The forgotten war

Fifteen years on, media ignores suffering caused by war in Afghanistan

The target of the longest U.S. war is ignored in protests, hashtag trends, and "pray for" requests
Photo: U.S. Army

In the campaign between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, somehow the United States’ ongoing military intervention in Afghanistan has been completely forgotten. Both the Republicans and Democrats drive home the idea of American exceptionalism and superiority, all while refusing to acknowledge the country’s longest war.

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Over the summer, Daesh claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings in Kabul that occurred at a protest by Hazara (an ethno-religious minority) activists on July 23, killing at least 80 people and leaving more than 230 injured. As a point of comparison, 85 people were killed in Nice, France, on July 14, and 10 were killed in Munich, Germany, on July 22.

Which act of terrorism received more coverage? CBS News reported that the hashtag #PrayForNice quickly trended on Twitter with more than 150,000 tweets as the attack in Nice was still ongoing. Monuments around the world were lit up with the colours of the French flag, but there was no similar show of solidarity for Afghanistan.

In response to the lack of international support for Kabul, Afghan architect and cartoonist Mehdi Amini Photoshopped images of the Afghan flag on to different international landmarks. Many Afghans thought the images were real, and some became angry when they learned the images were fake.

Indifference normalizes war

On April 19, the Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack in a highly trafficked area in Kabul that killed at least 30 people and left 327 wounded.

On June 30, during the holy month of Ramadan, the Taliban carried out an attack on newly graduated police cadets. At least 34 people died, including four civilians, with 60 people wounded.

On Sept. 5, twin bombings claimed by the Taliban killed at least two dozen people in Kabul.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has reported that from 2015 onward, there have been approximately 600 drone strikes in Afghanistan, killing more than 2,000 people. On April 7, two U.S. air strikes in the southern province of Paktika killed at least 21 civilians, and on June 25, two further U.S. strikes hit a district in Kunduz, killing at least 17.

Of these recent attacks in Afghanistan, we must ask: why does the media not react the same way as it does when something happens in Brussels, Paris, and Nice?

The indifference toward the attacks in Afghanistan normalizes the war. The country is ignored in protests, in hashtag trends, in "pray for" requests.

This is not to say Afghan lives are worth more than Iraqi or Syrian or German lives. But Afghan lives should be given equal attention and care.

We need to support the victims

To counteract the deafening silence around the war in Afghanistan, we need to pay attention to what is happening on the ground. In order to change the course of the war in Afghanistan, we need to listen to Afghan voices and hear the stories that major media outlets refuse to tell.

We must pay attention to the war crimes committed by the United States, NATO, Daesh, and the Taliban across all the provinces of Afghanistan and hold them and ourselves accountable.

In addition to following the voices of Afghan journalists and activists, we need to be in solidarity with Afghans. This is a call for further solidarity with the disenfranchised and dispossessed people living in Afghanistan and throughout the diaspora.

This weekend marks 15 years since the start of the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan. In Toronto, a rally will take place marking the anniversary Friday, Oct. 7, starting at 4:30pm at Moss Park.

What you can do to support Afghan voices Donate to a fund started by Abuzar Royesh in support of the victims of the attack in Kabul. Sign the petition calling for an independent investigation into the U.S. military bombing of the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz last October. Follow local Afghan TV news stations and media in English, Pashto, or Dari on social media: Khaama Press, Khabrial, Pajhwok Afghan News, Radio Azadi, TOLOnews, and Voice of America Deewa Radio. Join Afghans United for Justice to demand accountability and reparations for Afghanistan and its people. Follow our work on Facebook, Twitter, and our website. Support the work of Afghan journalists, activists, photographers, and media makers, including: Lela Ahmadzai, multimedia journalist, @LelaAhmadzai, Noorjahan Akbar, writer, human rights advocate, founder of Free Women Writers, @NoorjahanAkbar, Emran Feroz, journalist and founder of Drone Memorial, @Emran_Feroz, Ali M. Latifi, journalist, @alibomaye, Mujib Mashal, writer and journalist, @MujMash, Gulwali Passarlay, activist and writer of The Lightless Sky, @GulwaliP, Bilal Sarwary, journalist photographer, founder of #AfghanistanYouNeverSee, @bsarwary, Ahmad Shuja, research associate at Human Rights Watch and co-founder of Impassion Afghanistan, @AhmadShuja, Humans of Afghanistan Facebook page.
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