My contribution to that fateful day | François Fernandez

Many thanks to the many thoughtful contributors who have written to us about the January 6 uprising. Here is the latest from François Fernandez, a young civil society activist and doctor of primary healthcare and pediatrics. In June 2017, François has established in east Kabul a small free medical clinic called Al-Agha. As a volunteer doctor with a safe-zone group called TiD Foundation, he also works with female members of civil society to help build their capacities and knowledge for the future.

Ever since the Taliban terrorised Kabul on January 6, 2001, our determination to prevent its re-establishment continues to grow daily. Our mantra is “hold the facts and acknowledge our progress”. This attitude has served us well, contributing to the holding of the first civil society elections, and contributing to gains we’ve made at the local, national and international levels.

On the day of January 6, this area of Afghanistan was a time of night curfew, smoke from burning oil drums, chaos, barricades, and flat tyres on intersections. At the time, I was a resident of Qargha, a densely populated area that had been the site of a recent massacre of local civilians. Today, I am able to see the landscape and to work with neighbours in the area to create a sense of safety.

We’ve been working in Qargha for the past seven years and have been keen to learn more about the events of that fateful day. It is important to us that the American people continue to research the events of January 6, 2001, and that they are very informed about the war in Afghanistan today.

Here are my small contributions on what happened on January 6, 2001. I strongly believe these explanations can help Americans better understand the crimes committed on that day. While the American and Afghan cultures are diverse, no one disputes the fact that the two countries bear a multitude of similarities. That makes us all much more closely linked than we think.

1. From my house window, we could see a Taliban with a hammer walking down the street. They took out barrels, barrels of kerosene, barrels of petrol, firewood and dry goods. They stacked all of this in a collection box in front of the supermarket. Then they attacked Qargha. When the Taliban attacked Qargha, all traffic on this street was stopped for five hours.

2. Before we could get out of Qargha, all of the shops were destroyed. Then we saw the posters on the houses all over the area. The Taliban put those posters up at the beginning of their civil war. Those pictures of half-dead children and the traumatised women who were raped by the Taliban are a reminder that none of us can shake the memories of that day.

3. At around 8am, I saw three US soldiers shoot into one of the burning houses. The house was on fire. After the US soldiers shot into the house, the civilians were threatened by the fighters. After the shooting, the house exploded, and we saw kids covered in blood escaping the house.

4. At 11am, the Taliban fighters left the house. Then helicopters with American special forces arrived and attacked the house. At the same time, women were leaving the house to go to the electricity company to make a whistle-stop to get water. After several hours, when the fighters left the house, I saw the snipers.

5. At 2pm, the provincial governor arrived at the scene and was the first to enter the house. While there were many casualties, I watched as the most interesting part of the story began. To the left was a house that belonged to the local police officer. On the side of the house, near the window, was a pile of clothes.

6. A local woman was named Azizia. She was believed to be pregnant when she came out of the house. After she exited the house, the Taliban fighters tried to rape her. Azizia resisted the rape and managed to scream. The Taliban fighters, however, chased her down the street and beat her with wooden sticks until she fainted. After the husband of the woman arrived and heard his wife screaming, he called the police who came to the scene, but could do nothing. There were reports that the police delayed for hours so they could save Azizia’s clothes for the Taliban.

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