Afghans Recall September 11

Three years on, some regret the loss of life in the attack on the United States, while others remain supportive of Osama Bin Laden.

Afghans Recall September 11

Three years on, some regret the loss of life in the attack on the United States, while others remain supportive of Osama Bin Laden.

Thursday, 3 March, 2005

The attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, had as profound an impact on this country as it did on the United States. The subsequent US invasion, the overthrow of the Taleban and the ongoing hunt for Osama Bin Laden have dramatically changed the lives of every Afghan.


But while many here welcome the ousting of the conservative Islamic regime and the creation of the interim government, in interviews with IWPR reporters, others remained sceptical of US motives while some openly sympathised with the al-Qaeda leader.


"I am very happy about what happened on September 11 because it made the world pay attention to the situation in Afghanistan,” said Ahmad Shah, 35, a goldsmith who lives in the rural Chahar Asiab district, south of Kabul.


"The Taleban and Bin Laden, who was their leader, were not good people," said Sharifullah, 31, a street vendor in the food market of the northern town of Mazar-e-Sharif. “I am not happy that a lot of people died as a result of September 11 in the United States. They were human beings like us."


Sharifullah said, “The Taleban beat me many times. Every time I remember Bin Laden, my disgust increases."


Suhrab Samanyan, a journalist from Mazar, said, "Bin Laden is a person who is responsible for the majority of terrorist attacks in the world, such as September 11.


"If the US really hasn't yet been able to capture him, then it is America's weakness, and it will be a grave danger for the US and an indication that there is another superpower [working] against America."


But others expressed the belief that Bin Laden was actually working with the US.


"Bin Laden is a man of the United States, and the Americans still have control over his activities,” said Qand Agha, 32, a stove maker from Chahar Asiab. "He provided a good reason for the Americans to go into Central Asia."


Agha was sceptical that America, with its military might and technological know-how, had so far been unable to locate and capture the fugitive al-Qaeda leader.


Engineer Khushal also saw links between the US and Bin Laden. "Maybe the incident of September 11 was a particular policy of the US,” he said. Khushal said he believes Washington used the attack as a pretext for invading Afghanistan, allowing it “to take over strategic places, from where they can watch China, Russia, India and Iran".


A woman in Nangarhar, who asked that her name not be used, said she believed that US accusations that Bin Laden was behind the attacks were just a ploy, "The objective behind it was to take over the region and have access to the country’s mines."


And Mohammad Salim, 33, from the southern province of Paktia, said he thinks that “Bin Laden destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Centre with support from the West".


Others, meanwhile, openly expressed support for Bin Laden.


Anwar, 25, a farmer who lives in Deh Sabz, north of Kabul, said he prays for the al-Qaeda leader. “Bin Laden is a mujahedin from the country of the Prophet Muhammad. His attacks on the US were jihad,” he said. Anwar hopes that, if he is still alive, Bin Laden will expel the Americans from Afghanistan.


Azizullah, 29, who sells fruit in Deh Sabz, said he considers Bin Laden a hero and a mujahedin rather than a terrorist. He said he prays five times a day that the Americans do not capture the fugitive.


Sherzaman Sherzad, a schoolteacher in the eastern province of Nangarbar, said he does not believe Bin Laden was behind the September 11 attacks.


Instead, he believes “the attack was carried out by the Jewish people who want the Christians and Muslims to fight and want the crusades to start again. Through the war they want to have no worries from the Christians’ side.


Sherzaad said he considers Bin Laden “a mujahadin and sincere person" and said the accusations against him were “the propaganda of enemies who want him to be defamed in Afghan society".


Amirzada, a law student in Nangarhar, said he also believed that “Bin Laden must not be blamed for what happened on September 11 because he would never do such cowardly act”.


He accused the US of blaming Bin Laden for the attacks as “an excuse to hurt Islamic countries".


Mohammad Zaman, 30, a shopkeeper in Mazar, wondered why the world was not equally outraged at US military policies.


"When the US killed thousands of people and demolished hundreds of buildings in Iraq, no one asked why,” he said. “"But when Bin Laden destroyed a few floors of an American building, the whole world pursued him."


While Sher Hasan Kamalzai, the director of a youth centre in Nangarhar was reluctant to criticise the al-Qaeda leader, he did regret that his country had become a battleground because of the attacks.


“Maybe Bin Laden is a good mujahedin, but it does not mean that all good mujahedins should come to Afghanistan and make the country a field of war,” he said.


But for Jawad, a high school student in Mazar-e-Sharif, there can be no justification for the loss of nearly 3,000 lives in the United States three years ago.


"It was a global tragedy,” he said. “Hundreds of innocent persons were killed on September 11, which was an inhuman incident.”


Shahabuddin Tarakhil is an IWPR staff reporter based in Kabul. IWPR's regional bureaus contributed to this report.


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