On October 24th, 2012, one day before Eid, Momina Bibi is gathering okra with her two grandchildren, Zubair and Nabila in Waziristan. The family sings old songs in Pashto and glances up at the blue sky. Momina is called “the string that holds the pearl together”, the glue of her family. As the children help their grandmother, they hear the low buzzing of a drone. The ground shakes beneath them. The air smells poisonous. Momina Bibi is ripped to shreds, her arms and legs blown off, her death witnessed by Nabila and Rehman.
The children come before Congress to tell their story. Five congressmen show up. Rehman states he prefers grey skies, because then the drones don’t fly. The world turns its cheek. This is the world, high on 9/11.
On a spring day in 2012, I exit the freeway. I spot a homeless veteran, his sign stating he served in my motherland. I open my window and hand him an apple and $2. I tell him I am Afghan. He tells me he is sorry. I ask, “for what?”. He tells me, “for ruining your country”. His eyes tell me he has been to Hell before. He is one of over 108,000 homeless veterans. This is the world, high on 9/11.
On the morning of March 4, 2015, a bright, snow-lit morning in Dallas, TX, Ahmed Al-Jumaili steps outside. A newlywed, he has escaped the war in Iraq and is savoring his new life in America. The 36-year-old, who had immigrated to the United States 20 days earlier, joined his brother and wife taking pictures in the parking lot of a Dallas apartment complex amid the snow. In the middle of the white snowfall, Al-Jumaili was shot by a rifle, targetted for his race. I imagine the red against the white; blood mixing in with the icy ground. A few hours later, Al-Jumaili is dead. This is the world high on 9/11.
Operation Enduring Freedom does nothing but endure.
This is the day the people of Iraq and Afghanistan were served a death sentence. The day that 3,000 American lives were sacrificed, so that the superpowers of the world could begin a business, profiting off the lives of poor and minority U.S. soldiers.
In this brave new world, drones spread democracy, and fires start freedom. In this world, toddlers are called terrorists for throwing stones, and racist snipers are called heroes.
The figures are staggering. 27,000 in Afghanistan, 22,000 in Pakistan, 1 million in Iraq. 762 Muslim-American men taken, most of them never to return, taken to secret prisons or deported. Whats even more staggering is these figures are under-reported and could be inaccurate. Millions displaced, millions injured. Infrastructures left completely in shambles. War crimes. U.S. soldiers raping and maiming prisoners. Coercion. Torture. Unlawful detainment. Abu Ghraib.
The place where people look like me is called the Drone Capital of the World. Children are afraid to play outside. Like a machine, this war took an entire generation of babies and churned out bodies without souls.
This war pit brother against brother. Half of the Afghan heart is in Pakistan, where our own Pashtuns pledge allegiance to the ISI and completely disregard their Afghan roots – divide and conquer.
This war pit the cross against the crescent. For thousands of years, Muslims and Christians co-existed, albeit with tension, but nothing on the scale of what ISIS has executed.
Our youth. Our American youth. 7,000 lives taken. The colonizing superpower stripped all the rights of black and brown minorities, and then sent them off to kill and be killed. The potential. What our boys and girls could have become, instead of sitting at edges of freeways, begging for coins, OD-ing under bridges, living without limbs.
My people are dehumanized. They are not worthy of love, of sympathy. Muslims are not worthy of a nod. Our identities are mandated to us, not by us. And those who look like us share the same fate: the gudhwaras shot up, the synagogues desecrated. Don’t get caught looking like us, you too might end up the victim of a hate crime. Anti-Muslim hate crimes are still five times more common today than before 9/11.
I came of age in the rubble of those towers. I learned how to defend myself, learned how to laugh it off, learned how to inform instead of cry. I learned that no matter what I did or do, I’ll be different. I learned to make peace with that.
As another year passes by, as we commemorate the immense loss of life once more, I find myself apathetic and numb. I tried my best to post this blog yesterday, but in my heart of hearts, I don’t think I have much left to say.
How much longer can this operation endure. How many more prisons? How many more interrogations? Hate crimes? Funerals? 14 years of lies, deceit, of creating links where there were none, of profiling those who were innocent, of raping women in front of their husbands, of maiming children for play.
14 years, of a world high on 9/11. How many more bodies must hit the floor?