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Gandhara

'The Lion': Reactions To Bin Laden's Death Mixed In Afghanistan

People shout anti Osama Bin Laden slogans during an opposition rally in Kabul on May 5
People shout anti Osama Bin Laden slogans during an opposition rally in Kabul on May 5
Even though Afghans didn't take to the streets to protest the killing of Osama Bin Laden by U.S. forces last week, the mention of his name still carries a lingering sense of respect, even admiration, in some parts of the country.

Many are grateful for his role in repelling Soviet forces during the 1979-80 war, which pitted the mujahedin, or holy warriors, against the Soviet Union. Bin Laden, who as a child inherited a large sum (reports range from $30-300 million), used his resources to supply heavy weaponry and set up training centers for the Afghan mujahedin. Many around the country believe the Soviet forces would not have been defeated without his assistance.

Today, at least two generations of Afghans are sure to remember his name: the veterans of the 1979-1989 war and the survivors of the Taliban 1996-2001 regime, which idolized figures like bin Laden.

Still others credit bin Laden -- and by association, the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 -- for making the country a new global priority. Before 9/11, the world saw Afghanistan as something of a backwater, a country torn apart by years of bloody civil war and mired in poverty. All of a sudden, after 9/11, everyone cared about what was happening in Afghanistan.

In 2004, I returned to my village, Khanai. There I met with girls of my age who couldn’t read or write but were talented enough to create songs and express their thoughts in poetry.

I remember listening to poems that portrayed bin Laden as a lion, fighting fearlessly against the Afghan National Army, forces referred to as "rats" in the poem. The verses both shocked and saddened me.
Ghazni Province


My village is located in Afghanistan's mountainous south-west, in Ghazni Province. A road still doesn't connect it to the rest of the world, and women still serve time for crimes their men commit. Its residents are still waiting for a hospital to be built. Moonlight nights are still reserved for family gatherings. People still don’t have electricity, and donkeys make for transportation. It's a place of simplicity, locked in the past.

Victims of extremism and terror, the young girls living there were almost aliens to the developed world. They had little understanding of their rights as human beings. In a way, by praising bin Laden they were making a statement about just how little the Afghan government had won their love and support.

From the 1996 rise of the Taliban until today, many poems about bin Laden have been memorized by these illiterate girls in small villages. Now that they have joined the canon of Afghan poetry -- an art form that remains integral to modern-day Afghan society -- it will probably take years to erase his name from popular culture.

Afghans, it is said, do not forget their friends or their enemies. Depending on your ask, Bin Laden is both.

-- Farishte Jalalzai
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Munirudeen Thabit from: Nigeria
May 09, 2011 16:55
Bin Ladeen was great to all standard, America did not allow fair justice in his case.They are the accusers, judge and excutors.
If he was allowed his side of the case could have been heard

by: Aziz from: Kabul
May 10, 2011 03:50
This is not true, Ghazni province does not represent all Afghanistan. I am from Parwan, and people in Parwan celebrated Osama's death, Osama/Alqaeda/Taliban killed Ahmad Shah Masod, Abdurahman Saidkhili, our 3 star General and ruined our homes, cut our trees, and killed our people. Osama deserved his fate. He should pay for what he did in hell.

by: Helena Malikyar from: Afghanistan
May 10, 2011 14:04
I think the author's main point is not that Afghans idolize Bin Laden, and by extension, terrorism, but rather that ten years after the establishment of the Karzai government and a much advertised international engagement in reconstructing the war-ravaged country, Afghans are still living without security, basic services and economic opportunities. Had there been genuine efforts to establish the rule of law and good governance in Afghanistan, I seriously doubt that little Afghan girls, from Ghazni, Parwan, Helmand or Mazar, would sing praises of those who have caused their miseries.

by: Zabiullah Khan from: Paktiy Gardez Afghanistan
May 12, 2011 07:47
We Afghan Love Usama Bin Laden and Inshallah our Brother Kill More American Troops here.
Jihad is Continue till day of Judgement.
We love our Freedom Fighters and we hate Karzai and other puppet or Slave Goverments.
wsalam.

About Gandhara

Gandhara is a blog dedicated to Afghanistan and Pakistan written by RFE/RL journalists from Radio Mashaal (Pakistan), Radio Azadi (Afghanistan), our Central Newsroom, and other services. Here, our people on the ground will provide context, analysis, and some opinions on news from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Send comments or questions to gandhara [at] rferl.org.