Afghanistan, 2002: No Refuge

By Hashemi, Gita | Refuge, May 2003 | Go to article overview
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Afghanistan, 2002: No Refuge


Hashemi, Gita, Refuge


In the break between "evil regimes" and their former ally, the United States; in the rift between post-Soviet civil wars and post-September wars on civilians; in the breach between profit politics and people's well-being; in between the holes in the mountains where the Buddhas stood and those on the grounds where the bombs fall--what happens to the millions who do not make it to the "safety" of detention centres in the West? Where is the refuge? For the massive numbers of humans displaced and struggling for survival amidst the ongoing global strife--played out in their land, at their cost and ours--this question is an incessant preoccupation; indeed, it is life itself.

The tragic inadequacy of emergency aid services--such as we have seen in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq--renders visible the fundamental flaws in our conceptualization of "aid" and, thus, its inherently structural failure: 1) The need for such "aid" services is created by the "emergency" political, economic and military wars that disenfranchise, displace and (literally) "disarm" civilians. 2) Therefore, the flow of "aid"--presumably from the global north to the global south--is a continuation of colonial power dynamics that mask enforced dispossession with missionary practices and rhetoric. 3) No wonder, then, that the majority of Western "aid" agencies are hugely inefficient bureaucracies that consume most of the resources for their own continuance.

The new forms of "aid" displayed in the state-corporation in-camera deal-makings--towards the "reconstruction" of the "liberated" countries on the one hand, and towards the incarceration of refugees arriving in the West on the other--rapidly renders current models of"aid" marginal and then useless. In this global "theatre" of "aid," indigenous grass-roots organizations--such as Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)--provide the only viable alternatives that can aid (as opposed to applying Band-Aid[TM]). Armed with their intimate knowledge of the local and refusing to divorce aid from the politics of the global, these organizations achieve such manifest success in attending to emergency and long-term needs 6f their communities that should help us re-conceptualize aid as sustained solidarity. Although much remains to be addressed and articulated about the ethics, politics, and forms of trans-border solidarity, one thing is clear: Solidarity acknowledges the inter-connectedness of our lives and destinies and, thus, our inherent equality.

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