International responses to the dire situation in Afghanistan highlight a worrying reality: people are becoming desensitized to violence, especially when it comes to foreign humanitarian crises.
In light of the events of the past week, photos of abandoned dogs at Kabul airport have sparked angry reactions and calls for action.
People have taken to social media furiously to call for justice and rescue efforts. The situation became so heated that the The Pentagon had to challenge viral claims that American assistance dogs have been left behind.
But one question remains: have we forgotten the real issues? What about all the human lives still at stake?
The US military did not leave the service dogs behind, but it did leave the Afghan people.
The Pentagon’s clarification that US military dogs were not left in Kabul should not put anyone at ease about the ongoing crisis.
300,000 Afghans remain in immediate danger. Or at least that’s what refugee and resettlement experts estimate, given that US officials are reluctant to offer their own estimate of the number of Afghans still to be rescued.
While 300,000 is not something to be laughed at, it becomes even more worrying when you consider the thousands of civilians who have yet to be counted. These are all children, women and men facing horrors that our media coverage probably cannot begin to convey to those of us who live safely miles away.
Images of non-military pets from Kabul seem to have touched more nerves than reports of real people in need of help.
Britain has also been criticized for prioritizing dogs over the Afghan people.
If you thought that the disrespect for the lives of Afghans was just an American problem, think again.
UK Ministry of Defense (MOD) recently confirmed that a private plane chartered to transport former soldier-turned-animal rescuer Paul “Pen” Farthing to Kabul and back was assisted by British troops.
Farthing drove 200 stray cats and dogs past people at the airport and on the plane, despite the large number of desperate Afghans eagerly awaiting help outside the airport.
The fiasco sparked a great deal of anger and frustration in military circles. British veterans would find it difficult to cope with the fact that the public seems to care more about the animals than the allies their troops served with.
“We have just used a lot of troops to bring in 200 dogs; meanwhile, the family of my interpreter is at risk of being killed,” exasperated former soldier and Conservative MP, Tom Tugendhat, who is struggling to bring his former army interpreter to the UK.
“When an interpreter asked me a few days ago, ‘Why is my five-year-old worth less than a dog? “I didn’t have an answer.”
Afghans must come first.
Animal rights certainly matter, and it’s reassuring to see people pointing out the issues with their treatment. But at the same time, it is disgusting to see more emphasis on rescuing stray animals rather than vulnerable civilians who are deprived of their human rights on their own land.
Prioritizing human well-being should not be a controversial position. This does not invalidate the value of an animal’s life, but rather underscores the fact that we have a moral obligation to care for our species. Losing sight of our humanity only helps evil.
More for you on YourTango:
Yona Dervishi is a writer currently working at YourTango as an editorial intern. It covers topics related to personal care, radical acceptance, news and entertainment.