miércoles, 30 de enero de 2008

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Defeated by his Success

When in the first half of 1979 Carter’s hawkish former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski designed the Afghan trap to the Soviets, he never dreamed with a further URSS collapse. He only wished to engage the soviet army in a kind of Viet Nam, meanwhile USA was going ahead in the gulf. That trap was code named "Operation Cyclone".

So, six months before Soviets decided to invade Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arab and the CIA had begun to train mujahideen in neighbor Zia ul-Haq’s Pakistan. As much as the mujahideen are not so prone to have any deal with the "Big Satan", the Stingers, bucks and ammo were funneled to Gulbuddin Hekmayar through the ISI, the Pakistani Secret Services.(1),(2),(4)

The guy who provided the funds to the Robert M. Gates CIA's (from dec/18/2006 US Secretary of Defense) was drawn from the buckle of the Bible Belt, the D-TX Charlie Wilson, a beloved friend of the nicaraguan dictator "Tacho" Somoza, whilst the CIA put Gust Avrakotos(5) in the Pakistani side to distribute ammo and bucks.

Those mujahideen were mainly recruited from the Pashto tribes dwelling in the FATA (Federally Administred Tribal Areas) Pakistan's NW Frontier, but a minority of Arab mujahideen were trained so, in a group called Maktab al-Khadamat (MAK). And guess you who was between them? If you thought about Osama, yes, you’re right.

When the mujahideen that the CIA had trained began to fight in Afghanistan to spur the Soviets, then they had bitten the fishhook and invaded Afghanistan. Ten years later, they had to withdraw and two years later, the URSS plummeted.

Never Brzezinski dreamed so much. The trap’s main aim was only to distract and keep Soviets engaged in dealing with a vietnamese-like guerrillas. So, when he received such gift, he told Le Nouvelle Observateur: “To repent of what? This secret operation has been an excellent idea!”.

But you know how this tale ends: Pashto mujahideen turned into Taleban, Taleban into Osama, Osama into WTC, WTC into Northern Alliance, Northern Alliance into Karzai, and then USA and NATO forces seeking for a window on how to leave the Brzezinski’s “Russian” trap. Without scheduling a withdrawal, of course, but best if we can do it in ten minutes!

And where’s Brzezinski nowadays? Well, after writing a couple of “:” books, and chaired another couple of “Freedom Organisations”, then he retired and in 2006 he was engaged on signing a Fairfax County neighbors treaty on how a sidewalk should be done(3). I suggest he call it SALT IV.

Further readings:
1. "How Jimmy Carter and I Started the Mujahideen”, Interview of Zbigniew Brzezinski Le Nouvel Observateur (France), Jan 15-21, 1998, p. 76,
2. "Oui, la CIA est entrée en Afghanistan avant les Russes...” orginal interview (in french)
3. “Forever the Negotiator: Brzezinski in a Stalemate Over a Sidewalk”, The Washington Post, April 9, 2006,
4. "The Largest Covert Operation in CIA History", By Chalmers Johnson for LA Times
5. "CIA Agent Gust L. Avrakotos Dies at Age 67", By Patricia Sullivan for the Washington Post

martes, 29 de enero de 2008

India, Rajasthan, Gangaur Festival






Rajasthan is a NW province of India bordering with Pakistan through the Thar's desert. Its main cities are Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Bikaner. The main religion here is neither Brahmanic's Hinduism nor Buddhism, but Rajputana’s Jainism, who gave us concepts and beliefs as karma, ascetism, non-violence, vegetarianism and reincarnations.

The colorful and mostly women’s made Gangaur Festival is devoted to Isar and Gauri, and celebrates both the end of monsoon, the harvest and marital fidelity. It lasts 18 days from the begin of the Indian month of Chaitra (March or April, depending upon planets' positions)

Many images of clay and wood of both idols are specially made for that celebration. Married and unmarried girls paints her hands and feet with myrtle dye, and dress the images of Gauri and Isar in new garments especially made for the occasion.

From the seventh day on, unmarried girls go around singing, carrying metallic or earthen lamps on their heads and collecting small presents as cash, sweets, brown sugar, ghee and oil. The last day, they break their lamps, throw away the debris into a tank and then do a celebration with what they collected.

Instead of lamps, the married women initiate a procession up to the house of his husbands with the images of Isar and Gauri on his heads. This ceremony is repeated three times, and in the last one, the images are thrown in a water tank, the women bid farewell to Gauri, turn their eyes and the Gangaur festival comes to an end. (Thx Mystique Creation)

Ethiopia, Lalibela Churches





Bieta Giyorgis (Saint Gerorge) Church.

Lalibela Churches : As a kind of Jordanian's Petra, they say it's the 8th world wonder. Lalibela is a small town in the middle of the Ethiopian highlands. It's surrounded by a rocky and dry area where just in the raining period farmers can grow their crops.

One's called Roha and the capital of the Zagwe Dynasty wich ruled over Ethiopia from the 10th century to the mid- 13th century. It was King Lalibela who build the 11 rock-hewn monolithic churches. These 11 churches are all cut out of solid red volcanic rock, it was constructed to represent Jerusalem.

The churches are divided into Northern and Eastern groups of churches by a rock-cut channel (river) called Yordannos (Jordan River) and all connected by a labyrinth thine of narrow and deep passages, tunnels, small canyons, and bridges…

Bieta Medhane Alem is the largest and most impressive monolithic church. Of all the churches, Bieta Giyorgis (Saint George) is particularly stunning and beautiful, situated apart from the other churches to the west, intricately carved into the shape of a cross. All the churches are still used as places of worship.

The churches are also a significant engineering feat, given that they are all associated with water (which fills the wells next to many of the churches) exploiting an artesian geological system that brings the water up to the top of the mountain. (Thx Makzid)

jueves, 24 de enero de 2008

Yezids

Yezids or yazidis is a sect dwelling principally in Kurdistan, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Armenia and Georgia, who call themselves Dasni and claims to have originated in India 6,000 years ago. Their population is now estimated to be less than one million worldwide.

As far as their memory goes back the Yezids– one of the minorities in Armenia- have been engaged in highland cattle breeding.
There are two theories about the origins of the Yezids: one says that the Kurds are their ‘forefathers’; the other says exactly the opposite; that the Kurds came forth from the Yezid. Whatever the truth, the main difference between these two peoples is that the Yezids have preserved their religion for nearly 4 millennia.

The Yezidis were Kurmanji Kurdish-speaking (a dialect they call Ezdiki or Yezideren), but many of them did not consider themselves Kurds, because they’re not Muslims, but Sharfadin. In fact, the Yezidi religion is the original faith practiced by the Kurds before most were converted to Islam. The first mentioning of the Temple of the Yezid is related to the ancient town of Babylon and today the most important temple is located in Lalish, north of Mosul, Iraq.

The Yezids worship the sun, the goats and their most important deity created the world while looking at the beauty of a peacock angel or demiurg they call Tawsy Melek, Melek Taus, Taus-e-Malak, Al-Kadir, Azazel, Aziz or Shaytan. Since the Qu’ram reserves this name for Satan, often the Yazidis have been erroneously identified as devil worshipers. Such deity is the leader of Seven Holy Beings, who reincarnates periodically in human beings in a process called koasasa (metempsychosis). Even if dismissed as devil worship, Yezidism in fact combines elements from Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. They celebrate the New Year’s day on the first Wednesday of Nisan (March/April), as they believe God created Melek Taus on this day.

Because of the identification Muslims made with a satanic sect, and due to their pre-Islamic beliefs, they have been oppressed by their Muslim neighbors. Treatment of Yazidis was exceptionally harsh during the rule of the Ottoman Empire during the 18th and the first half of 19th century and their numbers dwindled under Ottoman rule both in Syria and Iraq. Massacres at the hand of Ottoman Turks and Muslim Kurdish princes almost wiped out their community in the 19th century. They were murdered as if they were armenians during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 in Ottoman Turkey.

For the Yezid the peacock is therefore a holy animal and its image can be found on their pillows, blankets and in their tents. The Yezids do not have a Holy Book and their religion is based on the knowledge of their priests. The right to become a priest is inherited once sufficient knowledge has been gained. The most important ritual is the annual six-day pilgrimage to the tomb of Sheikh Adi in Lalish, north of Mosul, Iraq.

Yazidi society is hierarchical. The secular leader is a hereditary emir or prince, whereas a chief sheikh heads the religious hierarchy. The Yazidi are strictly endogamous. Within Yezid society there are three major castes below Mir (the yazidi prince) and Baba Shiekh (a kind of Pope): Sheikhs, Pyrs and Murids (lowest caste). Marriages are allowed only inside the castes and sometimes the bride does not know her future husband. Society is strictly regulated with rules and taboos that are passed on from generation to generation, e.g. the bride cannot talk to the oldest man in the family or eat in his presence before the marriage. Besides the caste system, the roles of men and women in Yezid society are also strictly defined according to tradition.

Yezids have a rich tradition of celebrations: at weddings for example the groom throws an apple at the bride’s head and the more pieces it breaks into the better. The New Year (Sere Sal) celebration includes the coloring of eggs, the Parade of the Sanjaks (bronze lamps with peacocks), remembrance of the dead on the cemetery, where the tables for the ceremonies by the graves are divided into sections for men and women. Many celebrations also have their specific sacrifice. Animals mostly, sheep and cows are sacrificed by slitting their throats and praying with the Pyrs (priest of highest rank) pouring salt into the animal’s nose. Other ways of slaughter are considered as murder.

The Yezid have always had a nomadic life that is intertwined with the rhythm of the seasons. They are ever ready to move, so there is no place to anything superfluous. Everything is connected with the cattle – meat, wool, cheese for sale, yarn, blocs of dung dried by the houses just by the entrance. The furniture is minimal, very rarely one can see photos of relatives on the walls.

One of the most crucial periods in the migration cycle starts a month before the Yezids move their cattle up the slopes of Mount Ara when the shepherds and their families prepare themselves and their tents for their 5-6 month stay in the mountains. The shepherds live in military tents of Soviet times, some 3-5 kilometers away from the village. At a distance the tents, set on the background of the rocky foothills, resemble the marquees made of sheep hides. The herds live in similar tents especially allotted to them.

Moving up to the meadows of Mount Ara takes one or two days. After that the shepherds move their camp every couple of weeks, grazing and living on mountain slopes up to 3 thousand meters. In the last stage the camp will be moved to an Alpine meadows where a large variety of herbs and plants will be available.

Caucasian Countries and Breakaway Territories



The Caucasus is a mountain range that divide the space between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in a diagonal way from NW-SE of 900 x 100 km. It holds the higher peaks of Europe, reaching 5.642 mts. at Mount Elbrus.

The 16 former SSR, Russian Republics and breakaway lands bordering or somewhat involved in the Caucasus region covers approximately an area equivalent to Italy or Poland.
Seven of those republics are located at the North Caucasus (or Ciscaucasus): from NW-SE, Adygea, Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia (antique Alans), Ingushetia, Chechenya (or Ichkeria) and Dagestan (antique Avars). All the seven Republics are located in current territory of the Russian Federation.

There are nine republics and breakaway territories at South Caucasus (or Transcaucasus): Georgia with 3 breakaway territories (Abkhazia, Adjara and South Ossetia), Armenia with an enclave in Azerbaidhzan (Nagorno-Karabakh), and Azerbaidhzan with one exclave (Nakhichevan, landlocked by Iran and Armenia) and an enclave in Armenia (Karki).

Many other cultural groups (Yezhids, Kurds, Gypsies) spreading across the whole Caucasus lends a rich mosaic of some 50 languages and 2 major religions (Christian Ortodox and Sunnite Muslims) along with many others, going from Zoroastrianism to chamanism.

Some years ago, I discovered one of the sweetest voice of the Caucasus, Malika Utsaeva. Fortunately I've found a Malika's video to post here.

video

lunes, 14 de enero de 2008

Pakistan-Afghanistan: The Pashto Culture and the Pashtunwali

Non-written moral codes and behaviour that rules Pashtuns is named “Pastunwali”. The Jirga, or elders' court, is who determines the punishments that must be applied in case of breaching some of those rules. The capital punishment is one of the most common of the punishments applied by that court, as well as setting on fire his house and killing his relatives, with the lonely exception of women and children. These punitive actions are not carried out by the Jirga itself, but by the offended man or his progeny, several generations after produced, if necessary, in any time and space.

Do not look at the eyes of a Pasto woman of more than 10-12 years under any circumstance. Much less speak a word to him, unless it turns out to be strictly necessary. Neither praise his beauty, nor try any gallantry with her, as it is customary in Occident. Behaviours that could be interpreted in an equivocal way with them can determine the death of both, as it is frequently stated by the Jirga. Such the exposed things, it does not seem necessary to clarify what can happen in cases of violation, infidelity, abduction or so.

Although the Pashtunwali is extremely hard with the punishments, it is also rigorous with the duties that a Pashto has for with whom requested him help or protection, as it must be given even to the foes, if they request it. And the respect to the elders is unmatched with any other culture.

Inside the Pashto tribe, the clan of the Afridis is who rules in the grounds of the Khyber Pass. From immemorial times, they have enjoyed the profits of brigandage and tolls levied on all those who have sought the right to pass, from Alexander the Great, Chinggiz Khan or the very same English forces of occupation, during the Anglo-Afghans wars (1839-42, 1878-80, 1919-20) and the two world wars. Today their territory in Pakistan still constitutes to sort of free zone famous for smuggling guns, ammo, tobacco, “poppy derivates” and other goods.

Pakistan: Durra Gun Market

This video shows the gun market of Durra, near Peshawar, Pakistan, where guns and ammo are manufactured by hand and then sold. Some gun shops in the western world frown upon dry firing before purchasing, in Durra, you live fire guns in the street before purchasing them! And if that’s no enough, you can go purchase to Landi Kotal, at the peak of the infamous Khyber Pass, which criss-crossed Alexander the Great, the Arians, Chinghiz Khan et. al.

The World Press online has a very interesting article about the gun markets in Pakistan (http://www.worldpress.org/cover1.htm)

Foreigners are only allowed to visit the town if they have a permit, obtainable from the Home Office in Peshawar (permits are no longer issued due to 'security concerns', however it is possible to take the Peshawar-Kohat bus and get off at the town, which will usually also involve being sent back by the local tribal police called 'khasadars'). Some 'fixers' in Peshawar offer to arrange a visit for a considerable sum. In this case a bodyguard will accompany visitors whilst they are in the town, and it may be possible to test-fire weapons for a small fee. Technically visitors can buy guns, though they will usually be confiscated by guards as the sellers inform them. Difficulties can only sometimes be avoided by judicious use of 'baksheesh' (bribes). (Wiki)

The entire region is known in Pak as the NWFP (North West Frontier Province), or FATA (Federally Administred Tribal Areas), and is run almost solely by the Afridi clan of Pathans (or Pashtun) tribe, who spoke Pashto. As can you see, it’s no advisable to stay here without a local guide and bodyguard support.

Here does not apply another law than the Pashtunwali (see), a non-written, honour-code set of rules which dates back to pre-Islamic eras. The Sharia's law seems almost permissive when compared against Pashtunwali laws, and revenges between families can be carried out after many generations. But it also rules on providing hospitality even to foes.

Pakistan-India: Wagah Border Ceremony واگها वाघा

Wagah is the checkpoint in which Amritsar (India) connects with Lahore (Pakistan). Every evening this border closes with a very picturesque ceremony, in which officials of both countries intervene: the paks dressed in black, and the Indians dressed in green. The ceremony lasts 30 min. approximately, and it includes bleachers on both sides of the border, from where locals and tourists celebrates loudly the closing borders ceremony.