Sunday, May 22, 2016

Afghan Conflict Re-Inventing Patricide, Fratricide, Filicide 

"He dropped from the window, and I thought I killed him."
"I will kill him. I cannot have mercy."
Abdul Basir, 40, commander, government militia, Faryab province, Afghanistan

"It doesn't surprise me at all to see members of the same family fighting."
"There were many cases where a son was on one side and the father on the other side, and the differences were so deep that they were willing to kill each other."
Faizullah Jalail, professor, Kabul University
Taliban soldiers fire a rocket at retreating Northern Alliance army forces shortly before taking control of Kabul on Sept. 27, 1996.
Taliban soldiers fire a rocket at retreating Northern Alliance army forces shortly before taking control of Kabul on Sept. 27, 1996.
Courtesy of Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

"In hundreds of families, brother was indeed pitted against brother and father against son. The divided family was a reality and symbolic of a divided nation. Even husbands and wives were sometimes split in their loyalties. The effects of the Civil War on the family were long-lasting and permeated many aspects of everyday family life for generations after the fighting stopped."
Voices of the [American] Civil War
It happens, it certainly happened during the long, bloody conflict of the American Civil War, that families were rent asunder, with brothers choosing to support the North against the South and vice-versa. This long and tragic history of the American conflict was replete with its own stories of torn communities and a social structure that believed their religion permitted them to view other human beings as inferior, to be kept as slaves to enrich an economy that depended hugely on the labour of slaves.

There are some similarities between what happened in the United States in the third quarter of the 19th Century and what is occurring now, in Afghanistan in the first quarter of the 21st Century. Religion-inspired beliefs of superiority and god-given rights motivated people to go to war against one another to uphold their version of the faith. In Afghanistan, it is the Taliban who believe that their stringently fanatic view of Islam must be imposed on the nation, and the government of Afghanistan is fighting back.

When the Taliban was the government, after the Soviets left the country, beaten by the guerrilla war fought by the Islamists, the social structures of the country reverted to the Medieval era, imposing strictures on the population that affected the most basic human rights of girls and women. Many years later, Abdul Basir, an Afghan government soldier, a commander of a militia in Faryab province, arrived there looking for his 22-year-old son, Said Muhammad.

He had heard that his Taliban son could be found in the Qaisar District along with several other Taliban and he was determined to kill his son. This was his son who considered his father to be an infidel. A son who had denounced his father in their ancestral village, in the control of Taliban forces. When the military commander father entered the village he saw his son attempting escape; he aimed his weapon and he fired.

Some might question what there is to choose from; the Taliban, posing themselves as religious scholars prepared to bring their vision of pure Islam back to Afghanistan, and heavily involved in the vastly profitable international drug trade, or the government based in Kabul, endemically corrupt and incapable, yet each is capable of attracting support through the ideology each espouses.

A Taliban mullah speaks to a crowd in central Kabul in early October 1996.
A Taliban mullah speaks to a crowd in central Kabul ... courtesy of Robert Nickelsberg, Getty Images

The son, Said Muhammad, had been influenced by a local cleric with the Taliban, convincing himself to become a fighting member of the Taliban. In the process he took possession of some of his father's firearms, and slandered his father in their native village. Mr. Basil, the government military commander, said his son had threatened to "kill me -- he will skin me". And perhaps he had, and perhaps he meant to.

The father means to beat his son at the killing game; patricide -- or filicide. It has happened before, it will happen again. Afghan society is factioned brutally, leading to violent dysfunction. Several years ago a police recruit, secretly a Taliban sleeper agent, drugged his colleagues, shooting them while they slept in the head, after drugging them. Not unlike the surge of Afghan army and police personnel who had murderously turned on foreign troops fighting the Taliban alongside them.

This man, Asadullah, had given the Taliban permission to kill his father, Ehsanullah. The human mind and spirit can be extremely dark. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, young Chinese were encouraged to kill their teachers, turn their parents in to authorities to pronounce a death sentence on them, and some took part in the killing themselves, committing the unthinkable human sin of patricide.

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