Just two weeks after I turned 16, I was being told that the world has suddenly changed. The attacks on September 11 in America had shocked the whole world. The World Trade Center and the Pentagon were in flames, as news came in that over 5,000 people had passed away, “in the worst terrorist attack in history”. I remember when I first heard about this-I had tuned into a radio channel, as usual, and I couldn’t believe my ears as the announcer informed listeners about two planes flying into the WTC towers.. I couldn’t believe it. I thought this was some kind of fiction story; but it wasn’t. This was real and an event no one will forget.
My reaction, initially, and to this day, has always been one of thought and sorrow. First, because I thought of all those people working there, who would never have thought that their offices would be their graves. I just can’t help wondering what they would have done if they had known? Perhaps told their families they loved them? Maybe devoted their time to their respective religions a bit more? And, then I think about myself. It was not me in those towers, thank God, but am I ready?
The other thing which really saddened me was the ‘war rhetoric’, by the leaders of the West. Now, I realize, it wasn’t just rhetoric. I was sad for all of those in those towers and the Pentagon; for all of the passengers in the airplanes. I was sad that their government, to whom they were so loyal, had brought this upon them. I was sad that they were not being told the whole truth by such a democratic regime. I was sad that most of them never even thought about the effects of the US foreign policy; that policy which cost them their lives.
And, today, as I am writing this, the superpower of the world, along with her ally Great Britain has started their strikes against one of the poorest countries in the world, Afghanistan. 20 civilians were killed in the first wave of attacks and I hear no word of condemnation. No words of sorrow.
To all of you who are reading this-I was heart-broken when the attacks took place on 9/11, but I was even more heart-broken to know that many Americans were happy when the strikes against Afghanistan took place. I am sorry, but we are all humans, regardless of race, nationality or religion. I can never rejoice at any innocent person’s death.. never.
President George W. Bush has told the whole world that the strikes against Afghanistan are just part of the solution. This war will not stop there.. once they have bombed what remains in that country and completed Phase One, they will move on to other ‘terrorist’ states. This terrifies me. I do not live in USA. I am not separated from the rest of the world by the seas. Any strikes will land close to home. As a sixteen-year-old, thinking about that depresses me.
You could say that I have lived through another war. The Gulf War. I was just 5 years old then, but I still remember. I remember the fear.. the fear in my mother’s heart who strove to protect me and my siblings.. the fear in my father’s heart who went to work despite the sirens and warnings. I remember how we had to go to school during the war.. I remember how we used to wear gas masks, not for fun, but for safety. I remember the sirens ringing everyday. I remember when a Scud missile landed so close to our house that I saw the windows rattle. I remember the fear I felt when that happened, as I ran to my mother. I remember going out the next day to look at the deep hole in the ground beside our house. I remember huddling beneath tables to keep ourselves safe. I remember my parents crisscrossing tapes over the glass windows to prevent them from shattering if something happened. I remember all that. And, I don’t want to go thru that again. But, Mr. Bush Jnr has declared war. So, I do not know if I have a choice.
I struggle to find out the reason. I want to know why the US, with the highly experienced FBI and CIA, bombs the whole of Afghanistan and kills civilians in pursuit of one man, against whom they have not even released concrete evidence. The real culprits have died. They got their ‘punishment’. Why punish more innocent people? And, then it strikes me.. President Bush has already answered my question. This is a ‘crusade’. And, my crime.. the crime of those being unjustly killed in Afghanistan.. the crime of the oppressed Palestinians, who are daily tortured by ‘Made in USA’ missiles, bombs and tanks.. the crime of the 1 million-plus people in Iraq, which includes 500,000 children under the age of 5, who died because of US-backed sanctions.. the crime of the Kashmiris who are subject to killings, rape and torture while the world is blind to their plight.. the crime of the Chechens who have been thru years of war because of Russians who want the resources-rich region.. and many more.. our crime is only that we are Muslims.. only because we say Our Lord is Allah. And, then, I can’t help but cry.
Ms. S. A. A. is a 16 year old Muslim, who has graduated from senior high school.