The Unequal Interest
I know everyone is occupied with blond hair and blue eyes. Europeans who use Instagram, watch Netflix and come from a “civilised” part of the world. Allow me to partake in ‘whataboutism’ then because if not now, when then? The time is ripe since everyone is suddenly a human rights champion rediscovering the sovereignty of a nation. They have become a peace activist (ironically calling for a ‘No-fly Zone), concerned humanitarians ready to welcome refugees into their warm embrace.
Many conflicts in other parts of the world need your urgent attention, but I will only cover two in this article. They, too, are sovereign nations being terrorised by outsiders and have been suffering for a long time. Many have died, homes destroyed, become refugees, and those who cannot leave are condemned to death if the situation in their country is not improved.
Let’s start with Afghanistan. This country was under the brutal invasion of the United States (US) and its NATO allies for 20 years. When the Taliban retook the country and the US pulled out in August 2021, the latter and the international community decided to freeze an estimated USD 9.5 billion of the country’s assets. It was a move to punish the Taliban, but let’s not be naïve; sanctions hurt ordinary people, not their leaders.
According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), 55 percent (22.8 million) of Afghanistan’s population will face “high levels of acute food insecurity”. In a survey conducted by the World Food Programme (WFP) last year (2021), an estimated 98 percent of Afghans are not consuming enough food.
Food insecurities have dire consequences. As quoted in a recent news report by TOLO, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health spokesman Jawid Hazher estimates about 13,700 newborn babies and 26 mothers have died at the start of 2022. To feed their families, parents have resorted to selling their kidneys and, in some cases, their children (mostly girls).
CEPR also projects that sanctions imposed on Afghanistan are expected to take more civilian lives than the 20 years of warfare. How many Afghans died from the War on Terror? Brown University’s ‘Cost of War’ project estimated that the toll of civilian deaths from the war was 71,000. If sanctions continue, we might see a death toll of more than 71,000. Ask yourself this, is this the price worth paying to teach the Taliban?
The country is already aid-dependent, and 75 percent of public spending relies on grants. The sanctions imposed exacerbate the situation; therefore, they need to be lifted. The US should also return the frozen assets belonging to the Afghan people. The US decision to seize half of the frozen assets to pay for the victims of the 911 attack is illegal and unjust. The people of Afghanistan were not responsible for the attack.
Watch the video below to learn about the situation in Afghanistan and what needs to be done.
While the bombings and drone strikes have stopped in Afghanistan, it continues in Yemen. The Yemenis have been at war since 2015. It has been under attack by the Saudis and Emiratis, supported by the US and Britain. This interview with Yemeni-born anti-war activist Professor Shireen Al-Adeimi gives an excellent summary of the conflict.
The attacks have crippled the country’s civilian infrastructures, and the Saudis have also blocked all sea, land, and air borders. This has led to an economic collapse. UN agencies warned, “7.4 million people now in need of food assistance and a growing portion of the population coping with emergency levels of hunger”. A child dies from starvation every 75 seconds in Yemen. Every 75 seconds, let those words sink in.
Furthermore, according to UNICEF, “around 10,000 children have been killed or maimed since fighting started in March 2015. That’s the equivalent of four children every day.” In January this year (2022), an analysis by Save the Children found that nearly one civilian was killed or injured every hour. The 6th of January to the 2nd of February saw 599 civilian casualties, including 15 children.
It is lauded as the largest humanitarian crisis by the UN. Let’s keep in mind also that it is a man-made one. The Saudis need to lift the blockade and stop the attacks. Then, the US need to stop supporting Saudi’s military. Furthermore, the US and UK should halt their arms sales to the Saudis and Emiratis. The countries involved need to push for a diplomatic solution, or more civilians will suffer.
How many innocent lives have to be sacrificed for political egos? How many dead people is enough to meet the profit of the military-industrial complex?