my home country of Afghanistan, winter is harsh and children are hungry. Almost every parent faces the torture of not having enough food to feed their families. Across the country, 5 million children are on the brink of famine. Many young people are in despair; suicide is on the rise.
The rapid escalation of war in Ukraine is set to make this crisis even worse. We fear now that soaring prices of wheat – reaching their highest level since 2008 as a result of the invasion – could multiply the impact of a famine in Afghanistan.
The United Nations has seen the scale of our misery, launching its largest-ever appeal for funds for a country: $4.4bn. But rather than heed this appeal, Joe Biden has decided to claim our money at the moment of our greatest need.
Last year I was forced into exile for my political activism and advocacy of women’s rights as the Taliban took control of the country. Looking on from afar, I could not believe how quickly our country faded from the news, how quickly our suffering ceased to concern even the critics of “endless war” in Afghanistan.
After 20 years of US occupation, my country has been left in ruins. The US and its allies did nothing to develop Afghanistan. We were made into a dependency, relying on flows of humanitarian aid rather than building our own economic capacities. The evidence? Our current economic collapse and the humanitarian catastrophe that has followed from it.
Biden may have withdrawn the US military, but he has refused responsibility for America’s intervention in our country. Instead, he has added great insult to profound injury by stealing our scarce financial resources. His actions will make the bread queues longer and the number of children dying of painful hunger greater. This crime against humanity should never be forgotten.
Biden’s policy will not hurt the Taliban that now rules my country and oppresses our people. It is the people themselves who will suffer – those who starve and those who flee in search of food, freedom and safety. Poverty has acted as a recruiting sergeant for terror groups in the past. I fear we will see the same again, further invigorating violence against women and minorities in Afghanistan. The tragic cycle continues.
Perhaps the US government does not care. The White House may view terrorism, destabilising neighbouring Russia and China, as a boon to their geopolitical strategy of aggression. Taliban plus terrorism may mean misery for the Afghan people but it might sustain US geopolitical interests at a lower fee than the two-decade-long occupation and its corrupt puppet regimes. As long as central Asian natural gas can flow through my battered country and out to the global market, US “grand strategists” will sleep easy.
The direct beneficiaries of Biden’s theft, the victims of 9/11, deserve support for what they suffered. But why must my family, my neighbours, my people, over 400,000 of whom were killed in the US-led war, pay the price? When will Afghanistan receive the war reparations we deserve after two decades of destruction? At the very least, our own money should be put to work keeping us alive.
As a strident opponent of the Taliban – whose rule I view as entirely illegitimate, another form of occupation in my country – I don’t want them to have our money either. Rather the full $7bn is the property of the Afghan masses and should be disbursed through grassroots and humanitarian organisations. If Biden gives us back our money, he will not starve. If he does not, we will.
There are courageous people in every community mobilising to end this endless crisis. We don’t want further intervention from the west to save us from the Taliban’s brutality. We know from the bitter experience of the last 20 years that no other country can give us rights and prosperity. We must claim it for ourselves.
In that struggle, you can help us secure bread, rights and justice. Pressure your governments to give us back our money so we don’t starve. Support our efforts to speak for ourselves and demand our rights. Insist on justice for the war crimes committed against my people, so at last, we can taste a little justice.
The violence in Ukraine is once again drawing the attention of the United States and its Nato allies to the devastation of war and the moral imperative to protect its victims. We ask for nothing more than the same solidarity to be extended to our people, as we struggle for our most basic right to survive.