By Paiman Arman*
Following the deadly earthquake that shook Herat on October 7 and killed more than 2,400 people, a new earthquake followed by two aftershocks hit the region on Wednesday, October 11, according to the UN’s ReliefWeb. According to local authorities, the early morning earthquake on Wednesday left at least one dead and 153 injured. Despite the staggering number of victims and widespread devastation, Taliban leaders have done little to respond to the needs of the survivors. Indeed, their strict rules and regulations have caused even more severe problems for the people of the region.
Terms like “natural disaster,” “wrath of nature,” and “rebellion of nature” are usually used for events such as floods, earthquakes, landslides, etc. These terms are both rooted in reality and are also misleading as they absolve authorities of their responsibility. They are based in reality because they are natural, resulting from interactions between forces and elements in nature, with no direct human will involved. They are misleading because people use those same terms to escape their responsibility for managing, and improving their environment, especially areas prone to such natural and devastating disasters.
The truth is that humanity owes its growth and advancement to nature. The conquering will of humans has tried to learn from such natural forces, control them, and utilize them. While nature has always possessed the ability to destroy, when managed correctly, these same forces can be life-sustaining and civilizing. The more humans have gained control over nature and its forces, the more they have enjoyed growth, development, and well-being.
By understanding the rules, reasons, and causes of natural events such as floods, landslides, earthquakes, tornadoes, and storms, , humans can recognize, predict, manage, and improve outcomes. Different societies’ interactions with these forces vary significantly in scientific and technical terms, depending on their growth and development. Often, countries where natural phenomena cause the most damage to society and people are the furthest away from scientifically developed and wisdom-based societies. For this reason, natural disasters in Afghanistan appear ruthlessly, deadly, and overpowering. Yet,many of these disasters are predictable and manageable. The problem is that we have neither a level of specialized capability necessary to understand the nature of our natural environment nor do we possess the necessary managerial skills and support capacities to properly manage the aftermath and compensate for the damages inflicted upon the people.
Now, the backward, insular and incompetent administration of Taliban officials adds to the devastation and damages of disasters like the Herat earthquake. ays after this disaster, reports indicate that Taliban officials have not taken action to address the short-term and long-term needs of the victims and survivors. Compounding that lack of action is the fact that the Taliban’s misogynistic policies contributed to the massive death toll, as they mandated that women stay at home, where they died in their collapsed homes. As a result, more than 90 percent of the earthquake victims have been identified as women and children, according to a UNICEF report.
The ability of modern humans to succeed stems from their knowledge. Knowledge and expertise lead to developed and progressive societies. Peace and prosperity are attainable, and a life of welfare and privilege isn’t just given; it can be achieved.
While these disasters are natural, their recurrence is also natural. More important is how we perceive these phenomena, what we learn from them, what conclusions and lessons they hold for us, and how much we have accumulated from all this to manage our current environmental affairs better. How can one interact with and influence nature in a way that elevates its life-giving beauty and capabilities and allows humans to find peace and stability within it?
Instead of attributing these deadly phenomena to nature alone, we need to step forward, accept our responsibility toward the victims, and do our moral and humanitarian duties. While there is no legitimate and efficient government in Afghanistan, each of us is responsible for providing extensive and accurate information, as well as addressing the people’s situation and needs. Rebuilding the ruins and compensating for the damages inflicted upon the people in these regions are the responsibilities of a legitimate, responsible, and efficient government and its subordinate institutions. Unfortunately, as we live in a stateless situation, our own personal responsibilities have doubled. It is during such times that a country’s human values and the societal capabilities of its people are revealed.
We know more natural disasters will hit Afghanistan. Until we get a legitimate and efficient government, it is our responsibility to do what we can to mitigate their impact.
*Paiman Arman is a pseudonym for a writer and human rights activist in Afghanistan.