serial bowe bergdahl deserter whistleblower

When it comes to the second season of Serial, one thing is for sure—listeners are likely to be every bit as divided in their opinions, as they were about the innocence or guilt of Adnan Syed, the subject of season one’s hugely popular podcast.

As Sarah Koenig detailed last week, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, fully admits walking off base and into the wilds of Afghanistan back in July 2009—but, what’s contentious is the reason why he left his post—he’s been painted as a cowardly deserter, however, the 29-year-old maintains that he’s actually a whistleblower, or would have been, if he hadn’t been captured by the Taliban, and held hostage for five long years.

Serial—Bowe Bergdahl Taliban Capture Story Is Like Adnan Syed's, But On Steroids

Bergdahl’s disappearance sparked a massive, unprecedented manhunt, at great financial cost to the U.S.—in addition to the death of six of his fellow soldiers, and uncountable civilians—and, not surprisingly, the Army is pissed.

So pissed in fact, that Gen. Robert Abrams, the commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, announced on Monday that Bergdahl will be facing a general court-martial, on charges of desertion and “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.”

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It's the highest charge that can be brought against him, and carries a possible life sentence, or even the death penalty (although that's highly unlikely in this case).

Given the fact that Bergdahl was held prisoner by the Taliban for five years, some may think he’s already been punished enough—the officer overseeing his preliminary hearing certainly thought so, he recommended Bergdahl be referred to a special court-martial and face no jail time at all—however, when you consider the sheer scale of the manhunt his disappearance sparked, it’s easy to understand why many military personnel are out for blood.

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In yesterday’s podcast, Koenig spoke to several of Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers, as well as Afghan reporter, Sami Yousafzai, former U.S. Army Major Jason Dempsey, who was stationed in Afghanistan at the time, and even the Taliban, in her bid to dive deeper into what went down in the days and weeks following Bergdahl’s disappearance.

Bergdahl’s decision to walk off base immediately set off a DUSTWUN—Duty Status, Whereabouts Unknown soldier—alarm, forcing an entire battalion of soldiers out into Taliban enemy grounds, unable to wash or sleep or eat a full meal for weeks at a time, as they hunted for him.

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It’s easy to see why many of those soldiers are angry at Bergdahl—to say the least—in fact, several of them told Koenig that if they had found him they would have wanted to have shot him for placing so many people’s lives in danger.

Which kinda makes you think, maybe it was just as well for Bergdahl that he did get captured by the Taliban, who at least fully appreciated the value of keeping him alive, as a financial and political bargaining tool—even likening him to a “golden chicken" during an interview with Yousafzai.

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The circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s capture could prove key to either backing-up, or debunking, his claim that he walked off base to garner media attention so he could go public with concerns he had about Army policy and leadership.

Bergdahl has maintained that he was captured by the Taliban in the open countryside—as he attempted to make his way to FOB Sharana, gathering "intelligence" on the way—that a bunch of Taliban fighters appeared on motorbikes from seemingly nowhere,  surrounded him, and took him hostage.

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However, the Taliban tells a different story—they claim they were tipped off by locals that an American was hiding out in a Kochi (a large tent that nomadic tribes live in) and that they went there to capture him.

As Koenig points out, if the Taliban is telling the truth, and if he was hiding out with nomads—and that’s obviously a big IF—it could seriously damage Bergdahl’s whistleblower story, and make it appear much more likely that he WAS in fact trying to desert, rather than “seek out intelligence” on his way to FOB Sharana as he alleges.

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One thing is for sure though—after playing a protracted cat and mouse game with the U.S. Army, back and forth across Afghanistan, the Taliban finally managed to get Bergdahl over the border and into Pakistan—and, that’s where Koenig will be continuing from next week.

For more entertainment, world, music and pop culture updates and news, follow Max Page on Twitter

serial bowe bergdahl taliban capture

Serial is back, focusing on a whole new subject matter—which, if the first episode is anything to go by, is like Adnan Syed’s story......on steroids.

For the second season of the hugely successful podcast, investigative journalist, Sarah Koenig is focusing on the mysterious disappearance of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan, and his subsequent capture by the Taliban.

Serial—Bowe Bergdahl, Cowardly Deserter Or Brave Whistleblower?

Bergdahl spent five long years being held hostage—and, initially, when he was brought home to Hailey, Idaho, he was greeted with fanfare—but, his homecoming was soon tarnished, and Bergdahl was turned into a traitorous deserter by the media, as the supposed “true” story, and the purported details surrounding his disappearance, came to light.

But, if there’s one lesson to be learned from the first season of Serial, it’s that the details of real life events and people’s actions—and the results that stem from them, are rarely black and white, right and wrong—and, the story of Bowe Bergdahl proves to be no exception.

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Bergdahl’s release back in May 2014, was controversial from the get go, with the Obama administration coming under fire from the GOP after details of the deal that secured his freedom came to light—five Guantanamo Bay prisoners were let go in exchange for Bergdahl.

Criticism grew yet further however, after it came to light that Bergdahl had purposely deserted his post, and seemingly willingly walked into the arms of the Taliban.

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Back in March, the 29-year-old was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, he remains on active duty while awaiting trial, and if convicted he faces a court martial and the possibility of life in prison.

Bergdahl has not spoken to the media since his release, but has been in close contact with filmmaker Mark Boal, who wrote and produced The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty.

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Boal recorded their conversations, and it’s through these tapes that we are able to hear Bergdahl tell his story, in his own words, for the first time.

The first episode of Serial’s second season, titled DUSTWUN—or duty status, whereabouts unknown—details the events surrounding Bergdahl’s decision to leave his base, taking just a compass and a bottle of water with him.

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According to Bergdahl, the accusations that he was a deserter are unfounded—he claims that he’s actually a whistleblower, and that he chose to abandon his post, and wander into enemy grounds, in hopes of sparking a massive manhunt, with the belief that would provide him with the media spotlight he required to go public with concerns he claims he had about his unit’s leadership.

It’s a truly bizarre story, to say the least—and, Bergdahl admits that he quickly came to realize the gravity of the situation within pretty much minutes of leaving base and wandering into Afghanistan, back in June 2009.

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"I'm going, 'Good grief, I'm in over my head,’” Bergdahl recalls thinking at the time.

"Suddenly, it really starts to sink in that I really did something bad. Or, not bad, but I really did something serious."

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Indeed.

Episode two delves deeper into Bergdahl’s purported motives for walking away, and, just like Adnan Syed’s story before him, one thing is for sure—keep an open mind, because, often, the truth is way way stranger than fiction.

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For more entertainment, world, music and pop culture updates and news, follow Max Page on Twitter

In Afghanistan, women are not allowed to dance in public. But boys are.

“Bacha Bazi” is an ancient Afghan tradition where boys dress up like women and dance for crowds of men at parties. The term literally translates as “playing with boys.”

But, the dancing isn’t where the scandal lies—It’s not uncommon for the boys (Bachas) to be approached after the parties and taken to hotels—there, they are sexually abused by the male party-goers.

It's an ancient practice, and the men perpetuating it are wealthy, and powerful.

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Although the practice was banned by the Taliban, and is still illegal under Afghan law, some like to keep several boys around to serve as status symbols.

The boys, often as young as 12, are from poor families, or have been orphaned. Adding to the tragedy, they are discarded as Bachas by the time they are 20-years old, deemed too old to pleasure anyone anymore.

There have been reports of older Bacha Bazi being murdered to ensure their silence—and those that do escape alive often turn to drugs and prostitution in an attempt to eek out a living.

The BBC was able to speak with one Bacha about his experience. He was just 15-years old, and called himself Omid.

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After his father died from stepping on a landmine, Omid was left to care for his mother and two younger brothers.

He told the BBC, “We were hungry, I had no choice. Sometimes we go to bed on empty stomachs. When I dance at parties I earn about $2 or some pilau rice.”

Omid spoke openly about the seedier side of Bacha Bazi. He admitted to having been gang raped in the past.

When asked why he doesn’t go to the police, he said, “They are powerful and rich men. The police can’t do anything against them.”

While Omid and other boys like him can surely confirm that the tradition of Bacha Bazi is alive and well throughout Afghanistan, there is widespread denial concerning its existence.

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The BBC also spoke with Muhammad Ibrahim, the deputy Police Chief of Jowzjan province. He denies that the practice is still around.

He told reporters, “We haven’t had any cases of Bacha Bazi in the last four-to-five years. It doesn’t exist here any more.”

The practice itself is shocking. But the fact that society continues to sweep it under the rug isn’t. This kind of socially embedded pedophilia stands in direct contradiction to the norms set down by Islamic societies.

Yet it endures.

It also exemplifies how the division of the sexes has translated into something more disturbing than an off-centered society.

Powerful men are able to sidestep social norms by thrusting boys into a role that was never meant for them. The issue of pedophilia is important. But it’s just another symptom of an impoverished society paralyzed by outdated and exaggerated standards.

Until those standards evolve Bacha Bazi is likely to remain just outside the realm of conversation.

Meanwhile, the victims of child sex abuse—and not the perpetrators—continue to be punished.

In 2012, a 13-year-old boy was sentenced to a year in juvenile detention on moral crimes charges, after being found guilty of having sex with two adult men in a public park located in Herat province .

To find out how you can help urge the Afghan government to stop the prosecution of sexually abused children visit Human Rights Watch.

Afghanistan’s first female rapper is opening up about her music, the difficulties she encounters as a woman and a musician in the notoriously patriarchal society and life after the Taliban.

Paradise Sorouri, along with her partner, Diverse, collaborate together as the 143Band, performing a mixture of Hip-Hop, Rap, R&B and Pop.

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Although they were both actually born in Iran they now live in Kabul, identifying as “pure Afghan” and have been writing and singing together since 2008.

Despite some progress having been made since the fall of the Taliban, day to day life still provides many difficulties for a musician in Afghanistan—even more so for a female one.

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Paradise opens up about her life, dreams and challenges an exclusive interview with Popdust.

Popdust: How do you think things have changed for women in Afghanistan since the Taliban left? What is daily life like for women now?

There are a lot of changes in women’s lives since the Taliban left. They can go to school, University and so on, but these new changes have been accepted only from the government side.  A lot of females still cannot go to school or university and they get married very young because their family—or better to say, the male generation want so. The Taliban washed the brain and brought some changes to our traditions that will take centuries to be removed.

Daily life for women depends, a normal woman who is living in a big city like Kabul can go to work and take care of the children and has made some good progress, but this can be only less than 5 percent of women in Afghanistan.

For me as a singer living in Afghanistan is like staying in prison, I am staying at home all day long and working on our songs. Life out there is dangerous for me but I go out for my concerts and events.

Popdust: How are people responding to your rap music?

Most of the time they do not understand the concept of Hip-Hop, it’s something new and difficult for them to understand. I have been threatened, bitten and sworn at—mostly by the male generation just because I want my rights from singing. Thankfully though, not everyone is the same; we have some great fans who are supporting our songs and giving us energy. That’s why we are still singing.

Popdust: Who are your musical influences - who do you look up to?

Life on the streets and people living in Afghanistan are our musical influences. When we heard a lot of women have been hurt and injured we started to sing the first protest Hip-Hop song in Afghanistan which is called Faryade Zan (Woman’s Shout).

We can generally categorize our songs in two parts. We have songs that are describing true social life style and situations of Afghans as well as songs about general daily life such as love, and so on. We try to combine Dari and Persian music with modern western style and create a unique mixture

Popdust: Who would you collaborate with musically, if you could choose anyone?

Well, there are lots of great singers that we would love to collaborate with but to name a few, I would say Eminem, Jay-Z, Rihanna.

Popdust: What do you think the future holds for music in Afghanistan?

We are so optimistic and positive about Afghanistan’s future. We hope the new generation will bring a lot of changes to Afghanistan and its music.

Popdust: What are your goals and dreams?

Our most important goal is to make Afghan music Internationally recognized and to bring Peace and Love to Afghanistan through music.

To find out more about Paradise and the 143Band check out their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @143BandMusic

 

This is one woman breaking all the rules.

Paradise Sorouri is Afghanistan’s first female rapper—which when you consider the country’s attitude towards women in general, and women performers in particular—is pretty damn amazing.

Sorouri, along with her fiancé, Dairos, perform as the Afghan rap group 143.

France 24 reports  that the couple were both born in Iran but moved to Herat as teens to attend university.

Sorouri’s work is not only Western influenced but also highly political, a potent combination that puts her life in danger on a daily basis.

“In Afghanistan's highly patriarchal society, if a woman has a job, she is looked down upon and will definitely be subjected to vulgar language,” Sorouri told France 24. “So just imagine what it is like for artists.

“Most people consider female artists as nothing more than prostitutes. All female artists who work in Afghanistan today are risking their lives so that they can pave the way for other women.

"We started receiving many threatening messages ordering to stop our work [after releasing her latest song, Nalestan]…But we won't stop."

Via Jezebel