In the morning we had an appointment with a group called the Social
Association of Afghan Justice Seekers
, we undertook the usual hairy ride
across town and arrived at a dilapidated building. We climbed a dusty
open stairwell and entered into an apartment with a simple office, a
traditional wood burning stove in the centre of the room with a pot of
cardamom tea brewing. We all crammed into the warm office and engaged in
an informative two hour conversation.

Two of the female core members of the group met when they were
schoolmates in Kabul University, they wanted to follow this line of work
when they realized that many young people who were thinkers had
sacrificed their lives.

Women demonstrating in Kabul

They decided they would protest against the
things they saw as unjust. Because it’s impossible to be effective alone
they decided it was necessary to have a place and an office and an
address from which they would work and involve more people. The director
of SAAJS Weeda Ahamd is an outspoken, intelligent young woman who was
formerly described to me as having a clearer political analysis than
Malalai Joya.

The third core member of the group feels that humans with a conscience
needs to consider himself or herself as a member of the larger human
family, he considers himself as a member of every family that has become
a victim of war. Hundreds of mothers have buried their children with
the beautiful white burial cloth. Hundreds walk the streets without
fathers, he is part of that. When he finished university studies he
looked for work which is compatible with his conscience, he found this
office about a year ago, the aims and methods matched his conscience and
his wishes, he believes that truth will always live as long as we speak
it, we need to be confident that lies cannot withstand.

The possible long term solution is not easy, it may take a long time but
it must come from the people themselves, ordinary Afghans don’t have a
problem, it’s the people in power who are dividing the ordinary people.
Afghans need to form a government of the people without foreign control.
Encouraged by Middle East uprisings, they also need to get out onto the
streets, we need the people to fill the streets like the sea. We must
come to the stage where the people will be sufficiently united and with
leaders who want to serve the people, not leaders who are fighting in
the name of Islam, or fighting against communism. We should form a
government of leaders that will genuinely serve the people.

The office had been established in 2007 but had previous on going work
in other districts
namely Herat and Badakhshan, working with families of victims of war
through support, networks and demonstrations. It has now become
traditional that every year, on December 10th, human rights day, they
take to the streets of Kabul bearing banners and pictures of victims of
war.

Last year, on the international day of peace, after the demonstration
they went to the prison at Pul e Charkhe, where many Afghans prisoners
in the past disappeared or were killed; they went there to remember
those victims. This year, the Ministry of Interior didn’t give them
permission to return to the prison so they went to Afshar where during
the civil war with fundamentalists there was a massacre of 70 people,
including women, children and old people, they commemorated not only war
crimes committed in Afshar but in all of Kabul as well.

Their work also includes the gathering of stories, documents and
pictures from the families of victims of war, from a program called
truth seeking. While they were in the process of this truth seeking
program, they wanted to document the crimes through the stories of the
families and they found it was important to organize the families into
support groups. In the provinces where they have personal and group
contacts, families of victims of war who couldn’t openly-go out on the
streets- they meet together in closed spaces to remember their loved
ones.

Groups in various places where they have gone to gather stories have
been able to establish associations or networks for example in
Jalalabad, Mazar Sharif, Parwan and Tahar. They want the families to
have a chance to support one another and have their stories told. They
want to build increasing relationships with the families of the victims
of war. They work with young people, using creative ideas, they don’t
want to lose those young people, the support of these people is crucial.

They decided that whether or not they get funds, they are committed to
continue with the networking of the families of the victims of war and
to continue putting out reports of these stories. This year, when they
held the walk, they managed to get greater attention and publicity
because of the past few years of efforts. Due to them speaking out
against war criminals, the very same war criminals who are currently
sitting in government, they themselves have been and are now physically
threatening in various ways; however they will continue even though the
threats come. The crimes they are tracking are not only crimes of the
past but also ongoing war crimes committed by individuals who have US/
NATO supports.

War criminals are aware of their work, in Tahar province, they had
wanted to go to an area where war crimes were being committed, but the
village people were threatened and they themselves weren’t allowed to
stay there for a week to gather stories. At the time, the then war lord
[name deleted] of the province was not part of the Parliament, however
he was the government of that area. He would shamelessly talk about how
he killed 20 people and everyone was forced to accept it. The villagers
were warned not to accept or talk with members of the SAAJS.

It is likely that the fundamentalist commander in Kabul has also not
welcomed them because they have news that they are trying to gather
documents. In Jalalabad, [names deleted] they weren’t allowed to enter
the area to gather information. The commanders threaten the villagers
themselves with beatings or death threats if they spoke out. The people
in power now, [names deleted] are the war criminals. Under the
leadership of US/ NATO there is political financial military support for
these warlords. They support them because it benefits the US interests
and government. If a government were formed by the people of Afghanistan
we wouldn’t find Afghans easily accepting permanent military bases, nor
would they accept warlords in positions of power.

In regards to U.S imperialist intentions in Afghanistan, the SAAJS think
it started forty years ago through the Mujahadeen and Pakistan, to gain
strategic control against China, Iran and regional countries. On top of
power and strategic control, America is here to tap on resources that
may be present in Afghanistan, or Afghanistan may be a strategic route
for the transport and sale of raw materials (an estimate one trillion
per year net worth).

We are advised that the most helpful thing peace activists can do in the
US/ UK and elsewhere is raise the awareness of ordinary people in this
countries, that their governments are not here to help the people of
Afghanistan, they are here to rape the country, this awareness must
reach the ordinary people who are not to aware. If this is the kind of
help the international community wants to give Afghanistan, then they do
not want it. Activists also need to speak out against the crimes that
the governments are committing in Afghanistan.

They are not against the people of America or the UK, they know it’s not
the Americans or the people of the UK who are complicit. They know
people want to stop the war and they desire peace. They are speaking
against the government, not the people, they want the people of those
countries to exert pressure on their own governments, to cut their
interference in the affairs of other countries and speak up clearly
about complicity in supporting the war criminals. They iterate that
these foreign governments came into Afghanistan in the name of women’s
rights and human rights, but the perpetrators of these crimes are
sitting in the government today and are supported by the international
community, it’s criminal to support the Afghan war criminals in
government now. If people can understand this, they can pressure their
governments more.

When asked for a few examples of war criminals currently in power
laughter rang out, for a percentage you could say that 80% of the
existing parliament are war criminals. We can look at war criminals in
two ways; those who directly give orders for abuses and killings and
those who sit silently who are just as complicit because they are silent
[names deleted]. Now the subtle danger is that these war criminals who
dominate parliament are bringing in new young faces. People don’t easily
recognize women as war criminals, or a young fresh face, but they will
sit quietly while old war criminals continue their crimes.

Robanni (former war criminal) formerly the head of the higher peace
council; was assassinated (I’ve personally seen government propaganda
martyr posters around Kabul) they appointed his son who isn’t easily
identified with the crimes of his father. It’s true the sons of war
criminals shouldn’t be considered automatically guilty, but the networks
are deep. He wears a coat and a necktie and so he looks very modern and
appears democratic to the rest of the world, but they are perpetuating
this situation.

Due to ethnic loyalties it’s difficult to hear that a leader of your own
ethnicity is a war criminal, certain leaders are adored but we’re urged
to look at the facts, we need to look at who was present and
responsible; for instance there was an incident where people from
Lograr, where the Taliban were present, gathered young people and forced
them to burn the trees and houses in the area, they then claimed that
others were responsible for the burnings, this created ethnic divisions
and antagonisms. In other cases a leader could threaten his own people
that if you don’t vote for him, another warlord (of a different
ethnicity) will come and rule his place, it’s a strategy from time
immemorial to divide the people.

In their experience they found that the attitude of the families of the
victims of war varied according to areas- for example the people in
Tahar would direct their hate mainly toward Piram, whereas in Helmand
and Kandahar enmity might be directed toward US and NATO. However they
feel that on the whole, they share the same blood and therefore Afghans
Should direct our anger against the central government in Afghanistan
and those who are working with them. The families of a victim are not
silly, they say that if we didn’t have these criminals in the Afghan
government, who are supported by NATO and US, then these warlords
wouldn’t have the power to continue committing those crimes.

Something which was immediately apparent to me is the strong middle
class support to the presence of NATO and US, much more than from the
lower classes in Afghan society, the SAAJS contribute many factors as to
why broadminded, intellectual Afghans would support the US/ NATO foreign
presence. Fear is a key factor; ordinary people don’t fear speaking out
as much as these [middle class] people do. Ordinary people are more
courageous, maybe because they have less to lose. It could also be
because these people don’t understand; being educated and able to speak
English doesn’t make people able to understand things. For the purpose
of controlling a population or being an imperial power, politicians are
very smart and they know you can do that effectively by seizing the
youth and seizing the educated elite. This is what they’ve done. Young
people who want scholarships to study abroad or who get jobs with
foreign organizations will express the views of their funders, their
masters. Likewise for the educated, they are our problem. We need to
make them understand and be courageous enough to stick to truth rather
than be submissive to the aims of other powers.

In terms of their work they hope to see the day when war criminals are
not given any position of power. We want the wishes of the families, of
the victims of war to be fulfilled. They want accountability; they want
all foreign countries who have invaded them to leave.

Many people, both western invaders and Afghans fear civil war will break
out if NATO and U.S. forces leave; the opinion of the SAAJS is that the
decision of civil war is in the hands of the US, if it is in the
political interests of the US government to have a civil war then it
will happen, lets not forget that the US financially supported the
Mujahideen and then the Taliban; these movements were supposed to help
Afghans but they divided the people. Civil war will stop when other
superpowers stop interfering in the affairs of Afghanistan

We know from studying history that no invader or external country ever
gives freedom to a county they invade. Freedom isn’t something that can
be given. It needs to be gained. Afghans used to live well with one
another in the past, they are capable of living together in the future.
The 1992 -96 civil war was created by foreign powers, if there is
another civil war it will be created by outsiders.

If ten people understand that Afghans need independence and that to free
ourselves, then one day it will be more than ten and we will get to the
stage (as we see through the Middle East and other countries), where we
will not tolerate dictatorships any more.

It’s always a present reality that Afghans could die tomorrow or be
killed, but members of the SAAJS would rather do that than have people
remember them in the future as people who didn’t lie and lived in a
principled way. They hold on to truth and justice principles; they’d
rather live this way than live under the control of those who commit the
crimes.

The outspoken female director of the group reminded us that Afghan’s
have heroes to remember from the past when brave Afghans stood up and
refused to say anything but the truth and there are so many of them to
remember, whereas the war criminals in power will not remember any of
these people, so they will hold up the pictures in walks, some of them
are people whom family members have not seen for a long time. These are
the heroes whom people of Afghanistan should remember rather than to buy
the propaganda that Robanni as a hero or the martyr.

Whatever Karzai says is to deceive the people in a political game, he
cries crocodile tears. In his speech at the Loyal Jirga it was a joke
for him to say that the Afghan people were like lions because the Jirga
was about selling Afghanistan to the Americans, people of Afghanistan
object to all kinds of raids, whether night or day. In Chindan, in
Herat, a raid happened in the daytime and killed 90 people, if he is
objecting to night raids, does he approve of day raids?

People realize that Karzai’s statements are to throw ashes in the eyes
of the people to blind them. People have known since time immemorial
that leaders, historically, say things to indicate that they are with
the people but are really not concerned. If Karzai was genuine, he could
stop the war criminals in his own government. He could fire Fahim and
Khalili who are his vice presidents. He could stop the financial mafia,
the extreme capitalism that is here. His own brother was responsible for
the drug networks in the south and he didn’t try to stop him. He can’t
fool the people, the Loyal Jirga managed to gathered 2,300 elders. You
could imagine them as parts of a set, if Karzai nods, they nod, if he
shakes his head they do the same. People know that they have been
betrayed.

The US/NATO is supporting the criminals and fundamentalists that are in
government now. We know about the support they gave the Taliban years
ago, we suspect they may be supporting the Taliban now. All of this is
a game for the American Government that wants to control this area and
needs an enemy. Their enemy has been well created and crafted here,
they have bought many people. We need to be clear that they object to
all killings, the SAAJS want a list to prove whether they have killed
mainly Talibs, or is the list of names those of civilians.

• Names of war criminals currently in Parliament have been deleted in order to protect the safety of the SAAJA. I have also deliberately omitted names of the members of the SAAJA for the same reason.
• To find out more about their work see: saaja.blogsky.com and to contact the group: victims.families@gmail.com
—-

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