I have just arrived in Hiroshima with a group of Japanese “Okinawa to Hiroshima peace walkers” who had spent nearly two months walking Japanese roads protesting U.S. militarism. At the same time that we were walking, an Afghan peace march that had set off in May was enduring 700km of Afghan roadsides, poorly shod, from Helmand province to Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul. Our march watched the progress of theirs with interest and awe. The unusual Afghan group had started off as 6 individuals, emerging out of a sit-in protest and hunger strike in the Helmand provincial capital Lashkar Gah, after a suicide attack there created dozens of casualties. As they started walking their numbers soon swelled to 50 plus as the group braved roadside bombs, fighting between warring parties and exhaustion from desert walking during the strict fast month of Ramadan.
The Afghan march, which is believed to be the first of its kind, is asking for a long-term ceasefire between warring parties and the withdrawal of foreign troops. One peace walker, named Abdullah Malik Hamdard, felt that he had nothing to lose by joining the march. He said: “Everybody thinks they will be killed soon, the situation for those alive is miserable. If you don’t die in the war, the poverty caused by the war may kill you, which is why I think the only option left for me is to join the peace convoy.”
The Japanese peace walkers marched to specifically halt the construction of a U.S. airfield and port with an ammunition depot in Henoko, Okinawa, which will be accomplished by landfilling Oura Bay, a habitat for the dugong and unique coral hundreds of years old, but many more lives are endangered. Kamoshita Shonin, a peace walk organizer who lives in Okinawa, says: “People in mainland Japan do not hear about the extensive bombings by the U.S. in the Middle East and Afghanistan, they are told that the bases are a deterrent against North Korea and China, but the bases are not about protecting us, they are about invading other countries. This is why I organised the walk.” Sadly, the two unconnected marches shared one tragic cause as motivation.
Swedish student Elin Errson stopped the deportation of an Afghan refugee last week on a Turkish Airlines flight
From Helmand to Hiroshima, perspectives of a peace walker
“Any politician considering the use of nuclear weapons should first visit the Hiroshima Memorial Museum, it is important for them to know what happens when they are used.”
“All the marchers have suffered in this war, I have lost my sister, father and uncle in the conflict. My only wish and demand is stop this war and fighting.”
“People in mainland Japan do not hear about the extensive bombings by the U.S. in the Middle East and Afghanistan, they are told that the bases are a deterrent against North Korea and China, but the bases are not about protecting us, they are about invading other countries. This is why I organised the walk.”
“The spirit for peace is strengthening among the people day-by-day. We hope that the world would realize that Afghans want peace, Afghans want their rights to be ensured and that we have to decide how to reach to peace”.
“When the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, 140,000 people were immediately evaporated, one of the worst war crimes in history. Hiroshima should be the centre for learning humanity and compassion.”
“Everybody thinks they will be killed soon, I can be killed if I stay home or if I go to my shop, so I have decided it is much better to die for peace so the next generation of my family can enjoy peace.”
The Afghan Peace Volunteers meet the Helmand Peace Convoy
CAN AFGHANS CONVINCE US THAT THE METHOD OF WAR ISN’T EFFECTIVE?
by Dr Hakim 2nd August 2018
Kahar was displaced from Helmand to Kabul where he attended the Borderfree Street Kids School run by the Afghan Peace Volunteers. Kahar had said, “I fled from war in Helmand, I want to live in Kabul or anywhere that is good.”
One of the APVs, Ghulam Hussein, asked the Helmand Peace Walkers: “Are you eventually going to form an organization?”
Iqbal replied, “No, we want this to be a people’s movement. We won’t accept monetary support from any government or political group, and we don’t want power. When we’ve achieved peace, we will go back to what we were doing, farming, livestock keeping, teaching….”
That hot summer morning, in the tent, there was clear and beautiful evidence that “We are many.”
(To be read out at the Hiroshima remembrance events)
Greetings from Hiroshima where I am currently accompanying a group of Japanese peace walkers. They started their 50 day pilgrimage from the island of Okinawa. Hiroshima is the site of one of the worst war crimes ever committed. At 8.15am on the 6th August 1945 an Atomic bomb was released on the city and it became a living hell, 140,000 lives instantly evaporated. For that reason it is now a centre for peace and compassion, a beacon where people can learn about the importance of humanity. Hiroshima is a proud city which holds itself up to the rest of the world and says ‘never again’. Currently I am ensconced on a hillside overlooking the city, the urban sprawl of modern apartments and sky scrapers built along a U.S. style grid system. Unlike other Japanese towns and cities I have walked through, here there are no old buildings. Today we walked around the city with our peace banner offering prayers of peace. Ground zero is now a thriving shopping mall, alive and buzzing with activity, it’s chilling to think it could potentially be reduced to rubble within seconds. Along the walk I met the children of Hibakusha (people who survived the bomb), who talked of the trauma which carried through into their generation, the sicknesses and the nightmares of their parents. Others on the peace walk include a young brother and sister from the Native American Miccosukee (Panther) tribe, they talk of the trauma committed by the U.S. on their people. I am reminded of Los Alomos, Native American sacred land stolen by the U.S. Government and used to develop the atomic bomb. Today Japan is still unwillingly central to war crimes, forced to accommodate U.S. military bases as part of their loosing legacy, there is an estimated 50,000 U.S. Marines currently in the country, often flying straight out of Japanese bases and into conflict zones. 73 year old walker Kenji Doi attended every step of the walk, his message is: “Any politician who thinks nuclear weapons are a good idea should visit Hiroshima”.
Over the last 2 weeks peace groups across the UK took part in flying kites for the Persian New Year, to publicise the rights of children living under drones.
In Kabul the Nao Roz was overshadowed by an attack which left 31 dead and 65 wounded. The Afghan Peace Volunteers responded by flying balloons as a beacon of hope.
Also in the last 2 weeks we have seen US military officials claim Russian interference in Afghanistan by way of arming the Taliban and exaggerating IS Khorasan presence in the region, and thus being a cause in the prolonging of the Afghan war… Currently there is no hard evidence to support these claims by US military officials, like General John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, who has alleged that Russian weapons were being smuggled across the Tajik border to the Taliban.
At this stage these claims maybe more based on paranoia by the US & UK military who have already recognised the mutual advantages gained by both Russia and the Taliban if they formed an unlikely alliance – it’s worth remembering that many original Taliban members were in the Mujahideen who fought against the Russians for 10 years. There is also, of course, the current ‘anti Russia’ hysteria which is probably impacting the direction which US & UK fingers of blame are being directed.
We hope you enjoy this fully illustrated newsletter with a summary of Fly Kites Not Drones events. Thanks everyone who took part, and to everyone else, there’s always next year!
Fly Kites Not Drones UK & US 2018
“Members of the London Catholic Worker and the CAAT London gathered at the top of Parliament Hill, in Hamstead Heath to fly home made kites against a smoggy London backdrop. There was not a breath of wind, but a couple of us managed to keep our kites airborne by running down hill. We had a bring and share picnic, and took photos. One passer intrigued by the Catholic worker banner told us he was a Jewish anarchist and asked if we had heard of Emma Goldman.”
“A beautiful night in Bradford filling the sky with kites & laughing… lots of skilled boys from Afghanistan passed by & showed us how it was done.”
“On 24th March Leicester CND joined the local Afghan community to celebrate Nao Roz in Victoria Park and ‘Fly Kites Not Drones’. Over 60 people ate delicious Afghan food, and made kites and flew them. Even though the weather was dull and occasionally drizzly the Afghan kites still flew brilliantly! And we got in the local paper with a photograph and article.”
“In Harrogate on 25th, we (supporters of Menwith Hill AC) joined children from Harrogate Friends Meeting. Together, we Celebrated Nao Roz, the Persian New Year, with Afghanistan’s favourite activity of kite flying, while also being in solidarity with children living under drones. We do know that drones in Afghanistan and Yemen are directed using intelligence from Menwith Hill near Harrogate. One participant said: ‘Great morning, glad we did it.’. I hope we’ll do it again.”
#FlyKitesNotDrones @DroneCampaigns @vcnvuk
“RAF Waddington lifted us off with this years’ Fly Kites Not Drones for Nao Roz mass actions… above Penny Walker braving the minus 9 degree C windchill, and a blizzard, in order to get a kite airborne. Two police officers in a car looked on as a well prepared team flew kites in Siberian winds. Most of the kite runners were well dressed for the occasion, while shelter for those less well dressed was provided by a warm car equipped with flasks of tea and legendary carrot cake”
“The weather cleared up just in time for a great day of kite making and kite flying in the Meadows Sunday in solidarity with people living under the threat of drone strikes. We were close to the park cafe where we hosted speakers and a live band. This was our fourth annual FKND Edinburgh Festival with lots of families attending.”
“It was cold and windy, 41 degrees fahrenheit, as we stood at the gates of Volk Field in Wisconsin. Volk Field is an Air National Guard Base that teaches personnel to operate the Shadow Drone, a smaller drone that is used mainly for surveillance, reconnaissance, and target acquisition. There has been concern recently that smaller weapons have been developed so that the Shadow Drone can now be weaponized.”
HUDDERSFIELD “Great turnout yesterday – we had 10 people at short notice! Very positive response from the public too.”
HASTINGS “Hastings battled with the elements, biting cold winds on the seafront with flash sleeting didn’t put off the 20 odd who turned out. Loads of traffic with the Hastings Half Marathon runners zipping past. Hastings organised a kite making workshop as well as gaining page 4 coverage in their local newspaper – .”
“In Ireland two primary schools participated in the peace initiative – Scoil Bhriocáin from Galway’s Irish speaking area in the West of Ireland and St. Colmcille’s from the opposite side of the island in Dublin . The latter school focused on how to make and fly a kite while Scoil Bhriocáin’s pupils examined Afghan history and conditions there for children today. Both schools celebrated the Afghani New Year. And despite the rain Irish language TV covered the kite-flying by Scoil Bhriocáin’s pupils, who expressed their solidarity with Afghanistan’s children. A well supported public kite-flying event also happened in Galway city.”
Gaelic Fly Kites Not Drones leaflet as used in Galway
On “Nao Roz” ( “New Day”), the Afghan New Year on the 21st of March 2018, a suicide bomb attack occurred near Kabul University, not very far from the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre of the Afghan Peace Volunteers. Despite the complicated fears and emotions that arise with each security incident, Zekerullah, Bismillah, Nisar and others gathered at the Centre, built a peace sign and lifted it up into the air with multi-coloured balloons.During the Global Days of Listening program that evening, Zainab Amirzai said, “I was feeling down after hearing about the attack which killed 30 or more persons. I determined to come anyway, and when I saw the peace sign and balloons, I felt a sense of gratitude for our community here, that together we can resolve to work towards the kind of world we long for.”We each can lift peace up!
Nao Roz, the Persian New Year is nearly upon us, have you dusted off your kite???
This is the 5th Fly Kites Not Drones annual action which coincides with the Persian New Year 21st March. As usual we have loads of actions happening up and down the country, below are a few we currently have details on, more will follow.
This campaign was launched by the Afghan Peace Volunteers, and is now an international campaign which shows solidarity with children living under armed drones, this year we will be joined by many groups in the USA.
If there isn’t an event happening in your area then organise your own with a few friends, and send us photos @KitesNotDrones @VCNVUK
Kite flying in Kabul
Fly Kites Not Drones UK Upcoming Events @KitesNotDrones @VCNVUK #FlyKitesNotDrones firstname.lastname@example.org
Edinburgh FKND Festival 1-4pm Sunday 1st April The Pavilion Cafe Edinburgh Jawbone Walk, Melville Drive EH9 1JU Always a massive turn out with great winds, Edinburgh holds award winning photos.
Leicester Flying Afghan Style 11-1pm Saturday 24th March Victoria Park, near Queens Road, LE1 Afghan Community comes together with local peace group for Afghan kite making & picnic, bring food to share, and prepare for some serious kite running.
Hastings FKND Marathon Special 11am Sunday 18th March Hastings Beach, in front of the Carlisle Pub TN34 1PE Organised by Hastings Against War, schedule to coincide with the Hastings Half Marathon, they will certainly be spreading the message high and far.
RAF Wddington Lincoln Out of Sight But NOT Out of Mind 1-3pm Saturday 17th March Grantham Road, Lincoln, LN5 9BN Flying kites with pride, showing our solidarity for children living under drones, organised by Drone Campaign Network.
London FKND Collective 2pm Saturday 24th March Parliament Hill Co-organised by London Catholic Worker, Campaign Against the Arms Trade & War Resisters International, spectacular London views, the action will also be made into a short film.
Aberdeen Gets High 10am -12 noon Sunday 25th March Ferry Hill Community Centre, Albury Road, Aberdeen, AB11 6TN Kite making, decorating and flying hosted by Aberdeen CND.
Fly Kites Not Drones 2018
Over the last 5 years UK anti-drone campaigning activities have included: entering drone control base RAF Waddington to plant a peace garden and carry out a citizens’ inspection, blockading Israeli drone manufacturer Elbit Systems and regularly hosting the London kite flying event to resist armed drones. This year, as Afghans celebrate their new year, on Nao Roz, Voices for Creative Nonviolence-UK invites communities to join the Fly Kites Not Drones campaign.
This peace campaign was launched 5 years ago by young nonviolent peace campaigners in Kabul who have firsthand experience of losing family members killed by drones. The campaign was created to highlight the fear and harm which armed drones inflict on children, so much so that they’re now too afraid to take part in Afghanistan’s much-loved pursuit of kite flying. The Afghan Peace Volunteers asked international campaigners to fly kites on the Persian New Year, 21st March, in solidarity with Afghan children.
Fly Kites Not Drones has since gone international with kite flying becoming recognised as an act of international solidarity for all young people living under armed drones, spotlighting civilian casualties and the psychological trauma inflicted by drones.
An urgent call is being put out to to join with this action in the light of recent news that there will be a reallocation of U.S. military resources back to Afghanistan. Army General John Nicholson, Top Commander in Afghanistan recently commented: “As assets free up from Iraq and Syria and the successful fight against [Islamic State] in that theatre, we expect to see more assets come to Afghanistan”. According to Brussels, allied officials say they have sensed a shift in U.S. priorities with pressure on NATO to focus less on the Middle East but more on Afghanistan. The Pentagon recently made moves to reallocate drones, other hardware and 1,000 new combat advisers to Afghanistan in time for ‘fighting season’ which traditionally starts in Spring.
In Afghanistan civilian casualties are at an all-time high. The last UNAMA report published July 2017 calculated 1,662 civilians killed in the first 6 months of the year with 3,581 injured, and of those killed 174 were women and 436 were children, a 23% and 19% increase respectively from the previous year. Trump’s August pledge to stop nation building and fight terrorists almost certainly translates to a ramping up in the use of aerial bombing and moreover drone warfare, which, by default means an increase in civilian deaths.
The act of flying a kite is simple but deeply symbolic. For Afghans it’s an integral part of their culture and social life; banned under the Taliban it now carries an additional symbolism of resistance. The underlying message of the campaign is that beautiful blue skies should be kept as a place of fun, wonderment and joy, not a means of reaping terror and fear with a deathly omnipresence which can last for weeks and even months.
Fly Kites not Drones is an ongoing campaign which the APVhead up every year. So, this Nao Roz, (beginning of the Afghan New Year), on the 21st March (or around that time) join your brothers and sisters in Afghanistan, invite some friends and go fly a kite in your local park, open space, beach or military base! Make a sign, a simple leaflet, take some photos and let us know @kitesnotdrones #FlyKitesNotDrones email@example.com
During the UK centenary for women’s suffrage, we find out what young women in Afghanistan think about voting
“There are many problems for women who want to vote, firstly, many do not have permission, sometimes men in the family do not allow. Secondly, women themselves don’t know their rights, they think it’s just the right which belongs to men. Also they don’t think it is important and many don’t know who to vote for.”“I think for women in Parliament maybe there is a lot of problems. Women are very scared in Afghanistan because all the power is taken, it’s very hard to struggle with men to get power. Parliament is where all the powerful men get together to make decisions, this is a very difficult area for women. Also, people probably won’t vote for women because they believe they can’t be in Parliament.”
Mah Begum age 17 “I intend to vote because it is my natural right, everyone should vote.” “The people don’t believe that women can do anything, that they are weak so they will not choose [vote] for a woman.” “We believe politics is not good and women always want to do good things. In Afghanistan the politics is not good, women want to do kind and good things, to bring peace.”
Mariam age 25 “I didn’t vote in the last election because it doesn’t make a difference, plus I didn’t want either Afghani or Abdullah to win” “When the women vote they face many problems, firstly they don’t choose for themselves, someone like their husbands tells them who to vote for. Also the woman is not free to go places, the husbands have to let them go, and also the Taliban don’t want women to vote.”“There are a few women in politics but not at the top, the problem is they can not be with the people in society because security is not good. Now the men have the power in the government and women can’t decide what they want to do, they have to listen to the men, and the men decide what the women should do because they think they know best. Also, if women want to talk about certain things, they are afraid they will lose their jobs.”
Alana age 18 “I will vote in the future because I want to choose someone to become President.”
Farzana age 17 “I will vote because it is my right.” “In Kabul it’s better because there are more literate women and they can decide who they want to vote for, but in the provinces it is different situation as women can’t read names so there are pictures or symbols to represent people. I’ve also heard that representatives at the voting stations tell women who to vote for by telling them the wrong names. Then in the house the men tell women who to vote for.”“The problem for women in politics is that it is still very male dominated, so even if a woman gets voted in the men still make the decisions, the opinions of women are overlooked.”“It’s very dangerous for women who speak out, a woman who is a politician must wear a Burqa when travelling so people don’t recognise her. Security is bad for all politicians, but for women it is worse.”
Marwa age 18 “I will not vote because in the past the results have not been good, also I’m not sure who is the good one, will they be a good person.” “In Kabul it is easy for women to vote but in the provinces it is hard because families don’t let them go, security is hard for women. Sometimes in Kabul families don’t let women vote.”“I don’t know about the problems for women in politics.”
Zarghuna age 25 “I don’t vote because I understand that it is America who will choose who they want to become President. I heard during the Ashraf Afghani campaign that he would let America bring more soldiers to continue the war in Afghanistan, and that made me decide not to vote. Also it seems a poor system when there is a 1% difference in who gets elected”
“In Kabul it is easy to vote, but in the Provinces they kill women or cut their thumbs off so they can’t vote.”“Families don’t like the women to go into the area of politics, it’s not good for women as in Afghanistan men have all the power.””[T]here cannot be true peace and recovery in Afghanistan without a restoration of the rights of women.” UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Overnight Change by Maya Evans in Kabul
Afghan women were given the right to vote in 1919, just a year after some women in the UK. In fact, the reforms laid down by King Amanullah Khan and his wife Queen Soraya made Afghanistan one of the most progressive countries of the day in terms of improving equality for women. During the same week in which the UK celebrates the centenary of women’s suffrage, I am in Afghanistan, a country ranked “the most dangerous in the world for women”. Conversations with Afghan women make me reflect on the history which shapes their current landscape, and how the fate of women can literally change overnight depending on who the controlling leaders are.
On a personal level I have recently become a lot more interested and active in party politics after being selected to stand as a Councillor in my home town of St. Leonards on Sea. Admittedly, in the past, I’ve been something of a reluctant voter, feeling it made no difference, and often voting across the board; in fact I’ve voted for exactly 3 different political parties since turning 18.
My decision to stand as a local Councillor was directly influenced by a very deliberate stated ambition to achieve 50% of the positions within local councils and parliament occupied by women. I was personally talked into standing by a fellow member who said: “If half the people running this country were women, that would truly be revolutionary.” My local Party purposely organised meetings to encourage women to step forward, and, recently, put on a speaking assertiveness training course for prospective women councillors.
My Afghan friends ask me, “What have you been doing lately?” When I try to explain to them, “I am standing to become part of my town’s Jirga” (a traditional Pashtoon Afghan council normally consisting of men) – the response is a look of astonishment and then a burst of laughter…
Looking at the history of women in Afghanistan, it’s astounding to think that 1920’s Kabul and London were relatively level pegging in terms of women’s liberation. It’s important to point out that rural Afghanistan was and still is a very different scene to Kabul, with deeply traditional and conservative attitudes. However, as is the general trend of progress, movements and ideas normally start in big cities and then proliferate.
Within 10 years King Amir Amanullah Khan made great gains for women’s rights. In 1923, he created Afghanistan’s first constitution which abolished slavery and forced labour. He guaranteed secular education and equal rights for men and women. He also granted women the right to choose their own husbands. Unfortunately his roll of progressive reforms was cut short when in 1929 his wife Queen Soraya was depicted without a head scarf, the final straw for conservative tribal leaders who were already angered by his modernising reforms. The couple were forced to flee and live in exile. Mohammed Nadir Shah claimed the throne and quickly abolished many of Khan’s reforms, returning Afghanistan to Sharia law and a monarchy for the next 40 years. By 1933 King Nadir Shah was assassinated and his son Zahir assumed the throne; his reign was defined by a period of stable but gradual modernisation.
The fate of Afghan women under Russian occupation is a mixed bag. Women were very much encouraged to further their education and take jobs, often within the government, though in the same stroke those who resisted the Communist regime were rounded up, imprisoned, sometimes horrifically tortured and killed. The Communist PDPA did not represent the wishes or attitudes for the majority of the country, especially those in the rural provinces which were still deeply conservative.
Afghanistan become a major Cold War pawn between the U.S. and the Soviet Union with the CIA pouring millions of dollars into training and arming the Mujahuddin, who were, broadly speaking, rural guerrilla fighters. It is during this time foreign fighters such as Saudi born Osama bin Laden travelled to Afghanistan to help fight the Jihad (holy war) against the godless Russians.
After the Taliban government was toppled in 2001 the same fundamentalist and misogynistic Mujaheddin warlords, who only 5 years previously, had freely used widespread rape and murder of women, were reinstated within a government which was, and still is, backed by the US/ UK and the international community. It is therefore no surprise that within the last 17 years few political gains have been made for women generally.
The overall situation for Afghan women has improved in the last decade, particularly in the major urban areas like Kabul, but for those living in the rural provinces, there are still major problems. It is no revelation when you look at some of the rules passed post Taliban, for example the “code of conduct” endorsed by President Karzai in 2012, said that “women should not travel without a male guardian and should not mingle with strange men in places such as schools, markets and offices.”
In 2014 the Afghan government passed a law which limits family members to testify as witnesses of domestic violence, while in the previous year the UN published a statistic showing a 20% increase in violence towards women. In 2015 Farkhunda Malikzada, a 27 year old Afghan woman, was publicly beaten and slain by a mob in Kabul under false accusations of Quran desecration.
Today 20% of the MPs in the Afghan government are women. Recent famous female politicians have included Malalai Joya who bravely spoke out for the rights of women, however the intensity of stress and poor security means her time within Parliament was short, and today she lives in secrecy and under protection.
While reflecting on the parallel histories of Afghanistan and the UK it’s both painful and heartening to see how the extent of women’s participation within politics can be turned around almost overnight, depending on the political leaders in control. Having become involved in local party politics, I can see the UK still has a very long way to go in terms of real political equality. However, like in Afghanistan, the changes need to happen from the grassroots; women need to be brave, to make good use of any chance to use their intelligence, to seek out opportunities and carve new paths wherever possible. Indeed this is what many of the young women of the Afghan Peace Volunteers are currently doing. They are finding their feet, they are gaining confidence, they are expanding their knowledge, and like the women who are currently putting themselves forward as councillors, they are striding towards revolution from the grassroots.
Facts of Life for Afghan Women – According to the World Bank, in 2014 Afghan women made up only 16.1% of the labour force in Afghanistan
– 21% of students at University are women
– Literacy rate for women is 24.2% In the area of agriculture, where women make up 30% of the workforce, they often earn three times less than men
– Under the Taliban, women and girls were discriminated against in many ways, for the ‘crime’ of being born a girl.
The Taliban enforced their version of Islamic Sharia law. Women and girls were:
Banned from going to school or studying
Banned from working
Banned from leaving the house without a male chaperone
Banned from showing their skin in public
Banned from accessing healthcare delivered by men Banned from being involved in politics or speaking publicly.
FOUR STOP THE ARMS FAIR protestors were found “not guilty”last week for blocking the road last September during a week of action to stop DSEi.
One of the protestors Henrietta Cullinan has visited the Afghan Peace Volunteers twice over the last few years and talked about her experiences in the witness box:
“I talked about how the arms fair has to sell more weapons to promote war, that I’ve been to Afghanistan twice and seen the long term effects of war on young people, that i’ve met women my age with injuries from Russian airstrikes, met refugees, how there’s no infrastructure to help refugees. For ordinary people war doesn’t just stop when it’s over… The judge was very impressed that i’d been to Afghanistan,”
The defense lawyer, Raj Chada, said – “On the day after the actions of the suffragettes were lauded, it is apt that today’s generation of direct action protestors do not have to wait 100 years to be vindicated. These defendants seek to bring to our attention the evil of the arms trade – it is to that cause that we must focus.”
Voices for Creative Non-Violence UK Newsletter January 2018
Today Kabul endured another Taliban attack, current reports say at least 95 were killed and 185 injured after an ambulance packed with explosives was driven past a police checkpoint and into a street of government workers. Just in this week alone attacks have included the Intercontinental Hotel where 22 people were killed, and Save the Children in Jalalabad which killed 3 and injured 25.
Our friends in the Afghan Peace Volunteers are all fine, narrowly missing the attack today while attending an exhibition of peace photography.
Meanwhile last month US military officials announced in regards to Afghanistan “the gloves are off”. In the coming year the US intends to double its Afghan Special Operations and triple Afghan Air Force.
In December US and Afghan forces conducted 455 airstrikes, an average of 15 per day, compared with just 65 for the previous year. Between August and December 2017 there were 2,000 airstrikes which is nearly as many as 2015 and 2016 combined.
The blitz is set to intensify as the US withdraws from Iraq and Syria, redeploying assets such as jets, field advisers and drones to Afghanistan.
The US Air Force says there are now nearly three squadrons worth of Reaper Drones in Kandahar, these include the new bigger Block 5 version which can carry an external fuel tank allowing the drone to fly further and stay in the air for even longer. US military say this drone fleet might only be the start of a larger drone mission both in size and scope.
Today my Facebook feed was full of disturbing photos from Kabul, posted by my young friends, comments included “We are alive but Kabul is dead”.
Other Afghans in Kabul ask “Why do EU countries still deport Afghan refugees back to Kabul despite deadly attacks now being weekly to daily”. Three quarters of families forced to flee their homes are not receiving any aid assistance, one in two are highly food insecure, often skipping meals and reducing food intake, trapped in an endemic cycle of poverty. There are now 1.3 million internally displaced within the country. Germany was the last European country to deport 19 Afghan Asylum seekers just 5 days ago, they arrived early in the morning, some would have never been to Kabul, and yet they are expected to make their lives in a city already massively overpopulated.
In the last year foreign NGOs and workers, including the Red Cross, have pulled out of the country. Foreign diplomats cross Kabul by helicopter when visiting.
Overall the country appears to be in a stalemate situation, the Taliban controls or at least has influence over 50% of the country, US military officials commented last August that they hope to engage the Taliban in ‘peace talks’,possibly allowing them to join with the current government or to hand over various provinces for the Taliban to run.
The Taliban psychology is that they were a legitimate government which was toppled by the US and a puppet government installed. The recent intensity of US attacks has likely made the Taliban even more determined to ‘wait it out’, confident that the US can not maintain its intense presence in the country indefinitely, reasoning that they have nowhere else to go.We at Voices UK continue to visit our friends in Kabul, steadfast in our conviction to support the non violent grassroots activities of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, resolute to show solidarity to our long term friends who are trapped in an imploding bubble. Maya Evans sets to depart imminently, she takes with her the good wishes of UK peace activists, messages of love and support. While in Kabul she will update our friends with the news that the UK peace movement is growing in strength and activity, that the mainstream British public are awake to the fact that global wars are just making everyone more unsafe.
Fly Kites Not Drones 2018
17th – 25th MarchWhy fly kites not drones?
Killer drones have fast become the preferred weapon of choice for politicians who use them daily to conduct assassinations, execution without trial. A drone pilot is thousands of miles away, at the touch of a button and without judge or jury people are executed. No right to a fair trial, no opportunity for legal defence or a chance to present evidence. Nearly 90% of people killed in recent drone strikes were not the target.
Fly Kites Not Drones was launched 5 years ago by the Afghan Peace Volunteers who had personal experience of innocent family members killed by drones. The threat of armed drones now means that children in Afghanistan are too afraid to fly their kites and blue skies are a sight of fear. The campaign is now international and an act of solidarity towards all children who live under the threat and psychological trauma of weaponised drones.
Who we need: Peace groups, youth groups, community centres, schools, universities, mosques, churches, woodcraft folk and anyone who wants to show solidarity in the face of the extremely concerning issue of armed drones.
What & When: This year’s activities are to, make, buy, find, borrow, and decorate a kite, do it Afghan style and make a wish to send into the sky for Now Roz – Persian New Year 21st March (or around that date). Kite flying is fun wherever you try it, in a park, on the beach, an open space or next to a military base, just try to stay clear of trees, lamp posts and overhead power lines!
Contact us: Let us know the date, time and place of your action and we’ll make a Facebook page on Fly Kites Not Drones, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tweet your photos @kitesnotdrones #FlyKitesNotDrones
3 years since ‘Mission Complete’, 38 years since the Russian invasion, Afghanistan today
THREE YEARS AGO TODAY Voices UK were in Kabul with the delegation of Mary Dobbing, Henrietta Cullinan and Maya Evans. We rolled our eyes at the British Government and its media narrative of ‘Afghanistan Mission Complete’, we sat with your young Afghan friends full of love and admiration for them, while also empty of pride for what our country had done to theirs.Last week saw yet another deadly attack by ISKP (ISIS in Afghanistan), claiming 41 lives and injuring 80 civilians. It is now recognised that within the last 2 years ISKP have now overtaken the Taliban for fatal attacks against civilians, normally drawn upon sectarian lines.
Unusually, here in the UK, the BBC, whom rarely to never headline attacks against Afghan civilians, lead with the story all day. Cynical but experienced members of Voices UK hypothesised the possibility of the British public being softened up for further deployment of UK troops (in addition to the 85 redeployed last Summer).
For Afghans, 2017 saw the US drop ‘the mother of all bombs’, Trump announcing an “end to nation building” and a massive ramping up of bombs and missiles with 3,900 being dropped in 2017 alone, 3 times as many as last year, true identities of victims are totally unknown.
Afghanistan is now experienced 4 decades of war and violence, we hold our breaths for what the next year will bring, and we continue to place our faith in our brave young Afghan friends who campaign for peace and non violence.
Read the latest inspiring activities of the Afghan Peace Volunteers who, on international volunteer day 20th December, carried out a litter pick on the streets of Kabul!
Welcome to Kabul by Ken Hannaford-Ricardi
(Report from Kabul) December 31, 2017 It is a dream come true being back among friends in Kabul! Streams of dented Toyotas (They are all Toyotas!) with windscreens cracked like bolts of lightning still jockey for position on roads where traffic lights and common sense hold little sway. Carts of vegetables drawn by donkeys or dragged by men without dreams continue clotting the already stuttering traffic, forcing it almost to a standstill. Stucco houses remain stapled to mountainsides, one tripping over the other as they race to the top. And smog, as thick and foul-smelling as only winter in Kabul can conjure up. It felt wonderful being home!
As a team-building exercise, three of us chose this afternoon to clean the chimney of one of our wood stoves. Four lengths of sooty pipe and two elbow joints later, the stove was ready to refire and all three of us needed a good bath. We laughed (mostly young ones) and swore (mostly me) in almost equal proportions.
As we got ready for bed last night, we heard a sustained series of what most of us thought was gunfire. The wail of a siren followed shortly thereafter and caused us to wonder if we should head to the basement for a bit. We waited it out on the second floor. We were brave, or not.
This morning brought rumors of three explosions nearby. We scrambled for information, but little was forthcoming. Later, we were forwarded an email from a friend working near us. The attack, it appeared, had centered on a Shia mosque. “It is more than sad,” our friend said. “Latest update showed 45 people killed and 85 wounded. Going to the scene, there is nothing more than blood, flesh, meat, dust, and fear. We again see Afghans die for nothing and families lose their loved ones because of ongoing US-backed war.” My young co-workers are physically okay.
Tonight, after dinner, I had the chance to talk with a young Afghan friend about his family. Married for just a brief period, his wife conceived. They were happy. Their families rejoiced. One night during their son’s fourth month, he woke up sick enough to be taken to the doctor’s. After an examination, the doctor gave the boy a number of injections, and the family was sent home. Later that same evening, the child’s condition worsened, and the parents took him to a hospital, where he died. My friend and his wife still do not know what claimed their son’s life.
Welcome to Kabul.
Ken Hannaford-Ricardi is in Kabul representing Voices for Creative Nonviolence. While there, he is a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers.
VCNV (US) Brian Terrell on Sputnik Radio:
“Our presence in Afghanistan is making it more dangerous,” Brian Terrell told show hosts..”[The war is] in the interest of the multinational corporations that are cashing in on this… [it’s not in the interest] of the American people or the Afghan people.” Read & Listen to more.
Voices for Creative Non Violence UK December 2017 Newsletter
TODAY in the UK we enjoy the first day of snow with parts of Wales and the Midlands covered in a deep white blanket, we at VCNV are reminded of our friends in Afghanistan who celebrate the first day of snow by taking time to visit friends and family.
The snows in Afghanistan were traditionally a blessing but are now a sight of dread for some. Without snowfall the Spring crops will fail and the current water crisis will worsen (see article below by Dr Hakim), but the freezing conditions are unbearable for the 1.2 million internally displaced living in inadequate conditions, in some cases freezing to death.
As always, we are heartened and inspired by the positive and productive work of our young friends in Kabul, most recently their address via Skype to an International Permaculture Conference in Hyderabad, India, where they explained the ‘push factors’ of war and the importance of permaculture in Afghanistan. We are also proud of the contribution one of our APVs made to a recent UN report on Afghanistan.
The plight of Afghan refugees in Europe continues to depress, the case of a 6 year old girl being killed on the border of Croatia being the most recent example. Although European countries still deem Afghanistan safe to deport, public awareness of the rapidly worsening security is being recognised, and leading to inspiring grassroots actions such as the German pilots who refused to co-operate with the deportation of 222 Afghans. The Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul continue to meet and carry on with all their grassroots projects. Later this winter a UK delegation will be departing for Kabul, showing our continued solidarity for their work. This is the time of year we traditionally appeal for funds which go towards theDuvet Project and the Street Kids School.
With so much disaster, war and suffering in the world we totally understand the ‘donation fatigue’ gripped by many of us, however, these projects do need funding and they are extremely deserving causes with every penny directly being taken over and handed to Afghan peace campaigners. Voices for Creative Non-Violence UK The Co-operative Bank Sort code: 08 92 99 Account: 65583025 Or via paypal
Thank you for your continued support.
Mary, Henrietta, Susan & Maya
PEACE the distant hopeful dream of every Afghan – inspiring words from Zarghuna
Between A Rock & A Hard Place by Maya Evans
(Speech delivered at an MP’s briefing in Parliament last month)
I have been visiting Afghanistan regularly since 2011, working with a nonviolent Afghan youth peace group, recording my general observations, and creating campaigns to keep the ongoing Afghan war within the awareness of UK citizens. I have made 9 trips so far. I’d say Kabul has changed considerably over the last seven years, there’s a lot more construction taking place, new buildings seem to pop up overnight and the city seems to have become increasingly busier, there’s a strong feeling that it’s bursting at the seams. When the US and NATO invaded in October 2001, the population of Kabul was 1.5 million, but today that figure stands at 5 million with so many war-displaced flocking to the city for safety, as it is one of the few locations in Afghanistan with no direct fighting between the military forces, the Taliban and IS. That’s not to say that Kabul is in any way safe, with weekly suicide bomb attacks, sporadic street violence, and a small industry of abductions for ransom being common threats. When I first started visiting it was relatively fine for me to walk the streets even though a foreigner, but today my teenage friends earnestly advise all visitors against walking anywhere, urging the hire of taxis for even 5 minute walks. The biggest danger for a foreigner is kidnap, while the biggest worry for everyone is being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Heavy piling and digging for a new well, photo by Dr Hakim
An Esculating Afghan ‘Crisis’ of Profit Over Life by Dr Hakim (Writing from Kabul)
“My family’s water well has dried up,” 18-year-old Surkh Gul said.“Ours too,” echoed 13-year-old Inaam.A distressed Surkh Gul lamented, “We have to fetch water from the public well along the main road, but that water is muddy, not fit for drinking. I get bottled water for my two-year-old daughter. At least someone in the family should stay healthy.” Inaam chipped in, “Fortunately, for now, the water that we fetch from a nearby mosque is clean.”A U.S. and Afghan Geological Survey of Kabul Basin’s water resources found that about half of the shallow groundwater supply wells could become dry by 2050 due to declining recharge and stream-flows under projected climate change. Read more
Maya Evans briefing MPs on the current situation in Afghanistan, as part of an MP’s briefing organised by Stop the War
From The Ground Up by Kathy Kelly (Writing from Kabul)
On a recent Friday at the Afghan Peace Volunteers‘ (APV) Borderfree Center, here in Kabul, thirty mothers sat cross-legged along the walls of a large meeting room. Masoumah, who co-coordinates the Center’s “Street Kids School” project, had invited the mothers to a parents meeting. Burka-clad women who wore the veil over their faces looked identical to me, but Masoumah called each mother by name, inviting the mothers, one by one, to speak about difficulties they faced. From inside the netted opening of a burka, we heard soft voices and, sometimes, sheer despair. Others who weren’t wearing burkas also spoke gravely. Their eyes expressed pain and misery, and some quietly wept. Often a woman’s voice would break, and she would have to pause before she could continue
“I have debts that I cannot pay,” whispered the first woman
“My children and I are always moving from place to place. I don’t know what will happen.”
“I am afraid we will die in an explosion.”
“My husband is paralyzed and cannot work. We have no money for food, for fuel.”
“My husband is old and sick. We have no medicine.”
Photo: Masoumah invites Afghan mothers to speak about difficulties they face (credit: APVs)
Fly Kites Not Drones 2018 21st March Nao Roz
BIG plans are already aloft for Fly Kites Not Drones WEEK OF ACTION 17th- 25th March, to coincide with the Persian New Year, already confirmed events taking place in: RAF Waddington, Abderdeen, Edinburgh, Leicester, Bradford, London and Hastings.
Please help spread the message and organise an event in your area.
Kite making instructions HERE and education pack (free to download) HERE
Despite the declaration that the war with ISIS is “over”, there are no plans to withdrawn UK drones from Iraq & Syria, drones ensure we are now in a perpetual state of war.
Address to MPs in Parliament, as part of a Stop the War briefing
I have been visiting Afghanistan regularly since 2011, working with a nonviolent Afghan youth peace group, recording my general observations, and creating campaigns to keep the ongoing Afghan war within the awareness of UK citizens.I have made 9 trips so far.I’d say Kabul has changed considerably over the last seven years, there’s a lot more construction taking place, new buildings seem to pop up overnight and the city seems to have become increasingly busier, there’s a strong feeling that it’s bursting at the seams. When the US and NATO invaded in October 2001, the population of Kabul was 1.5 million, but today that figure stands at 5 million (1) with so many war-displaced flocking to the city for safety, as it is one of the few locations in Afghanistan with no direct fighting between the military forces, the Taliban and IS. That’s not to say that Kabul is in any way safe, (2) with weekly suicide bomb attacks, sporadic street violence, and a small industry of abductions for ransom being common threats. When I first started visiting it was relatively fine for me to walk the streets even though a foreigner, but today my teenage friends earnestly advise all visitors against walking anywhere, urging the hire of taxis for even 5 minute walks. The biggest danger for a foreigner is kidnap (3), while the biggest worry for everyone is being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
My friends in the Afghan Peace Volunteers (4) live in Karte Se – District 3 – a relatively mixed residential area within Kabul. Taking a short walk to the local bazaar gives you a snapshot of the some of the many problems gripping Afghanistan. The opportunity to venture out is rare and very exciting, the bustle of Kabul street life is intensely stimulating on the senses, the echo of recorded announcements from tannoys which are strapped to carts selling juicy oranges from Jalalabad, or towers of pomegranates from Kandahar, or cauliflowers bigger than your head. The blue cloudless sky and bright sunlight is blinding, the spectacular Hindu Kush mountains in the background look unreal, as though someone had cut a picture out of the National Geographic and stuck it behind a very busy city scene.
Most of my shopping experiences are to Karte Seh’s “Red Bridge”, from which much of the red paint has now been chipped away (it’s generally caked in dirt). The bridge is a hive of activity, though: it is a market.People compete for spaces, labourers sit with their shovels, waiting for work, representing an estimated 40% of the male population who are currently unemployed (5). A woman under a burka clutches a small baby bundled in rags, with her head bent and a begging-hand extended. I am told prostitution is a thriving industry, but what is under the bridge is even worse. The bridge once crossed a lush river where in the ‘70s children swam and people fished for their suppers, but today the riverbed is a dumping ground for uncollected rubbish, where a grey slug stream snakes around discarded water bottles, plastic bags and general detritus, and the people who have become addicted to opium.This is a popular congregation point for them; openly consuming heroin, their hands and gaunt faces black with dirt, their eyes vacant, because their souls have been robbed. Today Afghanistan has approximately 3 million people addicted to opium, a staggering 12% of the population (6) due mainly to the massive surge of the lucrative poppy cultivation industry after the start of the war. Today warlords dominate Afghanistan despite copious blood on their hands from unspeakable massacres during the war and in the decades before it; and many of these are now directing an opium industry which accounts for 90% of the world’s supply, up from only 27% before the 2001 invasion (7). This relatively new phenomenon catches Afghanistan withlittle-to-no infrastructure ready to cope with it, the rehab clinics being few and far between, and the reasons for wanting to forget all too obvious.
When in Kabul I usually make a point of visiting some of the refugee camps, of which there are now 50in and around Kabul (8). For several consecutive years I have visited the “Charman-e-Babrak” camp which sits near a row of private health clinics, across a mud road with no laid surfaces so that cars often get stuck in deep pot holes, and cyclists ride in zigzags. In the last 7 years I’ve seen no improvements in that camp, it’s the same children walking around in the mud and snow with either no shoes or just sandals. The heavy stench of raw sewage immediately smacks you in the face upon entering the camp via a rickety makeshift corrugated iron bridge over the camp’s roadside moat, a torrent of raw flowing sewage. The houses are made of mud bricks and of scavenged bits of scrap iron and wood, with old bits of canvas stretched over to make a roof. These are the conditions for some of Afghanistan’s 1.3 million internally displaced people, a staggering figure which threatens to steadily increase as more refugees are deported en-masse from Pakistan, Iran and Europe (9).
To contextualize the Kabul camps, I should mention that I’ve spent time in the Jungles of Calais, and can confirm that they are a humanitarian disaster and a disgrace for the developed world; butin comparison to an Afghan refugee camp the Calais Jungle conditions are not halfbad. Many Afghan camps receive little to no aid, they’re a nowhere land full of nowhere people, and generally a ‘no go’ zone for visitors. From speaking to people in Kabul camps it seems that once you land there it’s more or less impossible to get out, and they are your long-term-to-permanent future. There are, of course, also a calculated 2 million Afghans seeking refuge outside the country, making up the second biggest ethnicity of refugees in Europe, and many of their futures will lie in the desperate camps around Kabul, as most European countries (10) have judged Kabul a ‘safe’ location for deportation, despite the fact that many refugees have never visited Kabul, and have no family or friends in the city.
My visits to Afghanistan have always been to Kabul, as for a foreigner to venture outside the city would be extremely dangerous. Even for an Afghan it’s deadly dangerous: my friends describe it as the ‘Wild West’ with vehicles regularly stopped by the Taliban, people asked for ID and sometimes executed if found to have connections with foreigners. One of my young Afghan friends Zahra watched her friends’ execution after their bus was stopped by the Taliban in Kandahar. Four of her friends, all aged eighteen, had made the mistake of travelling with their student ID cards on them.Today Zahra struggles with depression, trying desperately to erase the memory of witnessing the roadside end of her classmates.
All of my Afghan friends exhibit some sort of behaviour ‘issue’ whether that’s throwing things at walls, or ripping up clothing, or falling prey to fits of rage, depression, detachment. Pretty much everyone in Afghanistan has directly lost a family member during the last 38 years of war. Last year my friend Ali lost his older brother: a police officer in Kandahar who fell victim to an IED. Then there’s 15 year old street-kid Habib, the main bread winner of his family after his father was killed, six years back, in a sectarian-based attack on a Shia mosque.Researchers calculate that for every one of these direct casualties of war, another 4 Afghans die due to indirect war causes such as hunger, disease and injury (11). Just the other week, one of the main co-ordinators of the group unexpectedly lost his 4 month old son: today Afghanistan has the second-highest infant mortality rate in the world (12).Everyone in Afghanistan has experienced loss, everyone lives close to death, the feeling of deep depression is evident in the faces of all people, mental health statistics are staggering, it is calculated that 68% of the population suffer from depression, 72% from anxiety and 42% from post-traumatic stress disorders (13).
The other week I chatted via Viber to 11-year-old street-kid Inam who polishes shoes for a living. He and his friends sometime call me on a Sunday morning to practice their English: we normally talk about our favourite fruits and vegetables. Last Sunday their teacher explained that Inam’s water well had dried up, now a common problem in Kabul and across Afghanistan where only 27% of the population can access clean water (14). Today in Kabul the wells are having to be drilled an extra 40 metres deep to reach a dropping water table (15), with the water crisis about to worsen with a Chinese copper mine north of Kabul having recently opened: water in great quantities is a must of the mining process (16). Much more foreign mining will almost certainly follow, with a geological study having calculated that Afghanistan has an estimated $3 trillion worth of precious materials to be mined (17). It’s deeply ironic that one of the poorest countries in the world has such potential riches. Afghans that I speak to are doubtful that they will see any of that wealth. It is calculated that 36% of Afghans are currently living below the poverty line (18).
During my last visit to Kabul, made earlier this year, I chatted to my young friend Gul, who faces, with an absent father, a high expectation of being the family breadwinner at age 17 for a family of 6 younger siblings. He asked me for advice, “Should I leave Afghanistan for Europe? What is there for me in this country, there is no work, the streets are dangerous even for walking, my life will amount to nothing if I stay.” I really didn’t know what to say to him, I shared with him what I do know, that the journey to Europe is extremely dangerous, that many people die en route, and that today the EU (19) and the UK (20) deem Kabul a ‘safe’ location to which to deport Afghans, so that even if you do make it to Europe there’s every chance of just being deported back again … I felt deeply compromised answering his question, as in reality there is very little for people in Afghanistan.
One of my other contacts in Kabul is Latifa Ahmadi, Director of the “Organisation to Promote Afghan Women’s Capabilities”, a grassroots organisation which trains women in handicrafts and provides basic literacy and numeracy education allowing women to run small home businesses and provide an extra income for their families. Latifa has razor-sharp intelligence and a stunning dedication to the task of helping Afghan women, although she has received death threats for running such an organisation. Many of the women who attend class do so in secrecy from their husbands, their fathers, and other family members. I was very struck at our last meeting when Latifa described the current state of the country as “worse than living under the Taliban.” She went on to explain, “living under the Taliban was awful and oppressive for women – but at least there was security, you could travel on the roads and it was relatively safe. Today travelling by road is very unpredictable.”
In relation to women generally, very small gains have been made in the last 16 years. Certainly I have met women in Kabul who say their lives have been greatly improved since the removal of the Taliban, but these women have largely been middle-class professionals, those in academia and the NGO world. Without a doubt those women would not have been able to have had professional jobs under the Taliban. And there have been gains for girls in Kabul who, with the consent of family, are generally able to access schools (unless they’re street kids or refugees). However, for girls living outside of Kabul, in the rural provinces, very few enjoy the chance to attend school with a current estimate of 1,100 Afghan children dropping out of school every day (21). Instability within the country means it’s unsafe for many children to attend school, or they must work to support the family: at least a quarter of Afghan children are engaged in child labour (22). Then there’s the 2009 “Elimination of Violence Against Women Act” which is still struggling to be passed, though in 2015 the Supreme Court banned the imprisonment of women for running away from their husbands, with the caveat that if a woman does leave her husband she must go to a medical provider, the police, or the house of a close male relative (23). None of those locations are ideal for a woman trying to escape domestic violence.
When I speak with Afghan women’s rights activists they all share the opinion that war makes it difficult-to-impossible for women to organise and promote equality, as priority must be given to keeping themselves and their families alive.
To be an Afghan today is to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one side you have the Taliban, and now IS, using IEDs, suicide bombs and pressure plate devices, and on the other side you have Government forces and illegal militias who employ rockets and mortars. All of these weapons are devastating for civilians; and more often than not, civilians are caught up in the fighting. The last UNAMA report published in July 2017 calculated 1,662 civilians killed in the first 6 months of the year with 3,581 injured, and of those killed 174 were women and 436 were children, a 23% and 19% increase respectively from the previous year (24). UN figures show that since January 2009 more than 26,500 civilians have been killed and 49,000 injured as a result of conflict, while the “Cost of War” project says an overall conservative estimate of Afghans killed since 2001 is 217,000 (25). It’s reported that both sides in the conflict have attacked hospitals and healthcare facilities: in February 2016 Afghan Special Forces raided a health clinic run by a Swedish humanitarian organisation (26), attacking medical staff and shooting three patients dead. In September 2016 the Taliban dressed as doctors and attacked a hospital in Kandahar city killing one civilian (27). And then there’s the well-publicised US bombing of the MSF hospital in Kunduz, killing 42 civilians (28), an incident still under investigation which is being described as a ‘war crime’.
Last August President Trump stated in a speech that his intentions in Afghanistan were “not nation building again, we are killing terrorists.” The Pentagon has deployed a further 3,900 US troops to bolster up the 8,400 already in the country alongside 13,000 NATO troops, a redeployment which comes just months after the US dropped the ‘mother of all bombs’ on Nangarhar Province, one of the poorest regions in one of the poorest countries in the world. Donald Trump’s speech and recent tactics suggest that the US will employ more aerial bombing in its fight against the ever-strong Taliban and the increasingly influential IS. Again, aerial bombing is devastating for civilians stuck between a rock and a hard place: with so much of Europe closing its borders, there is simply nowhere for them to go.
Today, most Afghans are deprived of their most basic universal human rights. The future for Afghanistan looks even grimmer than the present, with many predicting all-out civil war eliciting intensified violence from foreign fighters. The discovery of abundant natural resources almost certainly means foreign interests will continue to reign over Afghanistan, with mining-exacerbated ‘water wars’ visible on the not too distant horizon. It’s hard to imagine how things actually could get any worse in an already war-weary country, on its knees and broken after 4 decades of conflict and violence. When I speak to Afghans about what foreigners can do to help, their most common response is: “foreign fighters have so far not helped this country, they haven’t beaten the Taliban, lots of civilians have been killed. If you want to help Afghans then support our schools and healthcare, support civil society groups, but please, stop killing us.”
Afghan Peace Garden LAUNCH Over the Equinox we officially launched our new ongoing campaign Afghan Peace Garden. In Kabul, former street kid Habib plants roses & tells his story.
Habib & his Afghan Peace Garden
We first met Habib back in 2012 when the Afghan Peace Volunteers launched the Street Kids School Project, he was one of the first to arrive with his mother Mariam. Since then Habib has been a regular member of the Boarder Free Peace Centre, gaining an education and a nurturing environment. He is now a central member of the team.
Habib launched our Afghan Peace Garden campaign by planting Persian Roses in the Permaculture plot.
While doing so he narrowly escaped being caught up in a suicide car bomb attack, now a regular part of Kabul life.
Habib reflects on the suicide attack which took his fathers’ life 6 years ago, making him the breadwinner of the family.
For many years Habib worked with his scales, weighing people for 5 afs.
Today he goes to school and hopes for a peaceful future for Afghanistan.
Habib planted Persian Roses for solidarity, please join him and plant your own Afghan Peace Garden.
Afghan Peace Gardens are to remember all displaced Afghans, the ongoing war in Afghanistan, and the deportation of Afghans from EU countries, back to Kabul, the only part of the country deemed ‘safe’.
The first action undertaken by the Afghan Peace Volunteers in 2009 was to plant a ‘Peace Garden’ in their home town of Bamiyan.
The Garden still exists today, a long term act of solidarity to peace. Please approach your local community garden project and ask them to dedicate a plot of land to Afghanistan, with remembrance and recognition.
Permaculture projects The Afghan Peace Volunteers realise the importance of working with nature for the means of survival. If you have a local permaculture or food project please ask them to dedicate some space for peace.
In Kabul this month…
ON THE ROAD TO NON-VIOLENT PEACE Youth from 24 of the 34 Afghan Provinces joined together for the APV ‘On the Road to Non-Violent Peace’ Conference between the 18th-21st September to discuss war, climate change and the solutions.
Drone Campaign Network have teamed up with the Art Department at the Ministry of Defence to run a public competition to ‘Rebrand Reaper’. Hold events on your street stall, download the template here, and ask members of the public to “Rebrand Reaper”. Enter the competition via Twitter @RebrandReaper @DefenceHQ #RebrandReaper or email: RebrandReaper@gmail.com
Launching our new campaign for the EquinoxAfghan Peace Garden TODAY, winter Equinox, we are launching our new campaign ‘Afghan Peace Garden’ to raise awareness of the mass displacement of Afghans, both for the 1.2 million internally displaced and the 4-6 million scattered across the world.
The campaign is also drawing attention to the food crisis currently gripping Afghanistan.
This projects is ideal for schools wanting to explore Afghan culture and displacement in general, food growing projects who have a corner in their existing gardens, peace groups with a local brownfield site in need of a face lift, or poignant remembrance ceremonies outside a military base; this simple action will carry a lot of significance and solidarity.
Afghan Peace Garden is very much inspired by the Afghan Peace Volunteered who formed with the action of planting a peace garden in Bamiyan 2011.
Plants we are recommending:
Persian Roses: the first thing that greets you at Kabul Airport, a country once famed for its intoxicating Persian rose gardens, a reminder of the days when Afghanistan lived in peace and Afghan culture flourished
Permaculture Principles: inspired by the works of the APV permaculture project in Kabul, and acknowledging the crippling food crisis Afghanistan currently faces with 25% of Afghans under the age of 5 malnourished, an important reminder of the basics denied to Afghans.
Peace Poppies: a crop which likes to grow on recently disturbed earth, echoing the constant footsteps of Afghans forced to leave their homes, displaced due to war. The poppy cash crop has also played a part in destroying the country with a population of 1 million Afghans now addicted to opium and still producing 90% of the world’s opium supply. We ask for white poppies planted to symbolise the displacement of Afghans and also those crushed by opium addiction.
This campaign in being launched on the 21-23rd September over Equinox, a traditional time of year to ready the ground for the harvest ahead, looking forward, planting new seeds of resistance & solidarity..
The Afghan Peace Volunteers will be launching the project by holding a ‘planting action’ in Kabul during the Equinox weekend. Please follow and support this project.Afghan Peace Garden Plaques – if possible we are recommending groups display plaques in their gardens, recommended text:
Due to the ongoing war raging across Afghanistan, we would like to: – remember all displaced Afghans – recognise the crippling food shortages for Afghans – hope for peacePossible places to plant your gardens: – Brownfield sites, existing community gardens, school gardens, allotments, outside & inside military bases, in front of the MOD, homeless shelters, drug rehab centres, bus stops, retirement homes, or inside your own garden!
Groups who might be interested: – Youth groups, schools, buildings of worship, peace groups, edible food projects, community gardens, refugee centres, those recovering from substance addiction.
Tweet your garden: #AfghanPeaceGarden @VCNVUK Facebook us: Voices for Creative Non Violence UK We encourage everyone to simply remember Afghanistan by planting Afghan Peace Gardens.
VCNV UK spent a week outside the DSEi arms fair at the ExCel Centre, Docklands. The very creative week saw over 100 arrests with pre trial hearings taking place this week. Rumors from inside the ExCel centre suggested the arms fair ended up being 2 days behind in its set up, hiring extra carpenters to work round the clock. Most defendants will use ‘necessity’ as a legal argument in court, this argument was successfully used for previous DSEI defendants.
This year for the drone week of action we have taken up the request of the ‘Art Department’ at the MOD, who are trying to rebrand the reaper drone.
So far the multi million pound publicity commission have come up with ‘protector drone’ as an alternative, however they would like to open the challenge to members of the public. Use the template opposite to ‘Rebrand Reaper’ and enter the competition by tweeting your photo to @RebrandReaper @DefenceHQ