Post 8: Sherri Maurin On Privilege & Courage

Kabul
Afghanistan

I came to Afghanistan through the generous and loving support of family and friends. I could not be having this invaluable experience without their shared participation. It is a profound privilege to be representing them, and each of you, on this journey of solidarity and education.

I have been reflecting quite a bit about “privilege” on many levels since my arrival 12 days ago. We talk about “simple living” in the United States but even those who have chosen to live more closely to the poor typically have continual access to electricity, refrigeration, running water, laundromats and frequently washers and dryers in our own homes. Virtually all have stoves and TVs and most have some sort of transportation—cars, bicycles, or a pass on Muni or BART. I am personally grateful for all of these amenities.

Kathy Kelly

Kathy Kelly cooking dinner

This radical change in simple functions of daily living is the first things I notice being here in the women’s community. We bath with one or two pitchers of cold water in a concrete walled small room with a hole in the floor (actually I am enjoying how refreshing it is in the constant heat of summer but wonder how well I would do in the freezing cold winter months). Cleaning is done with brooms; laundry is all by hand, and hung in the summer sun to quickly dry; cooking is on a small gas burner, after chopping is done on plates while sitting on the floor. The room used to prepare meals has no stove or sink. And, this life in Kabul, where we live in community, is actually so much easier than in any of the villages the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APV) come from. I have adapted easily, but I am not sure I would in the countryside where life is so much more difficult.

Sharing the evening meal

Sharing the evening meal

It would be easy to stay focused on the creativity I see displayed every day here —these women are solving challenges that are so simply resolved in my easier life in California. However, what is most remarkable to me is the courage that I see displayed each and every day. It is firstly an extraordinary thing for women to leave their often very remote villages to come to Kabul to get better education; this is the most frequently expressed dream for them, and they, themselves are leading the way for change.

Put in the context that these youth have never known anything but war, with massacres of civilian family members by the Taliban and by US drones, I am profoundly moved by their bravery. I have learned that Australia’s University of Queensland’s researchers published a 2013 study which showed that Afghanistan has the highest number of people with depression in the world. Experts estimate that 60% of the Afghan populace suffers from mild to severe mental illness. In 2013, more than 2500 Afghan women had committed suicide.

And yet, youth like 21 year old Zarghuna have refused to continue living in fear, not only from war, but also from neighbors of other ethnic groups. I’d like to share her story to illustrate the courage and vision I am seeing here among the youth.

Zarghuna

Zarghuna

Zarghuna is 21, from Bamiyan, an agricultural area where most of the people are Hazara. Her father and grandfather were killed 14 years ago, by the Taliban, when Zarghuna was seven years old. Her mother was widowed, with six children. Life is very hard under an economic system which maintains poverty and within the country there is severe corruption and continual fighting.

She hopes that all Afghan girls will be able to complete their education and, through schooling, obtain their rights. She seeks to help build a new Afghanistan where leaders will share resources fairly with people and guide people to overcome hatreds and deep ethnic divisions. In a country rich with mineral and other resources, where the concentration of development is in the hands of the very wealthy, this goal seems almost insurmountable.

However, two years ago Zarghuna was given an opportunity to travel to India to visit a remarkable place called Barefoot College and to participate in the National Right to Food conference. There she learned from the work of nonviolent activists and the Indian women who were able to come together and speak up for themselves. She also saw the possibility of a simpler lifestyle based on equality. Zarghuna thinks more can be done in Afghanistan to help the poor, even though the “economic system is fraught with elites who seem not to care about extensive poverty.” She longs to make that vision real and hopes her studies will be relevant.

Her greatest wish, echoed by other youth I’ve interviewed here, is to end all wars. She, like so many, fears that Americans demonize Afghans because what we most frequently read about are the Taliban. She shared this message for the people in the US: “Afghans are not like the Taliban. We urge people to demand an end to war and stop sending money for a few corrupt people. Instead, Americans could help with education, nutrition and health care, and be a part of the true change we are seeking for Afghanistan.”


Borderfree Community Centre of Nonviolence

Zarghuna believes that patience is very important, and it is also imperative to persist in learning valuable skills like nonviolent conflict resolution. She cites her own experience of growing up believing that all Pashtuns, Tajiks and Hazaras could never get along, and that all Pashtuns are Taliban. Now she lives in an inter-ethnic community and, as an Afghan Peace Volunteer, she and others at the Borderfree Community Centre of Nonviolence are building the foundation for a new Afghanistan (see video above). Their resolve, to me, represents real courage.

Kabul-to-8-19-14-055
Salaam – deep peace – to each of you.

Sherri Maurin
Peace Journey
August 18, 2014

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Post 7: Dr. Hakim “No To Wars”

No Afghanistan in Ukraine, No to Wars!

Salaam, Friends — I would like to introduce a new series of interviews I am doing with each of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, by sharing an article just published by Dr. Hakim, their founder and adviser. I believe the article, and the interview he includes, shows the substantial impact the US presence has had on the lives of families here. Despite the US investment of more than $100 Billion dollars in non-military aide since 2001, the corruption is so rampant that the ordinary citizens live in virtual poverty.  I seek your replies to the compelling message that guides me from the Nuremberg Principles that if I see an atrocity and do nothing, I am complicit.  I invite all of us to question what we can do together to reverse this situation…..

In solidarity,
Sherri Maurin
Veteran For Peace member
Kabul, Afghanistan
Peace Journey
Tuesday, August 12 2014

We’re human fodder caught in the crossfire of armed groups and armed governments
No to wars!
By Dr Hakim
August 12, 2014

“Her father was killed in Helmand amidst fighting between the Taliban and the Afghan/US-NATO forces,” said a relative about Gul Jumma, who looked down, shy and full of angst, sensing a future that’s not promising. Gul Jumma, together with the Afghan Peace Volunteers, expressed their opposition to wars in this video. Gul Jumma holds up the sign for ‘Ukraine’, indicating ‘No to wars in Ukraine’. She understands what it is like to be caught in the crossfire, as happened to her father when he was killed in battle. Continue reading

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Post 6: Street Kids Program

I am dressed for “going out.” Norms for modesty require that women’s heads and necks be covered at all times, that tunics ideally go to the knees, and that a skirt or loose fitting pants be to the ankles. Socks are preferred, but sandals are acceptable. The women are teaching me to tie my scarves for maximum modesty, and ensure that my clothing is appropriate. Only two of my tunics are long enough, and I contrast these standards with the short shorts and skimpy tops so prevalent for young girls in the US during these hot summer months! However, I do know that this style is very comfortable for sitting cross-legged on the floor at the Center!

I was delighted to sit in on a class for street kids who are learning to write Dari (their language) and to do simple math. The more than twenty students are attentive, engaged, and actively participating, even though it is late on a hot afternoon.

The Street Kids Program is wonderfully structured. All students, who register and regularly attend classes, receive a large bag of rice and a gallon of cooking oil once a month. Continue reading

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Post 5: Experiments In Simple, Nonviolent Inter-ethnic Community

Living in Kabul

As I write a huge explosion startles us; it is hard to tell how close it is, and many of our community are out taking exams at the University or working at the Borderfree Center. We scramble to begin calling them, and go online to find out details. Twitter feeds tell us that a suicide bomber has targeted a foreign force convoy several districts away; four civilians were killed and seven injured (read Washington Post story). This is the reality of life in Afghanistan where an estimated 42 children are killed each week. Sometimes the explosions are “sticky bombs” stuck to the bottom of a car, and other times they are small Improvised Explosive Devices‘ (IED.) Fortunately, for today, we are all safe.

Afghan Peace Volunteers Sherri Maurin

Afghan Peace Volunteers

Yesterday and today have been spent with the Afghan Peace Volunteers  (APV.) We have talked often during the monthly Global Days of Listening, and they share their struggles and hopes to build a new reality, grounded in nonviolence. Community life is not easy for them; the majority of their lives have been lived under fear from the US’s longest running war, and they have grown up distrusting other ethnic groups and Internationals, especially Americans. Their willingness to reach out to other ethnic groups, and to us, and to try and overcome a lifetime of enmity, continues to amaze me. Continue reading

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Post 4: A Friday Picnic In Afghanistan

Fridays, in the Muslim world, are days of relative rest and the gathering of family and friends.

Sherri & Friends Sherri Maurin

Sherri & Friends

We decided to go on a picnic, and twelve of us crammed into a van to head for a peaceful area about an hour outside Kabul’s downtown center. Those of you who have experienced traffic in Cairo can get a small sense of how challenging it is to cross Kabul. There are no lanes, no signals, and no rules; there are hundreds of potholes and honking horns. However, the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APV) are young and we cross town, bobbing and weaving and honking our way through traffic, clapping and singing with music blaring from our radio.

The land is bone dry clay, hard as rock, and I couldn’t visualize a park, but we wove higher into the hills, following dozens of others trying to escape the incessant heat, to an area that was cooler with more trees and a bit of grass. Continue reading

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Post 3: Arrival & New Friends

Salam from Kabul!
Peace To You From Afghanistan!

Borderfree Center Opening Sherri Maurin

Borderfree Center Opening

I arrived at 10am on Thursday morning, to sweltering heat and heavy lines. Smiling, yet shy children, peaking out from behind mother’s scarves, made the long wait at Customs easier, but once I was released into the scorching heat of Kabul, my all black clothing, including a head scarf, seemed like a bad choice!

The entrance was virtually empty except for the armed guard off at a distance. No one is allowed close to the airport, so the search to find my waiting friends, when all of the numbers I had weren’t working, was a challenge! They were there, but without internet or phone access we never connected, and instead I was given a ride by an Al Jazeera reporter just returning to Afghanistan to cover John Kerry’s arrival. Continue reading

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Post 2: The Clouds Over Kabul

2014-0805-FlyingintoAfghanistan-S-Maurin800KabulAfghanistan

The sky framed by the oval plane window on the last of 4 legs, is ablaze. The charcoal horizon elevates a deep orange bank of clouds which are churned into a paler, lighter orange, and the hills of Afghanistan rise from behind this striking colored curtain with dark contours, sharply outlined with ochre highlights.

I’d been less optimistic when the flight was delayed without warning; when the call to board finally came an hour late, a tsunami of passengers raced towards the security check—all seeking to be first, only to be queued again for a transport bus to the actual plane.   Continue reading

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Sherri Maurin: Peace Journey 2014

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
Sherri Maurin leaving this morning for Kabul by way of Chicago, Netherlands and Istanbul

Sherri MaurinHello friends,
Many of you have heard me talk warmly about the Afghan Peace Volunteers (youthpeacevolunteers.org) who I have been in conversation with for almost four years, during the monthly Global Days of Listening (globaldaysoflistening.org). They are a grassroots group of ordinary, multi-ethnic Afghan youth seeking a life of Nonviolence, who seek non-military solutions for Afghanistan, and are committed to live lives that includes: Continue reading

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August 2: 50 Years Later “Why The Gulf Of Tonkin Matters?”

Vietnam: Gulf of Tonkin Reports Part 1 & 2.
The Real News
Jessica Desvarieux TRNN Producer
Baltimore, August 1, 2014

Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and historian Gareth Porter discuss how the Gulf of Tonkin incident was used to further entangle the US in Vietnam and how shoddy intelligence reports continue to lead America into war      — August 1, 2014


Part 1 August 2 marks the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Back in 1964, the USS Maddox engaged with North Vietnamese torpedo vessels, resulting in four deaths and six wounded on the North Vietnamese side and no American casualties. Continue reading

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Vietnam Vet Drone Resister Acquitted

Up State Drone Action
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Syracuse, New York
Commondreams.org

After two hours of deliberation,Vietnam Veteran and Buffalonian Russell Brown,  was acquitted tonight by a six person jury in the DeWitt town court, East Syracuse in Upstate New York. Brown faced charges of Obstruction of Governmental Administration (OGA), a misdemeanor carrying up to a year incarceration and up to $1000 fine, as well as Disorderly Conduct charge, a violation.   Mr. Brown who went before the court Pro Se (he served as his own counsel) was assisted by Buffalo Attorneys Daire Irwin and Paul Fallon.

Mr. Brown was arrested during a nonviolent protest at Hancock Air National Guard Base, home of the 174th Attack Wing, on April 28, 2013. Continue reading

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