First Published 4/10/2012
“Welcome to Waziristan” are words I am hearing a lot these days. I feel overwhelmed by messages of support from ordinary people in the Tribal Areas that want to show that they are happy to receive people of different faiths and cultures that carry a message of peace… My Facebook inbox frequently contains the words “welcome on our peace march” as I prepare to join drone victims, anti -war campaigners, Tribal Elders, politicians and human rights activists on the march into Waziristan http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2012/09/05/news/national/pti-to-embark-on-peace-march-to-waziristan-on-october-7/
I feel the warmth and love from those that have suffered so much and simply want to live without conflict, without the fear of drones in their skies, without having to be uprooted and added to the growing list of Internally Displaced Persons, IDP’s.
Among the messages I receive from Muslims regarding any concerns of safety travelling to film “The Approximate Target” are examples from the Quran reassuring me of the tolerance of Islam to other faiths.
I am also told about the Charter of Rights (628AD) given to St Catherine at the foot of Mount Sinai, Egypt, Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) Promise to Christians which I wish to share and I wonder why we so rarely hear examples of messages of peace in the press…
The Promise to St. Catherine:
“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.
Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by God! I hold out against anything that displeases them.
No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.
Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.
No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.
No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”
We are manipulated to believe that every Tribal Area resident is a terrorist, that all Christians are hated. This is not my experience and I will not judge by the words of others. Who is my enemy, who is my friend? No one else can dictate that to me… All I know is that yesterday I ate with a former military person (now retired) who had worked with Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Pakistan and helped me understand how drones are guided to their targets. He wanted me to highlight the suffering of those in the Tribal Areas hit by drone strikes. Today I received a message from another contact asking if I had any questions I wished to relay to a Taliban Commander, neither person was expressing hatred or anger towards me.
An hour ago I noted these words on a Facebook page, poignant and often true… “you have some sort of beard, wear your trousers above your ankles, pray five times a day, fast and stick to your fundamental values of Islam and believe that an occupying force should be resisted, you are a terrorist. No doubt about it.”
I will travel to the region with my colleague, film director Yacine Helali to visit Waziristan and see for myself. We are independent film makers (working on a shoestring budget at present) and will document our journey back to our sound recordist Steve Lee, tweet and send regular updates to family and followers, friends and foe… We launch our film website today thanks to the hard work of our web designer Mike Myshko.
I heard today of a Christian community in Waziristan where it is not the Taliban that are feared, there are more routine and frustrating matters to attend to. So why is it to some that the Taliban are feared and to others part of daily life. President of the Al-Khidmath Christian Welfare Society Wana, Jehanzeb Masih told The Express Tribune: “The local Taliban take our complaints seriously and address them but the local political administration is a big hurdle in our progress. Political Administration officials are denying us our basic civil and political rights. Christian boys and girls cannot get education after Matriculation because a domicile is required for admission. We appealed time and again, but the local political administration won’t give us domiciles” http://tribune.com.pk/story/431590/interfaith-harmony-waziristans-lesser-known-tale/
As I am writing this I hear breaking news from the BBC, that Hilary Clinton has signed a report stating that the “Haqqani network”, (militant group based in Pakistan) are to be designated as a terror organisation http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-19521773 This is predictable from the US that appears to be wanting to fuel a full scale civil war. I don’t see the American government making any effort to support the peace march.
I wonder… is there an official procedure for designating the US government as a terrorist network? After all what can be more terrorising than the constant fear families have to face in Waziristan of their homes and schools being hit in a drone strike… Why is the killing of these children not viewed as a terrorist act. I know with a sickening feeling that if the faces of these children were white, it would be an entirely different matter!
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”.