Fridays, in the Muslim world, are days of relative rest and the gathering of family and 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. We climbed over rocks, across streams, jumping over muddy beds, looking for a spot to lay out our carpet and begin bar-b-queing kebobs. We were thrilled to find a vacant gazebo by a stream filled with laughing children splashing themselves, but a local entrepreneur came by to charge us for using the public space, and we became vagabonds again….Our next spot, which also had to be “rented,” was grassy, but the trash that was all around meant we got a “discount.” It is apparently accepted practice to pay locals for using public spaces; I kept thinking the students from Presidio Hill who are so good at restoration, would have made the area pristine in a matter of hours.
These times of laughter, dancing and playing drums, are cherished and rare. I am coming to know more about my special community. One, a Tajik, saw his brother killed by Hazaras. US drones killed the brother-in-law of another APV; he was a young husband and father who had just graduated from the police academy, and he was sharing a cup of tea with friends; his mother was told he looked “suspicious”.
The Taliban killed the father of two of the boys, and their sister, leaving a young 32 year old mother to raise six children; they lost their home, were displaced, and ended up in a refugee camp where one of the boys nearly froze to death. Another, a human rights worker was traveling with two colleagues from Kabul to Herat by way of Kandahar; they were stopped by the Taliban, and when these rebels found a piece of paper from the government in her friend’s pocket, they instantly beheaded him, despite her tearful pleadings for mercy; this was less than a year ago.
I will be sharing more of their stories in upcoming blogs, but I am profoundly moved by their efforts to build a community of nonviolence, despite all of these horrific personal tragedies. They have repeatedly told me, “Blood will not wash away blood.” I came to share my experiences of nonviolence, but they are becoming my teachers.
Friday, August 8, 2014