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Let us talk about ‘War Zones’. We shall not be able to talk about all of them, but we can talk about few. There are two kinds: one between two countries or rival groups; the other between a usurper government and its people.
I had been to Sudan several times between 2003 and 2009. Khartoum was a peaceful place with lively people. It is a Muslim majority country, but the effect of African tradition is pronounced. Women in urban areas do not cover themselves with abayas or any such thing; hijab is common. Unmarried girls wore full length skirts with fitting shirts; married women wore the same but covered the dress with a loose shawl around. Sudanese are considered upright, and they got preferred place as accountants in Saudi Arabia. Educated men and women met freely and expressed their views forcefully. Pharmacists were many and had a strong position. Local Pharma industry was small, and the country depended heavily on imports.
The unrest in Sudan started in December 2018. The long-sitting President, Omar Al-Bashir, having ruled for 30 years, imposed certain emergency measures to stop falling into economic collapse. Cuts to bread and fuel subsidies sparked demonstration in the east and soon spread to the capital, Khartoum. Military took over because the civil unrest was continuing and increasing in force. Military took over on the pretext of restoring order, established a Transitional Military Council – TMC led by Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who said the transition period will last for maximum two years. Omar al-Bashir was himself a colonel when he toppled the government of Prime Minister Sadeq al-Mahdi in 1989 in a bloodless coup. The economy which was at the center of unrest is still in tatters. The notorious paramilitary Rapid Support Forces – Janjaweed has been accused of serious crimes against humanity while dealing with the protesters. Live rounds, loads of tear gas, killings, arrests, and indefinite imprisonments are order of the day in Sudan now.
Military Junta’s excesses and long-serving dictatorial rule in Myanmar (Burma) is continuing even after more than 30 years. Recent protests by civilians against toppling of the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi has been met by extremely severe and atrocious response by the military government. Myanmar was on my regular visit list and I always appreciated the soft manner of people.
Ethiopia is another beautiful country that I visited several times and have fond memories of. Ethiopia had a history of war with the neighboring Eritrea, but the capital Addis Ababa was peaceful. Economy was doing well, with currency – Birr at 8 Birr to a US dollar; it is now 49 Birr. There are few countries in Africa whose people can be recognized due to their soft, attractive features: Ethiopia is one, along with Somalia and Sudan. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed received Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for bringing peace to Ethiopia after a log time. However, it did not last long. Since November 2020, the conflict between Tigray region and Federal Government has displace hundreds of thousands of people, caused hundreds of casualties, and led to severe atrocities.
Yemen has a long history dating back to thousands of years. At one time, it was also a province of the kingdom of ‘Habsha’ – present day Ethiopia. Capital city Sana’a is on the World Heritage List of UNESCO. I have been there few times and always liked the warm, free spirit, the ubiquitous ‘Qat’ and great food. Yemen also had a long-serving dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh who was overthrown. The joy was very short-lived as the country fell into economic collapse. Immediately after, Houthi tribe rebelled and took over large parts of the country. Saudi Arabia, along with Arab Coalition forces, has been fighting war there. The country has been heavily bombed, which along with economic sanctions is causing a huge humanitarian crisis.
War is still going on in Iraq and Syria.
Armed conflicts are raging in large parts of Africa. The economies are in collapse and the people are living under extremely rough conditions, barely hanging on to life.
Close to hand, Afghanistan, is looking at an emerging humanitarian crisis.
How do we close a bloody year? A year so full of desperation, hunger, violence, abuse, loss of life and loss of livelihood.
How do we welcome the new year? Shall we have hope in our hearts and resolve in our minds to change the world?
گُزر گئ جو گُزرنی تھی سخت جانوں پر
پھر آج تیری جفاوں کا کیا شمار کریں
نگاِرِ گُل یہ تقاضا مگر وفا کا ہے
کہ پھر بھی ہم تیرے وعدوں پہ اعتبار کریں
جبیں سے دھو کے ہر اک نقش نا مرادی کا
نگارِ گُل تیرے جلووں کا انتظار کریں
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