On May 20th and 21st, Chicago hosted the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for its summit on the future of Afghanistan. Absent from the official proceedings of course were the popular, dissenting Afghan and American voices. As usual, such voices were to be found in the city streets, as thousands of people marched in protest against the war, the summit and NATO.
This particular march though was not a regular demonstration against an American war. For the march was led by three young women – all of them in their 20s – from yet another country that is supposedly being liberated by the United States. For the march concluded with a reconciliation ceremony: Veteran US soldiers from both the Iraq and Afghan wars, after pronouncing their words of regret and apology, lanced their war medals onto the streets. In the eyes of these men and women, the medals were a sign of shame rather than a symbol of bravery; therefore, the appropriate manner to dispose them was to throw them away with all their emotional and physical strength. Then, the war veterans kneeled down in front of the three women to say sorry for what the United State has done to their people and their native country. At least, as far as the opposition to the Afghan war is concerned, which is the longest war in American history; there is no parallel example of humility and courage to be found.
The three women – Suraia Sahar, Saba Maher and Samira Rahman – belong to Afghans For Peace. They were invited by Iraq Veterans Against War to take part, help organize and lead the march, to give their speeches at the rally, and to be present at the justice and reconciliation ceremony. The march and the ceremony were significant in two respects: First, it makes a complete mockery of the image that the West presents of Muslim and Afghan women. Secondly, although not secondary in its importance, it was a moment of testimony by a number of former American soldiers that the war is a lie and that they are not the liberators of Afghan people but, in fact, they are – or were – their oppressors. Equally, the entire process – from the march to the ceremony – underlined the importance of the need for Americans to follow the lead of Afghans, especially Afghan women, as Afghan and American public confront the occupation of Afghanistan. Afghans have got everything to teach to the Americans concerning the war, resistance and the struggle for liberation. This is one critical dimension which often lacks in solidarity and anti-war movements. Gladly, however, nothing of this sort was missing on the day.