To Touch A Colourful Afghanistan

Visually impaired student, Sonia, read her article about peace: “Everyone wishes for peace to come to all of Afghanistan.”

Last year, on the 21st of September, the International Day of Peace, the Afghan Peace Volunteers and Borderfree Street Kids reached out to 100 Afghan labourers, cooking and serving them a meal. To follow-up, microloans were given to five of the labourers to start their own small street businesses.

This year, the Afghan Peace Volunteers and Borderfree Street Kids reached out to the visually impaired and blind students at Rayaab (Rehabilitation Services for the Blind Afghanistan ). They brought MP3 players as gifts to 50 visually impaired students. The students will use the MP3 players to listen to recorded school lessons and educational programs. Rayaab is an Afghan non-governmental organization run by Mr Mahdi Salami and his wife Banafsha, who are themselves visually impaired.

The Afghan Peace Volunteers and Rayaab began their friendship in 2012:  Visually impaired Afghans for a better world : “And also, my message to the world is to get integrated to each other, in peace, in love and in kindness, and to throw away any hatred. And try to live in a very peaceful and very honourable and very kind environment in order to make a better world. Thank you. Love you all!” Mahdi Salami, Deputy Director of Rayaab, Rehabilitation Services for the Blind Afghanistan.

Below is a photo essay of this year’s renewal of friendship among Borderfree Afghan Street Kids, visually impaired students of Rayaab, and teachers from both groups. 

Spending International Peace Day, 21st September 2016, together

 

 

To Touch A Colourful Afghanistan

by Dr Hakim

With regards to human hope in Afghanistan,

most of the world is blind.

We don’t see Sonia’s daily effort to live meaningfully,

as mainstream media have replaced our eyes

and is just as obsessed with war as politicians are,

as if war is attractive.

We overlook the resilience Nature demonstrates

despite what international militarists are doing to her and to people,

plain people, Afghans, Syrians, Yemenis,

or ‘the others’ on different killing lists.

We don’t even hear what’s obvious,

“We are human beings.”

Not objects, not targets.

Banafsha (right), the Director of Rayaab, is also pursuing a Master’s degree in International Relations

For Banafsha, a sound is a colour,

touch is colour,

understanding is colour.

A bullet isn’t a colour….

“Bombs frighten me,”

Hadisa, a volunteer teacher, said at our meeting.

The watchman of another school for the visually impaired was killed

by extremists who entered via the yard of the blind,

into the American University Hadisa studies at,

to wreck havoc,

drowning in a failed tit-for-tat war,

shoot, anger, shoot, revenge.

All that was achieved

was a bloody red.

Mehdi Salami played the keyboard while the visually impaired students sang

We’ve even forgotten that Afghans sing,

that music can be heard everywhere,

the bees, the wind, the transformed caterpillars,

and leaves turning their faces towards the sun.

Mursal cried when she heard the blind students sing together

While they create tunes, they serve the Earth too,

pollinating, producing sweet seeds of future life.

“The blind use their hands to touch, to make out the shape of a flower,”

Mursal said, closing her eyes momentarily to imagine that world.

When Mursal heard the keen voices of the students

singing verses which lyricized the Dari alphabet,

she felt that “my heart had become very full”,

and she cried. 

Maryam (left) came despite being sick, with an IV cannula still attached to her hand

“If we can embrace our differences through respect,

we naturally become one,

the blind and the sighted,”

Mehdi Salami, Rayaab’s Deputy Director encouraged.

It made inspiring sense that

if we can bridge ‘darkness and light’,

we can merge all other diversities.

Maryam was sick, and still had an IV cannula on her hand,

but she so very much wanted to come,

Sonia, with soya biscuits which Rayaab served us with refreshments

and to share that, “I needed 3 or 4 persons to bring me here.

Today, I can manage on my own with a white stick.”

She overcame by the sense of touch, and some human support.

Trees provided her a walking aid,

to free her from our doubts.

As we said goodbye in the dim corridor space,

we remembered Tina Ahmadi’s request

that this not be the only time of our friendship,

that we should meet again and again.

Tina Ahmadi, in saying thanks and goodbye, asked to meet us again

We understood then that the blind ‘see’ more than we do,

that meaning, love and calm may pass us by,

but are grappled with in intense pursuit

by them, those we often ignore.

It is hoped that we’ll always invite ourselves to

behold the everyday struggles of Afghan folk from all walks,

and to recognize the effort of Mother Earth to nurture humanity,

not to rush past with our usual fleeting glances,

 but to pause with a ‘full heart’,

to wonder,

and to touch.

The Afghan Peace Volunteers and Street Kids saying goodbye to the students of Rayaab

 

 

 

Kabul River & Standing Rock Sioux

by Dr Hakim in Kabul

Zekerullah sometimes worries about the water crisis in his country

Government officials and business people today routinely negotiate,

“We’d like to extract the oil.” Or gas, or such and such a mineral.

 

Water? “Oh don’t worry, we’ll see to that too….”

But they’re not angels, and their bottom line is profit,

so, Nature and human beings have a problem

having enough to drink, and to survive,

not just along Kabul River,

but also along the Missouri and Mississippi of the Standing Rock Sioux.

They craft the ‘legal’ rules of the industry,

and embellish their plans with ‘democracy, or development, or rights’.

They enjoy impunity,

unless, together, we speak up,

and ‘vandalize’ the ‘norms’,

beginning with the habits of our minds.

Our 27-meter-deep well dried up recently

With the groundwater level across the world dropping,

we had expected the well of our rented house in Kabul to dry up.

Yet, or despite this, or worse, because of this,

government-corporations are ever ready to wage well-funded wars,

and to extract from the earth’s bosoms to feed their machines.

The machines

 

 Their bank accounts and cars are more important than babies, and rivers.

The elite invest our tax money

in reaching new depths

of weapons and technologies,

rather than in addressing root causes.

The scandal is that they probably understand:

installing CCTVs, blimps and nuclear power apparatchik

cannot heal hunger, anger,

or death.

They even approve their ‘civ-mil’ plans

in Parliaments and Congresses,

and take their bonuses and extras

from the tax coffers

which they and the super-rich are exempt from.

They call this the economy.

Water from the new well after repairing the electrical water pump, Ghulam (behind) and Ali helped the repairman (right).

Bang! Clank! Bang!

For about 10 days, outside our kitchen window,

the hired ‘well-diggers’ rammed huge rods

through the soil and rocks

to a depth of 50 metres.

Meanwhile, in containers on a wheelbarrow,

we fetched water from another yard,

for the garden, and for ourselves.

We supplemented with bottled water,

which made us feel like ‘privileged’ betrayers,

asking, “Should we tolerate drinking contaminated water?

Tolerate for whom?

Ali teaching the street kids about saving water

As if protesting the strain and trapped sediments,

the water pump stopped working.

Our neighbours, Ali, Ghulam, really, all of us were relieved

when the water gushed out again.

Ali felt that the street kids shouldn’t be

kept ignorant of the water crisis.

Over a few lessons, with games and activities,

the ‘best’ drawing was selected,

and the kids went knocking enthusiastically on the neighbours’ doors,

Mohammad Jan, Asma and Sumaya before speaking to neighbours about saving water

saying, “Our message is, 

save water!”

Besides human beings, our water is being disappeared.

 

A picture of the militarized democracy, aid and development in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan

 

There is no strategy to halt such pollution.

Officially, the U.S.-sponsored government of Afghanistan is an ally,

receiving Resolute Support for their infighting, squabbles,

suits, ties, turbans, corruption,

and the worsening war!

Saying anything else makes us ‘insurgents’.

Whenever Zekerullah walks by the Kabul river tributary just next to our house,

and sees the sheer systemic destructiveness,

the smells, the sewerage and the sight

makes him profoundly nauseated.

Wading in the river on a recent outing to Salang. Zekerullah is third from the left.

Water, food, shelter, genuine security,

healthcare, education, friendship

are basic needs that are not merely poorly met,

their deficiencies tax our bodies and minds daily.

So the Afghan Peace Volunteers sought to de-stress

by spending a day by the Salang River.

The water was alive and therapeutic.

Zekerullah takes a dip

Feeling the river’s strong flow against our legs,

and shivering from the cold of Hindu Kush origins,

we were eased into healing.

Knowing we’re made mostly of water,

breathing, evaporating, metabolizing the same precious element,

it is no wonder that when Zekerullah heard about

the sacred Mississippi and Missouri Rivers,

he grabbed the digital waves in solidarity.

Relating in these times is an emergency!

It’s not that people don’t have voices.

We need to relate, relate, relate! It’s a re-mergency!

It’s that our voices are relatively isolated,

and if registered at all, callously ‘dismissed’ or ‘filed away’.

But some of those voices came together during the Zoom conference,

vocal chords from Olympia, Chicago, Taiwan and Kabul:

“Our home is on fire! It’s the only planet we have.”

 “Water is incarcerated.”

Dogs and mace, arrests, LAW!

The Olympia Washington Standing Rock Sioux Solidarity Group

Zekerullah, Ghulam and Khamad said to the Standing Rock Sioux Communities,

“Thank you!”

 

 

“I hope your river will not become like our river,”

Zekerullah stated his concern.

He said what all of us should say in diverse unison,

“Our government is ignoring the water crisis.”

We must overcome their neglect. #NoDAPL

“We are with you!”

Zekerullah showing solidarity on behalf of the Afghan Peace Volunteers