The British Iraq and Afghanistan war memorial celebrates those who destroyed my country

It plays into the idea of white soldiers saving Afghan and Iraqi civilians, when all they've done is cause countless casualties and deaths

Sarah Sahim
Monday 13 March 2017 12:54
The Queen unveils a new memorial in London for those who served in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan
The Queen unveils a new memorial in London for those who served in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan

A ceremony unveiling a monument dedicated to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was unveiled by the Queen a few days ago. She paid tribute to the military who supposedly helped to bring "peace and stability" to the two war-torn countries. On one side of the memorial, several British soldiers are lined up, their faces determined and brave, while on the other side, we see an etching of generic brown women, children and men—an obvious afterthought— receiving boxes with the Union Jack from soldiers with joy.

As a woman of Afghan descent born in Britain, I feel little joy about the UK’s campaigns in the Middle East, in particular Afghanistan and Isis-occupied Iraq. Afghanistan is the invisible war: a plague that was born out of western-funded mujahedeen fighting against Soviet Russia, smothered with a reluctance to accept any blame. Where exactly is the joy and the liberation in that?

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In attendance at the unveiling of the monument were former Prime Ministers Sir John Major, David Cameron, and, crucially, Tony Blair, whose misguided decisions led to thousands of deaths for rewards yet to manifest. Throughout my life, I have been followed by the idea that my people are terrorists as Islamophobia was unleashed in the West during these wars.

I’m truly saddened that as a nation, Afghanistan has seen turmoil at the hands of the West for the last 30 to 40 years. Now this memorial only serves to celebrate the individuals who, to my mind, destroyed a beautiful country with a rich, illustrious history.

What's perhaps the most offensive about these images are that they nakedly represent propaganda. In reality, Afghan and Iraqi people have been the sole perpetrators of keeping up Afghan spirits. It's thanks to Afghan revolutionaries like Roya Mahboob, who founded Digital Citizens Fund, a series of tech colleges for women and girls to help boost entrepreneurship. Or Laila Haidari, whose drug rehabilitation centres, Mother Camp, aim to curb the horrors of opioid addiction.

In Iraq, Women's Defence Units are fighting Isis and Zekra Alwach was voted into office as Baghdad’s first female mayor. Afghans and Iraqis have no ulterior motive when helping their own, whereas westerners all too often do so for power, wealth, and control over resources.

As a piece of British history, the memorial plays into the idea of white soldiers "saving" Afghan and Iraqi civilians, when all they've done is cause countless casualties and deaths, ruining the respective countries to add to the British government’s hefty list of invasions. Where is this "freedom" we and the people of the respective countries were promised? Is it Isis occupying Iraq? The increase of Islamophobic attacks worldwide? Or is it the likelihood that anyone who "looks" Muslim will be heavily searched an airport?

It feels like this memorial serves as a justification for the actions taken by Blair and his peers. War prevails because Britain prevails as a result. It was Thatcher’s victory in the Falkland Islands that gave her popularity a much needed boost, after all. But unlike the Falklands, these wars have been the longest in British history, which only goes to show that these pursuits have simply been a failure.

Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan has anything to show for it. Weapons of mass destruction turned out to be little more than a myth and Osama bin Laden wasn’t even found in Afghanistan. So, what is it we're celebrating with the memorial besides poor judgment from white people and the genocide of brown people? British imperialism and the pursuit of power.

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