Afghanistan on brink of humanitarian crisis: why is global community allowing it?
Afghanistan is hanging by a thread, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made such a claim last week. After the Taliban* came to power, according to him, the country is spiralling into a humanitarian crisis further. Guterres urged the global community to help the Afghans, otherwise, this region and the whole world will have to pay a higher price. In another article for our newspaper, Realnoe Vremya’s columnist, expert of the Islamic World Research Centre Karim Gaynullin evaluated the scale of the crisis Afghanistan is experiencing.
What freedom of choice can a person risking to die from undernourishment have?
Since the coming of the Taliban* to power in 2021, the Western mass media have been consistently blaming the government than took over Afghanistan. These accusations are partly true, they are partly absurd too. They include authoritarianism, an anti-democratic policy, violation of women’s rights.
At the same time, the country is on the brink of a humanitarian and food crisis. It might seem how famine in Eurasia, in the 21st century is possible when the development of agricultural sciences allowed creating more sustainable types of food plants? Nevertheless, a crisis is looming for Afghanistan.
Therefore, all the rhetoric about the democratic and anti-authoritarian policy looks like a propagandist poster. What freedom of choice can a person risking dying from undernourishment have? Any starving person would be happy to exchange his right to choose who will rule somewhere in Kabul for a bowl of rice. What inclusive government can there be in such a country?
As for women’s rights and Afghanistan, Western researchers including post-colonial feminists invented the term imperial feminism a long time ago. It is a situation when the rhetoric about women’s rights is used as justification of a neo-colonial and imperialist policy. Researcher Sara R. Farris called this femonationalism in her book, while Rafia Zakaria wrote an article with a self-explanatory name White Feminists Wanted to Invade. I will remind you that the “protection of Afghan women’s rights” was one of the formal causes of the American invasion of Afghanistan. First Lady Laura Bush claimed this saying that the “liberation of Afghan women” was the cause of the war, washingtonpost.com.
Any sound person can wonder — how can military devastation and total destruction of all infrastructure favour women’s rights in Afghanistan? Especially when this devastation has been lasting for decades.
It is followed by a complete world economic blockade and freeze of Afghan accounts, which we will talk about further.
Poverty and hunger violate women’s rights as much as religious fundamentalists
There is a food crisis in the 21st century whereas the West insists on providing women with the possibility of going to school. So the Taliban confirmed they weren’t against female education, but can starving people use this right?
Poverty and hunger violate women’s rights as much as religious fundamentalists. We perfectly know this in the example of a flow of prostitutes from post-Soviet countries to the West in the 90s. Did they choose such a fate on a whim? Is it sexual emancipation or economic coercion?
Human rights are crucial. But besides rights to education, equality, we forget another, the most important right, the right to a bowl of rice, the right to life.
It is well known that when the troops of the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in the 1980s, the discontent at the war was a part of the general discontent at the power, but this was discussed only backstage. During this war, the United States easily took advantage of the possibility of defeating their geopolitical rival in a humiliating way trying to drag and intensify the damage done to the Red Empire. Balabanov depicted what a psychological trial Soviet society faced at that moment in his legendary film Cargo 200. The metaphor of zinc boys joined the cultural pattern becoming a pain point artists returned to 40 years later. Americans mainly relied on local mujahideen by funding and helping them in every possible way. Different funds from Islamic countries didn’t stand on the sidelines. Well-known terrorist Osama bin Laden complained about this later in one of his interviews addressing the Saudis saying that when they were at war with the Union, they were warriors and defenders of Islam, but when they were at war against America, they became Kharijites and murderers.
The chaos that followed the destruction of the pro-Soviet government in 1992 led to the rule of the other young group Taliban named because the skeleton of the movement consisted of religious schools in Pakistan chaired by its Mullah Mohammed Omar.
After easily coping with numerous unfunded semi-bandit groups in 1996, the first Taliban government announced the creation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and even granted its leader Mullah Omar the title “the ruler of the faithful.” In general this title means a caliph, the ruler of all the Muslims, but today this movement declares that the title Amir al-Mu’minin is used only locally, for the Afghans.
Then, on 11 September 2001, al-Qaeda** led by already mentioned Osama bin Laden carried out a series of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The war in Palestine (Al-Aqsa Intifada) was the announced reason. It was the biggest terrorist attack in America’s history. Unluckily for the Afghan people, Osama decided to hide in the Islamic Emirate. As a result, this brought to a 20-year civil war that started with the operation Infinite Justice.
After Osama bin Laden’s death during an anti-terrorist operation, the location of the foreign contingent was considered as means of support for the popular government against the terrorists and protection of Afghanistan’s people. In the last decade, the forces of the Alliance allegedly have gradually withdrawn their troops from Afghanistan counting on the local government. But the meaning of Ashraf Ghani’s government in Afghanistan was preceded by the harsh reality: after the definite withdrawal of troops, it didn’t withstand even 10 days under the Taliban. And here the real faith in the people’s democracy played a role: even opponents of the Taliban were ready to accept any power for the sake of the peaceful sky.
Where’s money, Lebowski?
Despite various overreactions of the new Islamic Emirate, Western accusations that the Taliban were bringing the country into chaos and a humanitarian crisis look strange.
So David Beasley from the World Food Programme claimed on Thursday that “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world” was unfolding in Afghanistan where over 22 million people can be under the threat of starvation.
But how the Taliban will solve this with two big “but”s:
Firstly, the complete international blockade of Afghanistan. The new government hasn’t been recognised by any country of the world. At the same time, it cannot trade or borrow money.
Secondly, the USA froze all state reserves of Afghanistan in American banks since Ashraf Ghani’s pro-American government. Legally, this is clear: since the US doesn’t recognise the new government of Afghanistan, the money doesn’t belong to them. But how can a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan be resolved without public reserves? Unemployment and almost a total collapse of Afghanistan’s banking system are blossoming precisely due to the banal absence of cash.
In answer, the US Department of the Treasury points out the political character of this decision: “I see no situation where the Taliban would be allowed access to Afghan central bank reserves. We believe that it's essential that we maintain our sanctions against the Taliban but at the same time find ways for legitimate humanitarian assistance to get to the Afghan people.” In other words, if it wasn’t possible to control the Taliban by force, this can be done through loans and humanitarian assistance from funds.
At the same time, the stance of the Russian Foreign Ministry remains unchanged, which is to unfreeze the accounts: “We support the decision of the World Bank to allocate $280 million by the UN and UNICEF World Food Programme from the frozen money of the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund. However, we consider the measure is not sufficient and urge them to unfreeze the rest of the money of the fund as soon as possible, which is over $1 billion,” Maria Zakharova claimed in December.
Vice Permanent Envoy of Russia to the UN Dmitry Polyansky also claimed this: “We urge the USA and other Western donors to return the money to the country,” he said, “This money belongs to the Afghan people and cannot be used as an element of bargaining and punishment of the Afghans for the new reality in the country.”
*Taliban is an organisation banned in Russia and recognised terrorist by the Russian Supreme Court’s rule as of 14.02.2003.
**al-Qaeda is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia.
The author's opinion does not necessarily coincide with the position of Realnoe Vremya’s editorial board.