Sunday, July 05, 2009,9:27 pm
'Plunge into the depths until you reach the truth'
We live in a world where the media helps shape our lives; be it for social, economical, political or entertainment purposes the importance of media cannot be underestimated. It is something which builds our personalities due to the information it feeds us. We are in many ways attached to this source and make it our comfort zone. Today, where the World has reached a critical stage in every aspect due to the economical situation as well as the political situation, the Media has become a very important tool. A tool which has replaced religion as the opium of masses in many ways. Today there are millions of people who are addicted to it by being hooked through the slim line flashy television sets in their homes. Our personalities are defined through the programs that are aired, our views and perceptions are built upon the reports that are broadcasted and our lifestyle is based around the characters of a certain hit series. The Media has become this comfort zone for people who do not wish to delve to see the true reality and are happy with what is being fed to them through their television set.
In most recent example of Iranian elections, the Media became the force of this election for the Reformists, who used the internet as a tool for their campaigning. The Mousavi Group on Facebook boasts 89,000 users, many of them from Iran, who update the rest of the world with the latest news on the happenings in Iran as well as the speeches of Mr Mousavi himself. On the other hand, the social networking site Twitter is being used to get information regarding the aftermath of the elections. Then there are the Western Channels and their reporting stories on the elections and different groups that are competing in it. One thing that stood out from this recent episode is how easy it is for the Media to manipulate and present a totally different perception to that which is reality.
Let us cast our minds back to early this year when the Israel siege was happening around Gaza. Israel barred Foreign Media reporters from Gaza, instead they were reporting from the 'Hill of Shame', as Jon Snow called it. There was no widespread condemnation of the Israeli policy then by either US analyst or British reporters as there is now to Iran's policy of restricting the Foreign reporters. In US, the Congress voted 405-1 condemning the approach Iran had taken. I wonder if the Israelis received such a strong protest too as they barred the reporters from the Gaza strip and slayed hundreds of civilians?
In the UK, the Iranian Ambassador was summoned to explain the remarks of the Wilayatul Faqee, Ayatollah Ali Khamenai regarding the BBC coverage. The remarks were nothing short of what the BBC deserved for their half baked reporting and their manipulations, the BBC were guilty of much more than what they got told. One such example is that during the Friday Sermon of Ayatollah Ali Khamenai the BBC Radio Service indicated a number of times that the slogans being shouted during the sermon are anti-Khamenai. In reality the slogans were actually supporting the Wilayatul Faqee and the system of Iran. One can accept that a mishap happens once but for it to happen a number of times in the same coverage is far from a mishap. Another example of BBC misinformation is the report by Jon Leyne who offered his interpretation of the blast at the Shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini to be the work of the Iranian government, in order to help their cause. What followed was a swift action by Iran in asking the reporter to leave the country and rightly so. These are only certain example of how BBC were guilty as charged however the masses rejected it calling it a weak attempt by the Iranians to cover up their shortcomings.
Mr Brown went a step further in his statement stating that "The whole of the world is speaking out." One has to ask how does Mr Brown come to this conclusion? Many countries of the world congratulated Ahmedinijad and accepted the result of the elections. Many of them have actually condemned the view of the Western powers regarding their rhetoric towards Iran and there was no comment from China or Russia. However the point to note here is that why was the world quiet as the Palestinians died in Gaza? Why did Mr Brown fail to say such a statement then? Is it easy to condemn an nation because their ideology is not conformed with his ideology?
January 2009 witnessed the oppression and tyranny of the Israeli forces in Gaza killing over 1400 civilians and damaging the strip by attacking the infrastructure, yet there was no public outcry as bodies laid of innocents. There was no condemnation of this aggression nor on the restrictions of reporting by the US President Mr Obama nor there was there criticism by UK Prime Minister Mr Brown. June 2009 saw the Iranian people go to the polls and re-elect Ahmedinijad. The propoganda machines came into work in distorting the will of the people who chose Ahmedinijad by indoctrinating people with constant reports of 'stolen elections', 'rigging' and 'fraud'. The manipulations and the spin by the Western Media continued to weave a particular image into the minds of the people around the World regarding Iran. They portrayed an image that displayed Iran to be an oppressive dictatorial regime which had rejected the 'rightful' choice of the people by endorsing Ahmedinijad. The platform of misinformation provided the Politicians of the Western countries to take advantage and add their rhetoric too. The minds of people accepted it all as they were blinded to reality, their perception was based on what the Media reported and showed.
In leaving no stone uncovered, the Western Media jumped at the tragic death of Neda Soltan. A lady who had allegiance to neither camps and was tragically killed on the streets of Tehran, but what followed afterwards was a trail of exploitation of her death. The Western Media symbolized her as the Martyr of the Reformist Revolution. Her death was aired again and again to incite the emotions of people all over, to display how brutal the Iranian Government is in dealing with its own people, to portray how the Iranian Government oppresses women. The reality was left aside as emotions bought the propaganda coming from the box set. The Media acted as the judge, jury and the executioner in her case without stopping to consider or in certain aspects reporting the unaswered questions surrounding her death. One has to ask where was this added coverage when 500 children died in the assault on Gaza? Where was such emotion when the bombs dropped on civilians in the Gaza strip? What happened to humanity when BBC refused to air the Gaza appeal commercial? Where did this garb of judge, jury and executioner disappear to in the light of these crimes? The answer will come with a dose of self righteousness. What you see in this article are two situations with an air of similarity in some aspects around it but what you also see are two vastly different reactions and perceptions from both the Media and the Western Governments, the question remains; why has the aspect of justice and equality been lost? Why the differentiation in responses when both; friend and foe are guilty of the same act of censure?
We live in a world which is connected to the Media, we seek and are content with the surface of everything that is given to us. We refuse to devlve further because we fear. We fear that we may not be comfortable anymore if we find the truth and it does not conform to our beliefs. We fear that we may not fit into the society anymore if we know the truth. Let me finish with a quote from the first Shi'ite Leader Ali ibn Abi Talib [a] who has said 'Plunge into the depths until you reach the truth'.
Saturday, April 04, 2009,7:34 pm
Elements of Unity
On the outside, we are confronted by imperialist powers, on the inside, by our rebellious ego. So by what ways can we secure the unity of the world of Islam? What are the obstacles? These are questions we must clarify.We must bear in mind that from disbelievers, we will receive no gain. More fundamentally, unity is not a quality that the material world could cultivate.Only God, the creator of hearts, holds the keys to rapport. Addressing his Noble Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny), God says, "Had you spent all that is in the earth, you could not have united their hearts, but God united them together." (8:63)Materiality is unable to bring hearts together; materiality is incompatible with the soul. Should the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran convert the entire Alborz Mountains to gem and distribute it among the people in order to please and unify them, it would only be the beginning of conflict. Material resources can never serve as a unifying element.In an Islamic state, injustice to our private rights is sufferable. We must, however, prevent at all costs any harm to the state itself. In a letter addressed to Abu Musa, the Master of the Faithful (peace be upon him) writes, "There is not a man – heed this – more anxious to preserve the integrity and union of the community of Muhammad (may God's peace and blessings be upon him and his household) than I." Imam Ali asserted the truth – that his rights had been violated – with reasoning but was nevertheless careful to prevent faction within the community of Muslims."But they fragmented their religion among themselves, each party exulting in what it had." (23:53)Imam Ali strove to prevent such a conclusion. "Verily, you are brothers in faith. Nothing can separate you but the wickedness of your intention, and the evil of your hearts." For identifying the cause of disunity, we must introspect, and on introspection we will realize that the cause of disunity is our evil-naturedness, which consumes our hearts: "the fire…which overspreads the hearts." (104:6-7)Our religion is one; our book is one; our Qiblah is one; our prophet is one; the heaven and hell we strive for are the same. So it is our inner evil that instigates conflict and splits the community of the faithful into factions. We must reform ourselves in order to bring about unity: neither submission to the West nor invoking the East could unite us. (And most certainly it would be useless to work with a regime that slaughters several hundred Hajj pilgrims without second thoughts.) It is only through heeding the directions of Islam that we can secure unity.Imam Ali says, "Beware of subjecting God's religion to vagaries. Indeed, unity in regard to a just cause you dislike is better than disunity in an unjust cause you like."Obviously for group work to succeed, one must humble oneself. This may be unpleasant, but it is necessary. Coming together in a group may be disagreeable, but its collective reward is worthwhile."Conform to the great majority, for indeed God's hand is with the community." "Great majority" doesn't mean merely a big city; rather, it refers to manifestations of brotherhood in the Islamic community, such as the elections.We must adhere to the Islamic community, "for indeed God's hand is with the community." Just as the sheep that stray away from the flock are prey to wolves, so those who distance themselves from the community of Muslims for preserving their status are prey to satanic deceptions. It is folly to think that solitary action could produce any good: "Verily God (immaculate is He) does not grant any good to anyone, from nations past or nations to come, through disunity."Imam Ali informs us of this truth not as a historian who has studied the annals of history but as God's viceroy with knowledge of Divine Norms. He tells us that this truth holds not only for nations past but also for nations that are yet to come. "God does not grant any good" means that He has ordained that a disunited nation should not receive any good. If we desire to secure any good, even personal good, we have no choice other than unity.And it is no excuse to claim that elements of unity are lacking. Elements of unity are aplenty. Elements of unity are essential, whereas those of disunity are accidental. The principle that preserves the individual and the society alike exists within us, and it is so firm that it withstands any attempt at bending it. It is neither alterable nor bendable.In describing the "upright" book (the Qur'an), God says, "[He] did not let any crookedness be in it." (18:1)Only a book thus "upright" can serve to guide mankind to the right path. The human being's spiritual nature (Fitra) is likewise upright and a source of guidance. As such, these two are unalterable elements of unity. So where conflict in words and deeds arises, we should know that it is in violation of our spiritual nature and on account of our evil intentions.By traversing this inner path of unity, we will succeed in resolving many theological and jurisprudential problems. There are naturally certain differences among various groups. The Asharites (asha'irah) have differences among themselves, and so do the Mutazilites (mu'tazilah) and the Adliites ('adliyyah). Just as there are external differences that define the boundaries of a group, so there are also internal differences within a group. But such differences are a potential source of blessing. (Although it should be pointed out that the laudable difference is that which is prior to knowledge.)These differences are like the imbalance between the two trays of a balance, both of which work together to yield just apportionment. When the weight of a weighed item differs from that of the weights, the two trays do not meet; one is higher and the other lower; they disagree but the purpose of each one is right and towards the establishment of a balance. Thus, disparity before the final leveling-out is sacred. The differences that God – immaculate is He – has embedded in human nature are of this sort. Such differences are inevitable.But it is those differences that remain after one gains knowledge that are nothing but the fruits of egotism: "And none differed in [the Book] except those who had been given it, after the manifest proofs had come to them, out of a desire to violate [the rights of] one another." (2:213)"But they did not differ except after knowledge had come to them, out of a desire to violate [the rights of] one another." (45:17)God warns us that this desire to violate the rights of others harms, first and foremost, ourselves: "O mankind! Your violations are only to your own detriment." (10:23)We beseech God that He purify our soul and restore it to its pristine state and grant us firm faith: with a pure soul and a firm faith, we can achieve unity in all spheres.
Written by Ayatollah Jawadi Amouli
Monday, March 16, 2009,8:09 pm
Lost thoughts. . .
Sometime has passed since I have penned a formal entry on my blog. I have posted articles, interviews, analysis and different things but I have never related anything to my life. Since Muharram this year I have felt that sometimes it is better to express your thoughts so the people may formulate your personality according to your thoughts. And this entry is that only, my thoughts on a subject which I have been thinking about deeply for sometime.It is unfortunate that we Shias today find ourselves in a very bad shape, divisions amongst us have caused us to be so fragile and our spirit of brotherhood has become non-existent. But the question is where does the blame lie? Those who add fuel to this flame of division? Those who ignite this flame? or those who burn from this flame? In many ways the blame lies in all three situations but in different magnitude. The one who ignite the flames of division does so to create discord and to sow the seeds of fitna, he has an agenda by which he wishes to remove the harmony between two believers or two parties. The one who fuels this flame and the one who is burnt from this flame are to be blamed for their lack of knowledge. The lack of knowledge is ignorance and this ignorance is what causes one to escalate a separation and to divide the parities further and the one who is burnt has fallen in that trap because he has failed to distinguish between a good doer and an evil doer again stemming from his ignorance. However this might not always be the case sometimes people do genuinely make mistakes and repent but in majority of the causes where you see divisions remember there is always a force behind it and that force is either those who have ignited this fire or those who are adding fuel to this fire.Today in our communities we see this aspect clearly. Our communities are split down the lines of ethnicity, culture, race and even political stances. We have forsaken the aspect of Islam and compromised it with these aspects. Islam made every one equal and even where there is difference between one another Islam has given ways to solve that. Try to reconcile if not then tolerance should be the method adopted. We are quick to point fingers without knowing the full story of a certain situation, to judge others in a moment without knowing him or her. Where did the importance of 70 excuses go? Islam has preached brotherhood in many aspects but we as an Ummah have always looked beyond it and have justified our doings using our own rationality. We are eager to talk about the differences of the marjiyyah and how so and so is against so and so while failing to realise that our knowledge is like a drop in a ocean compared to them. We have not even understood our leaders so I ask why the need to go on such a line where by you have to taste the flesh of your brother tomorrow? Why the need to go on such a line where by you have to pay with your good deeds tomorrow?Truth stands out from falsehood, there is no need for the truth to be shoved down people's throat. Our Imams [a] never did this, we claim to be their followers but we have failed to adapt to their seerah. So let us tolerate and propagate what is our duty and our responsibility alone to others, let us do what we are capable of and let us unite together for a future that will be beneficial for us. Intezar is not smoking sheesha and passing time with idle talk where by one discusses the differences of the marjiyyah or where by one talks about how apolitical is a certain group or how a certain group is doing political desensitisation. Intezar is doing everything which takes you near to Allah, brings you closer to the Imam of your time [aj] and submitting to the commandments of Allah.We have a test tomorrow and if we fail that test then it is nothing but the death of jahilliya for us.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009,10:07 pm
The massacre the world ignored: Parachinar
by 'Ya Baqiyatullah'
Very few open crimes against humanity are as disregarded as the assault against Shia Muslims in Parachinar, an area west of Islamabad. Many European and American media outlets have completely ignored the onslaught against Shia civilians at the hands of the Taliban and Sunni extremist militants. Parachinar is a town of 20,000 individuals, with almost all being exclusively Shiites and belonging to the Turi and Bangash tribes.
Extremist Sunni tribesmen from the North Waziristan agency along with militants from the Arab countries and the Caucasus have been attacking the Shia civilians for he past two years. Hundreds if not thousands of Shias have already been killed, and the important supply routes are also controlled by the militants. The supply of food and medical equipment has been badly affected, consequently doctors have had to operate without anesthesia. Power and water supplies are sparse and subject to sabotage and lack of functionality.
Interview of a native of Parachinar by 'Ya Baqiyatullah'
YB: To begin with, can you please give a brief introduction about yourself?
SZ: My name is Sayed Zeeshan, I am currently residing in Islamabad but occasionally visit my village in the North West Province of Pakistan, where the conflict is going on. I have a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering and am currently working as a Research Engineer in a research organization in Islamabad.
YB: To understand the situation at hand in Parachinar one needs to look at the historical aspect of the situation to see the current situation, can you summarize for how this struggle began and what have been the major events of this struggle?
SZ: Indeed, the historical perspective to every conflict is very important. Instead of focusing on the conflict in Parachinar, I must deal with it as a problem which affects the whole area of North West Frontier Province including Parachinar, Hangu, Kohat, Orakzai and Dera Ismail Khan. Except for Dera Ismail Khan the other regions are loosely interconnected geographically. Prior to 1980s the Shia-Sunni conflict was muted if even existent. Orakzai was the only area where there are known instances of hostilities before 1980. In 1977, Army Chief Zia-ul-Haq overthrew democratically elected President, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, in a coup d’état and later hanged him in 1979. USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and the Afghan war started which lasted ten long years from 1979-1989. Being a Military dictator, Zia, sidelined the popular parties and backed Islamist Parties, which were rather unknown till then, prime among them were Jamat Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ulama Islam (JUI). These parties were used to prepare militias for the Afghan war which primarily consisted of Islamist Jihadists. This war was funded by Arab oil money and the US. It was a part of the ongoing cold war between USSR and the US which US has vowed to win no matter what forces they had to support. With the coming of Saudi and Arab money a mushroom growth of Doebandi madrasas (religious seminaries) was witnessed in the North West and Baluchistan provinces in the areas adjoining Afghanistan.
At around the same time another group called Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) was emerging in South Punjab lead by Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, the ex- provincial vice chief of JUI. Their sole agenda was to declare the Shia population of Pakistan as non Muslim as was done to Ahmedis in 1974. With the emergence of SSP and LJ (Lashkar Jhangvi, a splinter group of SSP) a wave of Shia target killings began. Most of the operatives of these terrorist groups had directly/indirectly taken part in Afghan War and had very good working relations with other jihadist organizations that were active in Kashmir and Afghanistan. This all was ignored by the government and the security agencies (primarily ISI) because of the strategic partnership with the Jihadist Organization for their agendas in Kashmir and Afghanistan to gain “strategic depth”. These organizations were sectarian up to the hilt. Although only a few of them saw Shias as their prime enemies they all thought of Shias as antagonists up to a certain degree. In Hangu and Parachinar the war affected Afghans settled their throughout 80s and 90s. SSP and LJ started recruiting them and then used them to attack Shia targets. This is the backdrop in which this conflict started.
The important incidents were the attacks on Shia Turi tribesmen of Parachinar by the Afghans in 1986. Another significant incident was the tribal war that started in Hangu and Orakzai in 1998 after a clash over flag rising on the event of Nauroz (Spring Solstice celebrations). Taliban from Orakzai attacked Shia village of Shahu Khel and razed it to ground; killing scores of Shia men, women and children. Hundreds of families were dislocated and took refuge in neighboring Shia villages. Army intervened afterwards to calm the situation. Since 2005, when a suicide bomber attacked Ashura Procession in Hangu and managed to kill 40 people, every year the local Shia and Sunni tribes clash with each other using heavy weapons to target each others’ positions and at times civilian population. Usually it’s because of the intransigence of the radical local Sunni groups, inspired by SSP, that the Ashura processions are not allowed to be taken out.
External forces, like Taliban from the nearby areas like Douaba and Orakzai and some tribesmen from Parachinar also took part in this conflict. In fact, in 2008, the ceasefire was only enforced when the Army provided a safe passage to the external Taliban forces that were adamant to continue hostilities. In Kurram, the capital of which is Parachinar, gunmen attacked a Shia procession and killed several people. This kick started a series of events that gave rise to a full blown tribal war between Turi (Shia) tribesmen on one side and Bangash (Sunni) tribesmen on the other side, whom were also helped by the Taliban from Waziristan and Orakzai. The road links were closed for all kinds of traffic and a severe shortage of food and medicine started. This conflict was escalated by a particular gory incident. Army wanted to transport some foodstuff in trucks to Parachinar, which was blockaded for months, but Taliban attacked the convoy, the Army marooned the convoy and absconded; the truck drivers were taken by the Taliban. They executed them in a very brutal fashion, reminiscent of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, severing the heads and limbs of the victims in an animalistic fashion.
This exacerbated the situation still further and the Turi tribesmen went on offensive taking several of Bangash villages. It ensued in a deadlock situation and after several rounds of talks between the tribal elders of both sides in Islamabad a ceasefire agreement was reached in October, 2008. This fragile agreement is holding on by thin strings. There have been several killings and kidnappings after the agreement. The roads are open but people travel on these roads with throbbing hearts, waiting for something gory to happen. Shias from Parachinar and Hangu areas have also been killed in Dara Adam Khel, a lawless town connecting Kohat to Peshawar. People were stopped and based on the ID card information (name, residence etc.) decapitated. The situation is particularly difficult for Shias who are killed indiscriminately for the only reason of being Shia.
YB: Do you have an estimate for the population within the affected region?
SZ:The figures I am providing are rather crude and are used here to give an idea of the population. The population of Kohat is roughly about a million people. That of Orakzai and Parachinar will add another million to this figure.
YB: What is the demographic makeup in the North-West region of Pakistan, with particular emphasis on the sectarian composition of the population?
SZ: Quite a few villages in Kohat consist of a majority Shia population; they are mainly located between the districts of Kohat and Hangu and a few in Orakzai. Upper Kurram also consists of mainly Shia villages and the town of Parachinar is primarily Shia. There is a zone separating Kurram from Hangu populated by primarily Sunni population. Towards the south of Parachinar is the restive North Waziristan which is the stronghold of Taliban.
YB: How would you describe the nature of sectarian relations over the years?
SZ: There wasn’t any big conflict going on in this region prior to the Zia’s Jihad campaign. This question has been dealt with in detail in the answer to the second question.
YB: Militant terror groups like the Tehrik-e-Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba are said to operate in the region, and are blamed for the ongoing violence. Did these groups receive any support from regional and international players; would you care to kindly elaborate on the local and regional context of the developments within the region?
SZ: This question is a bit tricky and the information regarding the financial aspect of these organizations is a bit hazy. Although it is well known that the Arab oil money and the CIA money played a big role in arming and maintaining the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan but the sectarian phenomenon, which although intertwined with the global Jihad, is relatively recent. It is concurrent with the advent of Taliban in Afghanistan, which drew its force from Pakistani madrasas. Taliban were helped financially by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as asserted in the famous book Taliban by Ahmed Rashid. They were also helped by the drug money that came to Afghanistan through the poppy and heroin trade. Some of the groups like SPP and LJ were helped by local and Middle Eastern traders. After 9-11, Pakistan joined the war against terror but didn’t stop supporting the jihadist groups completely. Now this strategy has backfired and TTP, which consists of a plethora of Jihadist groups, sectarian or otherwise, has gained significant clout in regions bordering Afghanistan and several settled areas like Swat Valley. These groups operate by looting weapons from security forces and NATO convoys, getting money from local population and Middle Eastern traders under charity organizations and kidnapping wealthy people, especially Shia. Some of the money comes from Arab countries which they give to madrasas to export Salafism. It is asserted by some political analysts that some rouge elements of the ISI are still backing these groups but the validity of this claim is still unverified.
YB: Do they still receive support from these quarters? And what is the nature of this support?
SZ: They still receive support from these quarters. They mainly receive money from wealthy businessmen in Arab countries. Some of the money comes from drug trade and some from Arab countries that use this money to gain support for Salafism.
YB: Are there any Shia groups operating in the area to ensure safety of the Shia residents there and around that area?
SZ: There are several groups operating in the area but they usually have local roles. These groups aren’t very organized and lack command and control structure and therefore aren’t too much effective. Although, they successfully defend their areas in time of conflict and provide a buffer between the attackers and the civilian population, they still lack leadership. They consist of local people who have some knowhow of the warfare and are supported by small donations from the locals in form of defense funds.
YB: According to experts, the central policy of the former government in Pakistan was said to have unleashed a "violence-accommodation cycle". What is your assessment and do you think the present administration will treat these militant groups any differently?
SZ: This is a very old policy of cozying up to jihadists to achieve the ends in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Although a certain level of reversal of this policy has been witnessed in recent days but it’s too little too late. For instance, the radical madrasas which spread sectarian hatred are thriving with impunity. Maulvis have been given free hand to preach sectarianism from mosque pulpits. The target killings of Shias have risen exponentially since the arrival of the democratic government. All these factors indicate that there is no serious effort going on to eradicate these ills from the society.
YB: As we speak today, many towns in the Kurram Agency have been under virtual siege from early 2007 - a period of two years. Can you describe the humanitarian situation on the ground? Additionally, have humanitarian aid organizations, particularly international ones, played any significant role in dealing with the humanitarian situation?
SZ: Things are a bit better now since the ceasefire that came in effect in October, 2008. But this agreement is very fragile. It’s waiting like a time bomb to blast any day. It is because the root problem has not been addressed. The monster has been put under the carpet for now but it will raise its head again with much ferocity than previously witnessed. As for the international aid agencies, there has been no significant help. One reason is the closure of the transportation routes heading towards Parachinar from Pakistan but the routes from Afghanistan were open. International aid agencies were in a better position to help because of their presence in Afghanistan, but they chose to ignore this problem or weren’t well informed.
YB: What is the reason for the muted coverage of the crisis in the region by Western media outlets? Can anything be done to place the spotlight on the grave human costs and tales of sorrow from the region?
SZ: The local media covered this event somewhat, although insignificantly, without divulging any details about the sectarian aspect of this problem and made it look like a tribal war between warring factions. In fact this is the case with any sectarian event. The logic they give is that this issue is too sensitive to be discussed publicly. It would flare conflict in other parts of the country. This is the kind of apathy we are dealing with in Pakistan. As for the international media, the tribal areas are too remote and restive for the international journalists to operate. But that is not a good reason for them to ignore such significant events. There are other ways in which these events could be covered. BBC Urdu did cover the event in somewhat detail but it doesn’t have an international outreach.
YB: Any final words, particularly to the Shias situated in the West?
SZ: I would say that the apathy has gone for too long and if something significant is not done a massacre is in waiting. It has happened before in Mazar Sharif (Afghanistan) in 1998, it could happen in any of these areas again. Hundreds of people have been killed; scores of children died of lack of medicines and this conflict is far from over. The Western Shias should put pressure on the Government of Pakistan through demonstrations and lobbying and by writing to different news agencies, informing them of the scale of the atrocities. This is the least that anyone can do. They could also help by donating for the orphans of the conflict which number in hundreds if not thousands.
Commentary: I am deeply grateful to 'Ya Baqiyatullah' for offering this amazingly interesting and important information on my blog. Many topics touched upon here (the role of Pakistan, Sunni extremism, ISI, the Taliban, etc.) are, I believe of immense importance not only to the region, but to the entire world. As my readers already know, I strongly believe that the kind of extreme Sunni Islamism (Wahabism, Salafism, Deobandism, Qutbism, etc. - they all have a common root) which is now growing in influence in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and much of the Sunni Muslim world is a major threat to, literally, the entire planet. Likewise, I believe that the opposition that many feel to the 'imperial' policies of the elites which have now taken control of the USA should not obscure the fact that there are other, equally dangerous, foes out there, some even possibly harder to defeat than the "last superpower" (since the latter is well on its way to deafeat itself having become a de-facto Israeli colony and client state).
'Ya Baqiyatullah's' interview clearly shows that Sunni extremists make absolutely no difference between the infidel kafirs and their fellow Muslims if the latter dare to confess a different type of Islam. Nor will they make any distinction along ethnic lines: they will murder anyone, including their fellow Pakistanis, just like they murdered Daniel Perl or Russian conscripts in Chechnia: by slitting their throats and cutting off their heads. In their mind, just like in Dubya's, you are "either with us or against us" and if you choose the latter, well, then murdering you is a pious act.
From the many comments to my recent piece on Afghanistan (I thank you all for sharing them with us!!) I get a strong sense that many are still dubious about the reality of the threat presented by this type of Sunni Islamism. I will therefore try to regularly post articles here which describe some important feature of this phenomenon.
Thursday, January 29, 2009,12:23 am
A Letter to the IDF
I want to see you call this a case of human shields. I definitely don't have the imagination for it.Investigations are pending*, but on January 5th, 2009, IDF soldiers shelled a house in Gaza City, killing 30 people. That's not an unusual occurrence; in the course of this brief conflict, over 770 Palestinians have been killed, a third of them children. Every time I check the news, the death toll seems to have jumped by another hundred human souls. But the house they shelled this time was not an ordinary house. It was different from the countless abodes the IDF has inexcusably bulldozed since its inception, or fired into in recent days with allegations of hidden weaponry.According to the UN and the Red Cross, witnesses say that this is a house where civilians were actually sent BY the IDF for the purpose of seeking shelter. Every time any organization has questioned the IDF thus far regarding the unthinkable death toll in Gaza (including the 250% rise in child deaths since the ground offensive began), it's been the same bland story: Hamas was using them as human shields, blame it on Hamas. I'm not even going to get into how absurd and hypocritical that assertion is. I'm not even going to get into how stupid you have to be to think that you can fire into one of the world's most densely populated regions- barely twice the size of Washington D.C.- where 1.5 million people are stuffed into a cradle of poverty and desolation because YOU walled them up there- and not expect that you might end up with some civilian casulaties on your hands that are in fact YOUR fault, especially when you allow no resources for shelters to protect those civilians from your attacks, nor ample medical care to treat them in the aftermath. And if I don't run out of imagination, I'm going to pretend that in 2005, when the Israeli supreme court passed a ruling banning the use of civilian shields, the IDF didn't object and argue for the right to maintain practices which involved sending innocent Palestinian civilians, often children, to negotiate with or demand a surrender from suspected militants. I'll even pretend that some of those 'shields' weren't harmed or killed in the process.But what I cannot deceive myself about is the fact that for FOUR days after the Jan. 5th incident, the IDF prevented Red Cross ambulances from coming through to help the 100+ victims of the shelling, that it stood by and allowed dozens of those innocent people to die. What I cannot dismiss with my imagination is the knowledge that not only is it Palestinian civilians who are being murdered and maimed left and right, but even the international aid organizations that are trying to help them; so much so that Gaza-area UN, Red Cross, and other humanitarian workers are actually halting their operations for security reasons after being shot at by IDF soldiers.I cannot pretend, and every reasonable human being with any degree of respect for the sanctity of life cannot pretend, that there is any rationalization that can justify 257 CHILDREN being killed in a conflict in which the other side has a showing of 14 total casualties.The Jan. 5th reports are not yet confirmed and the IDF's guilt in the situation remains unclear to 'objective investigators'. The IDF, of course, has flatly denied the allegations. If the endurance of this conflict hadn't already rendered me pretty cynical, I might be praying right now that the situation has not gotten so bad that the IDF can seriously get away with firing into a self-designated shelter full of innocent people, killing 30 of them, without the global community being up in arms beyond the typical empty condemnations- but I know that it has gotten away with much worse... I would pray that there's an explanation for this that will not lead me to believe that this is turning into another easy genocide the world will look away from and only have the courage to bemoan ages after the fact... but it's already getting there, and only our objections can steer history in a different direction."He died hungry," said Masouda al-Samouni as she spoke of her infant child, a victim of the Jan. 5 shelling. This was the same lament of Lady Rubab (sa), the wife of Imam Hussain (as), as she wept 1400 years ago for Ali Asghar: her 6-month old child who the enemy forces murdered as he withered from thirst and hunger. As commemorators of that tragedy, it is incumbent upon us and Muslims worldwide to oppose the brutalities in what Syed Nasrallah has called 'the Karbala of today.'Therefore, I am praying for an end to the silence, to the tearless eyes, to the apathy.I am praying for the child who asked his mother: “Mama – why don't the Israeli soldiers think before they shoot people?”To that little boy, and to every oppressed soul in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere, I have this to say:'Labbaik. I am here. The IDF's fascist restrictions might be keeping foreign journalists as far from reporting on its brutalities as possible, but we- the ordinary peace-lovers of the world, those of us who regard your right to life as precious as our own- hear you, and we will make sure that your cries do not go unheard by the world at large.'
Thursday, January 15, 2009,11:00 pm
My Youtube Channel. . .
Saturday, January 03, 2009,3:31 am
As the World Burns
Today, as we live and breathe and carry on with our lives, 450 people and counting lie dead from one of the worst direct Israeli attacks ever perpetrated against the Palestinian people.
As we sign on to news sites and tune in to the latest broadcasts, in the pursuit of the guilty we are invariably met with mentions of beginnings and firsts, as is the custom whenever a conflict occurs. We see it in children- "she started it!"- and we see it in politics, especially from the current mouthpieces at the White House. We see journalists raving about how the *beginning* of the current conflict was the incessant launching of rockets into Israel by Hamas, how that was the *first* breach of the peacefire and thus justified Israel's atrocious response. If I had the patience to play it their way, I might inquire about the *beginning* of the viral poverty that has driven 1 in 2 of the Gaza Strip's 1.5 million inhabitants below the poverty line. I might then inquire about what *begins* to happen to the psychology of an oppressed people as they are forced to watch their loved ones perish for lack of food, sanitation, and medical care, and then wonder how the deprivation of these most essential needs could possibly never have crossed anyone's mind as the *first* violation of a supposed peace.In light of my personal political views, if you want to get right down to it, this cannot be a question of who threw the first stone because stones and physical weaponries are not the only, or the worst, mediums of warfare. It should be a question of who made the man so desperate and hungry and so deprived of every essential human necessity that he was driven to throw it... of who walled up 1.5 million human beings Warsaw Ghetto-style and refused to even allow food from international aid organizations to be distributed to the 1 in 2 human beings living in abject poverty, and how such circumstances could have ever been considered meeting the conditions of a 'PEACEfire'. I don't know any human being whose idea of peace constitutes watching your children teeter on the brink of starvation or living in deplorable filth and unchecked sewage that fosters the spread of communicable diseases for the prevention of which no medical resources exist or are allowed in.
I began this piece talking about the media and general public's fascination with beginnings. So I know that even though the aforementioned conditions in Gaza will sound absolutely horrendous and deplorable to all who read about them, there are still going to be those hesitant to shed a sympathetic tear or call into question the brutal forces that allowed these atrocities to persist. Because there will be people wondering- whether subconsciously or blatantly- what the Palestinians must have done *first* in order to garner such inhumane treatment as the harsh blockade, because surely, were it undeserved, it would not be happening.
So I'll address that question. What malicious crime did the Palestinians commit?
Well they had the glaring audacity to uh... exercise their democratic right to vote.
They had the guts to choose the people they knew would stave off the corruption that consumed their opposition, who would refuse to barter the interests of the Palestinian people. But in the eyes of Israel and the United States, who actually gave weapons and money to Hamas's opposition to keep the *democratically-elected* group out of power and murder its key leaders, they made the wrong choice.
As I conclude, I am not saying that this objectively justifies Hamas's rocket attacks so finitely that I expect any rational being who doesn't have my political and humanistic biases to agree on. But I would most definitely expect any rational being to be appalled at 400+ deaths in repayment for fewer than five.
Right now, as I pray with millions of peace-loving human beings around the world for an end to the unimaginable suffering in the Gaza Strip, I want to remind people that at this moment, this isn't primarily an issue of politics, of whose land is what, of who started it all, or who's been right all along, this is an issue of an unjustifiably disproportionate military response leading to the slaughter of over 400 human beings- at least a fourth of them civilians, over 50 of them children, and more wounded than all the area's hospitals can even begin to accommodate. It's an issue of a four year old child whose playtime in his home's courtyard turned in to the hour of his death, of a mother beholding the corpses of her five dead daughters.
So as the world burns, won't you weep a few tears and douse the flames?
Sunday, November 23, 2008,12:30 pm
Understanding the SOFA
Five years after the invasion of Iraq by the Allied Forces, the people of Iraq find themselves at a crossroad; to accept the SOFA and legalize an occupation or reject it and live indefinitely under the shadows of the US forces. The Iraqi people, after being promised so much in the name of liberation are now left in a dilemma in which either choice will adds to their sufferings.
An indicator of the mainstream Iraqi opinion can be found amongst the religious figures who have opposed deal. The highest ranking cleric in Iraq, Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Sistani has openly objected to this and has imposed certain conditions for it to be accepted by the Iraqi Government. He has called for any deal to safeguard: the common interest of the Iraqi people, national sovereignty, national consensus, and obtain a parliamentary approval.
This sort of objection is not surprising given the history. Previously the US had concluded similar deals in Japan and South Korea, both of which allowed the US troops to be stationed there until now. Moreover, this deal is not detrimental for the Iraqis but also for the rest of the neighboring countries. Having permanent military bases in the region could become a catalyst to launch an attack on neighboring countries such as Iran and Syria. This is part of the reason as to why there has been strong objection from the two leading Shia clerics; Ayatollah Sistani and Ayatollah Sayyed Kazem Haeri with the latter going as far as issuing a fatwa to make it impermissible to vote in the favour of such a deal. Both these clerics consider it a moral and religious obligation to prevent this deal from taking place as it would only endanger the Shias further, not to mention many more innocents too.
The implications of the second part of the SOFA are equally dangerous as the first part and present a more serious issue for the Iraqi people. The fact that US is calling for immunity for its citizens from prosecution in Iraq sends out a strong message as to how ‘mutual’ this agreement really is. In the past it is well known that US has put this condition on a number of their deals with other government most notably the one concluded by the Shah in Iran, prior to the 1979 Revolution, which was met with fierce opposition by Ayatollah Khomeini.
Giving immunity will not only cover up the acts such as the abuse of the Abu Gharib Prisoners and the deaths by Blackwater but it would also give a free pass for many to operate corruptly with the country. It is well known that the Bush Government has turned a blind eye to the corruptions with the Iraqi Government as well as any sort of legal accountability by their own citizens and contractors. Any lack of immunity will only discourage any transparency as to what is occurring in Iraq. A blank check should not be given to anyone, be they the Iraqi Government or foreign forces.
The course of the occupation has led Iraq to rely on foreign aid, namely from the United States. Any suggestion of leaving the country after a Government was in place became a distant memory due to several factors such as insurgency, the militias and sectarian violence all which contributed to the stay of the US in the region. The question that must be posed, was the occupation strategy by the Pentagon the necessary way to remove Saddam? Or did other interests lie at heart when the decision was made regarding the removal of Saddam Hussein? One has to remember that Saddam was a person backed and supported by the US hence to remove him without an occupation would have been a very viable possibility however, the greed of oil was something which was too good to be missed too and sadly, the greed won the day.
Dependency of the Iraqi nation is not the sole reason for the US to remain in Iraq. Given the rhetoric between Tehran and Washington, the cycle of threats has taken a new level with US going as far as funding the terrorists groups such as PEJAK and PKK to infiltrate Iran and going as far as declassifying MKO as a terrorist organisation, MKO are guilty of a number of terrorist activities in Iran after the revolution. All these actions indicate that the US plan in Iraq was much more than the removal of Saddam to begin with.
The United Nations mandate runs out in December 2008 so that begs the question, which road is the best for the Iraqi nation; the SOFA which ensures permanent military bases and immunity in Iraq leaving the people of Iraq under a legalized occupation or an Iraq without SOFA under the occupation of US troops for indefinite or a possible third solution that brings about the true liberation which was promised to the Iraqis?
The solution to this mess that has been caused in Iraq by the US troops is recognition that the solution firstly lies internally and then more importantly on the regional level. They are interlinked and the resolution of one would lead to the other. The settlement should not be dictated by any foreign power regardless of their influence in the region. No other region of the world would tolerate such interference in the region so the same measure should apply here. Consideration should be undertaken in regards to the legitimate interests of the powers in the area but the future of the area should not be held hostage to their exclusive interests, such as the export of oil.
The neighboring states of Iraq which are threatened by the changes in Iraq need to be addressed and treated in any lasting deal for Iraq and the area. Countries like Iran and Turkey need to be introduced in a new security measure which would take into account their concerns, fears and interests. Furthermore, any deal must secure the sovereignty of the region, what happens inside Iraq has repercussions on the lives of millions inside and outside the country. The best hope for the Iraqi people for now, is to reach a deal that provides clear guidelines for foreign troops, and attempts at best to respect an already fragile new nation.