Remembering the names of the victims

Qais Azimy, a senior producer for Al Jazeera in Afghanistan, acknowledges that his outlet like most others, neglected to pay much attention to the victims in the recent massacre.

In the days following the rogue US soldier’s shooting spree in Kandahar, most of the media, us included, focused on the “backlash” and how it might further strain the relations with the US.

Many mainstream media outlets channelled a significant amount of energy into uncovering the slightest detail about the accused soldier – now identified as Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. We even know where his wife wanted to go for vacation, or what she said on her personal blog.

But the victims became a footnote, an anonymous footnote. Just the number 16. No one bothered to ask their ages, their hobbies, their aspirations. Worst of all, no one bothered to ask their names.

In honoring their memory, I write their names below, and the little we know about them: that nine of them were children, three were women.

The dead:
Mohamed Dawood son of Abdullah
Khudaydad son of Mohamed Juma
Nazar Mohamed
Shatarina daughter of Sultan Mohamed
Zahra daughter of Abdul Hamid
Nazia daughter of Dost Mohamed
Masooma daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Farida daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Palwasha daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Nabia daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Esmatullah daughter of Mohamed Wazir
Faizullah son of Mohamed Wazir
Essa Mohamed son of Mohamed Hussain
Akhtar Mohamed son of Murrad Ali

The wounded:
Haji Mohamed Naim son of Haji Sakhawat
Mohamed Sediq son of Mohamed Naim

But even with these names now published, it seems unlikely that this will have much impact on the perceptions of those Americans who see Robert Bales himself as the victim.

Imagine how different the story would be had he embarked on his killing spree after returning home and the victims had white faces and English names. We would by now know vastly more about them and the portraits of “Bobby” Bales would no doubt be much less sympathetic.

Exactly what set off the Army sergeant accused of massacring 16 civilians in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province is far from clear. But already, organizations and individuals with differing agendas have portrayed Bales as the personification of something that is profoundly broken, and have seized on his case to question the war itself or to argue that the American government is asking too much of its warriors.

On the website of Iraq Veterans Against the War, organizer Aaron Hughes declared that Afghan war veterans “believe that this incident is not a case of one ‘bad apple’ but the effect of a continued U.S. military policy of drone strikes, night raids, and helicopter attacks where Afghan civilians pay the price.” Those veterans, he wrote, “hope that the Kandahar massacre will be a turning point” in the war.

“Send a letter to the editor of your local paper condemning the massacre and calling for an end to our occupation in Afghanistan,” Hughes wrote.

On March 11, authorities say, Bales, a 38-year-old married father of two from Washington state, stalked through two villages, gunned down civilians and attempted to burn some of the bodies. The dead included nine children.

In Lake Tapps, Wash., neighbors knew Bales as a patriot, a friendly guy who loved his wife and kids, and a man who never complained about the sacrifices his country repeatedly asked of him. They find it hard to believe he could be capable of such depravity.

“I kind of sympathize for him, being gone, being sent over there four times,” said Beau Britt, who lives across the street. “I can understand he’s probably quite wracked mentally, so I just hope that things are justified in court. I hope it goes OK.”

Paul Wohlberg, who lives next door to the Baleses, said: “I just can’t believe Bob’s the guy who did this. A good guy got put in the wrong place at the wrong time.” [Associated Press]

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  1. “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

  2. Thanks Paul Woodward. If it was not for people like you, one would think very badly of American.

  3. Hakeem Ali says

    Execute the s.o.b. There is no excuse for killing children sleeping in their beds. i spit on him. He killed women and children. We must remember that we Americans are occupiers and they the Afghans have a right to be angry with us. They didnt ask for us to come there and we should have the decency to know when to leave. “unlesss we are there for other unknown reasons”.

  4. “Al Jazeera in Afghanistan, acknowledges that his outlet like most others, neglected to pay much attention to the victims in the recent massacre.”

    And so we have his nice gesture of naming the victims. It is, as you mentioned, too late for the out of Afghanistan but public the locals may have satisfaction.
    But as one blogger has mentioned, I would agree that such a gesture gives little attention from the fact that the brutal killing of innocent human beings is not an aberration but rather part of the very essence of a violent imperialist invasion and conquest such as the war against Afghanistan clearly is.

  5. stuffitall says

    even this website ignore the many reports that this killer didnt act alone. theres many witnesses that say there were a group of drunken laughing soldiers that did this.

    i know who id believe

  6. Yesterday I heard a portion of an NPR report that I believed was about Robert Bales’ victims. So I Googled, “Robert Bales victims”. The returns were varying: “Is Robert Bales a Victim?” – “Wife of Robert Bales Apologizes to Victims’ Families” – Robert Bales Owes Fraud Victims 1.5m”. Next to nothing was mentioned about the Afghans who were his victims, save three or four articles that -not surprisingly- were not published by mainstream media. I want to thank you for being one of the few who speaks for the true victims; perhaps by humanizing them this country will see more clearly what Robert Bales was capable of. While I have understanding & empathy for what our servicemen and women suffer during service during wartime, knowing about the people who Robert Bales murdered makes it much more difficult to defend his actions.

    From NPR: “Afghans say they’re so inured to civilians killed in wars that they bury their dead and move on. That’s not so easy for Muhammad Wazir. He lost his mother, his wife, a sister-in-law, a brother, a nephew, his four daughters and two of his sons in last week’s mass shooting in two villages.”

    Anything that Robert Bales stands to lose pales in comparison to what Muhammad Wazir has lost.

    The full NPR article can be read here:

  7. “Lawyer John Henry Browne fired back at claims alleging Robert Bales was drinking on the night of the attack.
    “That’s a bunch of crap, ” he said. “He had a couple sips of something somebody handed him — literally, a couple sips.”

    This man was drugged, and a TEAM went out on a covert mission. This Was A Covered Up HIT!!!
    What we need to ask is, Who are the Victims? Not the names, WHO WERE THEY?
    The women and children were probably the unfortunate witnesses to an Assassination.