“Enduring Freedom” Prisoners

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The war against what America calls terrorism has been a nightmare for many, especially the innocent civilians of Afghanistan, of whom an estimated 5,000-plus people were killed by America, but the exact number may never be known. This war was also devastating for the Taliban and their supporters, from amongst Afghans, Arabs and other Muslims from around the world, who came to support an Islamic government. Many had been ruthlessly killed by U.S. aerial bombing, which also claimed lives of women, men and children. Others managed to escape to such a place that America has “no idea” where they could have gone. And, yet, others have been taken prisoner or, according to the Pentagon, “detained”, as their future seems uncertain, and indeed, very bleak.

Exactly what happened to prisoners in this war? It would not be an exaggeration to say that almost none of them have been granted basic human rights. Let us consider the incident in which hundreds of Pakistani Taliban were hiding in a school, after Taliban had left Mazar-i-Sharif around November 10. They are believed to have been massacred by American bombing and Northern Alliance troops. A UN spokeswoman in Pakistan, Stephanie Bunker, confirmed that the fighters had not been killed in combat.

What about the execution of prisoners of war by Northern Alliance troops in Mazar-i-Sharif, Kabul, Kandahar and elsewhere in Afghanistan? History is a witness to the fact that the NA is full of and headed by criminals who have committed great crimes like murder, theft, looting and raping é even bigger criminals than those who attacked WTC and the Pentagon on September 11. Yet, the international coalition, led by America, gave them the green light to act as they wished when dealing with Taliban and Al Qaeda. Where is international law? Where is the Geneva Convention? Where is the guarantee of basic human rights? Those who rant and rave in the Pentagon and 10 Downing Street about civilization and the modern world é is this what they represent? Maybe so. After all, the US is believed to have massacred 280 Taliban who were holed up in Kandahar Airport, by bombing them around mid-December. And, let us not forget that the Qalai-Jangi massacre was directed by US and UK soldiers on the ground.

During that incident, 300-800 bound prisoners were ruthlessly killed in a series of events that would shock any sane person with even a little bit of humanity left in him/her. The American Air Force bombed the fortress by an estimated 30 U.S. airstrikes, and an AC-130 helicopter gunship destroyed the weapons, after which the Northern Alliance sent in tanks to kill the remaining Taliban. U.S. warplanes struck the compound with bombs and forces fired on the Taliban fighters with guns. Gas was poured into the basement and ignited, killing many of the fighters. As CNN reported, John Walker, a survivor of the massacre, said “freezing water” also flooded the basement, “drowning the vast majority of us” and leaving the rest in the chilly waters for about 20 hours. If this is not terrorism, then what is it?

Taliban prisoners of war were suffocated to death inside metal cargo containers, after surrendering to Northern Alliance and US forces in the Afghan city of Kunduz in late November. Other reports came out indicating that the Northern Alliance preferred to kill prisoners, rather than shift them in containers. An estimated 7,000 Taliban and Al Qaeda are still in prisons all across Afghanistan, being held under conditions which do not even satisfy basic human rights. And, there have been many, many more such incidents during this “war for civilization”, which the media did not report. Who will remember these war crimes and bring justice to the victims?

It seems that only Americas deserve justice, in the ‘modern’ world.

Yet, those prisoners who are now in custody of the US in Kandahar and Guantanamo Bay, may, perhaps be those who are suffering the most, for they are not being killed right away, but tortured for an unknown period of time. Presently, there are 110 ‘suspected’ Taliban and Al Qaeda members in Guantanamo Bay; they were hooded and their beards were forcefully shaved off é an insult to Islam and violation of international law. These prisoners of war were sedated, for non-medical reasons, and chained to their seats, during the 20-plus-hour journey. They were forced to use portable urinals, and were fed by their guards. The situation awaiting them at their destination is far worse. The prisoners are being kept in isolation in 6 by 8 feet individual cages with walls of chain-link fence and metal roofs, which will expose them to all kinds of weather, and where they will sleep on mats under halogen floodlights. No journalists or diplomats are allowed to independently assess the situation and inform the public truthfully about the condition of the POWs. The prisoners do not know what they face, and what they are being charged with. This is a plain violation of basic human rights under international law and the Geneva Convention, but the United States, as it always does, simply does not care, and it seems there is no one to challenge her. Those governments that hurried to point fingers at other government for denying rights, are now mum on the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and throughout this war in Afghanistan.

This war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda é this operation of “Enduring Freedom” é is nothing but terrorism. And, those amongst the Taliban and Al Qaeda, who were against America in this war paid a heavy price indeed. But, they sacrificed their lives and clarified an important point. They showed the world the true face of America é an oppressive bully, that not only terrorizes populations across the globe, but does not care much about its own citizens. They showed that “enduring freedom” is freedom for America to pursue its repressive policies in the Middle East and rest of the Islamic world. They also showed the world that once it comes to Muslim prisoners, the international community believes that international law and the Geneva Conventions do not apply to them. Operation ‘Enduring Freedom’ is, in fact, Operation ‘America Rules’.

Ms. S. A. A. is a 16 year old Muslim, who has graduated from senior high school.

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