Salam from Kabul!
Peace To You From Afghanistan!
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.
She and her driver took me to her home, several buildings surrounding a lovely grassy garden where a community of ex-pats resides. A stop for frozen yogurt cooled me, and eased my entry into a town with deeply rutted muddy and rock streets, blankets of dust, and open stalled vendors selling fruits and bread and other goods. Occasional homes, behind walls capped with barbed wire, give hint of the inequities within Afghan society.
In Nov. 2013, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) issued a quarterly report stating that the amount of non-military aid that the US has sent to Afghanistan since 2001 is approaching $104 Billion. SIGAR provides independent and objective oversight of the monies intended to implement reconstruction programs in Afghanistan. This far exceeds the amount the US spent to rebuild Europe after WWII, under the Marshall Plan. However, the only place this money is in evidence is in enormous mansions behind heavy gates protected by armed militia. Corruption is rampant. Companies accept contracts to rebuild the infrastructure, skim huge amounts off the top, subcontract to a lesser firm, who does the same, and so on; the roads and buildings that are finally built are with such poor materials that they only last a short while.
The reporter and her neighbor, a professor at the University here, also briefed me on the interminable recounting of election results that will finalize who will assume power from Hamid Karzai. 8 million votes were cast in the runoff election, a high percentage of the estimated 13 million eligible voters; the results have been bitterly disputed since June 14th, violence and claims of fraud have interrupted the recount, and it is unlikely that the warlords who control Afghanistan, will be satisfied with the outcome. However, we heard the next day that the two, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, have agreed to form a national unity government by early September when NATO leaders will meet in Wales to consider their options in Afghanistan.
When Hakim and the Afghan Peace Volunteers picked me up we headed over to the official opening of the APV’s Borderfree Center, whose goals are to live simply, share resources and resist war. I am so taken with their efforts to establish a Borderfree Center of Nonviolence, offering education in nonviolence, tutoring, projects that aid street children, and much more.
Background from their website:
The political and economic mafia of Afghanistan and the world run my country with their guns and bombs,” says Abdulhai, a 17 year old Afghan Peace Volunteer. “We the people are rather helpless, unless we stand together.”
This global system of wealthy, elitist, authoritarian states and corporations is heating our climate, depriving us of decent education, healthcare, jobs and the most basic human needs of food, water, shelter and friendship, as well as militarizing the daily lives and civil liberties of billions of us….
(The APV).. are voicing our democratic hopes together, non-violently. We realize that to address global warming, we need to address socio-economic inequalities, and to address socio-economic inequalities, we need to address militarism and wars…..
Afghanistan is a stark example of a country that is being mis-governed by the governments of the world. Deforestation has left only 1.5% of Afghanistan’s land area under forest cover. Sixty percent of Afghan children are malnourished. In 2012, at least 2500 Afghan women committed suicide. And over the past four decades, Afghan families have lost at least 2 million loved ones to wars….
Now, it’s the people’s time to awaken with hope, link hands and get organized….
If you wish to participate in any way, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Many of you have already supported the Borderfree Center by purchasing one of their blue scarves. They are sewn by girls and women in the Afghan Peace Volunteers. The blue scarves symbolize the reality that all human beings live under the same blue sky, and are free and equal; they have become the symbol for Campaign Nonviolence. The words, embroidered on the scarves, say ‘Borderfree’ and in Dari, ‘Bedun-e-marz.’ Please let me know if you would like to purchase one; I will be bringing more back when I return in mid-September. Thank you.
I am so happy to be here and hope you will sense why from the photos of our day together at the Center.
Thursday, August 7, 2014