Showing posts with label Afghanistan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Afghanistan. Show all posts

January 28, 2019

This is How The Afghans Walk in Kabul Prosthetic City


In Kabul, where I lived on and off as a journalist for eight years, disabled men are a ubiquitous sight in the streets, begging alongside women and children at busy intersections, where traffic slows to a crawl. With sleeves or pant legs rolled up to show naked stumps or withered limbs, they weave between the cars on crutches or hand-cranked wheelchairs, navigating the unpaved streets and open gutters that, when rain or snow comes, turn into rivers of mud and sewage. Warlords and Taliban commanders sometimes have Noms de Guerre (which tend to be things like Mullah Rauf or Commander Ibrahim) with a peculiar suffix: “lang,” or “the Lame,” a testament to the injuries accumulated over decades of war. Whenever I visited a trauma hospital, the sight of patients resting quietly with their white-bandaged stumps — many of them children — made me think that what is most difficult for us to imagine is not a tragedy but the prospect of living in its aftermath. Life after suffering a permanent injury is particularly harsh for people in Afghanistan, where agriculture still employs nearly two-thirds of the working population and many of the few jobs available in the cities involve manual labor.
As with American soldiers who lost limbs in the country, these Afghan victims were often casualties of explosive devices. In the days when they still went on joint patrols, international medevac crews would routinely fly wounded Afghans to a coalition military base, where they would receive state-of-the-art trauma care. Eventually, though, their fates would diverge from the foreign soldiers in the beds beside them, who would be sent back home to receive rehabilitation and follow-up treatment.
In the United States, the number of service members who lost limbs in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, roughly 1,720, has driven advancements in prosthetic technology. Researchers are developing artificial limbs that can be controlled by the brain and that restore a sense of touch through neural feedback. Prosthetics that simulate the balancing motions of regular appendages using small motors controlled by microprocessors are becoming more available. With them, patients can regain their ability to do things like walk backward or jog up a flight of stairs. Like conventional prosthetics, they have to be replaced every three or four years, though they can be 10 times more expensive. The cost to the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide a cutting-edge artificial knee starts at $30,000.
Photographs of prosthetics made by Afghans who had to
rely on their own ingenuity when they were wounded in war.

By contrast, the limbs seen in this series of photos taken in 2012 by Ross McDonnell would have seemed primitive 100 years ago. Left behind by patients who received new prosthetics from the International Committee of the Red Cross after it opened its center in Jalalabad, a city in eastern Afghanistan, in 1995, many of the limbs bear signs of having been painstakingly repaired in order to extend their life. Others have been fashioned from scrap metal and clothing. They hang on the clinic’s walls as remnants of a time when Afghans had to travel to Pakistan or Iran to receive medical care — a trip that many could not afford. In that sense, they are part of the patchwork ingenuity on display throughout the country, where discarded Western goods from ancient Toyotas to castoff T-shirts are given long second lives. “In the beginning, I remember people going to blacksmiths and making limbs out of stovepipes, or wood,” Najmuddin Helal, who has worked for the I.C.R.C.’s physical-rehabilitation program in Afghanistan since it began in 1988, told me. “Sometimes I’ve even seen them made from shell casings.”
Today the limbs that patients receive from the I.C.R.C. are made with deliberately simple technology, as the program is meant to be largely self-sufficient. An above-the-knee prosthetic costs the I.C.R.C. $420, on average. All of its prosthetics are provided free of charge to the patients. Most of the components are manufactured in Kabul, by an entirely Afghan staff, using a polypropylene-based technology designed by the I.C.R.C. that is now in widespread use in developing countries around the world. First, a technician makes a “negative” cast of the patient’s stump, which is then used as a mold to create a white plaster model. A sheet of polypropylene plastic, baked until soft in an oven, is draped over the plaster cast and suctioned onto it with a vacuum, forming a custom-fit socket to which the rest of the prosthetic is attached. Patients usually spend a week or so doing rehab and adjusting to their limbs at the center before returning home with them.

Since the start of its program, the I.C.R.C. has supplied 109,303 prosthetics to replace limbs — some lost in the fight against the Soviets, others during the civil war that destroyed Kabul in the 1990s, some during the subsequent war between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, others during the current conflict, whose end remains nowhere in sight. Many of the patients lost their limbs to roadside bombs, airstrikes, old land mines or stray American cluster munitions, as well as to other injuries and diseases like diabetes. With more than 10,000 Afghan civilians — a third of them children — killed or injured by the war in 2017 alone, the demand for the I.C.R.C.’s humanitarian programs continues unabated, as it does in dozens of other conflicts around the world. The I.C.R.C.’s work is not without its own risks. The organization reduced its footprint in Afghanistan after seven staff members were killed in three different incidents in 2017.
McDonnell’s photographs are moving for what they do not show. Looking at these prosthetics, we can envision the hands that made them and the bodies that they joined. On each, we see the traces of a person, the nicks and scars of their daily struggles, the decorative flourishes that perhaps remain engraved in memory to this day. We imagine the crinkle of cellophane tape as it enters a shoe, or the strain of laces against flesh each morning, the way that leather becomes damp with sweat by midday, and the sudden weightlessness, at once a relief and a pang, each night before bed. They testify at once to a world radically different from our own and to the common form that we all share.
Posted Previously on The New York Times (1/27/2019)

January 15, 2019

Trump’s Senseless Historical Analysis about Afghanistan and The Soviets Misses The Truth by Light Years

Paris_Tuileries_Garden_Facepalm_statue.jpg. Creative Commons image.
Global Voices Org

US President Donald Trump's unique brand of historical analysis — whether referring to events that happened yesterday or decades ago — is often understood as part of his post-truth appeal to the political base that supported his 2016 election campaign.
But whoever he was attempting to impress with his now infamously inaccurate take on the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan at the beginning of the year, the comments went down a stink in the South Asian country.
In 1978, the communist factions Khalq and Parcham, backed by the Soviets, conducted a coup in Afghanistan, assassinated then-president Sardar Daud Khan, and massacred his family.
The country was renamed the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA). The coup set in motion a cycle of violence from which Afghanistan has arguably never recovered.
Trump, however, had a different take. At a January 2 cabinet meeting he described the invasion as follows:
Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan. Russia. … The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. (The Soviet Union) was right to be there. The problem is, it was a tough fight. And literally they went bankrupt; they went into being called Russia again, as opposed to the Soviet Union. You know, a lot of these places you’re reading about now are no longer part of Russia, because of Afghanistan.
The statement earned scathing responses from Afghan President Ashraf GhaniForeign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, and former national intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil, as well as several informed retorts from Afghan ambassadors.
One of the best of these came from Waheed Omar, the country's Ambassador to Italy, who offered a short history of foreign meddling in Afghanistan via neighboring Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), an institution that many Afghans blame for the emergence and sustained the presence of the Taliban.

The USSR's Cold War ambitions in Afghanistan set the stage for nearly two decades of internecine fighting and the emergence of the Taliban. Map by Matthew White.

Afghanistan's communism disaster

Afghanistan has been invaded repeatedly throughout its history, most recently in 2001 by US-led coalition forces that Trump is now keen to pull out of the country completely.
In an article for Mangal Media, Mohammed Harun Arsalai, co-founder of Documenting Afghanistanexplained why the expansion of Soviet-backed communism into Afghanistan marked perhaps the most cataclysmic of all foreign interventions in the country.  
Once these (communist) factions were in control they began summarily killing just about anyone they remotely suspected of being in opposition. Going to the Masjid too often was enough for them. They were also killing each other. The mass, violent repression and extrajudicial killings that the communists were carrying out pushed Islamic groups in Afghanistan into militancy. But it wasn’t until the wanton killings starting in 1978 that the Mujahideen went from being an underground resistance movement to a popular resistance movement.
In December 1979, the Soviet Politburo's inner circle, fearing then-president Hafizullah Amin's potential disloyalty, decided to invade Afghanistan. After a week of heavy fighting, the Soviets killed Amin, took over Afghanistan, and installed Babrak Karmal as the DRA's new Soviet-backed leader. Karmal would eventually resign in 1986, by which point over a million Afghans had been killed and more than six million were estimated displaced by the fighting. 
Finally, in 1988, the DRA, USSR, US and Pakistan signed accords to end the war in Afghanistan, and the Soviet troops’ withdrawal began. In 1989 all Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan, effectively conceding defeat.

Soviet troops returning home from Afghanistan. Photo from RIAN archive. Featured on Wikimedia Commons.
President Trump's statement, “the reason Russia was in Afghanistan was that terrorists were going into Russia” is simply wrong. 
In a 1980 speech, US President Ronald Reagan — a man Trump uses as a benchmark to measure himself against — called the invasion an extremely serious threat to peace, given the threat of further Soviet expansion in Southwest Asia.
Afghanistan's ambassador to Sri Lanka, M. Ashraf Haidari, noted after Trump's comments that “even Russia” would not support his left-field interpretation of the invasion.
The chaos unleashed by the Soviet invasion — and the flow of weapons from both Moscow and the West into the country —  laid the ground for decades of violence and the arrival in power of the Taliban in 1996. 

The legacy of the US's own invasion of Afghanistan, meanwhile, is a giant, bleak-looking question mark.
The conflict has become more complicated and intense as the Taliban insurgency grows in strength and fighters nominally loyal to ISIS have ramped up attacks on civilian targets in parallel.
Since airstrikes first began in October 2001, Afghanistan has never been as insecure as it is now.
Eighteen years, trillions of dollars, and thousands of lives later, the US government is now rushing to leave a war that it cannot win, while Trump is blustering bigly.

August 23, 2018

In Kazakh A Gay Rights-Rights Activist is Fined for the Word Menstruation


ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- A gay rights and women's rights activist in Kazakhstan has been fined for taking part in a provocative photoshoot that she says was aimed at raising awareness about a taboo subject in Kazakhstan -- menstruation.
A court in Almaty ruled on August 20 that activist Zhanar Sekerbaeva was guilty on hooliganism charges in connection with the controversial photo shoot. She was ordered her to pay a fine of 12,000 Kazakh tenges, or about $35.
Sekerbaeva, a member of the Kazakhstan-based gay rights and women's rights group Feminita, took part in the August 9 photo shoot on the streets of Almaty -- holding up a drawing of a woman menstruating over a group of traditional nomadic houses known as yurts. 
Amnesty International had urged Kazakh authorities on August 16 to "immediately end proceedings" against Sekerbaeva.
Heather McGill, an Amnesty International researcher on Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said the case against Sekerbaeva was "a perfect illustration" of Kazakh authorities’ "intolerance of any views which they do not endorse."
Sekerbaeva was detained on August 15, shortly before she was due to make a presentation in Almaty about her research on HIV and health issues that impact lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender women in Kazakhstan.
  • RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

    RFE/RL's Radio Azattyq has been an important source of information for people in Kazakhstan for decades. In 2009, Azattyq won the prestigious 2009 Online Journalism Award for "standing in defense of citizen’s rights to seek and receive information."

September 29, 2017

Mass Arrests of Gays in Azerbaijan Excused by: "carry infectious diseases”

"Yes carrying the infectious disease of not bending over and letting you brake me"Adam

 "Azerbaijan one of the most cruelest countries on Earth"


Rights groups urged Azerbaijan on Thursday to release dozens of LGBT people from jail after activists alleged that mass arrests and abuses were being carried out in the central Asian nation.

International advocacy group ILGA said it was hard to gauge the scale of the alleged crackdown - reported to have stretched over the past two weeks - but said the Caucasian country was well known for its poor treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

Lawyers for some of those arrested said their clients had been subjected to beatings, verbal abuse and forced medical examinations, the group said.

The reports could not be independently verified.

Azeri authorities in London and Baku did not respond to a request for comment.

“There is no justification for this indiscriminate targeting of people perceived to be members of the LGBTI community,” said ILGA’s executive director in Europe, Evelyne Paradis.

“(We) are worried about the fate of the victims of these raids, and are calling for the immediate release of anyone still in detention,” she added in a statement.

British gay rights group Stonewall said the authorities had claimed the arrests were part of a crackdown on prostitution, but activists said LGBT people had been singled out.

Trans women have had their heads forcibly shaven, it added.

Local activists said at least 50 gay and trans people have been detained in police raids across the capital, Baku, over the past two weeks.

“Main streets, metro stations and LGBT-friendly places like clubs, pubs and bars are the main targets,” a Baku-based activist, who preferred to remain anonymous, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation over WhatsApp.

Civil Rights Defenders, a human rights group based in Sweden, said the number of arrests could run into the hundreds, adding many were released only after giving up the addresses of fellow members of the LGBT community.

Speaking to local news agency APA, an interior ministry spokesman denied the raids singled out any sexual minorities, suggesting they were related to public order.

“The arrested are people who demonstratively show lack of respect toward others, annoy citizens and are believed by health authorities to carry infectious diseases,” spokesman Eskhan Zakhidov was quoted as saying.

Being gay is not illegal in Azerbaijan but the post-Soviet, Caucasian country was ranked the worst in Europe for LGBT people in a 2016 survey by ILGA.

The alleged arrests followed a crackdown on LGBT people in nearby Chechnya, where more than 100 gay men were believed to have been rounded up and tortured earlier this year.

(Thomson Reuters Foundation)  

Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

December 11, 2015

US Gay Attitudes in Afghanistan and Now in Syria Seems to be Unsupportive of Gays

Afghan Tajik leader Ahmad Shah Massoud

Although the U.S. government seems to support gay rights domestically, it might be pursuing an opposite approach in its foreign affairs. Perhaps the earliest indication of this during the beginning of the Islamic revolution was the failure of the U.S. to wholeheartedly support the Afghan Tajik leader Ahmad Shah Massoud. The “Lion of Panjshir,” named after the valley in Northern Afghanistan where Massoud was born, seemed to be quite tolerant of homosexuality among his troops in Afghanistan who fought against the Soviets and the Taliban in the 1980s and 1990s, unlike most of the Arab world.

As a glaring example of this prejudice by the United States, it was widely believed the crucial factor in winning the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan was putting American-made Stinger missiles into the hands of the Afghan mujahideen. Massoud’s forces, though considered among the best, received none of those missiles while the war against the Soviet Union’s military was still going on.

More recently, the same pattern seems to be emerging in the Syrian war, wherein the U.S.-supported Syrian rebels might be almost as intolerant of homosexuality as ISIS and the Taliban are. Major news outlets reported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, though wanting above all else to stay in power and willing to do almost anything to accomplish this, has relatively benign attitudes toward gay rights and other lifestyle choices. Whether this is true or not, or whether he is at least better than the rebel forces, why aren’t matters like this being investigated beforehand, before the United States goes off half-cocked in support of, or opposition to, some foreign power?

“The fear of a horrific death [throwing people off of high buildings] among gay men under Islamic State rule is further compounded by their isolation in a deeply conservative society that largely shuns them,” wrote Associated Press reporter Bassem Mroue. “Even among IS opponents, gays find little sympathy. Some in the public who might be shocked by other IS atrocities say killings of gays is justified. Syrian rebel factions have killed or abused gays as well.”

Mroue continues, “In mid-2013, IS had just started to spread from neighboring Iraq into Syria. It didn’t yet hold the large stretches of territory across both countries that it would capture the next year. Instead, its fighters pushed into rebel-held areas in Syria and tried to dominate other rebels, often clashing with them for control and imposing the group’s strict law wherever they could.
“In September 2013, IS fighters besieged … [an] Aleppo neighborhood … trying to wrest it from the rebel Free Syrian Army. The two sides negotiated over an end to the siege and during the talks, IS gave the rebels a list of people [including gays] they demanded be handed over to them.”
Whether the Free Syrian Army complied with ISIS’s demand, Mroue does not state.

Mroue then writes: “Life for gays in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city, was always hidden, [Daniel Halaby, a gay Syrian man] said. When the secular-led peaceful protests erupted against al-Assad in 2011, he said he quickly joined, sure they would lead to a democratic government ‘that will respect everyone no matter their religion, ethnicity, sect or sexuality.’

“‘We were very naive’, he said. ‘What happened was exactly the opposite.’”
Was this hidden life of gay men in Aleppo primarily the fault of al-Assad, or was it the result of the conservatism of the Syrian people that will continue on unabated, even if Assad is ousted, the Free Syrian Army wins and a democratic regime is established in Syria?

Jonathan Miller is a graduate student studying geography. He can be reached at [DBK]

 Gays and heroes come in all colors and nationalities. Massoud is seen as abandoned by the Bush administration. Now the gay supportive Obama administration needs to be seen in supporting gay supportive people even if they are in the Syrian camp. Many times in a civil war is not the side you choose but the one that chooses you. Adam Gonzalez

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