art of resistance, movie/tv propaganda, Pakistan

Why I can’t celebrate Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded this Friday to India’s Kailash Satyarthi and Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai for their struggles against the suppression of children and for young people’s rights, including the right to education. That is great news, and it might almost mean Nobel Peace Prize makes sense again, after being awarded to Barack Obama in 2009 “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”, and to European Union in 2012 “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”.

Still, there is something that really troubles me. How come we (meaning the West) always recognize the “devils” of the East, the torments children like Malala had to and have to go through (in her case, with the Taliban), but always fail to recognize our own participation in creating those “devils”? How come we never talk about the things our governments are doing to the children of Pakistan, or Syria, or Iraq, or Palestine, or Yemen? Let’s just take drone strikes as an example. Last year’s tweet by George Galloway might illustrate this hypocrisy.

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Galloway is absolutely right. We would never even know her name. But, since Malala’s story fits into the western narrative of the oriental oppression (in which the context underlying the creation of the oppression is left out), we all know Malala’s name. Like Assed Baig writes:

This is a story of a native girl being saved by the white man. Flown to the UK, the Western world can feel good about itself as they save the native woman from the savage men of her home nation. It is a historic racist narrative that has been institutionalised. Journalists and politicians were falling over themselves to report and comment on the case. The story of an innocent brown child that was shot by savages for demanding an education and along comes the knight in shining armour to save her. The actions of the West, the bombings, the occupations the wars all seem justified now, ‘see, we told you, this is why we intervene to save the natives.'”

The problem is, there are thousands of Malalas West helped create with endless wars, occupations, interventions, drone strikes, etc. In Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, one can hear how little we know about the drone strikes – its aims, targets, results. “Right now we have the executive branch making a claim that it has the right to kill anyone, anywhere on Earth, at any time, for secret reasons based on secret evidence, in a secret process undertaken by unidentified officials. That frightens me.” This is how Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown professor and former Pentagon official under President Obama, explained the US policy on drone strikes during a congressional hearing last year.

The following photo presents the piece that was installed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province, close to Pakistan’s northwest border with Afghanistan, by an art collective that includes Pakistanis, Americans and others associated with the French artist JR. The collective said it produced the work in the hope that U.S. drone operators will see the human face of their victims in a region that has been the target of frequent strikes.

foto/photo via notabugsplat/

That is the reality we are not being presented with. Another reality is the story of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, 14-year-old Iraqi girl, who was gang raped by five U.S. Army soldiers and killed in her house in Yusufiyah (Iraq) in 2006. She was raped and murdered after her parents and six-year-old sister Hadeel Qasim Hamza were killed. Also not irrelevant to mention is that Abeer was going to school before the US invasion but had to stop going because of her father’s concerns for her safety.

article-0-0C89D3B2000005DC-51_634x548Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi

And while the West applauds Malala (as they should), I am afraid it might be for the wrong reasons, or with a wrong perspective.  It feels like the West wants to gain an agenda that suits them or the policies they want. That is also why Malala’s views on Islam are rarely presented. She uses her faith as a framework to argue for the importance of education rather than making Islam a justification for oppression, but that is rarely mentioned. It also “doesn’t fit”.

So, my thoughts were mixed this Friday when I heard the news about the Nobel Peace Prize. On so many levels. They still are. We’ve entered a new war, and peace prize award ceremonies seem ridiculous after looking at this photo.

tumblr_nd1ycaClBV1tgyqboo1_1280“They say that if God loves you, He will let you live a long life, but I wish that He loved me a little less. I wish that I didn’t live long enough to see my country in ruins.”  Ahmad, a 102 year old Syrian refugee /photo by A. McConnell, UNHCR/

Sure, we must acknowledge the efforts of those who are fighting for a better world, but when it is done in a way that feels so calculated, unidimensional, loaded with secret agendas and tons of hypocrisy – I just can’t celebrate it.

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art of resistance, Pakistan

Fifteen years without the light of Eqbal Ahmad (1933 – 1999).

[Ahmad was] perhaps the shrewdest and most original anti-imperialist analyst of the post-war world, especially in the dynamics between the West and the post-colonial states of Asia and Africa. 

Edward Said

about-eaEqbal Ahmad

In two weeks, the universe will count fifteen years without Eqbal Ahmad.

Ahmad was a Pakistani political scientist, writer, journalist, and anti-war activist. He was strongly critical of the Middle East strategy of the United States as well as what he saw as the “twin curse” of nationalism and religious fanaticism in such countries as Pakistan. In all of that and above that – Ahmad was a brave man in this new world. He opposed militarism, radicalism, bureaucracy, materialism, he stood against the things we so easily go along with – just because it’s easier that way. He wasn’t interested in what’s easy, he was interested in what’s right. And he had a unique sense for that.

Ahmad was born in the village of Irki in the Indian state of Bihar. When he was a young boy, his father was murdered over a land dispute in his presence. It was a traumatic event Eqbal would cite when he attacked material acquisitiveness.During the partition of India in 1947, he and his older brothers migrated to Pakistan. Ahmad got a degree in economics in Pakistan, and later on studied political science and Middle Eastern history, earning his PHD at Princeton.

From 1960 to 1963, Ahmad lived in North Africa, working primarily in Algeria, where he joined the National Liberation Front and worked with Frantz Fanon. He was offered an opportunity to join the first independent Algerian government and refused in favor of life as an independent intellectual.

eqbal_said_pc

In the 80s, he joined the faculty at Hampshire College, a very progressive school, which was the first college in the nation to divest from South Africa, in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he taught world politics and political science. He wrote and spoke a lot of the failures of the Arab nationalism. In 1980, in Beirut, he was the first to predict the exact outlines of the 1982 Israeli invasion; in a memo to Yasir Arafat and Abu Jihad he also sadly forecast the quick defeat of PLO forces in South Lebanon.

In the early 1990s, Ahmad was granted a parcel of land in Pakistan by Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s government to build an independent, alternative university, named Khaldunia. Upon his retirement from Hampshire in 1997, he settled permanently in Pakistan, where he continued to write a weekly column, for Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest English-language newspaper.

Since his death, a memorial lecture series has been established at Hampshire in his honor. Speakers have included Kofi Annan, Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, and Arundhati Roy.

There is a website dedicated to Ahmad’s work – Bitsonline, you can find varoius  interviews, articles, and information about upcoming events and tributes there. Check it out.

Fifteen years is a lot, but the years have no power here – the universe will remember and remember – long live Eqbal Ahmad!

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