Spozhmay (alleged child “suicide” bomber) and Barq (alleged child drone “spy”)
Last week the Daily Mail ran a story about a child being recruited as a “suicide bomber” entitled “eight year old captured as she attempted to detonate suicide vest outside a police station in Afghanistan.” Most mainstream media produced their version of events. The girl, Spozhmay, claimed her brother allegedly a Taliban commander has sent her on this mission and many feared for her wellbeing http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2534657/Ten-year-old-girl-captured-attempted-detonate-suicide-vest-outside-police-station-Afghanistan.html
Some media Guardian for one, chose not to go further with allegations stating lack of evidence that Taliban were involved. The images of a confused and vulnerable child do indeed shock. However I am always wary of jumping to conclusions with such stories as to who might be responsible though believe every case should be independently investigated for the safety and welfare of the child and society.
Over the last couple of years I have noted several stories of alleged mass “poisoning” of schoolchildren in Afghanistan, some automatically attributed to the Taliban though they vehemently denied responsibility. I talked to friends on the ground who were also cautious, it later turned out that these incidents were likely caused by gas and water poisoning that could have been related to general health and safety issues not necessarily deliberate intent to harm http://rt.com/news/afghanistan-girls-school-poisoned-139/
There have been other mass “poisonings” of schoolchildren in Asia due to contaminated food, substandard vitamins and even taking supplements given at school incorrectly causing agitation on an empty stomach.
Here is the full denial from the Taliban with regard to the Spozmay case:-
The capture of a ten year old girl in Helman on charges of suicide bombing is plot to defame the Mujahideen
On Monday some media outlets claimed that the forces of Karzai’s regime had apprehended a ten year old girl attempting to carry out a suicide bombing. This is not the first time that the officials of Karzai’s regime, faced with imminent defeat, have contrived such absurd accusations with the purpose of defaming the Islamic Emirate. Sometimes they spread false rumours that the Taliban have hanged a seven year old child, sometimes they claim that Taliban have sexually abused children, while at other times they claim that the Islamic Emirate recruits children to carry out attacks and bombings against their regime. The arrest of the ten year old girl, named Spogmy, is also part of the Karzai’s intelligence official’s fabrications aimed at defaming the Islamic Emirate. In truth these preposterous accusations have no reality.
Under the principles of Islamic law, young children are exempt from carrying out the responsibilities of Islam. The Islamic Emirate, in adhering to this principle, also does not allow such children to take part in armed conflict. The truth is that the fronts of the Mujahideen against the illegitimate regime of Karzai are full of the brave youth of Afghanistan and the Islamic Emirate has no need to recruit children for this task.
In the same manner that the Islamic Emirate considers the recruitment of children for armed conflict as contrary to the laws of war, similarly it also considers the use of children for propaganda purposes to be against all principles of morality and human dignity. In this light the Islamic Emirate strongly condemns the intelligence agents of Karzai’s regime for taking advantage of children and using their innocence in order to defame the Mujahideen.
The claim that the ten year old girl from Helmand was recruited by her brother, with the agreement of her parents, to become a suicide bomber is a complete fabrication and has no reality at all. When news of this accusation spread the Islamic Emirate requested the local Islamic Emirate authorities in Helmand to conduct an investigation into the incident. After conducting a thorough investigation our local authorities informed us that this incident has no reality. Moreover they informed us that in the entire province of Helmand there is no Taliban commander by the name of Zahir. They confirmed that the Islamic Emirate in Helmand has never allowed anyone to recruit children for the purposes of carrying out attacks. Even the Karzai regime’s officials in Helmand have stated to the media that there are severe inconsistencies in the girl’s account. They are still investigating the specifics of this incident.
Qari Muhammad Yusuf Ahmadzai
Spokesperson of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
There is often online censorship on insurgents for alleged “propaganda” and instigating violence yet we do not see the same level of censorship for governments that churn out false information on Afghanistan and drone civilians. Double standards are rife. Insurgent sites are often taken down while governments that destroy families at a wedding party in Yemen can tweet freely. We must consider propaganda aspects on all sides… in whose interests might it be to lay blame for incidents such as the girl suicide bomber at the door of the Taliban? It is a crucial time with withdrawal of troops, security agreements on and off the table, efforts being made for dialogue and fear of instability post 2014.
There is too much polarization within the media where stories that suit a western dominant narrative that Afghanistan is a “success story” and “mission accomplished” are widely published giving a false picture of occupation in Afghanistan as I argued in an earlier article. Take the narrative, “US and British soldiers are saving Afghanistan’s women from the brutal Taliban”… since occupation, reports show that violence against women has in fact increased and is more brutal. Again we hear about Taliban brutality towards females almost daily in western press but the horrors of night raids by occupying forces and women being shot rarely make the media.
The Daily Mail also wrote in the their article on Spozhmay that, “in July it emerged that Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan are bribing starving children as young as eight years old to plant deadly roadside booby traps, be decoys in ambushes and even act as suicide bombers.” Again all incidents must be thoroughly checked out. I found it interesting though that a lot less media attention was given to an allegation that the US had used an eight year old boy Barq al-Kulyabi (via a local male contact) as a “spy” to plant a drone chip to target and kill Sheikh Adnan Al Qadhy and Aheikh Abu Ridhwan, in Yemen. In fact I believe I was the first to pick up and write on this story on 22nd April 2013 http://blog.approximatetargetfilm.com/yemen-video-released-claiming-child-used-to-plant-chips-to-guide-in-us-drone/
The reluctance from mainstream media was perhaps due to the fact that the allegations came from insurgents through a video they had released. The Daily Mail did not in fact cover this story until the 18th August, 2013 and then only after an independent journalist had attempted to claim an “exclusive” on this shocking allegation, 5 MONTHS after my original piece appeared online http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2395202/US-used-8-yr-old-boy-plant-chip-surrogate-father-kill-drone-strike.html
Whose “truth” and whose “propaganda”? We must indeed question all we read…
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.