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I came across a story today. A woman in Afghanistan was jailed because she was raped. She has been freed. Only to agree to marry her rapist in order to protect her family’s honour. This story received approximately 30 seconds airtime on this evening’s news programme. She was jailed for 12 years because of her ‘moral crimes’. She will now spend the rest of her life with this heinous man. And the news makes a passing comment about it.

I found myself engaging in an online rant about this with the lovely Titflasher.

Ten years since we invaded Afghanistan. Ten years of bloodshed. For this. I know the government never thought we would rid the world of injustice by going to war. Enough has been said about their self-serving interests. I won’t waste my words on that. But the public, often well-meaning, seems to actually believe that we could do some good out there. I see words floating around Facebook from friends and family: Freedom. Rights. Liberty. Justice. None of those things has been served by war.

This got hardly any airtime today. Why? Because our nation does not care. We care about OUR freedom, OUR rights. That’s what they think the soldiers are there to protect. Leaving aside the fact that they’re not (does the word oil mean anything to you? Trade? Arms?), even if they were, what gives us the right to demand our liberty at the expense of theirs? Because we’re British? American? Western? Better? 

We think we have it all sewn up. Our society is morally in the right. We have democracy on our side after all. We know how to care for our people. We know how to stand up for people’s rights.

What about this?

Or this?

Or this?

Or this?

Oh yes, we’re a superior nation indeed. We have every right to judge those in Afghanistan. In fact, in every other nation. Except our own, of course. Our media delights in telling us all about ‘them’. Those ‘foreigners’. They are different to us. They invade our country, take our jobs, our homes, our heathcare. It was a good thing we started shooting them.

I wear a poppy in November. I bow my head in silence on Remembrance Day. I pray for all those who lose their lives in war. I respect those who fought for our country in the two world wars. Because they fought and died. Because they had their lives torn apart. Because they saw horrors nobody should ever see. But am I a patriot? No. My father was in the Royal Navy for 22 years, and I have respect for him. I have respect for all those in the armed forces. But now they choose to do that. They are not conscripted.

We invaded them. We fight a war of words with them every day. We hurt them every day. We don’t help. When have we ever helped? And we wonder why they hate us. How dare we judge people? How dare we decide that we are better than they are? How dare we pontificate about how free our society is? It isn’t. Our society is just as bound up in chains as theirs is. So what right do we have to judge? We hurt them and they want to hurt us, and do hurt us. What else should we expect?

The woman I lived with in Syria used to spit at her TV screen every time George Bush appeared. It was quite amusing really. I could see her restraining herself when Tony Blair flashed his cheesy grin, because she thought she would offend me. She was mistaken. All I saw when I lived there was a nation that didn’t understand. They weren’t told why we were right and they were wrong. All they saw was white people trying to destroy their culture. Which, funnily enough, is what we saw when we watched the Twin Towers fall.

Differences in faith do not entitle us to hurt each other. Differences in culture do not entitle us to hurt each other. Terrorists fight. Soldiers fight. Governments fight. And innocents are killed. Innocents watch war ruin their lives and then pick up the pieces, left with the same injustices as they had before. As Titflasher said, they watch in sadness as their children become angry and politicised.

If you want social change in this world, if you want justice, then you need to put the weapons down.