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Afghan Response To War-Crimes Case

Meghan Walker

Five soldiers from Joint Base Lewis–McChord are facing criminal charges for the murders of three civilians during their service in Afghanistan. One soldier has already been court–martialed and now faces life in prison. The war–crimes case is getting mixed reactions from Afghans in Seattle. KUOW's Meghan Walker has the story.


Wali Khairzada owns the Kabul Afghan restaurant in Wallingford. He's been in the US for over 30 years. From time to time, soldiers from Joint Base Fort Lewis–McChord are brought to his restaurant. It's part of a cultural lesson before they're deployed to Afghanistan. Khairzada is baffled that soldiers like these could be accused of killing civilians.

Khairzada: "Why is this happening? I know it's not the policy. I've met a whole lot of young people who are going from, being deployed from, Fort Lewis–McChord. And actually, before they get deployed they bring them here to taste the Afghan food. And I talk to them, and I have good conversation with them. They are wonderful people. They are like my kids, your brother and sister. I mean what happens to them, why they do things like this? It's beyond me."

Khairzada has always supported the US occupation in his home country.

Walker: "Do you think this case affects how you view US presence in Afghanistan?"

Khairzada: "No, no it would not change my mind. This is just one incident, it happens. I don't think that's a policy. It's just a few people, maybe they have altered mind, or whatever. It happens, it happens in our societies — 38,000 people killed each other in America last year."

While Khairzada thinks the US presence in Afghanistan is necessary, younger Afghans in Seattle aren't so sure. A group of Afghan students at the University of Washington are raising money to send back to charities in Afghanistan. Dawood Ayub is one of those students. He left Afghanistan when he was four. He and his sister were refugees in Pakistan for a few years, before moving to Seattle. Ayub began to follow the war–crimes case when the gruesome details emerged.

Ayub: "Personally, I was disgusted. Because we're out there on a mission to help the locals by getting rid of the bad guys. And to hear a sad story such as this, where it's actually the locals that are being victimized, it was a bad feeling."

Ayub supported the US presence in Afghanistan when the war began.

Walker: "In response to the war crimes case in Afghanistan, does that affect your feelings about the US being there?"

Ayub: "It does change it, where, you know, if the war crimes didn't happen, obviously, that is the price of war. I mean, it kind of goes hand in hand. Having these war crimes happen now is better than having the Taliban there in the long term, where they continue to suppress women and they continue to kill and recruit young boys and what not. So this is the part of the struggle that you know, we just have to get over the hump and just move on."

Zohal Sarwary is also a UW student. She left Afghanistan for Pakistan when she was ten.

Sarwary: "It took us I think a week. So we went through the deserts, and we went to some random people's houses to stay to be secured and stuff. And I had a big family and most of us were girls, so it was really hard for us to move. When we were in Pakistan we didn't really know anybody, so we got treated really badly by the Pakistanis. So it was just hard because we couldn't find jobs and we had a big family, it was just really hard."

Sarwary and Ayub both question the US presence in their home country. Ayub is worried about what would happen if the US left. But Sarwary thinks the US should leave and the Taliban should be forced out.

Ayub: "If the US stays there, there will be more casualties. If we pull out, then the whole Afghan government and Taliban — who knows what they'll do. So, it's a big mess.

Sarwary: "I feel the same way. Because I was there till I was ten, so the Taliban are the worst thing I've ever seen. So I just want them out. I just want the people of Afghanistan to rule their own country. So I'm not for the US or for the Taliban. I just want both of them out, and for the people to have a civilized country again."

Alice Noman, another UW student, has never been to Afghanistan. But her whole family is Afghan, so she follows the occupation closely.

Noman: "I'm not pro–war at all, really. I mean I'm not anti–occupation, though, because the Afghan people aren't really in a state to help themselves right now. So, I think if the US put all their resources into educating all the children in the country and stabilizing the country by building, building schools and building hospitals, then eventually the people would be strong enough to help themselves."

The Afghan students at the University of Washington hope the money they raise will go to build orphanages and schools in Afghanistan.

For KUOW News, I'm Meghan Walker.

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