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Love Letters From Kabul - A Fairer Life for All

November 2. 2012

Love letters from Kabul - a fairer life for all
Letters from an Afghan boy, an Afghan girl & a Singaporean doctor

Dear friends and fellow human beings, 1st November, 2012 ( Gregorian calendar )
11th Aqrab, 1391 ( Afghan calendar )

Like yourself, Abdulhai, Samia and I live in a world that is not well. There are growing inequalities and angry conflicts, and the air in Kabul is getting increasingly polluted.

Are the three of us well?

Abdulai WritesAbdulai Writes

“I’m 16 years old. I want to be happy, but when I see how human beings ignore or treat one another, I feel alone,” says Abdulhai, who carries an inner burden created by the loss of his father.

Samia SpeaksSamia Speaks

Samia,“I’m 13 years old and I want to learn to read and write. I also want to help my family have enough food at home…it isn’t easy to feel hungry.”

Hakim NarratesHakim Narrates

And I’m a 43 year old Singaporean physician whose name is Young and whose given Afghan nickname is Hakim. Afghan friends, like Abdulhai and Samia, have changed my life over the past 10 years, as I learn with them about meeting basic needs and improving livelihoods. I thought I was educated, until I peered beyond orphan boy Najib’s tearful eyes, and saw our modern world making children cry from hopelessness.

Children, Fuel and Fire in Afghanistan

Afghan children like Ali & Ghulam collect fuel for their families early morning on the mountain tracks there is life but when U.S. / NATO helicopters fire from above morning becomes night

Survival and Dignity in an Afghan Winter

Children at Charahi, Qambar refugee campChildren at Charahi, Qambar refugee campOctober 30, 2012

“Mirwais, son of Hayatullah Haideri. He was 1½ years old and had just started to learn how to walk, holding unsteadily to the poles of the family tent before flopping onto the frozen razorbacks of the muddy floor.

“Abdul Hadi, son of Abdul Ghani. He was not even a year old and was already trying to stand, although his father said that during those last few days he seemed more shaky than normal.

“Naghma and Nazia, the twin daughters of Musa Jan. They were only 3 months old and just starting to roll over.

“Ismail, the son of Juma Gul. ‘He was never warm in his entire life,’ Mr. Gul said. ‘Not once.’

“It was a short life, 30 days long.”

Dreaming of Duvets in Afghanistan

October 22, 2012
KABUL

“I have spread my dreams under your feet. Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.” - William Butler Yeats

Haroon has recurring dreams. Haroon whose father was killed when he was a boy and who remembers a gnawing hunger during the long winter in every year of his childhood. At night, he dreams that someone drops him from a great height. He freefalls through the air, crashes to hard ground, and dies. During the day, he dreams of relief from the anger and confusion that pursue him, and of being a photographer, a traveler.
Children who have never had a chance to dream Children who have never had a chance to dream

Faiz, who lost his parents when he was a boy, and whose brother was shot and killed in front of him, has nightmares, too. Each night at the Afghan Peace Volunteer (APV) House here in Kabul, as he sleeps against the wall a few feet away, his moans and cries wake me. By day, he dreams of being a journalist, of marrying and raising a family, of a world without borders and war.

Sunrise and Sunset in Afghanistan

by David Smith-Ferri
October 7, 2012

October 7, 2012, Kabul, Afghanistan. At 5:15 a.m., the main street outside the Afghan Peace Volunteer’s (APV) apartment is quiet, and the first weak rays of gray light filter down through dusty, polluted air. In the distance, the hulking brown mountains circling the Kabuli plain emerge ominously from darkness. After yesterday’s dust storm, a thin brown film covers everything: windows, the shop stall roofs where children fly kites in the evening, bicycle seats, burlap sacks protecting fruit and vegetable displays, doorknobs, throats, the leaves of trees. Early bicyclists and pedestrians make their way. A man pushes a wheelbarrow, and a black horse pulls a hooded rider and an empty wooden cart. Twenty minutes later, the first street vendors appear, blowing on their hands in the cold, and seating themselves on stools. They sit directly across from our apartment, and lift handfuls of thick, peeled carrots out of 40 kg. sacks. Hunched over, they grate the carrots into two rising, orange pyramids. All day, among the pervasive grays and browns and blacks of this neighborhood, these mounds of carrots are sunrise and sunset on the main drag.

Ali StudyingAli Studying

That is how the day that marked the start of the twelfth year of the US-led military occupation of Afghanistan began in our cramped corner of Kabul. It ended with a two and a half hour skype phone conversation between young Afghans and a group of young American veterans of the war in Afghanistan. In between, it consisted of interviews with young Afghan men about the effects of war, their expectations for the future, their hopes.Ali studying. “We in Afghanistan haven’t seen a lot of love. We have seen a lot of violence,” he says.

Against Odds

by David Smith-Ferri
October 8, 2012

Here in Afghanistan, survival – physical, cultural, and psychosocial – is a pressing and inescapable reality, a day-to-day struggle against odds for many people, especially as the harsh Afghan winter arrives, and necessary preparations for it are compromised by poverty, violence, and displacement. Women and children are at the front lines of the struggle.

Every morning, at the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ (APVs) home in western Kabul, sixteen women come to a tailoring class where they learn a valuable skill and dream of forming a sewing cooperative. Most of these women are mothers, coping with care of children and a household. Everyday, like their counterparts throughout Afghanistan, they struggle to feed and clothe their children, to support them in school, to obtain timely health care for them, to shepherd them into adulthood. In a country with thirty-six percent unemployment and widespread poverty, the dangers to women and children are real. In a country where one in eleven women die in childbirth, where psychological trauma from violence and the threat of violence is the norm, where the child mortality rate is among the world’s highest, and acute malnutrition is a shameless and silent thief robbing mothers of their children and robbing children of their minds and bodies, the dangers are clear and present.

International Peace Day from Kabul, Afghanistan

September 21, 2012

On this International Day of Peace I am sitting in Kabul, Afghanistan with a handful of youth that want nothing but peaceful coexistence in their lives. This in some respects is like a dream because their entire lives have been surrounded by war, death, corruption, and struggle. Peace has been in short supply. For three years the Afghan Peace Volunteers have worked to develop friendships across ethnic lines in Kabul and various provinces throughout Afghanistan. The work has been difficult, trust is hard to come by in this war torn land, but they are adamant that non-violence is the only way forward. I have sat with similar groups in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq, America and Israel. Rarely are their voices heard over the drums of war.

We Are at War

September 10,2012

“We are at War. Somebody is Going to Pay.” George W. Bush, Sept 11th, 2001.

Eleven years later, we are still at war. Bullets, mortars and drones are still extracting payment. Thousands, tens of thousands, millions have paid in full. Children and even those yet to be born will continue to pay for decades to come.

On a single day in Iraq last week there were 29 bombing attacks in 19 cities, killing 111 civilians and wounding another 235. On Sept 9th, reports indicate 88 people were killed and another 270 injured in 30 attacks all across the country. Iraq continues in a seemingly endless death spiral into chaos. In his acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination for President, Obama claimed he ended the war in Iraq, well… not quite.

2 Million Friends

by Johnny Barber
September 4, 2012

Four decades of war. Two million people dead. Trillions of dollars spent. Money disappearing into the pockets of corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, policemen and the armed forces. No accountability. No transparency. No infrastructure. The misery and poverty of the majority of the people continues unabated, decade after decade. Children freeze to death in the winter. They starve to death all year round. The question remains, “Who benefits from this misery?” The human cost of war doesn’t enter into any politician’s calculations.

In October 2011 Secretary of State Clinton emphasized a new three-track strategy of “Fight, talk, and build,” claiming to “pursue all three tracks at once, as they are mutually reinforcing.” One year later, it is clear that the 3rd Afghan strategy of the Obama administration can be added to the scrap heap of failed strategies along with the “Af-Pak” strategy and the “Surge”. No one is talking, nothing is being built, fighting is the only track that continues unabated. Security, even in Kabul, is tenuous. Peace seems a distant and illusory concept.

Kabul Press ConferencePress Conference, 2 Sep, 2012, in Kabul