Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hearts and Minds

A young couple died a cruel death last week. According to BBC News: “A man and a woman who allegedly had an adulterous affair have been stoned and killed in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz.”

The pair, both in their 20’s, were hauled into a crowded marketplace and murdered. The woman, named Sadiqa, was brought out first. Taliban thugs threw rocks at her for half an hour, at which time the man, named Qayum, was pulled into the bazaar to suffer the same fate.

Apparently, the couple had run away together. Sadiqa had been betrothed to someone else, while Qayum was already married. This dreadful story conjures a number of thoughts.

First, there is the sheer horror of the scene. Consider, if you can, what it would be like for you and the person you love most to be in such a circumstance. Your own torturous death is compounded by the inability to protect someone you adore.

Next, there is the frequency with which Taliban forces are inflicting brutality in areas of Afghanistan that fall under their control. I wrote recently of Aisha, an 18-year-old girl whose nose and ears were cut off on the order of Taliban authorities for the crime of running away from her husband. There are reports that the Taliban flogged and killed a pregnant widow in the western province of Badghis this month.

In early August, ten medical aid workers were lined up and shot, one at a time, by Taliban terrorists in the northern province of Badakhshan. The chief crime for which these noble souls were tried and executed on the spot was, “preaching Christianity.”

Writer P.J. O’Rourke, having just returned from Afghanistan, quotes a female MP who says Taliban forces make a simple demand of villagers they subjugate: “Son or money.”

The reaction of Afghanistan’s government to the stoning deaths of Sadiqa and Qayum is disconcerting. Waheed Omar, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, is quoted as saying, "Even in Islam this [stoning] has to be done through proper judicial systems.”

While Omar suggests the government would condemn the incident, his comments imply that their chief objection would be that the Taliban did not complete Form Z-914B Rock-Hurling Requisition in triplicate before proceeding.

This raises the much larger concern of the Karzai government in general. Western forces are forever picking the wrong allies in regions they don’t understand, then clinging to them like grim death.

Finally, one wonders about the 150 or so people in that marketplace who watched as Sadiqa and Qayum were slowly killed. Those are 150 of the “hearts and minds” we hear so much about. Reports are that the Taliban did the actual stoning (they finished Qayum off with bullets), while villagers were made to observe and contemplate the fate of those who behave in “un-Islamic” ways.

Those villagers have seen the face of evil. And as human beings, they must want something better for themselves and their families. One has to think that in this battle for hearts and minds, forces of freedom and dignity can outdo the stone-throwers, nose-cutters and son-snatchers.

For the sake of those people – and for Sadiqa and Qayum and for every person in Afghanistan who does not share our good fortune – let us show them a better way.

Theo Caldwell is the author of Finn the half-Great.