Why was the UN Staff Killed In Afghanistan?

New York Times has reported that Friday radical Islamists killed Christians in Afghanistan. “Stirred up by three angry mullahs who urged them to avenge the burning of a Koran at a Florida church, thousands of protesters on Friday overran the compound of the United Nations in this northern Afghan city, killing at least 12 people, Afghan and United Nations officials said. “

It is terrible, and there is no excuse for their actions. They may be offended but killing innocent people over it, is just terribly cruel.

According to the Reuters report the rage and violence, has continued the next day.

”In the violence they also broke windows and burned chairs at the Zarghona High School for girls. The Taliban opposed girls’ education, and Kandahar was their spiritual heartland.

“I took part in the demonstration to curse the foreigners, but I had no weapon,” shopkeeper Rahim Mohammad said.

“But I don’t feel sorry for U.N. workers killed, our people are slaughtered by foreigners everyday.”

More volatile protests are possible across deeply religious Afghanistan, where anti-Western sentiment has been fueled for years by civilian casualties, and the Taliban.” (Reuters)

The Taliban did not even own up to the killings and claimed that these were Muslim reactions. Over-reactions would have been a more suitable word.

Looking into Afghan history would be needed to understand this hatred towards foreigners. The word Afghan was initially used to address the Peshtun (Patan) tribal people who lived in the valley. The Peshtuns in the mountains were addressed by their tribes name and used to move around in the area which is now the Afghanistan Pakistan border. Historically this society was formed of many clans and tribes that were tied through kinship, language and tradition. There was no national identity that united them.

However Sir Olaf Caroe who was a Major within the British Colony between 1946-47 had tracked Peshtun’s roots back to 550 BC. In 331 BC Alexander the Great had won a victory over the Persian Emporium. After that he travelled all the way to, what is today Afghanistan. Some Patan tribes like the idea that their forefathers were members of Alexander’s Macedonian army, which remained on this land.

The first Afghan dynasty was formed in 1747 by Ahmet Han from the Sadozai Klan. He was appointed to be the Afghan Han by the rest of the tribal leaders. The Dynasty did not last for too long and had been defeated by the Singhs at the time. However their reign did not last too long either. After the Singh war, the first British-Afghan war occured between 1838-1842. During this period the country was ruled by the Dost Muhammad Klan. Their good relations with the Russian caused a second British-Afghan war to break out, between 1878-1881. At the end of this war, both Russia and Britain recognized Afghanistan to be impartial, and the region was considered a buffer zone.

Mahmut Tarzi was the grand son of Payende Han, who was part of the dynasty. He lived in Damascus, which was Turkish territory at the time. He had this great desire, to create a unifying Afghan National identity, as he had been influenced by the “Young Turks” of the time, who were making reforms, which was later to be known as the foundation of modern Turkey.

Emir Habibullah, the leader of Afghanistan at the time, had invited Mahmut Tarzi to return to his home land in 1903. Having observed Turkish reforms, Tarzi was filled with enthusiasm to bring change to Afghanistan. He started publishing a newspaper with modern ideas called Serac Ül Ahbar in 1911. When Emir Habibullah was assassinated in 1919, his son Amanullah Han took his place. Amanullah was married to Tarzi’s daughter Sureyya. He appointed, Tarzi as the minister of foreign affairs. Tarzi had spent a long time on Turkish territory, thereby spoke multiple foreign languages. He visited the US, Russia and places in Europe. What used to be the collaboration of tribes was now a modern country. Afghanistan was part of the international political scene. In 1921 the British signed an agreement, recognizing Afghanistan’s independence in foreign affairs.

Atatürk, Queen Sureyya

Queen Sureyya, looked very modern and Afghanistan was following the Turkish example on modernization. Everything seemed fine, but the Queen’s modern outlook did disturb some circles. Eventually, Amanullah Han was overthrown and Bacik Saka took his place. He did not last long either, as the Peshtun people refused a Tajik leader. Nadir Shah from Amanullah’s family took the throne next, but was assassinated in 1933. His son Zahir Shah took his place and kept leadership until 1973, which was when his cousin Davud overthrew him.

Emir Amanullah Queen Sureyya of Afghanistan

So from 1903 to 1973 for about seventy years, despite some set backs the country was going forward, becoming a nation, as opposed to a community of united Klans. Although Amanullah, lost his throne over it, reforms were still happening and by 1960 the country seemed rather modern.

Davud lost his leadership to the communists in 1978. Soviet interference caused liberal intellectuals to flee. In 1992 Necibullah’s leadership was also overthrown, which caused the socialist intellectual’s to flee, as well.


Afghanistan in the 60

A region with not many intellectuals to lead has fallen into the hands of Taliban. Since 1838 the British and Russian have had interference in the region, later on the US joined as well. The hatred towards foreigners must be, based on the fact that for the last three centuries, foreigners had come to Afghanistan only for war. None of this justifies the hateful acts. This is a mere attempt, to understand the rage these people have towards life and why they cannot form a normal social environment, as opposed to the current situation where medieval rules are applied. They are not only cruel to foreigners, but also very cruel towards themselves. Life for women has become unbearable since 1996. It is so bad that they, burn themselves, to death. Maybe not as severe but men are also oppressed. The burning of the Koran must have seemed like a justifiable reason, for acting out the built in rage, from being constantly subjugated.

Looking at the photos from the 1960’s, it’s hard to imagine how Afghanistan became the way it is today.

Afghanistan in the 60

Clearly, with no intellectuals left around to help mold the ideas of a nation, while leading it, a country encounters great set backs. Combining this with constant foreign intervention, seems to push the nation back into medieval times. Most cruel leaders, use foreign intrusion as an excuse, to tighten the grip on their own people. It’s easier to have tyranny over less educated, therefore less civilized societies, as it keeps them from getting organized and demanding better conditions.

 “In the violence they also broke windows and burned chairs at the Zarghona High School for girls. The Taliban opposed girls’ education, and Kandahar was their spiritual heartland.”

The Taliban did not own up to the killings of the UN staff, but during the chaos, when everyone was focused on the killings, the girls’ school got destroyed as well, and that is how they tighten the grip just a little more…..

Follow me on twitter@Banugokyar




National Geographic Turkey, 2001 December, Ahmet Han



Filed under Christianity, History, Islam, Politics, Religion, Royalty, Society, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Why was the UN Staff Killed In Afghanistan?

  1. Lara Martini

    Thansk for the well-documented article. On this topic, just a quick thought : it is remarkable that thw worldwide press, on all side, had decided not to relate the incident in Florida. Some of the Afghan people learned about it a few days later, as Karzai condemned it. Although some may see this as self-censorship, I believe it was a very good example of many people across the globe taking a conscious decision – in parallel, since an agreement would have been nearly impossible at this scale – to deem the incident an unrelevant and unnecessary provocation. Interesting…

  2. Banu Gökyar

    Hello Lara thank you for the comment:) I had not reallized that the media tried not to relate the two events. Maybe you mean local media over there?The publications that I follow all reported these events as related. You can see the Reuters and New York Times links, that I cited as sources below my article. The New York Times headline is “Afghans Avenge Florida Koran Burning, Killing 12” The Reuters headline is “Ten dead on second day of Afghan Koran burning protests”
    I hope these polarizations end soon…..
    much love dear

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