and especially big and old democracies are not the central actors today.
The US, Russia, Pakistan, the mujahideen, Taliban, the republic thieves, who put democracy to shame, have all had a say and role in deciding the fate of the country. The people of Afghanistan have never been included or considered in the process.
For the last twenty years, the people of Afghanistan have invested in all the flawed and borrowed blueprints of democracy with our lives, our soil, our borders and our identity in the world.
We have been open to all kinds of interventions, from development to societal behaviour change, from human capacity building to infrastructure development. We embraced formal legal sector reform only because we hoped that, despite its flaws, it would pave the way for future generations to have an inclusive democratic system.
For the last twenty years, Afghans allowed for every kind of experiment in the name of nation-building by the so-called international community. Every single country, aiding one dollar to billions, had a say in institution-building. The US and the entire “international community” encouraged corruption with their uncoordinated and duplicated programs.
To justify their ineffective efforts, they advocated for alternate narratives: Afghanistan is ungovernable; the majority of the Pashtun population prefers Taliban rule; freedom of speech is a foreign concept, the graveyard of empires etc. When questioned about effectiveness, their answer was, “our main goal was to kill Osama, and we did.”
The people of Afghanistan tolerated so much to give democracy a chance.
And what is the great protector and promoter of democracy leaving behind in Afghanistan? It leaves an entire population of more than 35 million people at the mercy of a group of terrorists with no national or cultural identity.
Today, America is leaving behind a battlefield, but America never acknowledged that this war was not an Afghan war.
If you don’t read history, you are destined to repeat it. But if you had consulted Afghans, you would have discovered that we have long memories.
The US allowed Pakistan to train and equip new breeds of terrorists. Pakistan and India fought their war on Afghan soil, but today, the Afghan people have earned the term "Afghans are not governable".
One terrorist group, like Al Qaeda, expanded to twenty-plus international proscribed terrorist groups in Afghanistan. None of these fighters had any interest in Afghanistan, but they fought their war with the West — fought by the Afghan ANDSF — on Afghan soil.
For twenty years, Afghans suffered, unable to get visas to most countries around the world. Because you gave us the identity of Osama bin laden, we were screened and put to shame in international arenas.
Afghanistan has been on your political agenda with each presidential election. If you wanted to appeal for women's votes, you made Afghan women's rights your pawns. If you wanted to appeal for security issues, you showed how impactful your armies were for saving Afghans' lives. When you needed money for your multi-million dollar projects, you showed how involved you were in rebuilding Afghanistan.
Suddenly, Afghan lives are no longer part of the human rights agenda. Afghan girls' education is no longer critical for your senator, neither is early marriage. Youth radicalisation is no longer a threat to the larger community of humankind.
We Afghans paid with our blood for a free world, fighting your war.
We Afghans have been a milking-cow for your partner, Pakistan.
Afghan children sacrificed their dreams by going to school, even a day after hundreds of their classmates were murdered.
Afghan journalists protected freedom of speech by getting killed on the field. When a journalist was killed, the next one picked up her mic.
You portrayed us as always at war. We did not know how to deal with this fake reality.
The Mujahideen (the Northern Alliance), Al Qaeda or Taliban did not form as a result of any national uprising; they all were proxies of the West at their respective times, therefore they do not represent the people of Afghanistan. All these were your pawns for fighting your wars, but we have paid for it. Only because we wanted to live in a free world that will allow inclusivity and diversity. Therefore, your Summit for Democracy better include people from Afghanistan. You do not have the right to celebrate democracy with our blood and dark future.
Right now, the world is watching the massacre of its time. Children are being killed, but nearly every country has closed its borders because they do not want Afghans in their countries.
The US is handing over the future of 45 percent of the population who was either very young or not born during the dark period of the Taliban. Their fate has become to forget what they have learned during the past 20 years about the freedom of opinion, art, music, and culture and submit to the barbarism of proxy pawns of rogue states and terrorists.
Youth will prevail, and it can only happen if the country has an institutional memory of a governance system with an appetite for freedom of speech and a political and social stance for inclusivity. In other words, the people of Afghanistan bore all this for the sake of democracy. They did not know that they have a deadline of only 20 years; after that, they will be handed over to the terrorist groups to take them back to the dark times.
I have been urging family and friends to stop everything and only focus on how we can save democracy at home because we have to fight and resist the current situation. But it is hard not to be convinced when a girl says, “If Kabul is collapsing tomorrow, I will get married tonight. If I can't fulfill all my dreams, I have a dream of wearing a white dress; I want to listen to music for that one last dance.”