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Friday, 2 November, 2001, 13:13 GMT
Fear and anger dominate Afghanistan
Taleban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef
The Taleban have dropped their previous prohibitions on human images
By BBC Eurasia analyst Steven Eke

As the US bombardments of Taleban positions continue, the propaganda battle is intensifying.

US planes have dropped leaflets on Afghanistan, showing the Taleban beating women in front of children.


America could solve this problem through some other ways rather than by bombing and fighting

Kabul resident
The Taleban have responded by dropping their previous prohibitions on human images to show civilian victims, predominantly children, of the air raids.

But listening to what ordinary Afghans have to say about the conflict, the battle for hearts and minds - the goal of the propaganda war - is still far from over.

The voices of ordinary Afghans are not one of the headline-grabbing elements of the conflict.

Neither the Americans' slick, hi-tech presentation of modern warfare, nor the feigned concern of the Taleban for Afghanistan's suffering women and children, confer the range of opinions ordinary Afghans express, when given the opportunity.

Emotional responses

The portrait of life painted by those voices looks like a patchwork of bewilderment, anger, fear and, despite the odds, hope.

"America could solve this problem through some other ways rather than by bombing and fighting," says one Kabul resident who deplores the US military strikes.

"The CIA may be using millions of dollars right now on strikes on Afghanistan, but why can they not kill Osama somewhere in Afghanistan....?

"Actually, America's purpose is not to kill Osama, their main purpose is to finish off the Taleban government."


(The Americans) should come down to the ground, then you will see who the real winner is!

Kabul resident
Another resident of Afghanistan's capital speaks with defiant national pride.

"If America really wants to have a war with the Afghans, it should not pour bombs on the Afghans from the air," he says, voice seething with rage. "They should come down to the ground, then you will see who the real winner is!"

But others express fear and hope, rather than anger. The Oui-Khanom hills, once famous for their archaeological ruins, are located on the front-line between the Taleban and the opposing Northern Alliance forces.

They are an important strategic prize. A farmer, an ethnic Uzbek, expresses the view that most of Afghanistan's people just have nowhere to hide, and no way of leaving their country:

"Of course we are afraid," he says. " Why shouldn't we be? We're very afraid. But where should we go, if no one's going to provide us with a safe place?

"As if somebody is going to give us bread or shelter. We can't go anywhere, this is our home.

"We pray to God that the Taleban won't come here. We are hoping to defeat them and then make them flee from here."

Abandonment fear

Others express the hope that Afghans will not be abandoned by the outside world.

"The world must take pity on the poor wretched people of Afghanistan," says one man. "Poor people who have nowhere to go, no food, no money, and are stuck in their homes. People have lost everything and they have no life and have not been able to work. What are they supposed to do?"

An attack on Afghanistan can cause these people to support the Taleban because they would feel that the whole integrity of Afghanistan as a country is coming under attack

Jalalabad resident

But there is also a stark warning of what might happen from a resident of Jalalabad.

He says that, whatever their beliefs or feelings about the Taleban, many Afghans will defend them as a gesture of defiance against those attacking their country:

"Many people are, of course, against the Taleban and what they have been doing, because of their policies," says the Jalalabad resident.

"An attack on Afghanistan can cause these people to support the Taleban because they would feel that the whole integrity of Afghanistan as a country is coming under attack."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andrew Webb
"They'll be no let up in the bombardment of Afghanistan"
See also:

01 Nov 01 | South Asia
Key commander 'escapes Taleban'
01 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Media war goes to Pakistan
28 Oct 01 | Media reports
Radio warns Afghans over food parcels
01 Nov 01 | Americas
Profile: B-52 bomber
02 Nov 01 | Americas
Congress tackles airport security
02 Nov 01 | South Asia
Taleban 'capture southern rebels'
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