By: Abdullah Azzam

A little after the twenty years long US occupation of Afghanistan ended, a prosperous and relatively civilized European country, Ukraine, was invaded by its eastern neighbor Russia. As Russian troops set foot in Ukrainian territories, thousands of civilians, including women, took weapons to defend their country. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers from various continents expressed their willingness to both sides to the war to join their army and fight for their cause. As of writing this, the war continues in different sites of Ukraine, escalating offensives have caused extensive devastation in cities with noticeable progress made by Russian forces. Civilian casualties and war crimes on the ground have been reported, more than 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the war broke out, and satellite footages show huge destruction of infrastructure and residential buildings.

Twenty years ago, similar events to these unfolded in Afghanistan. Towns and cities came under heavy bombardment, civilians were butchered, and hundreds of thousands forced to flee their country to find a secure shelter in other regional countries and beyond. War crimes were committed and a bulk of Afghans were put behind the jail bars for an unknown reason and unknown period of time. Afghans took up arms to defend their homeland, refusing the cruel ruling of external powers.

Even though, much about Afghanistan and Ukraine wars was alike, the global reactions the two invasions got was entirely different.

I have been precisely following the news of Russia-Ukraine war since it unfolded on February 24. The biased and racist reactions of the international civilized community to both invasions have left me bowled over. When Afghanistan was invaded by more than forty countries, the attack was justified as “war on terror”, and “elimination of the threat posed to US’s national security.” But as the Ukraine came under attack, the entire world strongly condemned that act of Putin, calling it an “aggressive invasion”, “turning point in the history of Europe”, and “bringing war back to it”.

I don’t want to judge the Russian invasion of Ukraine because the world has said more than enough about it. But one could say that if the US was fighting its national security war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Putin too could argue that his homeland’s security would be at risk had Ukraine fallen into NATO’s lap. Why one invasion’s legality approved and that of other is’s questioned?

Like Ukrainians, Afghans suffered severely. In Paktia, the images of an unborn dead baby whose mother with her womb ripped apart was killed in a raid and the umbilical cord attached to baby’s body are unforgettable. In Kunduz in 2018 April 2, a graduation ceremony was bombed and more than thirty civilians were killed. In March 2012, a US solder first killed sixteen civilians in Panjwayi district of Kandahar and then burned their bodies to a char.

A similar execution of civilians and bombardment of residential areas and maternity hospitals took place in Ukraine. The story of a pregnant women who with her baby later were announced to have died was devastating. Luckily, the world woke up to Russian invasion of Ukraine. International criminal court, global leaders, laws and sanctions proved to be active against aggressions.

 The stunning thing is that with all those atrocities that took place in Afghanistan for twenty years, the ICC, global communities and other human rights institutions remained totally mute. After all those nightmares Afghans experienced, our belief of human being living in a lawless jungle where the loss of innocent lives didn’t matter at all proved wrong. We were shocked when we came to know that the problem was in our eyes, hair and skin colors. Investigation of war crimes and swift effective sanctions would have taken place and fighting for freedom would have been a right, not terrorism, were Afghans blue-eyed and blond-haired or geographically located in a civilized part of the world.

With their past twenty years of exhausting life in mind, Afghans remained speechless when they saw global leaders rush to support Ukraine and sanction Russia. Even though, they fought bravely for the freedom of their homeland, Afghans faced the double standard and inherent hypocrisy of the world when Ukraine’s event unfolded.

Those Ukrainian troops and civilians who took up arms to fight freedom war were called heroes and inspired by western media. When Afghans and Palestinians resisted occupations, they were labelled terrorists, and thousands of people in Afghanistan were put in jail just because they had once fed the Taliban.

With the start of Russia-Ukraine war, emotionally overwhelmed European sympathetically received and hugged Ukrainian war forced refugees. We saw a different reaction when Afghan, Syrian, Ethiopian and Palestinian war refugees were obliged to flee. They were shot at and drowned in sea by western patrolling police. We witnessed a discriminative behavior even about black skin Ukrainian refugees as well.

This discriminative and prejudiced bearing of similar war refugees was spoken out loud that people fleeing Ukraine were middle class, well dressed, educated with prosperous lives, and of Christian religion, while those of the other countries didn’t have aforementioned specifications.

This injustice and bias only make us confident that the ICC, global organizations, and other human rights institutions have not been brought into being for us Afghans, Palestinians, Libyans, Somalis, Syrians, Iraqis and Kashmiris. But rather they are only functional when blue-eyed, blond-haired, and white-skinned people’s lives at risk.