“All in all, life can be problematic. There is pain, grief, difficulties and pressures. But on these lips, there’s always a smile. Whatever it is in life, it too passes. Living with a smile is not a loss. And we need to live.”
- Mohammad Rahed
(Victim of the 2020 Kabul University attack)
Tragedy and pain
On Monday 2nd November, 35 students lost their lives in a barbaric attack on Kabul University, while many others were left wounded. The university holds at least 22,000 students, many having dreams of becoming lawyers, doctors, engineers and more. A generation of changemakers that had hopes and dreams, which were later taken away from them in the blink of an eye.
The hour-long siege left many shaken and torn apart. Professors lost their students, and family members were no longer able to reunite with their loved ones, after the deadly attack took place. Sami Mahdi, a former professor at Kabul University tweeted, “We lost 16 students from policy and public administration school. All from my class…” followed by the names and pictures of the innocent souls who lost their lives.
The people of Afghanistan were shaken and heartbroken, as well as the Afghan diaspora around the world. Yet, social media remained more silent than active. Solidarity fell short and the Afghan community was torn apart by the lack of support and awareness that had been given to our fellow brothers and sisters in Afghanistan.
This shouldn’t just be an Afghan issue
So, why is it that the world turns a blind eye to Afghanistan’s pain? For decades, the Afghan people have faced an endless war in their homes - seeking freedom and peace, whilst often challenged by the people who hold power within the country. Daesh claimed responsibility for the respect attacks. The government says it was the Taliban. However, the Taliban have denied all accusations made towards them. Thus far, the blame game begins once again, ultimately leaving the people of Afghanistan frustrated as they seek justice for those who lost their lives in the deadly attack.
Many students came together outside Kabul University to protest the peace talks in Doha, and in all honesty, they have every right to do so. Imagine the disbelief and anger Afghans feel facing a loss such as this, which will live throughout our history and is sadly a narrative that has become far too familiar for us all.
Days before the Kabul university attack, another heartbreaking scene took place. The education center in Kabul in the Dasht-e-Barchi area where many Shia Muslims live was attacked. Many were wounded and 24 innocent souls lost their lives.
Again, these events shook the Afghan community, but further showed the lack of awareness and solidarity that was prevalent on social media.
Storyteller and filmmaker Hila Hamidi from the US says: “This isn’t the oppression Olympics, but I don’t want Afghans back home to feel like they’re fighting the fight alone. Since digitizing our lives, it has become easier to pass information about what’s going on around the world. And because of this, yes, I do believe the west has become desensitized to the atrocities back home. The reality is no one will care, except us. And that’s fine, because those who turn a blind eye to these unfortunate events, have their true colors revealed. The beauty behind all of this is that it still won’t stop the Afghan community from supporting causes across borders that neglected them first.”
So why is it that the world no longer speaks on Afghan issues? The so-called “war-torn” country has become almost a normalized issue for people in the West. The desensitization and numbing effect that is heavily embedded in many of us plays an extremely crucial factor in this. Emotional desensitization, as stated in the Cambridge dictionary means, “...that with repeated exposure to the same sort of thing- we tend to react less intensely.” With that being said, let’s look into this a little further and dissect this notion.
The repeated exposure from mainstream media outlets, allows us to see videos and images that eventually make us react and consume news in a different way. This is also known as the Hypodermic Needle Theory, coined by Harold Laswell (1920), which discusses the media's power on its audience. As humans, we are all triggered in different ways - constantly seeing Afghanistan in a state of war has ingrained in our minds that only so much can be done and that countries facing war are no longer accessible or changeable.
In this day and age, we are given a stream of endless news, and there is often an overflow of content going around. It’s important to understand that not all news will be seen by the world. The mainstream media is often overshadowed by western news, which is why it’s important to share what you can on social media when you learn about countries that are facing a tough climate. The more you share and repost, the more news escalates to friends and family members, causing an uproar and revolutionary protest on social platforms.
Earlier this week I tweeted on the consumption of news: “I understand there’s an overflow of news, but until people get called out for it- they don’t show any solidarity & it’s heartbreaking. It just goes to show how social media is just a trending tool & unless something is trending, it’s never spoken about. #KabulUniversityAttack.”
The protest we make now through our platforms will allow us to break that cycle of 24h news. Trending topics are seen, while other issues are often brushed under the rug or hardly ever spoken about. It's time we change that trend and utilize social media, by shedding light on issues that are often pumped out and lost in the ocean of mainstream news.
Your voice matters
Why is it important now more than ever for the youth to use their voices and platforms? Your protest is a resource for strengthening the Afghan people and continuing the path of chasing their dreams and fighting off the criminals who take away their freedom. It’s a protest that the world needs to be a part of. I can’t say this enough, but this isn’t just an Afghan issue and this isn't just a fight for the people within Afghanistan.
What you can do to make a change
Utilize your platforms: Whether your audience is big or small, trust me when I say it makes a huge difference. If you see something on social media regarding an issue, search for it, don't just blindly repost. Doing your own research, learning and sharing, will cause a chain reaction and be a means of change.
Find local communities or NGO’s that are doing direct work in Afghanistan: Donating food packages, or donating to families that have lost loved ones, that were once providing for them, will grant a better standard of living. The money you donate could potentially change someone's life for the better. Remember, any amount you give, can go a long way.
Email local MP’s, or people that hold power in your country: Email your concerns and ask them to take a stand. Condemning the attacks is not enough, governments worldwide have a means of taking a stand against the cruelty that goes on in Afghanistan, we just need to try our best to actively make those changes from where we are and allow our efforts to be heard. Don’t silence your voice, when you are living in a democratic state that grants you access to such privileges.
Check-in with your Afghan friends: I cannot emphasize this enough. If you are aware that your friends have family members in Afghanistan, please just take a few minutes of your time to check in with them and see if they are okay. As I stated before, this shouldn’t just be mourning within the Afghan community, it should be heard and felt all around the world. So, take a few seconds out of your day to just check-in.
We know you are only human, and you can’t save the whole world, but taking these small strides to help your Afghan brothers and sisters, is the most human thing to do. Don’t lose yourself in the process of finding yourself.
Echoing this photographer and filmmaker, Khyber Khan says, “I believe the Afghan diaspora needs to be more active in raising awareness. Whether it’s social media, local mosques, workplaces, or at their educational institutions.”
My dear Afghanistan, we mourn with you
To my fellow brothers and sisters in Afghanistan, we know as the Afghan diaspora, living in the west, we will never fully understand the depth of your pain and what you are going through. But just know that from our side, we will fight and try our very best to amplify your voices. We are not what they call, “the voice for the voiceless” for your voices echo beyond us and are more powerful than ours combined. Exist beautifully, for you are the future of our homeland. You are the generation that the world needs. You are unbreakable. You are Afghanistan.
I will leave you with these remarkable yet heartbreaking words from activist and writer Madinah Wardak:
“Kabul Jaan. Our tears mean nothing. These words are useless. You must be tired of prayers. How can we in diaspora even imagine? Our very existence is ridden with guilt and privilege. The world has failed you. There are no rectifying words to say in these moments. Only endless blabbering of the same things we always hear. The two things left are love & pain. It is as if death itself chose Afghanistan in its experiment. How much can I torture people? How long they stop dreaming. Only love and pain remain.”
This article is dedicated to those who lost their lives in the recent Kabul attacks. You will forever be in our hearts.
Faiza Saqib is a 22-year-old writer and poet based in London, United Kingdom.
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