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Love's labours... won?!
July 31, 2011 2:50 PM   Subscribe

Freedom to love, tested in Afghanistan. When Rafi Mohammed, a 17-year-old Tajik Afghani, met and fell in love with his girlfriend Halima, he did not think about the rage that would erupt in her ethically conservative Hazara neighborhood, or of the lengths to which the local police and religious leaders would go to protect the couple from an angry mob in a region of Afghanistan which has seen fewer attacks recently and has been restored to local control. Despite -- or perhaps because of -- the violence that ensued, many of the locals have found themselves opposed to the fundamentalists, unwilling to see another pair of young lovers executed, as happened under Taliban rule. (video, NSFW) ""I feel so bad. I just pray that God gives this girl back to me. I'm ready to lose my life. I just want her safe release. . . It’s the heart. When you love somebody, you don’t ask who she is or what she is. You just go for it.”
posted by markkraft (35 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
That video is more than NSFW. It is basically a snuff film ensconced in a local news report. Not hating on the post or the poster, but please be forewarned before watching it.
posted by joe lisboa at 3:05 PM on July 31, 2011


Should be tagged Romeo+Juliet.
posted by emjaybee at 3:11 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, we're a pretty shitty species.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:15 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


(I wouldn't describe it as a "snuff flim" in that there's no gore and it's relatively short, but it is brutal and disturbing, and I wouldn't be the least bit opposed to an admin modifying the warning. I did think it was important to accurately frame the alternatives in a way that was emotionally concrete and challenging, however, because it's a difficult ethical situation, wrapped in a difficult ethical situation.
posted by markkraft at 3:19 PM on July 31, 2011


Yeah, I should have been more precise, markkraft. Brutal and disturbing is right, though. Thank you for the post.
posted by joe lisboa at 3:22 PM on July 31, 2011


Goddamn.
posted by guster4lovers at 3:43 PM on July 31, 2011


Is there a point in time where we start considering Taliban to be poor Nazis? Because if they had the funding and power, they'd be executing a whole lot more innocent people, and attempt to take over the world.
posted by Malice at 3:46 PM on July 31, 2011 [10 favorites]


This isn't a Taliban specific thing though from what I understand. This is tribalism.
posted by clockworkjoe at 4:03 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Because if they had the funding and power, they'd be executing a whole lot more innocent people..."

...as if being responsible for roughly eight out of every nine civilian deaths in Afghanistan -- as well as the institutionalized use of drug smuggling, kidnappings, theft, and extortion to fund their actions -- isn't bad enough?!

I was strongly opposed to this ground invasion ever happening from day one, but at this point, you don't have to be a statistician to see that the best of several shitty options for the people of Afghanistan would be to gradually wind down this occupation, while leaving a stable, somewhat representative government behind.

A recent poll showed that the people of Afghanistan believe that Karzai is horribly corrupt... and they *still* believe that his government is the best they've had since the USSR invaded. Anyone who thinks that a perfect, safe, clean ending to this ordeal is possible is simply deluded, because any way you slice it, people are going to die.
posted by markkraft at 4:04 PM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


"leaving a stable, somewhat representative government behind."

Representative or whom, for whom? And how long will such a government last? It's a dream wish. Countries don't develop this way. Even if we wanted to helicopter drop money like we have been what results can we expect?

Its hard to not be a nihilist about this, without giving Afghanistan 100, 200 years.

An separate question: does anyone know why Iran, or Iraq were able to gain development traction while Afghanistan didn't (at least prior to the Russian invasion).
posted by stratastar at 4:22 PM on July 31, 2011


of whom, I meant.
posted by stratastar at 4:23 PM on July 31, 2011


(from memory, with apologies to Iain Banks)

Emperor: Do you believe the Universe to be a fundamentally fair place?

Gurgeh: No, it isn't. But we can try to make it more so, or we can make it less so.
posted by localroger at 4:38 PM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is there a point in time where we start considering Taliban to be poor Nazis?

The Taliban *hate* the hazaris:
...despite the fierce resistance Hazarajat fell to the Taliban by 1998. The Taliban had Hazarajat totally isolated from the rest of the world going as far as not allowing the United Nations to deliver food to the provinces of Bamiyan, Ghor, Wardak, and Daykundi.[20]
During the years that followed, Hazaras suffered severe oppression and many large ethnic massacres were carried out by the predominately ethnic Pashtun Taliban and are documented by such groups as the Human Rights Watch.[21] These human rights abuses not only occurred in Hazarajat, but across all areas controlled by the Taliban. Particularly after their capture of Mazar-e Sharif in 1998, where after a massive killing of some 8000 civilians, the Taliban openly declared that the Hazaras would be targeted. Mullah Niazi, the commander of the attack and governor of Mazar after the attack, similar to Abdur Rahman Khan over 100 years ago, declared the Shia Hazara as infidels:
Hazaras are not Muslim, they are Shi’a. They are kafir [infidels]. The Hazaras killed our force here, and now we have to kill Hazaras… If you do not show your loyalty, we will burn your houses, and we will kill you. You either accept to be Muslims or leave Afghanistan… wherever you go we will catch you. If you go up, we will pull you down by your feet; if you hide below, we will pull you up by your hair.[22]
but, it's funny you think that this has to do with the Taliban... Could it have to do with other nytimes stories? Maybe, all the nytimes needs to do to get a blip in support for our war in Afghanistan is show how backward and brutal a place it can be? The facts don't really matter, only the story... or maybe it's little lines like this:
The case has resonated in Herat, in part because it stirred memories of a brutal stoning ordered by the Taliban last summer in northern Afghanistan.
What the hell does "resonate in Herat" mean? Did the reporter go canvas the mudbrick huts? Catch up on the privy gossip in the local villages? The story is over 200 years old by this point: the forces of justice and humanity enlightening a primitive place.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:39 PM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


So Afghanistan really is just planet Mars on Earth...
posted by Meatafoecure at 4:40 PM on July 31, 2011


More star-crossed love: Israeli grocery store keeps Arab baggers and Jewish cashiers apart

posted by 0rison at 4:45 PM on July 31, 2011


Emperor: Do you believe the Universe to be a fundamentally fair place?
Gurgeh: No, it isn't. But we can try to make it more so, or we can make it less so.


To be fair to Banks; he's created a world where advanced sentient AI's spend their time weigh the utilitarian cost, benefits and probabilities of harm before trying to make the most difficult decisions about changing another culture for the better.

We don't have the same imperatives to act (as a science fiction universe), nor the moral rights to change other societies especially given our track record and general inability to recognize the costs of our actions to other societies.
posted by stratastar at 4:53 PM on July 31, 2011


"Male relatives often punish such transgressions with beatings or death."

Or mutilation, as was done to Bibi Aisha.

Suspect in Mutilation of an Afghan Woman Is Freed
posted by homunculus at 4:54 PM on July 31, 2011


"These [racist] people are specific." -- Dave Chappelle
posted by Sys Rq at 5:28 PM on July 31, 2011


To be fair to Banks; he's created a world where advanced sentient AI's spend their time weigh the utilitarian cost, benefits and probabilities of harm before trying to make the most difficult decisions about changing another culture for the better.


"The Culture" is a metaphor.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:31 PM on July 31, 2011


"Even in Islam this [stoning] has to be done through proper judicial systems," he said.

Well that's lets make sure that happens please. Proper judicial systems before a stoning is what we want to see.
posted by the noob at 5:43 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mr. Mohammed, who is 17, said...Ms. Mohammedi, who believes she is 17, said...

Why is Mr. Mohammed's age stated as a fact, but Ms. Mohammedi's age is stated as an opinion? I mean, I suppose the reporter may have had direct documentation in one case and not the other, but it seems like an odd thing to call into question.

Family members of the man killed in the riot sent word to Ms. Mohammedi that she bears the blame for his death. But they offered her an out: Marry one of their other sons, and her debt would be paid.

Well, that was nice of them.
posted by jcreigh at 5:44 PM on July 31, 2011


Mr. Mohammed, who is 17, said...Ms. Mohammedi, who believes she is 17, said...

Why is Mr. Mohammed's age stated as a fact, but Ms. Mohammedi's age is stated as an opinion? I mean, I suppose the reporter may have had direct documentation in one case and not the other, but it seems like an odd thing to call into question.


In remote areas, children tend to be born at home without benefit of birth certificates, and what year it happens may not be all that important. Possibly because she's a girl. You don't have to go very far back in Western history to find people who were not exactly sure how old they are.
posted by emjaybee at 5:48 PM on July 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


"Representative or whom, for whom?"

Well, they have had local elections, and generally, the winners of those haven't triggered the attention of election monitoring orgs, as opposed to the national elections. Even then, Karzai is blocked from running for office after 2014. He's no George Washington, but again, he's the best Afghanistan has had in decades.

"And how long will such a government last? It's a dream wish."

Well, given that NATO will be leaving pretty much once Karzai has peaceably transitioned to another leader, it's hardly a dream wish. Frankly, barring any deaths, it's pretty clear who the next person running Afghanistan will be. Frankly, if he *doesn"t* win, there will be the potential for serious violence, so expect a full court press for election monitoring. The entire success or failure of the mission in Afghanistan will be decided in the validity -- or lack thereof -- of the next election.

"Countries don't develop this way."

You have to remember where Afghanistan is, structurally. They are one of the poorest nations in the world, and yet they also have been shown to have great, untapped mineral resources that have only gotten more valuable, due to emergent scarcity. While some of those resources are in the more dangerous parts of the country, there are considerable resources that are primed for development and extraction. As the world's economy founders, the average income of Afghan citizens has gone up sharply over the past few years, and the GNP growth was around 22% last year.

So yes, countries *do* develop this way, at least relative to where they were. To a large extent, traditional centralized redevelopment projects has given way to concentrating on infrastructure, in order to create safe(ish) corridors of unrestricted trade... and that has made all the difference, because every local who benefits financially from not having a different warlord every twenty miles extracting their due at roadblocks has a vested interest in maintaining the new status quo. The Taliban rule was mostly a movement towards localized, fundamentalist mob rule, as opposed to anything significantly centralized with real leadership... which explains, in part, why it was "successful"... and so easily swept away, while very, very hard to actually replace. It was, at heart, a "vacuum" government.

Really, what we're seeing in Afghanistan today is almost a Prussian-style strategy towards nationbuilding, with the central government in Kabul being increasingly capable of extending their power into other parts of the country through generally more secure, improved, expanded transportation corridors. The power of the of the strongest, most radicalized, best armed tribalists and Islamists -- as shown in this case -- is still important, but it's giving way to a central authority that is more capable of enforcing non-tribal law in a way that is frankly more popular with the people than the Taliban, despite it's obvious corruption and failings, because at least the economy is growing, record numbers across all societal lines are being educated, many, many more people are moving from the country to the cities, and there is some potential for improving your lot in life.

And frankly, that is exactly how countries develop. Sometimes, you get George Washington.. and sometimes you get Vladamir Putin. But after years of extreme societal disruption, a job and food on the table still matters.
posted by markkraft at 6:00 PM on July 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Why is Mr. Mohammed's age stated as a fact, but Ms. Mohammedi's age is stated as an opinion?"

Because she doesn't know, for sure, exactly how old she is?

From the article: "They had much in common. His father was dead, as was her mother."

So, basically, she was likely raised by relatives -- quite possibly not her father -- with very little real family. This also explains why it might've been easier for the two of them to wind up together, as they might've had fewer powerful societal restrictions and less direct oversight.

Seriously, not knowing when you were born is a *MUCH* more common problem in a broken society without centralized records.
posted by markkraft at 6:11 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, we're a pretty shitty species.

This isn't a species-wide problem, thankfully.
posted by rocket88 at 6:14 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, we're a pretty shitty species.

This isn't a species-wide problem, thankfully.


Gonna go ahead and disagree with you there, rocket88. Humans suck.
posted by msali at 6:40 PM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


They are fortunate that they haven't been lynched yet. Some country should offer asylum...
posted by knoyers at 7:05 PM on July 31, 2011


Really, what we're seeing in Afghanistan today is almost a Prussian-style strategy towards nationbuilding, with the central government in Kabul being increasingly capable of extending their power into other parts of the country through generally more secure, improved, expanded transportation corridors.

Wow. What are you smoking?

Prussian style? Lol. Wait a year and read your comment again.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:09 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon: "Yeah, we're a pretty shitty species."

Yeah, except we're not. This article was the first thing I read this morning, which of course soured my get-out-of-bed experience, and I of course started thinking along those lines - humanity is a failed experiment, we should just pave the earth, etc. etc.

Then I listened to the first movement of St. Matthew's Passion and you know what? Humans are awesome. Tragic as it is, some douchebags setting each other on fire on Buttfuckistan don't get to condemn the whole of mankind to eternal damnation. Actually, the simple fact that Bach wrote St. Matthew's Passion while men were plotting to kill their own daughters by stoning redeems humanity even more strongly.

Also, saying we're a pretty shitty species makes as much sense as saying Afghans are a pretty shitty people.
posted by falameufilho at 11:27 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Humans rool, bigots drool.

And to any man or woman who scoffs at the word "feminism" just look at stories like these and understand that we have a long fucking way to go before we reach true gender equality in this world. $HigherPower bless anyone who brings education and real independence to the females of the planet.
posted by d1rge at 12:05 AM on August 1, 2011


The last line of the NYT article is what made me the most upset:
Family members of the man killed in the riot sent word to Ms. Mohammedi that she bears the blame for his death. But they offered her an out: Marry one of their other sons, and her debt would be paid.

If he survives his time in prison, I'll bet he'll insist she takes this deal to save her life. She can't win no matter what.
posted by Mchelly at 4:53 AM on August 1, 2011


I realized this is simplistic and naive, but I want to say to these people "There is something wrong with you", again and again.

This incident also shows the folly of trying to change an ancient culture. It's not that no one should try, but oh, good luck.
posted by 4midori at 8:32 AM on August 1, 2011


"Wow. What are you smoking?
Prussian style? Lol. Wait a year and read your comment again."


So, you refute a general strategy of using secured transportation infrastructure as a way of increasing both trade and economic growth *and* of projecting otherwise centralized military power into more remote areas by the success of a terrorist bombing, as if the bombing, in itself, makes all the trade stop, or the projection of power by the central government end?

All the bombing really did was kill a terrorist and the cost of a replaceable local leader. Not good, but hardly something that destroys the strategy at hand. Traveling the 389 km from Kabul to Kandahar used to take two days... but now it takes six hours, with military bases along the route. So, while acts of terrorism are hard to stop entirely, civil society, security, and commerce go on... and that's what matters most.

Indeed, the next day, there was an even more serious attack by the Taliban in the capital of Uruzgan that killed 21, as well as 8 insurgents, with at least two more who were captured and several reported wounded.

But take a look at who most of those twenty were.

"The initial car-bomb blast at the government center decimated the city hospital's maternity wing, killing three women and 12 children, some as young as four years old, said Khan Agha Miakhil, the provincial health director.

It was, by Taliban's standards, a successful attack... but it was repelled, with significant losses, with Afghan troops doing much of the hard fighting.

But the biggest losses for the Taliban, frankly, were the Afghan people. All hell breaks loose for a few hours, perhaps... but then complete dominance, led by both the Afghan and NATO forces, returns.

So no, I don't agree. I think the strategy is more powerful than the terrorists, because it fundamentally empowers the local people. (BTW, the Chinese, who are in charge of a huge mining project in Afghanistan, are building 921 km of linking rail too.)
posted by markkraft at 10:23 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


A few years back, near the start of the war, i saw a bbc programme on an organisation called 'Beauticians Without Borders' which, far from being as dim as it sounded, was quite interesting, because the beauticians whose idea it was to form it and go out there to teach their trade to Afghani women, one of the few they can practise and earn money at because other women come to their homes, they don't go out, and they could meet and talk to women in private, not before men - they had a conversation about love and one teenage girl had been in love with her love for nine years, they had met when she was at college or something similar, i forget - he was a brother of her friend - this girl and every other woman pregnant when the beautician asked if they would get married. 'But of course not! My family will choose my husband!' She couldn't even ask them if she could marry this boy, with whom she had spoken, met, written letters for nine years! Unfortunately, no internet link, as from the years before i knew how to switch a computer on.
posted by maiamaia at 11:29 AM on August 1, 2011


Screw cultural relativism; this is barbaric, and the people who participated in the stoning, and approved of the stoning, are barbarians.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:26 PM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


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