More protests took place over the burning of Korans than the killing of 16 civilians
1:59am UK, Friday March 16, 2012
It has become something of a common phenomenon throughout the ‘Arab Spring’ that Friday prayers presage some sort of action by the people.
In Syria, Libya and Egypt those mosque meetings gathered and united people and got them on to the streets in protest against their dictatorial leaders.
The fact is the Friday prayer can be an ignition point throughout the Muslim world; which is why the Afghan government, the international community and the security forces here are holding their collective breath ahead of this week’s prayers.
If the religious leaders of Afghanistan deliver fiery sermons condemning the weekend killings of 16 mainly women and children by an American soldier, there could be chaos.
Security has been beefed up and the Isaf forces are preparing for Taliban attacks and potential demonstrations at the doors of their camps.
The decision by the US to move the alleged killer to Kuwait has not gone down well here.
Many Afghans wanted the soldier to be tried in an Afghan court or at the very least in Afghanistan.
They had been promised a transparent hearing and had been promised answers.
In Afghanistan they expect justice fast and, here, fast is this week not a few months or, given the American legal system, potentially years.
Collectively, they will think the soldier has been spirited away and there will be a cover-up.
Add to the mix President Hamid Karzai‘s demands that American forces, and for that matter all ISAF forces, should withdraw from their small operating bases in villages and work out of their main bases; then there is great potential for the whole aftermath of this terrible incident to turn even nastier.
President Karzai wants Nato forces out of Afghan villages
So far, the response from the people has been fairly muted. Unfortunately, that is not actually a good thing.
It does not reflect an understanding that the incident was the actions of a lone individual.
It is actually illustrative proof of a narrative that runs throughout Afghan society; namely that this type of thing happens all the time.
That British and American forces, in particular, routinely kill innocent civilians, rape women, destroy villages and ignore the rights of the Afghan people in their own country.
It is hard for us to understand how the killing of 16 innocent people in a village is considered less of a reason to riot than the burning of copies of the Koran.
But that is a fact of life here.
It is not that people are less angry. They are just used to it after decades of war; that and the power of their religious leaders.
The narrative that the foreign forces are basically a crusading army with no compassion, bent on destroying the country and propping up an installed government, is a gross falsehood.
Unfortunately, that is what many believe.
That they do is an indictment of the country’s political leaders and to a degree of the international community and its forces that have failed to get their message across after billions of pounds and over a decade on the ground.
One lone killer soldier did not do this. But he has exposed the frailty of the mission to Afghanistan and just how bleak the future may be once the soldiers have gone, because without them there would be a civil war.
Many are already preparing for it.