My mother and I went shopping today to buy an extravagant dress for an extravagant occasion. My mother entered the shop; whilst I went back to the car to get my loyal tub of Vaseline I left. As I made my way back towards the shop I saw an old grey, shrivelled man sat on piece of newspaper with a straw hat in front of him. He was leaning back on the cold wall, and had his hand at a 90 degrees angle, held in front of him, which was intensely shaking. I walked past him to open the door of the shop, until I stopped turned back and made my way back to where he was sat. I stood in front of him with my hand in my purse, trying to gather all the change I had. As I unclenched my hand to drop the change, I saw his hand shake even harder, when he whispered in a rusty voice “thank you”.
My eyes flooded with tears.
As I turned my back on him, I peeked over my shoulder to see his head down, his hand shaking and noticed all those countless people walking past him. My tears blurred my vision. The tears continued streaming down my face as I thought to myself how sad it is to see an old man, old enough to be my grandfather, crippled in a corner in the cold streets of England, dependent on other’s change. I pushed the door of the shop to nod my head at the sight of the dresses in front of me.
Here I was, fortunate enough to pick a dress worth hundreds, and easily spend money for one occasion and there 10 feet away was an old man relying on the change we throw about at home, leave at the bottom of our bag and suck in vacuums from time to time. I should feel happy or proud to know that I gave money, yet I feel sad and angry. I feel sad that I had to see an old hopeless, homeless man. I feel angry to just sit here, whilst he may be still there. I don’t see charity as a choice, I see it as a duty; an obligation.
Last exam in 2 days, and this playlist is getting me through it. Man, oh man cannot wait to blog again.
Bon Iver: Skinny Love
Bedouin Soundclash: Brutal Hearts
Jamie Cullum: Don’t Stop This Music
Ben Howard: Keep Your Head Up
Gotye: Somebody That I Used To Know
Baz Luhrmann: Everybody’s Free (To wear sunscreen)
Ben Howard: The Fear
Ryan Adams: Wonderwall
Florence and the Machine: Heartlines
Lana del Rey: Born to Die
Gianni and Sarah: Burn One Down
Mumford and Sons: I Gave you All
Whilst I moan and groan about revision and exams, children in Africa cry for an education and a chance to make something of their lives. I don’t think we realise how lucky we are at times. I hear my brother cry in the morning and shout “I dont want to go to school” whilst less fortunate children smile at the idea of attending schools and receiving education.
Whats even more amazing is how even though we might get a fine education, the children who live on the streets are infact more knowledgeable than us. Our source of education are text books and units the exam board has prepped, but their education comes through the knowledge they learn from people around them, the experiences they come face to face with everyday, the emotions they are overwhelmed with. They learn through the struggles they face everyday, and that’s what makes them stronger. It’s both sad and extraordinary to hear stories about young children being the bread winners to feed their ill family.
Being a student of a University doesnt necessarily mean I’m educated, if I can’t emphatically appreciate and understand what people all over the world are going through. It’s this gratitude and appreciation we should have that will motivate us to not only learn and educate ourselves outside school but help and support those who are less fortunate.
I find it ironic how US soldiers label Afghans uncivilised, when their actions are just as disturbing. A few hours ago a video has caused scandal which shows US marines urinating on the corpses of Afghans. The video, which was posted online, shows four US Marines standing over the bodies of several Taliban fighters, at least one of whom is covered in blood. This is an utter embarrassment. It is disgusting and shows how shameless people like them fail to recognise any mortality.
I find it hard to get my head around such news, how can “soldiers” do things like this? What is so heroic and so manly about urinating on dead bodies? It’s utterly disgusting. At the end of day, I don’t care whether those people who died were good or bad, it’s the fact that they’re dead, and you don’t go about urninating on a dead mans body. It’s not only an inhumane thing to do, but a selfish one as well. Think about how they have disrespected their country and all those who are still Marines. Well done, you selfish inhumane A-holes. It’s extraordianry how vile these men can get, if you watch the video it’s disturbing enough to hear them laugh and see smiles crease on their faces. One of them jokes: “Have a nice day, buddy.” To watch more [click here]
These “marines” should be ashamed of themselves. Firstly, for being in Afghanistan and destroying innocent’s lives, and secondly for going about their streets and performing such behaviours, and they ask why there is such a backlash?
Afghan President Karzai’s office said: “The government of Afghanistan is deeply disturbed by a video that shows American soldiers desecrating dead bodies of three Afghans.
“This act by American soldiers is simply inhuman and condemnable in the strongest possible terms. We expressly ask the US government to urgently investigate the video and apply the most severe punishment to anyone found guilty in this crime.”
There seems to be no respect for anyone these days. I thought it was simply a case of having no respect for those living amongst us, but clearly these Marines have proved to us they don’t have respect for the dead either.
1. Afghans have always beaten foreign armies, from Alexander the Great to today’s modern times.
Afghan history is certainly littered with occasions when foreign invaders were humiliated. But there have also been many cases when foreign armies penetrated the country and inflicted major defeats. In 330BC, Alexander the Great marched through the area of central Asia that is now Afghanistan, meeting little opposition. More than a millennium later, the Mongol leader Genghis Khan also brushed resistance aside.Since Afghanistan emerged as a modern state, there have been three wars with Britain. The British invasion of 1839 produced initial victory for the intruders followed by stunning defeat followed by a second victory. In 1878, the British invaded again. Though they suffered a major defeat at Maiwand, their main army beat the Afghans. The British then re-drew the frontier of British India up to the Khyber Pass, and Afghanistan had to cede various frontier areas. In the Third Anglo-Afghan war, the fighting was launched by the Afghans. Amanullah Khan sent troops into British India in 1919. Within a month they were forced to retreat, in part because British planes bombed Kabul in one of the first displays of airpower in central Asia. The war ended in tactical victory for the British but their troop losses were twice those of the Afghans, suggesting the war was a strategic defeat. The British abandoned control of Afghan foreign policy at last.
The results of the three Anglo-Afghan wars undermine the claim that Afghans always defeat foreigners. What is true is that foreigners have always had a hard time occupying the country for long. The British came to understand that. From bitter experience they kept their interventions short, preferring domination over foreign affairs to the option of colonisation that they adopted in India.
2. The Soviet invasion led to a civil war and western aid for the Afghan resistance
Armed opposition to the government in Kabul long pre-dated the arrival of Soviet troops in December 1979. Every one of the Pakistan-based Afghan mujahideen leaders who became famous during the 1980s as the Peshawar Seven and were helped by the United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and China had gone into exile and taken up arms before December 1979, many of them years earlier. As Islamists, they opposed the secular and modernising tendencies of Daoud Khan, [the Afghan PM] who toppled his cousin, King Zahir Shah, in 1973.
Western backing for these rebels had also begun before Soviet troops arrived. It served western propaganda to say the Russians had no justification for entering Afghanistan in what the west called an aggressive land grab. In fact, US officials saw an advantage in the mujahedin rebellion which grew after a pro-Moscow government toppled Daoud in April 1978. In his memoirs, Robert Gates, then a CIA official and later defence secretary under Presidents Bush and Obama, recounts a staff meeting in March 1979 where CIA officials asked whether they should keep the mujahideen going, thereby “sucking the Soviets into a Vietnamese quagmire”. The meeting agreed to fund them to buy weapons.
3. The USSR suffered a massive military defeat in Afghanistan at the hands of the mujahideen
This is one of the most persistent myths of Afghan history. It has been trumpeted by every former mujahideen leader, from Osama bin Laden and Taliban commanders to the warlords in the current Afghan government. It is also accepted unthinkingly as part of the western narrative of the war. Some western politicians go so far as to say that the alleged Soviet defeat in Afghanistan helped to cause the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. On this they agree with Bin Laden and al-Qaida’s other leaders, who claim they destroyed one superpower and are on their way to destroying another.
The reality is the Afghan mujahideen did not defeat the Soviets on the battlefield. They won some important encounters, notably in the Panjshir valley, but lost others. In sum, neither side defeated the other. The Soviets could have remained in Afghanistan for several more years but they decided to leave when Gorbachev calculated that the war had become a stalemate and was no longer worth the high price in men, money and international prestige. In private, US officials came to the same conclusion about Soviet strength, although they only admitted it publicly later. Morton Abramowitz, who directed the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the time, said in 1997: “In 1985, there was a real concern that the (mujahideen) were losing, that they were sort of being diminished, falling apart. Losses were high and their impact on the Soviets was not great.”
4. The CIA’s supply of Stinger missiles to the mujahideen forced the Soviets out of Afghanistan
This myth of the 1980s was given new life by George Crile’s 2003 book Charlie Wilson’s War and the 2007 film of the same name, starring Tom Hanks as the loud-mouthed congressman from Texas. Both book and movie claim that Wilson turned the tide of the war by persuading Ronald Reagan to supply the mujahideen with shoulder-fired missiles that could shoot down helicopters. The Stingers certainly forced a shift in Soviet tactics. Helicopter crews switched their operations to night raids since the mujahideen had no night-vision equipment. Pilots made bombing runs at greater height, thereby diminishing the accuracy of the attacks, but the rate of Soviet and Afghan aircraft losses did not change significantly from what it was in the first six years of the war.
The Soviet decision to withdraw from Afghanistan was made in October 1985, several months before Stinger missiles entered Afghanistan in significant quantities in the autumn of 1986. None of the secret Politburo discussions that have since been declassified mentioned the Stingers or any other shift in mujahideen equipment as the reason for the policy change from indefinite occupation to preparations for retreat.
5. After the Soviets withdrew, the west walked away
One of the most common promises western politicians made after they toppled the Taliban in 2001 was that “this time” the west would not walk away, “as we did after the Russians pulled out”. Afghans were surprised to hear these promises. They remembered history in rather a different way. Far from forgetting about Afghanistan in February 1989, the US showed no let-up in its close involvement with the mujahideen. Washington blocked the Soviet-installed President Mohammad Najibullah’s offers of concessions and negotiations and continued to arm the rebels and jihadis in the hope they would quickly overthrow his Moscow-backed regime.
This was one of the most damaging periods in recent Afghan history when the west and Pakistan, along with mujahideen intransigence, undermined the best chance of ending the country’s civil war. The overall effect of these policies was to prolong and deepen Afghanistan’s destruction, as Charles Cogan, CIA director of operations for the Middle East and south Asia, 1979–1984, later recognised. “I question whether we should have continued on this momentum, this inertia of aiding the mujahideen after the Soviets had left. I think that was probably, in retrospect, a mistake,” he said.
6. The mujahideen overthrew Kabul’s regime and won a major victory over Moscow
The key factor that undermined Najibullah was an announcement made in Moscow in September 1991, shortly after a coup mounted against Gorbachev by Soviet hard-liners collapsed. His longtime rival, Boris Yeltsin, who headed the Russian government, emerged in a dominant position. Yeltsin was determined to cut back on the country’s international commitments and his government announced that from 1 January 1992, no more arms would be delivered to Kabul. Supplies of petrol, food and all other aid would also cease.
The decision was catastrophic for the morale of Najibullah’s supporters. The regime had survived the departure of Soviet troops for more than two years but now would truly be alone. So, in one of the great ironies of history, it was Moscow that toppled the Afghan government that Moscow had sacrificed so many lives to keep in place.
The dramatic policy switch became evident when Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of one of the mujahideen groups, was invited to Moscow in November 1991. In a statement after the meeting, Boris Pankin, the Soviet foreign minister, “confirmed the necessity for a complete transfer of state power to an interim Islamic government”. In today’s context, the announcement could be compared to an invitation by Hillary Clinton to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar to come to Washington and a declaration the US wanted power transferred from Karzai to the Taliban.
The move led to a wave of defections as several of Najibullah’s army commanders and political allies switched sides and joined the mujahideen. Najibullah’s army was not defeated. It just melted away.
7. The Taliban invited Osama bin Laden to use Afghanistan as a safe haven
Osama bin Laden got to know the mujahideen leaders during the anti-Soviet jihad after traveling to Peshawar in 1980. Two years later, his construction company built tunnels in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan that the CIA helped him to finance and which he was later to use to escape US bombing after 9/11.
He returned to Saudi Arabia, disillusioned with the Saudi royal family for collaborating with the US in the Gulf war against Saddam Hussein in 1990–1991. In Afghanistan, there was cause for disappointment too. The mujahideen’s incompetence was preventing them from toppling Najibullah. Bin Laden turned his attention to jihad against the west and moved to Sudan in 1992. After Sudan came under pressure to deport him in 1996, Bin Laden had to find somewhere else to live. Najibullah had finally lost power in Afghanistan, and Bin Laden decided it might be the best place after all.
His return in May 1996 was prompted less by a revival of interest in Afghan politics than by his need for a safe haven. His return was sponsored by the mujahideen leaders with whom he had become friendly during the anti-Soviet struggle. He flew to Jalalabad on a plane chartered by Rabbani’s government that also carried scores of Arab fighters.
It was only after the Taliban captured Jalalabad from the mujahideen that he was obliged to switch his allegiance or leave Afghanistan again. He chose the first option.
8. The Taliban were by far the worst government Afghanistan has ever had
A year after the Taliban seized power, I interviewed UN staff, foreign aid workers and Afghans in Kabul. The Taliban had softened their ban on girls’ education and were turning a blind eye to the expansion of informal “home schools” in which thousands of girls were being taught in private flats. The medical faculty was about to re-open for women to teach midwives, nurses, and doctors since women patients could not be treated by men. The ban on women working outside the home was also lifted for war widows and other needy women.
Afghans recalled the first curbs on liberty were imposed by the mujahideen before the Taliban. From 1992, cinemas were closed and TV films were shortened so as to remove any scene in which women and men walked or talked together, let alone touched each other. Women announcers were banned from TV.
The burqa was not compulsory, as it was to become under the Taliban, but all women had to wear the head-scarf, or hijab, unlike in the years of Soviet occupation and the Najibullah regime that followed. The mujahideen refused to allow women to attend the UN’s fourth world conference on women in Beijing in 1995. Crime was met with the harshest punishment. A wooden gallows was erected in a park near the main bazaar in Kabul where convicts were hanged in public. Above all, Afghans liked the security provided by the Taliban in contrast to the chaos between 1992 and 1996 when mujahideen groups fought over the capital, launching shells and rockets indiscriminately. Some 50,000 Kabulis were killed.
9. The Taliban are uniquely harsh oppressors of Afghan women
Afghanistan has a long history of honour killings and honour mutilation, going back before the Taliban period and continuing until today. They occur in every part of the country and are not confined to the culture of the Pashtun, the ethnic group from which most Taliban come.
Women are brutalised by a tribal custom for settling disputes known as baad, which treats young girls as voiceless commodities. They are offered in compensation to another family, often to an elderly man, for unpaid debts or if a member of that family has been killed by a relative of the girl.
On the wider issue of gender rights, the Taliban are rightly accused of relegating Afghan women to second-class citizenship. But to single the Taliban out as uniquely oppressive is not accurate. Violence against women has a long pedigree in all communities in Afghanistan, among the Shia Hazara and the northern Tajiks, as well as the Sunni Pashtun.
Underage marriage is common across Afghanistan, and among all ethnic groups. According to Unifem (the United Nations Development Fund for Women) and the Afghan independent human rights commission, 57% of Afghan marriages are child marriages – where one partner is under the age of 16. In a study of 200 underage wives, 40% had been married between the ages of 10 and 13, 32.5% at 14, and 27.5% at 15. In many communities, women are banned from leaving the house or family compound. This leads to a host of other disabilities. Women are not allowed to take jobs. Girls are prevented from going to school. In the minds of western politicians and the media, these prohibitions are often associated exclusively with the Taliban. Yet the forced isolation of women by keeping them confined is a deep-seated part of Afghan rural culture. It is also found in poorer parts of the major cities.
10. The Taliban have little popular support
In 2009, Britain’s Department for International Development commissioned an Afghan NGO to conduct surveys on how people compared the Taliban to the Afghan government. The results suggested Nato’s campaign to demonise the Taliban was no more effective than the Soviet effort to demonise the mujahedin.
One survey reported on Helmandis’ attitudes to justice systems. More than half the male respondents called the Taliban “completely trustworthy and fair”. The Taliban took money through taxes on farm crops and road tolls but did not demand bribes. According to the survey, “Most ordinary people associate the [national] government with practices and behaviours they dislike: the inability to provide security, dependence on foreign military, eradication of a basic livelihood crop (poppy), and as having a history of partisanship (the perceived preferential treatment of Northerners).”
Does the US understand why Afghans join the Taliban? Do Afghans understand why the US is in their country? Without clear answers, no counter-insurgency strategy can succeed. A 2009 survey commissioned by DFID in three key provinces asked what led people to join the Taliban. Out of 192 who responded, only 10 supported the government. The rest saw it as corrupt and partisan. Most supported the Taliban, at least what they called the “good Taliban”, defined as those who showed religious piety, attacked foreign forces but not Afghans and delivered justice quickly and fairly. They did not like Pakistani Taliban and Taliban linked to narcotics. Afghans did not like al-Qaida, but did not equate the Taliban with this Arab-led movement.
I saw an incredible article in a woman’s magazine yesterday.
I don’t really read magazines about celebrity lifestyles or showbiz news. If they’re in front of me then I will flick through them for the clothes but I never read the aimless gossip and constant speculation. I won’t waste 5 minutes on an article about Kim Kardashian’s
marriage divorce, because a) you can’t promise its reliability or validity, and b) I don’t really care to be honest. I will look at the sections on fashion and beauty, yes. I love fashion, but I think fashion should be a creative and personal thing, where you can express yourself and create outfits; it shouldn’t be about imitating anyone. I’m not someone who religiously conforms to fashion trends because I like to create my own look the way I want, whether it’s buying a jumper from the men’s section of H&M or buying 4 sizes bigger to give me the comfort I want.
Anyway, whilst flicking through I came across an article concerning the pay gap between what women and men earn. It’s quite frustrating when people say “oh you feminists complain too much, so much has changed”. Well not really. If you look at the figures of what a man earns, and what a woman earns, then surely it shows we’ve still got a long way to go. And so, because I believe it is important I scribbled the statistics down in my jotter, and went excel crazy. The figures so the hourly pay of women and men, and the difference in percentage The source for the statistics is Office of National Statistics.
I don’t understand how a woman is inferior to a man if they have the same job, why is it that a female doctor gets paid less than a male doctor? Surely they have all learnt them same things? What abilities does a male lawyer have enabling him to get paid more? What is a male secretary capable of that a female secretary isn’t?
I’m not allowed to go on the internet until my exams are over :(
I have Tumblr on my phone though, woo hoo! Hope everyone is doing well and 2012 is going great for you xo
There is no doubt 2011 was a year of change; a year where one voice was the uproar to a revolution. It was a year where human rights came first and the politicians pay check came second. It was a year where not many had even thought of seeing or experiencing, yet it became the foundation to the demand for change today. If it wasn’t for this year, then the voices of protests and pictures of revolt you see today would not be so grand. It was a year that saw the end to Kim Il Jong and Gaddafi and the beginning to a generation of tolerance. I think 2011 is a year that promised a fight for change and a fight for voices to be heard. It was a year where we were taught you can take anything, if you want it enough. . Who would have thought the dictators who had ruled for, 20, 30 and 40 years would have been killed, forced to resign and made to flee the country. 2011 was the year we told the world that we will not continue to be silenced, nor will we continue to be blind. It was the year where 1027 innocent Palestinians were for the first time sent home in trade for one IDF soldier.
Yes, it was a year of hope and truth, but it was also a year of loss, death and sacrifice. Thousands of people died this year and sometimes I don’t think we realise how lucky we exactly are to be saved from the hundreds of atrocities that took place. All year round innocent people died. We saw the occupation in Palestine, helpless children starved to death in Somalia, fighters for the truth were massacred in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Tunisia and Egypt. 2011 was a year painted with darkness for everyone in Norway. We saw the US East Coast Winter snow storm, the Australian flood, the eruption of Mount Etna and the earthquake in Pakistan. Brazil had been hit with heavy rains, causing flooding and landslides which killed 529 people. 2011 was the year of hurt for Japan, with the powerful earthquake destroying many lives. Not only that but the explosion at the nuclear power station destroyed many buildings after being hit by a powerful earthquake and tsunami. Turkey also lost 85 people in 2011, with its 7.2 magnitude earthquake. Missouri met with the tornado, killing at least 89 people. Pakistan was met to death as bombs and shootings took place throughout the year. Iraq lost more innocent civilians and children, to greed. It was a year where tears were of blood and innocent people would breathe fear. It was a year where the sight of a bombsite was normal in your streets and natural disasters destroyed homes, lives and families.
2011 was a year for justice and truth. It was year the Middle East arose, as did the protests in Eastern Europe. No one could have predicted this revolution of typical tourist places to speak up against their corrupt government. It was the year occupy Wall Street began. For me, 2011 was a year for maturity. It was a year where my life changed and matured. It was the year I grew. It was the year I learnt one thing; if pain, darkness and tears have taught me anything it is to live beautifully, love unconditionally and create unbelievably. Everything is temporary, the good and the bad. Don’t worry too much about the bad and don’t ever take the good for granted.
We can all complain about the pain we have felt, but when you read and count the number of lives we’ve lost, these problems are nothing. We lost too many good people in 2011. We lost fighters in Syria, survivors in Somalia and dreamers in Japan. We lost them all.
2011 was a year of justice yes, but this is only the beginning. 2012 will hopefully be the start of freedom. Palestine, may this be your year?
Happy New Year to all my followers, I hope 2012 is the year for you. Don’t ever give up hope and quit when things are rough. Always keep fighting, never stop believing and if you haven’t already, then start dreaming. PEACE xo
Why are we so afraid of death? We were born to die.