Devastated - does not serve to express the way I feel at this moment. But it will have to suffice, as I am too full of shock, horror and anger – yes – anger, to think of another word and my feelings are nothing as compared to those of the family who have just, a few hours ago as I write this, lost a son…….shot down, murdered, by ‘foreign soldiers’ in Afghanistan. I am further angered that, as a result of unexpected ‘pressure’, I had to withdraw the original column I wrote on this subject, as both the family and myself have been threatened with ‘reprisals’ if identifiable details appear in print. This, reader is the filthy, truth-hiding, world we live in right here and right now. Not one to be silenced, I will, therefore, tell you the truth as best I can:

Today is Friday and Kabul was locked down under a red alert: The burning of the Holy Quran and other religious texts by arrogantly ignorant American servicemen at Bagram Airbase outside Kabul has already been globally publicised and reacted to across Afghanistan. This totally unwarranted and unforgivable desecration, an intentional one if some reports and word on the street are correct, of Islam’s holiest book was bound to provoke an outrage although, so far, the protests have not exploded into the bloodbath of hatred that was expected to happen. When news of this horrendous act first hit the streets, it was accompanied by fingers aimed straight at American jugulars for inciting riots, which could then be turned to American advantage, in that they had created an opportunity to prevent peace, in any shape or form, from becoming a reality as, with the assistance of ‘paid for’ armed infiltrators, the plan, it was said, being to entice the masses into a violence so horrific that troops would have to move in and clamp down. If this had happened, hopefully it has not done so by the time this column comes to print, then, or so the story goes, the American forces of occupation, along with their associated cronies, would have been in the perfect position to insist on staying right where they are instead of abandoning ship, rat by rat, as they are scheduled to do by 2014. By creating a reason to stay put, they would be asserting their hold over an already shattered country lying, as it so undeniably does, at the strategic centre of a resource rich region just waiting to be exploited if not downright raped.

Angry protests erupted immediately as the news of this flagrant insult to the entire Muslim world surfaced and, as both expected and predicted, armed infiltrators urged the protestors on. Yet, for reasons currently unknown, the protestors largely stuck to throwing stones, burning tyres, smashing things and slogan chanting with Bagram bearing the brunt of it, closely followed by Kabul and always ready to erupt Jalalabad where the Taliban elements tend to congregate. A number of fatalities and a much larger number of injuries were reported across the country, but the possibly ‘planned’ open revolt failed to ignite, the latter a blessing for the Afghan people who have already suffered endlessly through over 30 years or warfare and civil strife and who, on reflection, are so sick to the core of death and destruction that they may have refused to rise to the proffered bait.

Rightly or wrongly and be this as it may: An unemployed man, somewhere in Afghanistan, has been ill for some time: His debilitating chest complaint exacerbated by the severest winter to hit the region for at least 20 years. On Friday morning, he developed a high temperature and his second eldest son, a clever young man of 20 years, set out through the almost deserted streets, to purchase necessary medicines from the bazaar. He walked, completely alone, carrying nothing in his hands towards his destination, rounded a corner and…….according to reports, was shot dead by, again according to reports, ‘foreign soldiers’ on patrol. His only crime being that he was an Afghan.

Irrespective of the nationalities of either the victim or his murderer/s, the shocking fact of the matter is that yet another innocent civilian has just paid the price for a war that is not of their making and, horrifying as the truth so often is, such criminal acts are being perpetrated in every single country around the world where warfare/internal strife are the order of the day and the number of countries where this scenario currently applies appears to be increasing rapidly.

Warfare, in whatever guise, is always instigated by a handful of self-serving people/governments/corporations greedy for yet more power and profit and, also as always, it is the so-called ‘masses’, who pay the price: Being used, as they are, as ‘cannon fodder’, getting caught in the crossfire, or, as in the shocking incident described above, innocently going about their daily struggle to survive. It is also the ‘masses’, those without the wherewithal to pack up and run at the first whisper of hostilities, who lose everything they own, if they manage to hang on to their lives of course, including the roofs over their heads if they were lucky enough to have such a thing in the first place, who end up displaced, homeless, suffer abominably in seeking safety, endure the rigours of harsh conditions in refugee camps and are forced into living hells for the sake of the aforementioned greed. It is, don’t forget, also these self-same ‘masses’, who desire peace on earth and goodwill between all men and, vastly outnumbering their ‘overlords’ as they do, it is inevitable that, one day, when they have been pushed as far as they can conceivably go, they will unite and they will - eventually and not before time - win peace for all!

The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban.