Hamid Karzai has been the leader of Afghanistan since the Bonn Conference, which took place shortly after the expulsion of the Taliban in 2001. This means that President Karzai has been in office for eight years with another four yet to be served. With all that time under his belt, shouldn’t we have seen some accomplishments? His speeches, full of promises, are merely black lines on paper; he has not brought us peace, nor prosperity, nor the hope for a better future.
The Afghan people had high hopes for Mr. Karzai. Few had heard of him before 2001 and he was an unexpected choice for the transitional authority. He was perceived to be a down-to-earth leader to whom most Afghans could relate and we were comforted by his close family ties to King Zahir Shah. In the beginning, we believed in him but he has failed to meet many basic, yet crucial expectations.
The Afghan people, like people everywhere, want ordinary lives. We want running water. We want electricity. We want hospitals that are staffed and operational especially in rural areas. It is shameful that in this day and age the wealthy can get cancer treatments while the poor die of malaria. We want everyone to be able to eat at least two meals a day. We want our children to stop laboring in fields and go to school. We want women to cease being the targets of violence. We want women to have equal rights and engage in public life. We want a government that functions.
Karzai is our first and only experience with democracy and our country continues to deteriorate. Many of our leaders are unqualified and lack formal education. Yet we find them, working with the powerful people in our country and getting wealthy from bribes. I am sorry to say this, but the worst affronts on our liberty have happened under our new, western-backed government. This isn’t democracy; this is a joke. For all the money that the western world spends on aid, little, if any of it, is reaching the people who need it most.
We have waited so long for the light of democracy to reach us. We are still waiting. Our country and our people have been washed in war and we are weary of pointing out corruption, greed and inefficiency. I do not know what it would be like to sit in an air-conditioned office wearing an expensive tailored suit with an array of exotic foods before me, but I do know what it’s like to live in a remote village with no electricity, no safe drinking water and very little to eat.
My government does not notice me, or those like me. I want someone to ask where the millions of dollars in foreign aid are going. Who is eating the hopes and dreams of the poor? As I read back over this, I think to myself, “the battle for Afghan hearts and minds has been lost.”
— edited by Bethany Niebauer