Out of the Mainstream
One of the most frequently asked questions I've fielded in the six weeks since you-know-what has concerned resources -- both in the context of where I'm getting information, and where interested readers can find more news and viewpoints directly from the Islamic world, without being filtered by the White House, the Pentagon or their stenographers at the major networks.
The need for outside sources and alternative interpretations of events has become even more dire since Oct. 7, when the U.S. began bombing Afghanistan. At that point, the effectiveness of this phase of the "War On Terrorism" -- and even its long-term chances of success -- hinge largely on what is actually happening on the ground, whether civilians are dying or at risk for dying, and what the Islamic world thinks of all this, and *what it thinks* of the United States. Peter Jennings (to pick a random name) is not an ideal source for this sort of insight.
With the Internet, however, the interested reader is far from helpless. Unlike during the bombing of Belgrade, there aren't people in Kabul hopping on their email and describing the local destruction. However, there is a lot of excellent international reporting going on, and perspectives you also aren't hearing in the U.S. It enables us, as American citizens whose personal safety is at risk in this war, to judge for ourselves how effectively we're being defended, and at what cost. And seeing as how we still in theory live in a democracy (last fall's coup d'etat notwithstanding), it's essential that as many people as possible inform themselves in this way.
Here, then, are a handful of the sources I've found most helpful. Several of them have other extensive links, depending on your interests. This is, of course, a highly subjective list; if you, dear reader, have other good recommendations, pass them along to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll post them in a subsequent column.
FROM THE ISLAMIC WORLD: (listed in alphabetical order)
www.afghanweb.com: Numerous links and Afghan news.
www.ahram.org.eg/weekly: English-language weekly version of Al-Ahram, venerable Cairo newspaper.
www.gulf-times.com:: English language newspaper from Qatar. Bear in mind that Qatar is a monarchy with no constitution, no political parties, no opposition, no freedom of speech or assembly, and no free press. In Western terms, this represents the "moderate" Islamic viewpoint.
www.irna.com: The Islamic Republic News Association; based in Teheran, but with pan-Islamic news from what tends to be a fundamentalist viewpoint.
www.jang.com.pk/thenews: Invaluable English-language version of Pakistan's Daily Jang newspaper.
www.payamemujahid.com: Online Afghanistan weekly, available in multiple languages.
www.rawasongs.fancymarketing.net: Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. You've heard about the plight of Afghanistan's women. Here's information both on that and on what they want, and they're not too pleased with the Taliban or the Northern Alliance or the United States. Some people can be so hard to please...
FROM THE UNITED STATES AND EUROPE:
www.afghan-network.net: Operated out of California, but with excellent news and information from the home country.
www.debka.com:: Extensive and excellent news on the Middle East.
www.eurasianews.com:: Scores of links to sites on Afghanistan, and similar lists for other countries in the region.
www.guardian.co.uk: Among Western, English language media, this British daily has simply had the best reporting from the Middle East and Central, South and Southwest Asia since the Sept. 11 attacks. Far more probing than its U.S. counterparts. The Independent and the London Observer have also been good.
www.iwpr.net: Institute for War and Peace Reporting, a British outfit that ranges from the Balkans throughout Asia, but which is especially valuable for the former Soviet republics; has frequent reports from contributors on the ground in northern Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and elsewhere in Central Asia.
www.oxfam.org.uk: Oxfam's London-based site is doing an excellent job of tracking the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan. Doctors Without Borders has had good material, too.
Geov Parrish is a political columnist for WorkingforChange.com and a longtime peace activist.