It is not unreasonable to think that the riots which claimed the lives of four American diplomats in Libya will spread elsewhere, and that Americans will not be the only targets of mob violence. I am particularly concerned for what maybe coming down the road for the UN in Afghanistan.
In April 2011, as word spread that a radical American Preacher Terry Jones had burned a Koran in Florida, an angry mob in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan overran a UN compound killing 7 UN staffers and 13 others. The UN’s compound was likely a target of opportunity; the UN and its humanitarian agencies like the WFP and UNICEF have a far greater reach in Afghanistan than fortified American outposts. Rioters last April exploited the UN’s exposure to deadly effect.
The Afghan government has reportedly shut down YouTube in an effort to prevent this terrible film from reaching eyes in Afghanistan. This probably won’t make much of a difference in the coming days, however, as word spreads of this film through more traditional means. The Mazar-i-Sharif attack occurred 12 days after the actual Koran burning in Florida. Because of low literacy rates and low internet penetration, radio and word-of-mouth are the dominant forms of communication. It appears that the rioters were whipped into a frenzy by provocateurs after Friday prayers.
I am increasingly nervous for international aid workers in Afghanistan who might once again find themselves senselessly targeted.