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Defence`s Feeds

Cyprus Conference Seen as Best Chance for Reunification of Island

Globalsecurity.org - Tue, 27/06/2017 - 22:14
U.N. mediated talks on the reunification of the divided island of Cyprus are to resume Wednesday at the posh Alpine resort of Crans-Montana. Participants include Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders, foreign ministers of the three guarantor states – Greece, Turkey and Britain – and senior officials from the European Union and European Commission.
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Albania's Socialists Secure Governing Mandate In Parliamentary Vote

Globalsecurity.org - Tue, 27/06/2017 - 22:14
Albania's left-wing Socialist Party secured a second governing mandate in the June 25 parliamentary elections, winning a majority of seats in parliament, nearly complete results show.
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Albania's PM Declares Socialist Party's Victory in Parliamentary Election

Globalsecurity.org - Tue, 27/06/2017 - 22:14
Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama on Tuesday declared the victory of his Socialist Party (PS) after Sunday's parliamentary election and called on his supporters to join the celebrations in the country's capital of Tirane.
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Australia - Gulfstream G550 Aircraft with Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Electronic Warfare (AISREW) Mission Systems

Globalsecurity.org - Tue, 27/06/2017 - 22:14
The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Australia for Gulfstream G550 Aircraft with Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Electronic Warfare (AISREW) mission systems. The estimated cost is $1.3 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on June 23, 2017.
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Successful Infoday & Brokerage Event

EDA News - Tue, 27/06/2017 - 17:49

The European Commission (DG GROW) and the European Defence Agency (EDA) today jointly organised a successful Infoday and Brokerage event to inform interested parties on the Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR) and the details of the calls for proposals published on 7 June.  The event was attended by more than 300 participants representing a wide variety of companies (including SMEs), research centres, universities, Ministries of Defence, European institutions, regional/local authorities and defence related organisations.

The gathering was opened by keynote speeches held by Philippe Brunet (Director for Space policy and Research, Copernicus and Defence within the European Commission’s Directorate General Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, DG GROW) and Jorge Domecq, the European Defence Agency Chief Executive. 

In his speech, Mr Domecq said that “the tremendous interest in the Preparatory Action from industry across the continent is a testimony to the role industry and research organisations can and must play in delivering present and future European defence capabilities”. He added: “With this Preparatory Action, the Commission, supported by EDA, is making an important contribution to European defence that must provide European added value, focus on capability priorities at the European level and in areas where Member States can no longer afford to go alone, benefit all Member States, serve agreed capability priorities and provide incentives for more cooperation at European level, both among governments and industry”.

Commission Director Philippe Brunet said that “the Preparatory Action is an incentive for Member States and research actors to do better and more together” in view of strengthening the industrial and technological base of Europe’s defence industry. 

Participants received detailed presentations and participated in interactive information sessions on the first three PADR calls for proposals issued in June. The Brokerage event which took place in the afternoon provide participants with plenty of opportunities for networking with partners interested in forming consortia.

The PADR has the objective to test the added-value of the EU budget supporting defence research, in view of a potential EU programme in the next EU Multi-annual Financial Framework. The PADR is being implemented by the EDA through a Delegation Agreement signed on 31 May between the EDA and the Commission.

 

More information:   
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Investigating Post-2003 War crimes: Afghan Government wants “one more year” from the ICC

The Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) - Tue, 27/06/2017 - 14:01

The ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) announced on 14 November 2016 that it would “imminently” make its final decision whether to ask the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber for authorisation to open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since Afghanistan signed the ICC statute in 2003. The Afghan government, however, has asked the ICC to hold off on plans for an investigation for one more year. AAN researcher Ehsan Qaane analyses the developments over the past seven months, the back-and-forth between the Afghan government and the ICC, and the likely key issue: whether war criminals enjoy amnesty in Afghanistan, or not.

As a member of the Transitional Justice Coordination Group, an informal network of civil society organisations and a former fellow at the ICC, Ehsan Qaane has followed the ICC preliminary analysis of the situation in Afghanistan closely. The author was also part of the civil society delegation that visited the ICC in The Hague in April 2017, a visit that is discussed towards the end of this dispatch.

14 years after signing the statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) (hereafter, Rome Statute), the Afghan government has felt compelled to start communicating with the court. On the Afghan side, this communication involves the highest level. This in response to a report by the ICC prosecutor, which stated that there was “reasonable basis to believe” that war crimes and crimes against humanity had occurred in Afghanistan since the government signed the Rome statute on 1 May 2003 (see the sixth Preliminary Examination Report on the Afghanistan Situation disseminated by the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC on 14 November 2016).

The ICC also noted that no-one had been prosecuted for such crimes in this period in the country so far. Therefore, it said, the OTP would take its final decision “imminently” as to whether it would submit an application to the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber for authorisation to open an investigation (see also AAN analyses here and here). This would require a majority of three judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber to be convinced by the OTP’s findings and arguments.

Kabul’s main demand now is that the OTP delay submitting its application to the Pre-Trial Chamber to open an investigation. The reason: It feels that such an investigation could derail the September 2016 peace deal with Hezb-e Islami, the country’s second largest insurgent group. The deal has been welcomed by some Afghan allies, but not by war victims and human rights activists (see here and here).

The Afghan political delegation: “Don’t hamper the peace process”

In November 2016, a delegation of the Afghan government met ICC chairwoman Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi and ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in The Hague. The delegation was led by Hekmat Karzai, the deputy foreign minister for political affairs. According to the minutes of the meetings, reviewed in hardcopy by AAN, the government stated there that it “is keen to fully cooperate with the ICC, but it is not the right time to open an investigation into Afghanistan’s situation” (AAN translation from Dari). The delegation requested the ICC for more time (“at least one year”) so it could ensure a more comprehensive cooperation with the ICC. It argued that the ICC investigation could harm the ongoing peace process with Hezb-e Islami and its leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, as well as the government’s next attempts to encourage the Taleban to join a similar ‘peace process’.

The Taleban (and their affiliated Haqqani network) are among the alleged perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity, as mentioned in the OTP Preliminary Examination Reports. The Office has not attributed any alleged crime to Hezb-e Islami, although it listed it as one of the armed group who fought against the Afghan government. For its report, the OTP mainly used the October 2016 quarterly UNAMA civilian casualties report. In this report, covering the period between 1 January and 30 September 2016, 61 per cent of conflict-related civilian casualties was attributed to anti-government elements, without naming particular groups (AAN analysis here).

Since then, UNAMA’s annual report, published after the OTP report and the peace agreement with Hezb (in February 2017), attributed seven injured civilians to Hezb-e-Islami during 2016 (see p 50 here) from amongst a total of 6,994 civilian casualties attributed to anti-government elements. The last big terrorist attacks that led to civilian casualties and were claimed by Hezb occurred in Kabul in May 2013 and in February 2014.

The September 2016 peace agreement with Hezb-e Islami granted a blanket amnesty. This applied not only to the party leader, but to all Hezb commanders and fighters who joined the peace process. It did not set any caveat on the obligations under international law to ensure accountability for the most serious crimes, generally understood as the crimes included in the Rome statute.

As a result of the deal, Hekmatyar’s name was removed from the UN Sanctions List at Kabul’s request and the votes of the Security Council members. On 2 May 2017, 55 Hezb members were released from Afghan prisons. Meanwhile, negotiations for the release of around 2000 more detainees and prisoners are ongoing. On 5 May 2017, President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, former head of state Hamed Karzai and prominent mujahedin leaders from the civil war era (1992-96) officially welcomed Hekmatyar in the presidential palace. In a speech there, Hekmatyar stressed the importance of “forgetting the past” and stated: “I never called anyone a war criminal and have also not asked for them to be brought to justice, as this is not the right time [to do so]. [In addition] there is no court in Afghanistan to prosecute warlords. The government is not strong enough to do so. Personally, I am not interested in the prosecution [of warlords].” (Watch here, 32:00 to 35:00)

Granting this blanket amnesty to alleged perpetrators of war crimes – and indirectly also offering it to the Taleban (as the Hezb deal has been viewed as a blueprint for such a second peace deal numerous times, e.g. see this EU statement) – will not help convince the ICC of the Afghan government’s willingness to prosecute war criminals.

According to article 17 and 53 of the Rome Statute, the OTP has to open an investigation when a state party shows unwillingness to prosecute alleged crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC. According to the minutes of the Hague meeting, in response to the Afghan delegation’s request for a delay, ICC officials mentioned that “though the ICC is not putting its state parties under time restriction (…), the ICC is obliged to follow its procedures, too.” The officials also criticised the Afghan government for poor cooperation with the ICC in the past: “Since 2010, the ICC repeatedly asked information [from the Afghan government] but unfortunately [its] cooperation was not sufficient.”

The Afghan delegation to The Hague told ICC officials that the OTP had not considered important new legal developments that, according to the delegation, now showed Afghanistan’s willingness and ability to prosecute. Since November 2016, the following legislation had been passed:

  • new draft penal code was approved on 2 March 2017 by the cabinet. In contrast to its predecessor, this law now also criminalises war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and aggression. It includes definitions for these crimes that are identical with those in the ICC Statute. Articles 339 and 340 on responsibility of superiors now make commanders and senior officials responsible if their subordinates commit war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide or aggression. This would be the first time in Afghan legal history that these international crimes have been criminalised in a national law – pending approval by parliament. (Another option is that President Ghani endorses the law as a presidential decree during the parliament’s summer recess.)
  • The Law on Prohibition of Recruitment of Child Soldiers was published in the official gazette on 17 January 2015 and came into force one month later. Its Article 3 prohibits the recruitment of children and sets a punishment of six months to one year imprisonment for commanders who recruit children. The OTP’s Preliminary Examination Reports, including its latest report, published on 14 November 2016, included allegations of child recruitment by Afghan government forces: […] Afghan government forces have allegedly conscripted, enlisted and used children to participate actively in hostilities.

In their meeting, the Afghan delegation and the ICC officials agreed to continue communication and cooperation. The Afghan side gave assurances they would soon send a technical delegation to continue the discussion.

The technical delegation: “The ‘Amnesty Bill’ does not mean impunity”

The technical delegation visited the ICC on 12 January 2017. According to a source in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (who spoke on condition of anonymity), Nadir Nadiry, the former transitional justice commissioner of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, strategic communication officer in President Ghani’s office (at that time) and Afghanistan’s government focal point for the ICC, led the delegation.

The delegation was asked by the ICC to provide information on Afghanistan’s peace process with Hezb-Islami and the ‘Amnesty Bill’ for war crimes passed by the Afghan parliament that has been in force since 2009 (for background information, see here). The OTP, in its sixth Preliminary Examination Report had earlier noted that:

the “Law on Public Amnesty and National Stability” provides legal immunity to all belligerent parties including “those individuals and groups who are still in opposition to the Islamic State of Afghanistan”, without any temporal limitation to the law’s application or any exception for international crimes.”

The delegation defended the Amnesty Bill and the peace agreement with Hezb-e Islami by explaining the Afghan, particularly sharia-based, legal terminology. This terminology refers to the categories of Haqullah (public right) and Haq ul-Abd (individual right). Under Haq ul-Abd, individual victims of war crimes and human rights violations continue to have the right to file a lawsuit and the judicial organs are required to process the case. This means that the judicial organs will only become active when victims take the initiative. However, without legal support of the state, this is in practice largely impossible, as many of the alleged criminals are either part of the government or in other positions of political power, including in the judicial organs.

Since the Amnesty Bill came into force, no victims have filed a case, either individually or collectively. Still, with Haq ul-Abd being part of the Amnesty Bill and the Hezb peace agreement, Kabul argued that the law and the deal did not amount to a blanket immunity.

The ICC officials were not convinced and asked the delegation for further explanations in writing.

Prosecutor to President Ghani: “The ICC will follow its procedures”

On 18 February 2017, President Ghani met the ICC Prosecutor at the Munich Security Conference. This followed a phone conversation with Ms Bensouda in December 2016, according to a source in the MoFA. In the meeting, he asked Ms Bensouda to also “consider those groups and countries that are behind [the] killing of Afghan civilians”. It is not clear if the President meant for an investigation. The website of the President’s office did not give provide details regarding which groups and countries he was referring to or how the ICC might do this. The Afghan government has, however, repeatedly claimed that Pakistan supports Afghan insurgent groups; the NDS, for example, has accused the Haqqani network as being behind the 31 May 2017 terrorist attack in Kabul, in cooperation with the Pakistani intelligence service. It is also not clear whether the President, with this statement, in principle agreed that the ICC should open an investigation in Afghanistan or whether he meant that Pakistan should be investigated instead.

It was reported that the ICC prosecutor stressed in the meeting that she would keep up her cooperation with the Afghan government under the provisions of the ICC procedures. This means the ICC will initiate an investigation in Afghanistan if the information provided by Afghan government does not convince the court about its willingness and ability to prosecute perpetrators of international crimes that have occurred on Afghan soil.

The result of the communications: 15 cases sent to the ICC

Following the two meetings, the Afghan government took further steps to convince the ICC about this ability and willingness to prosecute. It shared two packages of cases that had already been prosecuted in Afghanistan. The five cases in the first set were sent in March 2017. These included the cases of Anas Haqqani and Hafiz uRashid; two senior Haqqani network figures who were tried in 2016 by the primary and appeal courts in Bagram district of Parwan province. Both were sentenced to death on the charge of financing and supporting terrorist attacks carried out by the Haqqani network on Afghan soil. (So far, AAN has been unable to establish details of the other cases sent to the ICC.) In this package, the government also sent the additional arguments about the concepts of Haqullah and Haq ul-Abd in the Amnesty Bill, as requested.

The second package, sent in late April 2017, included ten cases of rape, sexual abuse, murder and torture of war prisoners, committed by Afghan soldiers, that had been addressed by military courts. According to information AAN received from sources with knowledge of these proceedings, none of the convicted soldiers was of senior rank. Based on this information, it may be doubtful whether those crimes fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC.

Afghan civil society activists to the ICC: “Please go ahead”

A group of Afghan civil society activists also met ICC officials in The Hague from 3 to 7 April 2017. The group expressed scepticism about the preparation of the government to have an ICC investigation. Hadi Marifat, a member of the group, said in the meeting: “In the absence of adequate applicable legislation, judicial redress, and political will of the Afghan state to genuinely investigate and prosecute those responsible for international crimes, and the resulting blatant culture of impunity in the country, the ICC must intervene and support the victims in their long quest for justice.” The group spoke in favour of the ICC opening an investigation in Afghanistan.

The ICC keeps its decision open

The information shared by the government over the past months, after the November 2016 Preliminary Examination Report, represents a considerable improvement in its cooperation with the ICC. As AAN reported earlier, the government had previously hesitated as to whether even to receive an ICC delegation and had delayed issuing visas.

Possibly as a result of the communication, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC has not yet submitted its application to the pre-trial chamber to seek authorisation for an investigation. It seems willing to give the Afghan government another chance to prove its ability and willingness to prosecute alleged perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity. So far, the government has tried to convince the ICC of its goodwill by sharing information, but this is likely to be too small a step to convince the ICC. But better communication with the ICC can help both parties gain a better understanding of each other’s intentions. Afghans – including the government – often do not have a clear understanding of the ICC and its jurisdiction. On the other hand, ICC staff working on Afghanistan situation also may need time to better understand Afghanistan’s context.

The lack of criminalisation of some of the crimes that could fall under ICC jurisdiction, and the lack of clarity on how to address them, remains a concern, because of the still pending Penal Code. The failure to implement existing law is another big challenge. Torture, for example, has been criminalised by the current Afghan Penal Code since October 1976 and by the current Afghan constitution since January 2003, but it is still widely used, as the latest UNAMA torture report showed (the report found that from 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2016 more than a third of 469 conflict-related detainees interviewed by UNAMA “gave credible accounts of being subjected to torture or ill-treatment” – see AAN analysis here). The OTP’s preliminary examination reports also showed that the OTP found a reasonable basis to believe that torture was used by Afghan security forces, including the police, the intelligence service and the army. The OTP stated that the available information did not confirm any prosecution of perpetrators for this crime.

It is then obvious that in order for the Afghan government to convince the ICC of its willingness and ability to prosecute, it will need to show more than mere legal changes – it will need to show that actual steps towards accountability are taken.

Edited by Thomas Ruttig and Sari Kouvo

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Islamic State Tries to Regroup as Mosul Losses Mount

Globalsecurity.org - Tue, 27/06/2017 - 04:07
With U.S.-backed Iraqi forces close to ending the Islamic State group's grip on Mosul, security forces in neighboring Iraqi provinces are increasingly concerned about extremists moving into their areas.
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Reports: US Secretary of State to Take Myanmar, Iraq Off Child Soldiers List

Globalsecurity.org - Tue, 27/06/2017 - 04:07
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to take Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, and Iraq off a list of countries that use or recruit child soldiers, in an announcement set for Tuesday, according to media reports.
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Witnesses in Somalia Report Sinking Ship After Explosion

Globalsecurity.org - Tue, 27/06/2017 - 04:07
Officials and residents in Somalia's Puntland region say they saw a large ship off the country's coast explode and gradually begin to sink Monday.
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US Marines extend rotational training and exercises in Norway through to 2018

Naval Technology - Tue, 27/06/2017 - 01:00
The US Marines' rotational training and exercises currently taking place in Norway have been extended by one year to 2018, the Norwegian Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide has confirmed.
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Queen Elizabeth Class (CVF)

Naval Technology - Tue, 27/06/2017 - 01:00
The new UK CVF Royal Navy aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, are expected to enter service in 2017 and 2018 respectively. The aircraft carrier was officially christened by The Queen in July 2014.
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UK's HMS Queen Elizabeth sets sail for maiden sea trials

Naval Technology - Tue, 27/06/2017 - 01:00
The British Royal Navy's first Queen Elizabeth (QE) Class aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has set sail for the first time, in order to begin six weeks of sea trials in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland.
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DCNS conducts qualification firing of F21 torpedo for French Navy

Naval Technology - Tue, 27/06/2017 - 01:00
DCNS has successfully completed a qualification firing of the F21 torpedo, which is being developed to equip all nuclear submarines of the French Navy as part of the Artémis programme.
Categories: Defence`s Feeds

McMillan TAC-50

Military-Today.com - Mon, 26/06/2017 - 01:35

American McMillan TAC-50 Long-Range Anti-Material and Sniper Rifle
Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Raytheon and Kongsberg to bid for US Navy's Over-The-Horizon weapon programme

Naval Technology - Mon, 26/06/2017 - 01:00
Raytheon is set to partner with Norwegian company Kongsberg Gruppen to bid for the US Navy's Over-The-Horizon weapon system (OTH-WS) programme.
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Schiebel's Camcopter S-100 completes qualification flights on French Mistral ship

Naval Technology - Mon, 26/06/2017 - 01:00
Schiebel's Camcopter S-100 unmanned air system (UAS) has successfully completed qualification flight trials in the Western Mediterranean.
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In the Light of the Conflict: Photographer Andrew Quilty’s experience in Afghanistan

The Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) - Sun, 25/06/2017 - 10:35

Afghanistan has been an inspiration for many photographers, but very few opt to base themselves in a war-torn country. Andrew Quilty, an Australian photojournalist, is an exception: he came to Afghanistan in 2013 and has been based in Kabul since. Many remember his haunting photographs taken in the ruins of the Kunduz hospital, a week after the US bombed it, for which he won a George Polk Award in 2016. He was also awarded the Gold Walkley, the highest honour in Australian journalism, the same year. His recent exhibition in the Australian embassy in Kabul left many Kabulis impressed. AAN’s Jelena Bjelica asked him to choose five photographs from his Afghanistan portfolio and tell their stories, as well as what it is like to be a photographer in Afghanistan today.

Andrew Quilty started his career at the Australian Financial Review in the early 2000s. Although his early personal photographic work in Australia brought him two awards in 2008, the World Press Photo Award and the Walkley Award for Young Australian Photojournalist of the Year, he was just beginning the successful career of an oft-awarded photographer. (Quilty was awarded the 2014 Nikon Walkley Photographer of the Year and 2015 Walkley Australian Freelance Journalist of the Year. In 2016 he won a George Polk Award and the Gold Walkley, the highest honour in Australian journalism.)

Before he settled in Kabul, he lived and worked in New York City for a year and a half; and after his first visit to Afghanistan –  this “formative experience,” as he refers to it – compelled him to move to Kabul where he has been based since December 2013. He has since travelled to more than 20 provinces across Afghanistan and has produced an exquisite body of photographic work that has been published by leading international publications, such as The New York Times, Time Magazine, Harper’s, Mother Jones, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Le Monde, GEO, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Magazine and many more. In 2016, a selection of Quilty’s work from Afghanistan, After Enduring Freedom, was exhibited at the world’s premier festival for photojournalism, Visa Pour L’Image, in Perpignan, France. (An AAN colleague saw Quilty exhibition in Sarajevo at the Warm Festival in 2016 and wrote about it here).

On AAN’s request, Quilty chose five photographs from his Afghanistan portfolio that have some deeper meaning to him as a photographer. Below are the photos and their stories, as well as Quilty’s reflections on Afghanistan’s light, a photograph’s aesthetics and ethics, security limitations and how to overcome those and other such photojournalistic predicaments. 

1.

Twenty-four hours after two landslides buried hundreds of residents of Argo district in the mountainous northeastern province of Badakhshan, local men watch an Afghan National Army helicopter carrying then Second Vice President Karim Khalili over the disaster site, seen here in the background. May 3, 2014.

 

I was at a small social gathering at The New York Times’ bureau in Kabul with others from the foreign press corps when the news of this landslide started filtering in.  As As a freelancer myself, I immediately began chasing a commission, and the first outlet I reached out to, TIME Magazine, agreed to put me on. I enlisted the help of a local fixer, Mansour, who arranged what he thought was access to an Afghan military aircraft flying to Badakhshan the following morning. When we arrived at the entrance to the military section of K    abul International Airport (KAIA), however, our names were on only one of several lists that had been made by a variety of government officials. The flight appeared to be at least quadruple-booked.

There must have been ten checkpoints that Mansour and I had to talk our way through before we even made it to the tarmac, where government officials, ministers, and a vice president were all trying to board this Afghan Air Force C-130 Hercules.

As for media, whoever was in control of the flight, for some reason, decided they were only going to let the BBC and the Guardian aboard. I was one of dozens of other journalists – both Afghan and foreign – who looked like we were going to be left behind.

I was new in Kabul back in 2014, and as blatantly ambitious as it sounds, this was a big opportunity for me. I was adamant that I was going to get on the plane.  Mansour and I managed to make it to a pack of maybe 100 people pushing and shoving at the back of the plane when, all of a sudden, the rear cargo door started rising off the ground. I got one foot up and felt Mansour push me from behind as the door continued to close. I literally crawled through the legs of one soldier and past others, found a seat,  put a scarf over my head, and pretended I was sleeping. Mansour didn’t make it onto the plane.

When we landed in Faizabad, I had no idea where I was, but with help from fellow journalist colleagues I made it to the site.

I took this photograph soon after I arrived at the site. The men in the photo, with the landslide behind them, were looking up at the helicopter flying out with Vice President Khalili, who had been on the plane I came up with and then flown to and from the site from Faizabad.

I used the helicopter flying by as a distraction. Without having time to spend with those you’re photographing – as is often the case in Afghanistan – it is almost impossible for people to get used to a photographer’s presence and not react when you lift the camera. At home, in Australia, I could spend days with people I would photograph, and after a while they would go about their business, not oblivious but at least less conscious of my presence.

In this instance with the helicopter, when you’ve been taking pictures for long enough you begin to look for and anticipate these kind of moments and the opportunities they provide. You know that when the helicopter flies by everyone will look at it, so you see it coming, position yourself and wait for the split second where it all falls into place in the viewfinder, achieving, most importantly in this instance, a sense of spontaneity in the photograph that was not achievable either seconds prior or after. On top of that is the added symbolism of the divide between the haves-and-have-not in Afghanistan: the civilians watching the departing government official after his photo-op at the site of their disaster, their reality.

I learned a lot during that trip to Badakhshan about the restrictions of working in Afghanistan – especially in the provinces – like which times of day are safer to work and when and where not to be on the road. The general thinking is that it is safer to be out in the middle of the day, which of course is the worst time of day for a photographer.

The landslide in Argo was one of those unusual situations when attention is drawn to on one area of the country: a high concentration of security forces, aid workers, VIPs, and media, all focused on one area. On the one hand, there is strength in numbers, but on the other hand, opportunists who know that outsiders are on the road try to take advantage.

Nevertheless, as a photographer in Afghanistan, you take advantage of the opportunities and the access that opens up when security is heightened.

Working in Afghanistan forced me to focus more on the subject than on aesthetics and graphic elements. Back in Australia, when I was learning the ropes, I had become very selective with light, mostly because of the photographers that I admired. I like to shoot early and late in the day and find it hard to be enthusiastic about working anytime in between.

The security situation here – primarily the risk that comes with public exposure – also changes the way I work. It forces me to work quickly, under circumstances I might not choose if I had a choice, particularly when it comes to time of day and location.

I do not think of myself as a huge risk taker. A lot of planning goes into travel outside Kabul: we do not just jump in a taxi and head for the hills. I was inexperienced and a bit ignorant in Badakhshan, and probably pushed my luck more than I would these days. Now, working with colleagues, I’m often the one who questions going here or there and often I’ll be the one telling journalists to wrap up their interviews because it feels like we have been in one place too long; but at the same time, I think I have a better sense of what is reasonable risk than someone sitting behind the desk in New York, or London, or even Kabul. It is something you can only learn from experience, and I trust my instincts and those of most of my colleagues on that.

(For more on the Badakhshan landslides, see AAN’s previous reporting here and on the impact of climate change in Afghanistan see AAN’s analysis here).

2.

Before sunrise, on the outskirts of Herat City – and a few hundred meters from the US consulate – men from Ghor province warm themselves by a fire. Approximately 300 IDPs camped by the side of the road had left their homes in the neighbouring province because of drought and tribal conflict. The temperature was minus 8 degrees Celsius soon after sunrise. December 29, 2013.

 

This was taken on my first trip to Herat province. I was new to the country, new to the circumstances, new to the poverty.

The friend and colleague I had come to Afghanistan with were driving around the edge of the city and came across these large groups of people who seemed to be camped by the side of the road. They were internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Ghor province.

It was freezing cold. Some families had tents while others made shelters out of cinder blocks and tarpaulins. People were sleeping under piles of cheap, heavy Chinese blankets that locals had donated. Each afternoon, businessmen would bring them by the carload, as well as food, fire wood, tents and other basics.

I found the scene very confronting – these little kids on the side of the road crying from the cold. I remember thinking – as most people probably do when they’re first confronted by such misery – that we had to do something to help. We went into the city and found a guy selling winter gloves on a pushcart. I bought 20 pairs, took them back to the makeshift camp, and was immediately swarmed. They were gone in seconds. When I look back on it now my impulse was kind of analogous to the Western belief that we can come in and, overnight, make a difference and save Afghanistan. That’s not to say that I regret it or anything, but after three or four years here now, I see the futility in the short-term solutions that much of the development and aid industry provides.

I went back early the next morning; I wanted to be there when they woke up.

Well before sunrise, a group of men were already up, squatting around a small fire. They were burning anything they could find – plastic, even scraps of discarded clothing – to keep themselves warm before the sun came up. It was still freezing cold. So cold that, not wearing gloves myself, and trying to keep my hands warm in my pockets, I sliced my palm open on a pocketknife blade that had opened without my realisation until I felt my hand sticking to the camera because it was dripping with blood. These people were there, night after night, while I got back in a heated car, headed for a pharmacy and then back to a hotel.

In a way, it was this trip that made me want to stay in Afghanistan; it helped me find a meaning in photography I hadn’t felt before. I came to Afghanistan from Sydney, where I photographed for a national financial newspaper, mostly taking portraits of fat, rich businessmen.

After I came here and saw real life and the struggle – all these eye-rolling clichés – the idea of going back to a massive metropolis and photographing the latest restaurant to open in the hip part of town, or businessmen, just was not appealing anymore. Now, I feel like my career only really began when I arrived in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is incredibly photogenic: the light is very different than that which shaped my photography – my photographic style – previously. Australia’s light is harsh and bright and saturated with colour. Here the light is a lot softer, paler; there’s dust, pollution and smoke between the camera and the sun. I think that also helped my photography because I stopped looking for the nice light I had always relied upon, to an extent, elsewhere. In Afghanistan, the stories behind the photographs were so compelling that I wasn’t as dependent on light as I had been.

I think every editorial photographer at one time or another wonders whether he or she could work in a conflict zone, and that was undoubtedly part of the reason I came here, initially – to test myself. But I think I liked working here before I had nailed down whether or not I actually could.

Professionally speaking, it was fortuitous that I came at a time when many photographers had left – there was space for me to find a slice of the market. Also, that somewhat self-righteous notion – that many who become attached to the country feel – of Afghanistan as ‘the forgotten war,’ may have played into my reasoning for staying.

(For more details about the IDP situation in Afghanistan, see AAN previous reporting here and here).

3.

The morning after two men were killed by the CIA-funded Khost Protection Force in a raid, hundreds of men, some carrying Taleban flags, protested against the deaths in a procession on the outskirts of Khost City. November 7, 2015.

 

I was on an assignment with the Washington Post. The Khost Protection Force (KPF) is funded and trained by the CIA and is similarly secretive. It is successful – in a General Raziq kind of way (1) – in maintaining a measure of security but attracts plenty of accusations of human rights abuses. I travelled to Khost with the Post’s Kabul correspondent, Sudarsan Raghavan, and one of their national reporters, Sharif Hassan.

While we were there, the KPF conducted a raid in a village ten kilometres outside the city, killing two men that villagers claimed were non-combatant civilians. We were sitting in the dining room of the governor’s compound when one of his staff mentioned what had happened overnight and said that there would be a demonstration in the city. It’s rare that something so pertinent to the story you’re working on – especially in Afghanistan and especially for a story that few want to be photographed or interviewed on-the-record for – lands in your lap like this.

We decided to try to meet the procession that we were told was moving from the village toward the city. Demonstrators were carrying the bodies of the two villagers who had been killed the night before and were marching for the governor’s compound. We drove to a road that we knew they would have to pass. Assuming the procession would be charged with anger from the deaths, we stopped close to a checkpoint that was being manned, coincidentally, by KPF soldiers. Although they are known to be aggressive and heavy-handed, they also have a reputation for being well-trained and disciplined, so we hedged our bets that outside the city we would be safer near them than we would be in a more isolated spot.

We stopped a couple of hundred metres away and watched the demonstrators coming towards us. It all happened very quickly. They were getting closer and closer and chanting: “Death to Americans! Death to American slaves!” Their anger was palpable and raw. They didn’t have guns, but they were angry. We were sitting in the car watching them marching toward us. I kept asking Sharif: “Can I get out, can I get out? Is it okay?” But our communication was getting lost in the chaos, and so I got out and, hiding behind my camera and dressed in the local clothes I took a few pictures, when a local fixer we were working with, shouted: “Get in the car!”

As soon they had passed (without incident), we got in the car. Everyone was kind of frantic and yelling at each other. Still, we followed them. The demonstrators got stopped at the KPF checkpoint, and the procession of vehicles that had followed them got stuck too, with us in the middle of it all.

Then a second group of demonstrators, these ones carrying Taleban flags, started to pass through the traffic jam. We stayed in the car, put our heads down and waited for the mob to disperse.

The photograph is significant to me because it is one of those rare situations, whether through luck or stupidity, that I managed to get close to such a virulently anti-government, anti-Western element.

Had we known how it was going to play out beforehand, we probably never would have driven there. I suppose these types of moments mildly appease my frustration at not being able to photograph the Taleban or inside Taleban-controlled areas.

(See AAN previous reporting on human rights abuses and torture by Afghan security forces, including the Khost Protection Force, here and here).

4.

There were 19 classes at the Sayedabad-area school in Helmand’s Nadali district, but only four teachers. With Taleban-controlled villages only a couple of hundred metres away, Afghan soldiers occupied positions on the school’s roof. The area, and the school, fell to the Taleban months later. March 29, 2016.

 

I find here, in Afghanistan, the picture itself is often subtler than its subtext, that is, what’s going on beyond the frame, what happened before and what will happen after it’s taken. In this case, what’s happening in this seemingly peaceful scene and what’s going on in the background are incongruous.

The village of Sayedabad, in Helmand’s Nadali district where this photo was taken, has an unusually high proportion of Hazaras for the south of the country. I was there with my colleague Sune Engel Rasmussen working on a story about an Afghanistan Local Police (ALP) commander, a Hazara, and his village that at the time was basically surrounded by Taleban-controlled villages. We spent a day and a night with him. We could see Taleban flags through a thicket of trees that provided cover for the villagers walking between their homes and the village centre. The ALP units scattered around the village were getting in firefights every day. Apart from the one road in and out, the village was more or less besieged.

Early on the second morning, the commander took us to the local school a couple of hundred metres from his house. When we arrived Afghanistan National Army (ANA) Humvees were parked outside the school and machine gun positions were on the roof, all while school was going on inside.

Children were arriving with small bouquets of flowers that they had picked on their way. Flowers are iconic in male Pashtun culture, and particularly in the south, you’ll often see young men and boys carrying them or wearing one behind an ear. These kids went one step further, though, bringing flowers to school and comparing their arrangements before the start of their classes. There were only four teachers for almost five times as many classes. The students told us that when there was fighting they hid under their desks.

Sune and I wanted to go back to Sayedabad to spend more time with the commander and at the school, but a couple of months later the village was overrun in a Taleban offensive that took the insurgents to the doorstep of the capital, Lashkar Gah. Most of those from Sayedabad fled. A few of the ALP commander’s men were killed. The government no longer has a presence there. The ALP commander is now in Kabul.

I find pictures like this one grow in significance when the place in which they were taken is no longer accessible. For me, they represent the ephemeral nature of any kind of stability in these rural areas.

(See AAN 2016 reporting on Helmand province here and here).

5.

Najiba, the wife of Baynazar Mohammad Nazar who was killed when the MSF Kunduz Trauma Centre was destroyed by a US warplane, cradles her daughter Zahra as she cries over her father’s grave outside Kunduz City. “Father, we washed your bicycle – please wake up – you can come home now.” November 18, 2015.

 

This picture was taken just over a month after Baynazar Mohammad Nazar was killed in the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in the US air strike in Kunduz city. (For a detailed account of this attack, see AAN’s Kate Clark dispatches here and here. See Andrew’s photographs from the destroyed MSF Kunduz Trauma Centre, published in Foreign Policy and for which he received a George Polk Award in 2016, here).

It took me a while to find Baynazar’s family. Initially, I spoke with his wife, Najiba, and his eldest son, Samiullah, over the phone, but I wanted to meet them if I could. As it happened they were also hoping to meet me. They had already seen the pictures I had taken of their father, dead on the operating table in the trauma centre. (A staff member from MSF in Kunduz who was helping me locate the family showed them before they were published.) It’s hard to imagine why, and I’ve never asked, but they wanted the pictures published.

I had four UN flights on four consecutive days cancelled on the runway in Kabul, and in the end decided to drive to Kunduz. Foreign Policy, who I had been on assignment for when I accessed the hospital in October, was eager to publish the story, and so, having already lost four days sitting in the UN passenger terminal in Kabul, I only had an afternoon and the following morning with them, during which time they told me what happened in the days before Baynazar’s death, as well as the days that followed, and some of their family history.

Before I left on the first evening, I asked Samiullah, the eldest son, if he could show me where his father was buried. The next morning, before my flight back to Kabul, we drove to collect him from an intersection not far from their place. (Visiting private homes in the back streets of Kunduz was still dicey, even after the Taleban had claimed to have withdrawn from the city – less for me than for the family members, who could be targeted if they were seen hosting a foreigner.) Samiullah was there along with the whole family, so we all piled into the car for the short drive to the cemetery, just five minutes from the centre of the city on an open hillside with a view over Chahardara district. We all got out and I followed them to the grave, leaving the fixer, Waqif, and driver, Safiullah, with the car.

Zahra was inconsolable. Samiullah was looking after his youngest brother, Khalid, who was six at the time, and seemingly unaware of what’s going on. When Zahra and her mother kneeled by the grave, it was probably more confronting, for me, than when I took the picture of their dead father and husband on the operating table in the ruins of the hospital. Photographing children in pain, I find, is the hardest thing to see. And it’s so intrusive to be that close in moments like this. I suppose I try to diminish myself – make myself small and quiet, take the minimum number of photographs necessary.

(See AAN’s thematic on insurgency and governance in Afghanistan’s northeast here and the thematic dossier on the evolution of insecurity in Kunduz here).

 

(1) See the 2015 Human Rights Watch report on Afghanistan strongmen and his legacy of impunity here and a recent HRW dispatch on General Raziq here.

 

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

AAN Q&A: Tents and Bullets – the crackdown on the Kabul protests

The Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) - Fri, 23/06/2017 - 19:01

The last of at least seven tents that protestors had set up in Kabul – after the horrific 31 May bomb attack and in protest against police brutality used during a march they organised on 2 June 2017 – has been removed. Afghan police forces dismantled it late in the evening of Monday, 19 June 2017. This triggered a new episode of violence as protestors clashed with police and the latter allegedly used live ammunition. At least one person was killed and six others wounded. In five questions and answers, the AAN team looks at who the protestors are, what their demands were and how they changed, the government’s response, the protests’ impact on day-to-day life in Kabul and whether the protests are likely to continue.  

The march took place in the morning of 2 June 2017 with hundreds of protestors from different groups and affiliations. They condemned the attack and accused the government of failing to provide security for the population. As the participants marched towards the presidential palace, they were stopped by security forces, who used live ammunition killing at least six protesters. Around 30 were wounded. Among those killed was Salem Ezadyar, the son of a leading Jamiat politician, Muhammad Alam Ezadyar.

In the early evening of 2 June, some of the demonstrators started setting up tents as a protest against the police brutality. The first one, close to the explosion site, belonged to civil society activists. A new group of protestors with more radical demands followed their example a few hours later, and set up a tent at nearby Sherpur Square in front of the Emergency Hospital. Even after the hospital staff complained about being “threatened” by those protestors, they remained there.

A statement issued on 3 June 2017 by the protestors added more demands: It urged the international community to recognise the 31 May bombing as a crime against humanity and to act firmly against local and foreign supporters of terrorism. It demanded the resignation of the president and the chief executive, the dismissal of the national security adviser, the head of the intelligence and the minister of interior as well as the identification of the perpetrators of the 2 June police shooting, naming the police units involved as

The 3 June terrorist attack at the Ezadyar burial brought in more protestors who were angry about these killings. They accused the government again of not having taken sufficient security measures.

There were no new street marches after that. But 5 June saw the establishment of more protest tents. Three days later, their number had reached seven, straddling an area from Kart-e Parwan, to the northwest of Shahr-e Naw (the ‘New City’) and Pul-e Artal in the southwest at Kabul river, to Shahid Square to the east near the airport. Each tent was occupied by a few dozen people, with numbers fluctuating. Tents were also pitched in a number of provinces such as Baghlan and Takhar. A week later, however, the protestors in Kabul dismantled six of seven tents. Only the one erected first, at Sherpur Square, remained in place – until it was forcefully removed by security forces in the night of 19/20 June 2017.

During this police operation, again shots were fired. A 23-year-old was killed who is said to have been a supporter of Chief Executive Abdullah during the 2014 presidential elections and close to him. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission released a statement expressing concern about the “continuation of violence by security forces against those on the sit-in” and called the police action “violent [and] illegal [. . .]. The coincidence of this incident with the previous president’s meeting with civil activists seriously puts to test the government’s genuine will to respect human rights and the basic rights and freedoms of the citizens.”

Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said what happened during the night of 19 June “shocked the people” and announced that “legal actions” will be taken after the completion of an investigation. Later that day, the president’s office issued a statement expressing sorrow about the killing and wounding of protestors. It further said that the security forces had taken action based on the “efforts of parliamentarians [who has sent a delegation – see below] and demand of Kabul residents from different walks of life.” A joint delegation of the Ministry of Interior (MoI), the National Directorate for Security (NDS) and the Attorney General Office (AGO) was tasked with investigating the killing.

Nevertheless, the MoI claimed at a press conference held on Thursday, 22 June, that police had no weapons while removing the protestors’ last tent in Kabul and carried only sticks and shields. AAN staff, however, saw police carrying firearms near where the tent was dismantled on 21 June. 

  1. Who are the protesters?

Initially the protests were leaderless. There was no steering committee, and various groups and individuals, seemingly mobilised via a social media campaign, joined the street protests with a variety of slogans. The initial protestors from the civil society sector called for justice and reform. Other protestors demanded the resignation of the president, the chief executive and the leaders of security sector and called for an interim government. The 2 June protests were joined by groups with unrelated issues, including some who protested against the peace deal with Hezb-e Islami.

Soon after the march started, a group from Khairkhana, a neighbourhood in northern Kabul, joined the demonstration. They included former Ghani advisor and leading Jamiati Ahmad Zia Massud and Latif Pedram, leader of a small Tajik ethnocentric party. Photos on social media seemed to show that some of them were carrying arms. Following this, non-Tajik protesters started leaving the site while the protests turned more violent, and the police started shooting at the demonstrators.

Two groups seemed to feature at the core of the protests: members of a social and cultural association that goes under the name of “Khorasanian” and members of “Jombesh-e Guzar” (Transition Movement). The Khorasanian are young Tajiks who promote ancient Persian traditions and the use of Persian (Dari) words instead of Arabic and Pashto loanwords in their language in a bid to counter what they see as Pashto domination in official terminology. Their name refers to the historical Persian-speaking region to the northwest of the Hindukush and used as an alternative to “Afghanistan.” (1) Jombesh-e Guzar announced its existence on 11 May 2017 and its aim as “facilitating transition to a desired political situation.”

The Transition Movement’s leadership seems to overlap with that of the Khorasanian. They are also involved in party politics and in particular have relations with Jamiat-e Islami (Jamiat itself has an ethnocentric Tajik strand). But that does not mean that their agendas are identical or that the Khorasanian do Jamiat’s bidding. This group, however, shared the more radical demands directed against the government, which had been articulated even before the protests, by Jamiat leaders such as Ismail Khan and Zia Massud (see the latter’s 28 April 2017 Facebook post here).

The protestors who erected their tent at the Emergency Hospital, were joined by Massud and Pedram representatives. Leaders of Jombesh-e Roshnayi – prior to these events the most visible protest movement (more here) – also arrived at Sherpur Square to speak with the demonstrators. But except for condemning the police violence in a statement, they avoided publicly joining the protests during the following days. After the terrorist attack at Ezadyar’s burial, more protestors joined in, now mainly Jamiati activists angry about the killing of their fellow party members. They brought to the protests the party’s long-standing demand of a “full implementation” of the National Unity Government agreement, mainly a demand for a better share in the allocation of government positions (on this conflict, AAN analysis here).

As early as 3 June, some of the protestors started using a new name, “Rastakhez-e Taghir” (“Resurrection” or “for Change), on social media in an attempt to create an umbrella ‘brand’ for the protests. Later, they selected purple as their colour, wearing purple headbands, for example. One of the movement leaders, Barna Salehi, told AAN on 21 June 2017 that the movement had a central committee comprised of 45 members and several sub-committees.

Similar to the individual groups participating, the people behind the movement are young Tajiks, mostly unemployed and restless, among them a few Kabul University students or recent graduates who are very articulate, some with “Jamiat connections,” a close observer of the events told AAN. These activists adopted an ‘all ethnicities against the government’ rhetoric, trying to make the movement look larger than it is, the observer added. The same might be the case with all the different groups and names that appeared in the context of the protests, often on social media only.

Leading activists of the movement, nevertheless, rejected the Jamiat link. In their statement on 3 June 2017 they insisted that they had no affiliation with any political party. Already mentioned Barna Salehi and Asef Ashna (a former deputy spokesperson to the chief executive – he resigned because of “government incompetency” during the 2015 Zabul Seven protest told AAN that the movement was separate from Jamiat and that the latter’s involvement was only triggered by the attack at the Ezadyar funeral. That Jamiat raised similar demands did not mean that the movement was part of Jamiat, members told AAN. Salehi added, though, that the movement welcomed Jamiat’s (and other political groups’) support for its demands, pointing to Pedram’s National Congress Party and the New National Front of Afghanistan led by the former minister of finance and economy Anwar-ul Haq Ahadi. (Ahadi’s front had demanded for many months that the government step down in favour of an interim government (See AAN’s report here).

On its part, Jamiat disassociated itself from the protestors, calling them “civil society groups and ordinary civilians alike” who “exercised their civic rights and held peaceful demonstrations over the inability of security officials to ensure the safety and security of the people” in the wake of “tragic and unprecedented attack on the 5th day of the Holy month of Ramadan.”

Nonetheless, on 13 June 2017, the Panjshir Mujahedin Council – from a core Jamiat stronghold – announced its support for the movement.

Protests in its support were also organised in some provinces like Badakhshan as well as by the Afghan diaspora in a variety of countries, like the USA, the UK (see here) and Belgium.

  1. What was the government’s response on the protestors’ demands?

After the 3 June attacks, both the president’s office and the chief executive announced that the government was ready for negotiations at any level. The president even emphasised that he was ready to hear the protestors’ legitimate demands and did not take a public position against the protestors. According to Asef Ashna, the protestors put forward a number of demands, including the suspension of officials in the security sector whom they suspected of ordering violence against protestors, and live media coverage of the negotiations. The presidential office did not accept the latter demand.

The president, however, did not talk to the protestors directly. Instead he met 3,000 individuals from various groups such as the private sector, civil society, political parties and academia. His office published the highlights of these meetings on 11 June, mainly focusing on participants’ statements against the tent sit-ins.

The protestors suspected that the people meeting the president were handpicked to support his position. Ashna said this led the negotiation process “astray.”

Some government representatives took an even stronger stance. NDS chief Massum Stanakzai, who had been summoned by the Meshrano Jirga on 18 June 2017 for a hearing about the incidents, told the senators that the 2 June protest had not been organised in accordance with the law. Earlier, Kabul Garrison commander Gul Nabi Ahmadzai, on 7 June 2017, told the BBC that the 2 June demonstrators were “rioting,” that people “rose up, without informing the police, without any notice, without a leader, goals and demands being known” and “converged on the [presidential palace].” He also denied that forces under his command shot at the civilians and said that the attorney general should probe how the six protestors got killed. (2)

On 7 June 2017, the Wolesi Jirga of the parliament formed a commission comprised of its administrative board and one MP from each of the 34 provinces (Kabul had three). The commission met the president and the chief executive as well as, at the parliament, representatives of the protestors. On 12 June 2017, the commission presented a “Plan for Consolidation of National Unity and Bringing About Political Accord” that was approved by the Wolesi Jirga’s plenary session on the same day. It responded to some demands of the protestors, for example by calling for the investigation and punishment of the perpetrators of both the terrorist attacks and of police violence in Kabul.

A day before the Wolesi Jirga’s approval of this plan, 11 June 2017, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) suspended Ahmadzai, the commander of the Kabul Garrison, and Kabul police chief Hassan Shah Frogh from their duties. AGO spokesman Jamshid Rasuli called this step a sign that “a transparent investigation” into the police violence was under way. The president’s office welcomed the AGO’s decision.

The government’s position on the protests was also supported by several political parties – including Atmar’s Rights and Justice Party, the National Linkage Party headed by Ismaili leader Sayyed Mansur Naderi and, more importantly, the leader of Hezb-e Islami, Hekmatyar who, thereby, gave a public sign of loyalty to the government and the peace deal he had concluded with it in 2016.

  1. What was the protests’ impact on daily life in Kabul?

The installation of the tents by the protestors and the roadblocks erected around them by the government (which wanted to prevent more marches toward the Arg) created a massive traffic jam that paralysed day-to-day life in central parts of the city. (One tent blocked lanes on a major road leading from the airport to the western parts of the city and the tent in the Pul-e Artal area created a bottleneck between the western and central parts of Kabul.) Thus, government employees and others working in the affected areas were stuck for hours, reducing the already shortened Ramadan office time.

Realising (but not publicly admitting to) growing public frustration with the blockades, the protesters dismantled most of their tents. They stated they did so “out of respect [for] the mediation [efforts] of some parliamentarians [. . .] and to honour the holy month of Ramadan.” Barna Salehi confirmed to AAN that the Wolesi Jirga commission had asked the movement to remove its tents. The movement, however, decided to keep its “central” tent at the Sherpur junction.

  1. Will the protests continue, and why?

With the removal of their last tent in Kabul in the night between 19 to 20 June, the protestors are off the streets of the capital for the time being. But as the security forces resorted to force for the second time during the tent removal and killed another protestor (the protestors claim a second person had been killed), (3) bringing the number of those killed between 2 and 19 June to seven, a sense of victimhood was created among the protestors, on which the movement may capitalise.

At the moment, a lot of anger and talks about “the martyrs” and the “deadliest crackdown” in the post-Taleban time are being ventilated on social media, (see here). This seems to be designed to stir up emotions. In a statement of 20 June 2017, leaders of the protest movement announced that they “will not surrender to tyranny and repression and [will] continue to struggle peacefully and lawfully for litigation and justice to our shed blood and to achieve our rightful and just demands.” (see here)

Also, rumours are that Jamiat will organise another huge demonstration after the Eid holidays (sometime after 25 June). Jamiat leader Salahuddin Rabbani has continued to reach out to various political party leaders such as Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, the head of the pro-Abdullah faction of Hezb-e Islami, and deputy chief executive Muhammad Mohaqeq of one (mainly Hazara) Hezb-e Wahdat faction. The Jamiat mainstream represented by him, however, is not calling for the government to step down, as more radical voices in the party and among the young protestors are, but is pushing to strengthen the party’s position within the government vis-à-vis the president’s camp and its growingly assertive arch-rival, Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami.

 

 

(1) For example, they want to replace Pashto terms such as saranwal (prosecutor) with dadsetan and pohantun (university) with daneshgah and Arabic terms such as mahkama (court) with dadgah. Their aim is to protect traditions such as Yalda night, Nawruz and Chaharshanba-ye Sori.

– which go back to pre-Islamic times – that have increasingly been challenged not only by the Taleban but also by parts of the clergy as ‘un-Islamic’ (see AAN analysis here).

(2) For background, this is what the Office for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says in its 2010 “Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly”:

1.3 Only peaceful assemblies are protected. An assembly should be deemed peaceful if its organizers have professed peaceful intentions and the conduct of the assembly is non-violent. The term “peaceful” should be interpreted to include conduct that may annoy or give offence, and even conduct that temporarily hinders, impedes or obstructs the activities of third parties.

3.4 “Time, place and manner” restrictions. A wide spectrum of possible restrictions that do not interfere with the message communicated is available to the regulatory authority. Reasonable alternatives should be offered if any restrictions are imposed on the time, place or manner of an assembly.

3.5 “Sight and sound”. Public assemblies are held to convey a message to a particular target person, group or organization. Therefore, as a general rule, assemblies should be facilitated within “sight and sound” of their target audience.

(3) They claim the victim was a 14-year-old boy who was at the tent with his father and had been run over by a police vehicle.

 

Categories: Defence`s Feeds

Spirit starts assembly of fifth SDTA CH-53K helicopter for USMC

Naval Technology - Fri, 23/06/2017 - 01:00
US-based manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems has begun assembly of the fifth system demonstration test article (SDTA) CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter at its facility in Wichita, Kansas.
Categories: Defence`s Feeds

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