File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2001/bhaskar.0109, message 38


Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2001 23:16:41 +0100
Subject: Re: BHA: news of real life (Afghanistan and Italy)


Dear friends,
I place below the text of a message about the situation within 
afghanistan at present.  It concludes with a plea to act to 
avoid famine there.  I am finding during this difficult time 
that the red-green bulletin board is an excellent source of 
news.  The details of the red-green bulletin board are at the 
bottom of the report below.

Specifically the red-green group have just also reported a huge
wave of arrests across Italy involving anarchists accused of 
terrorism.  These anarchists were active in G8 Genoa and their 
squats etc. have been raided yesterday morning. the link with 
terror seems unproven.  

If you want details of the Italian situation contact me 
privately on w.k.olsen-AT-bradford.ac.uk
Yours,W.
Sent: Sunday, September 16, 2001 11:15 AM 
Subject: To punish innocent Afghans would be immoral

To punish innocent Afghans would be immoral /14.09.01

Chris Buckley, Christian Aid Programme Officer for Afghanistan

I have just returned from Afghanistan, and cannot avoid a 
growing 
feeling of
dread at 
what may be about to befall the people I have left there. The 
bellicose
statements 
being issued by America and her allies about revenge and 
retaliation 
for
Tuesday's 
horrific terrorist attacks against New York and Washington seem
to be
softening up 
western electorates for some kind of massive military action 
against 
the
Afghan 
people. 

Because of these threats, aid organisations have been forced to
pull 
out
their foreign 
workers - fearing both that they may be caught in the expected 
raids, 
or
that they 
would be attacked as westerners after the NATO bombers have 
flown 
away. The 

effects of this withdrawal could be infinitely more tragic and 
devastating
than the worst 
that a wounded America may now throw at this long, 
long-suffering 
country. 

For, although it has gone largely unreported, Afghanistan is in
the 
grip of
a three-year 
drought and on the verge of mass starvation. According to the 
UN-run 
World
Food 
Programme, by the end of the year 5.5 million people will be 
entirely
dependent on 
food aid to survive the winter - that's a quarter of the Afghan

population. 


As Christian Aid's programme officer responsible for 
Afghanistan, I 
have
been helping 
supply food and seeds to communities in desperate need. In a 
few weeks
the
winter 
snows will come, cutting off the hundreds of isolated villages 
whose 
only
links to the 
outside world are rutted dirt tracks. Without seeds they will 
be 
unable to
replant for 
next year. Without food aid now, thousands could be dead before
the 
spring. 


Already fears on the ground about this pending catastrophe are 
filtering
through. Only 
yesterday (Thurs) I received this message from one of the local
organisations funded 
by Christian Aid. 

'What will happen to the people if aid agencies remain 
reluctant to 
resume
full 
operations? The consequences are quite clear that people who 
are 
already
suffering 
would be the victims. And if any military action is taken, 
Afghan 
staff and
civilians will 
be in real danger. 

'Terrorism is the worst thing and it shows how blind these 
people are 
as
human beings. 
But if the leaders do not have patience and tolerance they can 
only do
further 
damage.' 

This, I think you must agree, is not a voice from a country of 
dedicated
international 
terrorists or religious fanatics. But it is a voice from the 
real
Afghanistan, 
unrecognisable from the demonised image we are being urged to 
accept. 

The real Afghanistan is one where 85 per cent of the population
are
subsistence 
farmers. Most Afghans don't have newspapers, television sets or

radios. They
will not 
have heard of the World Trade Centre or the Pentagon, and most 
will 
have no
idea 
that a group of zealots has attacked these icons of western 
civilisation.
There isn't 
even a postal service. 

Now, in these isolated villages, families are down to their 
last few 
weeks
of food and 
already men women and children in the bulging refugee camps are
dying 
of
cholera 
and malnutrition. I have spoken to orphans with swollen 
bellies. I have
spoken to men 
who have no money to hire trucks to escape the drought and make
it to 
the
camps. I 
have spoken to families who say they will wait in their 
villages for 
death. 


And that was before the aid agencies were forced to withdraw. 
Afghans 
are
not willing 
victims - they are hardy peoples, as any Soviet general will 
testify. 
For
the past three 
years they have been doing all they can to survive - sharing 
food, 
borrowing
money to 
buy food, crossing the borders with Pakistan and Iran to find 
illegal,
badly-paid work. 
Many used to work on the opium farms as casual labourers. 

But all these sources of income have dried up. Pakistan and 
Iran are
throwing 
thousands of Afghans out each month, the Taliban have banned 
opium
production 
and there is no food or credit to be had after three years of 
drought. 

And as I write this, our worst fears have just been realised. I
have 
just
received the 
following message from a friend who works for another of our 
partner
organisations in 
western Afghanistan. He writes: 'I hope you are fine. We have 
spoken 
to the
World 
Food Programme in Herat, and asked them to release food so we 
can 
distribute
it to 
our beneficiaries who are in severe need. But WFP has stopped 
their
activities right 
now. Could you please see if it is possible to get the release 
from 
WFP?' 

That is a real cry for help. Other friends there have stressed 
the 
need for
the world to 
adopt a comprehensive approach to the terrorist threat - 
addressing the
underlying 
causes of this terrifying phenomenon rather than just seeking 
to 
extract
revenge. 

Let me be clear. The murder of thousands of innocent Americans 
has 
shocked
and 
appalled us all. But any military action which disrupts the 
flow of 
aid to
millions of 
equally innocent Afghans would be equally immoral. 

Christian Aid urges everyone involved to show civilised 
restraint in
responding to an act 
of barbarism. Thousands of innocent people have died in the 
United 
States.
We must 
now make sure that even more innocent lives are not lost. 

_______________________________________________
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Wendy Olsen
w.k.olsen-AT-bradford.ac.uk
work 01274-235889 
home 0161-736-8418
mobile 07796-998293



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