All posts by vcnvuk

Mary, Maya & Henrietta outside

2015 Delegation

2015 Delegation
2015 Delegation

As foreign troops exit Afghanistan and violence across the country rages on, three women peace activists Mary Dobbing, Henrietta Cullinan and Maya Evans have headed to Kabul to spend Christmas with young Afghan peace makers.

Afghanistan is still one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women, with little improvements made by the NATO/ US led offensive. Iliteracy, access to medical health, forced marriages, and domestic violence still remain amongst the highest rates of any country today (1), despite British taxpayers funding the war effort to the tune of £37 billion (2).

Mary Dobbing aged 58 from Bristol, Henrietta Cullinan, 53, from London, and Maya Evans, 35, from St Leonards on Sea, are part of the peace group Voices for Creative Non-Violence UK, which has been visiting and working with the youth group The Afghan Peace Volunteers for over 4 years. (3)

Mary & MountainsDrone researcher Mary Dobbing said: “Britain has spent at least £37 billion on the disastrous Afghan war, including millions on keeping out and deporting Afghan refugees and on British drone development. Despite this austerity for Britain continues and the 13 year war hasn’t made Afghans or Brits any safer.”

In the last 13 years 453 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, 1,819 American soldiers and tens of thousands of uncounted Afghans, at least 21,000 of which were civilians (4), yet still the Taliban are present in most of the country (5), people can not move safely from one province to another, drones dominate and poverty, illiteracy and violence are rife.

Henrietta CullinanFormer school teacher Henrietta Cullinan said: “This year Britain has focused on remembering the first world war. Today in Afghanistan, people have endured 13 years of British backed war – longer than the first and second world wars combined. Afghans are trying to reconstruct their lives in a country shattered by war, poverty and corruption. It shames me that my country has played a significant part in making life for Afghans so difficult.”

The US and NATO have officially declared Operation Enduring Freedom over, however at least 12,000 foreign special operation forces will remain in the country as well as private security contractors for the next phase “Operation Enduring Support.”

Maya Evans, Mary Dobbing, Henrietta Cullinan
Maya Evans, Mary Dobbing, Henrietta Cullinan

Maya Evans said: “If one thing is certain, it’s that violence and military action is not helping the Afghan people. My friends in Kabul asked me to send a message to our government; “Stop killing us”. Drone strikes, night raids, aerial bombing, illegal imprisonment and torture of Afghans has not won ‘hearts and minds’. In order for life to improve for Afghans all violence must stop.”

(1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-26747712

(2)http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/may/30/afghanistan-war-cost-britain-37bn-book

(3) http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog/

(4) http://costsofwar.org/article/afghan-civilians

(5)http://www.ibtimes.com/could-taliban-retake-control- afghanistan-1695833

 

Afghanistan: hidden voices from a forgotten war

What do Afghans think about elections and the current peace talks?

Afghanistan: hidden voices from a forgotten war

A new publication by Voices for Creative Non-Violence UK
Stories and testimonies collected from some our visits to Afghanistan, giving a voice to women and young people, the very voices recent peace negotiations have excluded. The booklet includes essays on women, mining, deportation, the peace process, Britain and the Great Game, the case for US reparations, and moreover, the voices of ordinary Afghans.

Available from the 7th October
Contact: vcnvuk@gmail.com
£5 plus P&P (payment details below)
ISBN: 078-1-9161961-0-0

See here for a review of the booklet. 

#Afgh18
 
Remember Afghanistan: 18 years of war

VCNV UK News Update 2nd October 2019  
Next week marks 18 years of US/NATO war in Afghanistan, part of four decades of relentless war for a country in which recent UN based figures strongly indicate that “more civilians are killed or injured in Afghanistan due to armed conflict than anywhere else on Earth.” And the violence is getting worse. In only August 2019 “an average of 74 men, women and children were killed every day in Afghanistan throughout the month of August… 611 security incidents in which 2,307 people died.  A further 1,948 people were injured.” Reported by the BBC

Stalled peace negotiations
Nine rounds of US/ Taliban peace talks hit the wall earlier this month. The year-long peace negotiations have been dogged by the evident escalation of Taliban attacks on civilians. Trump halted dialogues on the 9th September after a US soldier was killed, saying “They are dead. As far as I am concerned, they are dead”, he also announced that the US military intends to dramatically scale up attacks on the insurgents in Afghanistan. He added, at a joint White House press conference, that he could “end the war in a week but he would kill 10 million Afghans”.

The peace talks have generally lacked credibility as the Afghan Government were not included, and moreover women and young people were not given a meaningful voice at the table.

Flawed Elections
This week has seen the long-postponed presidential elections which saw Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah rival one another once again. Like before in the 2014 elections, both candidates have declared themselves the winners, even before final votes have been counted.

At least 30 security personnel and 10 civilians were killed on election day, and at least 40 security forces and 150 civilian wounded.

The elections saw a record low turn-out with the election commission so far counting 2.19 million votes from 3,736 of the country’s approximately 4,000 polling centres. Afghanistan’s total population stands at about 37 million, with just 9.6 million registered voters. Disillusionment about election candidates, electoral corruption and the eligibility criteria of biometrics (iris scanning and fingerprinting) are thought to be key reasons for voter apathy.

Drone strikes continue to kill civilians
19th September, Islamabad saw the deadliest ever drone strike upon civilians, 70 Afghan farmers were killed and injured in a US drone strike in Nangarhar province. Reports say 30 Afghan farmers were killed, while another 40 were injured after the labourers had spent the day picking pine nuts, and were sitting round a fire they had just lit. 

25th September, at least40 civilians killed and 16 wounded attending a wedding were killed after Afghan military forces struck against a Taliban hideout in the building adjacent to the ceremony in Helmand. 
 
Women and young people
We continue to campaign for the voices of women and young people to be heard. They are the majority grouping of the population, and still their political influence is underrepresented and largely ignored by decision makers both in Afghanistan, the US and the UK. While British troops are still stationed, and working alongside the US in Afghanistan, we continue to shine a spotlight on this forgotten war, to ensure a meaningful peace.

Afghanistan: hidden voices from a forgotten war

Photo Exhibition

18 photographs taken on peace delegations to Kabul, a snapshot into the ordinary lives of Afghans, accompanied with informative text from the booklet.

Suitable for schools, colleges, peace centres, galleries, cafes.

This exhibition is part of a year long campaign to raise awareness around the last 18 years of war in Afghanistan.


The exhibition is available for hire or purchase from: vcnvuk@gmail.com  

The Wounds of War in Afghanistan
September 27, 2019 Kathy Kelly

Recovering from a broken hip, peace activist Kathy Kelly reflects on her experiences with people disabled and traumatized by war.

September 27, 2019

Its economy gutted by war, Afghanistan’s largest cash crop remains opium. Yet farmers there do grow other crops for export. Villagers in the Wazir Tangi area of Nangarhar province, for example, cultivate pine nuts. As a precaution, this year at harvest time, village elders notified the governor of the province that they would be bringing in migrant workers to help them collect the nuts. Hired laborers, including children, would camp out in the pine nut forests, they informed the officials. They hoped their letter could persuade U.S. and ISIS forces, which had been fighting in or near their villages, not to attack.

Read more


Donate to VCNV UK

or buy a booklet

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PAYPAL

Fly Kites Not Drones at RAF Waddington 2014

Fly Kites Not Drones for Nao Roz 2014

Afghan Peace Volunteers say: Fly Kites Not Drones
Afghan Peace Volunteers say: Fly Kites Not Drones

FKND was inspired by the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul:
Watch the APV fly kites in Kabul

FKND campaign video with the APV

FLY KITES NOT DRONES across the UK:

RAF Waddington:

Outside RAF Waddington
Outside drone base RAF Waddington

Woman Flying KiteRAF WADDINGTON: UK drone base 1-3pm Friday 21st March Nao Roz, 35 activists came on coaches from Norwich and Sheffield with others coming from: Oxford, Coventry, Croughton, London, St Leonards on Sea and Hull. They gathered outside RAF Waddington and flew kites in solidarity with Afghans who have to live with the threat of UK drone strikes which are remote controlled and fired from the UK base. The UK protestors crowded around an amplified laptop rigged up in the back of a car which allowed them to Skype the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul. The group of 35 spoke with Afghan youth from outside the base that bombs Afghanistan using drones, they talked aboutthe importance of international solidarity and how drones impact their lives:

One Afghan youth commented:”by your very stand, your witness, you give us strength” One of the youth who has lost Fly Kites Not Dronesfamily members to a drone strike said “As you make your stand, we will make our stand with you.”

They also discussed their thoughts on the upcoming Afghan elections, wished one another Happy Nao Roz and talked about what they were having for dinner!

The event attracted media coverage from the Lincolnshire Echo and local BBC. Drone Campaign Network and VCNV UK organized the event.

Bristol:

Every Afghan Has A Name, War is Not a Video Game
Bristol Fly Kites Not Drones Stall

BRISTOL: a pre kite flying workshop took place the weekend before at the Kebele Social Centre where local activists mixed with concerned families to talk about: the legality of drones; the threat of surveillance drones in the UK and the situation for Afghans who have to live with the impact of looming remote controlled killer robots.  The kite flying event attracted many young people with a flood of messages to the APV. Fine and colourful kite flying conditions and fun had by all. The event was organized by Bristol Against the Arms Trade, Bristol Stop the War Coalition, Bristol Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Child Victims of War and VCNV UK

Littlehampton:

Littlehampton Young Quakers
Littlehampton Young Quakers

LITTLEHAMPTON: 22 Young Quakers (aged 11-16), and 8 Quaker adults, took part in a short interactive workshop on drones finding out: what they are; discussing concerns; plus reading the stories of a former US drone pilot who was traumatised by his experience; as well as about the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ critical stance on drones. They made around ten homemade kites and took them to the beach. They also made a banner with the message ‘Kites Not Drones’, and some them watched the “excellent short film” of the APVs talking about the Kite Not Drones action. Organized by the Young Quakers.

Hastings:

Hastings fly kites on West Hill overlooking the sea
Hastings fly kites on West Hill overlooking the South Coast

Maya EvansHASTINGS: a pre kite making workshop was held at their local Friends Meeting House where exquisite peace doves and traditional handmade kites were crafted. A group of kite runners met on  Saturday and Sunday 10am on West Hill during which around 50 people took part in a weekend of kite flying Afghan solidarity. Genuine Afghan kites were flown on a sea breeze- borderfree. The event received local support from: Woodcraft Folk, Hastings Independent as well as a splash in the Hastings Observer. FKND Hastings was organized by Hastings Against War and VCNV UK.

London:

Illegal Protest- FKND Civil Disobedience in Hyde Park
Afghan kite commits Civil Disobedience in Hyde Park

LONDON: Saturday 22nd March saw 10 kite flyers and 4 professional photographers in Hyde Park Speakers Corner at 2pm. The group which included: The Activettes, Kingston Peace Council and Putney UNA did not comply with the legal process of seeking police permission to hold a kite flying anti drone protest in a Royal Park. The London Kite runners were adamant they would carry on despite police warnings. Leaflets were given out while banners and placards were visible to those passing-by. The event was organized by The Activettes and VCNV UK.

Bright kites, banners and placards mark the event in London
Bright kites, banners and placards mark the event in London

Chicago:

Volunteers at the Voices office in Chicago
Volunteers at the Voices office in Chicago

Community members and students met at the Voices house to celebrate Now RozCHICAGO: Saturday afternoon, community members and students met at the Voices house to celebrate Now Roz, the Persian new year, and to participate in the APV call to “Fly Kites, Not Drones.” We crafted our own kites and marched to the lake to fly them.  It was a perfect, windy day for kites. On the shore, we spent a moment in silence, mindful of all those victimized by drone warfare: the deceased, their families, the soldiers ordered to kill, and the children who live under fear of surveillance and unexpected attack. Then, we lifted our kites to the wind. Full grown women and men were running around and laughing like children. It was mostly the store bought ones that actually flew. Even still, we giggled and teased trying to get our home-made kites to fly if only for a second. Earlier, my friend Samah showed me videos of the Now Roz Fly Kites, Not Drones - Chicagocelebration in Iraq, where a thousand balloons lit up with candles are released into the air. In the video, the crowd cheered and waved. Samah told me that when people saw this, they cried. In times of surveillance, of fear, it is an act of bravery to gather in public and celebrate. The power of such communal creative acts is unquantifiable. Its threat to the stifling power of fear is undetectable, safely stored in the hearts of those who are uplifted by it. We would do well to learn from the people of the world, the people of Iraq and the Afghan peace volunteers, who refuse to stop celebrating even in times of great duress, and bravely let their kites soar. Organized by VNCV US, report by Sarah Stockdale.

HMP Wandsworth:

Fr Martin Newell in HMP Wandsworth
Fr Martin Newell in HMP Wandsworth

Fr Martin Newell (part of the Waddington 6) sends messages of support from HMP Wandsworth, he’s current imprisoned for non payment for 29 days for unpaid fines relating to protests against the Iraq & Afghan wars as well as Trident.

West Wales

Fly Kites, Not Drones - West Wales

WEST WALES: On a very windy kite-flying day in West Wales, preceded by a hail storm while we put the kite together. Although we were close to habitation, we felt exposed and pretty much at the mercy of what the skies chose to thrown down on us, so we held in mind and in our prayers those people in Afghanistan and elsewhere who live with this sense as a daily reality.  Julia Lim, West Wales

Cardiff

CARDIFF: Around 40 people gathered in central Cardiff in solidarity of those who have to live under the constant threat of drones. The action was organized by Palestine Solidarity Coalition and they made an outstanding short video (above) about their action.

Taunton

Fly Kites, Not Drones - Taunton

St Michael’s Mount- near Penzance

Fly Kites, Not Drones - St Michaels Mount

St Michael’s Mount: Banners and kites made by Wool not Weapons and a special Fly Kites Not Drones for Nao Roz art work was created. Over 30 people attended the event with fantastic Cornish flying conditions.

Oxford

Kite flying Bonn Square 22 March

OXFORD Bonn Street town centre, members of Fellowship for Reconciliation and CND Oxford

Edinburgh

Fly Kites, Not Drones - Edinburgh

EDINBURGH: ‘Fly Kites Not Drones’ event on Saturday 22nd March proved to be a massive success for raising awareness about those living under the threat of drones. It was a fun-filled day that included: crafting and flying kites, face painting, storytelling, a live samba band and a dazzling fire display.  About 150 people including many families and children gathered in the Meadows to take part in ‘The Day of Action’ that was called for by Afghan Peace Volunteers and Voices for Creative Nonviolence UK. Fifty kites were made on the day and many people brought their own kites. It was one of several events around the UK that was campaigning for the abolition of drones. Significantly, this included a demonstration at RAF Waddington – the UK base from which Drones in Afghanistan are operated. Organized by the Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre.

Leicester

Fly Kites, Not Drones - Leicester

 

Fly Kites, Not Drones - Leicester 2Leicester: flew kites on Saturday 22nd March as part of the Greenlight festival. We gathered at the CND stall with a variety of hand made and bought kites and then went to nearby Bede Park. Local children joined in and we all had a great time.

 

Photos of all the events have been posted on Facebook

OTHER EVENTS: Norwich,  TavistockEdinburghLeicesterCardiffCoventryOxford,  BrightonBlackheathBurlingtonSouthamptonRochester, Littlehampton, Taunton, Lewes, Bournemouth will be sending photos soon.

SUPPORTERS of the event included: Drone Campaign NetworkNetwork for PeaceSmash EDOSTWCNDFoRCAAT, plus the WikiLeaks Party and many more.

Fly Kites Not Drones

Press Release: Fly Kites Not Drones

another boy with a kite

PRESS RELEASE

The biggest national UK anti drone action will be taking place this weekend when over 20 peace groups will be showing solidarity with Afghan peace makers who urge everyone to Fly Kites Not Drones for Nao Roz (Afghan New Year).

There will be a kite flying vigil at UK drone base RAF Waddington on Friday 1pm, and a London event at Speakers Corner Saturday 2pm, where activists will show solidarity with Afghans by joining in with the well loved Afghan  pastime of kite flying.

Maya Evans, anti drone activist, said: “I’ve just returned from living in Afghanistan for 3 months where I personally witnessed the destruction and havoc caused by drones, not only are they killing innocent civilians but they’re also degrading the fabric of Afghan society as they cause mistrust and enmity.”

The issue of drones has been heightened in the last few months when Pakistani drone witness Kareem Khan was kidnapped and tortured- he was set to give evidence in the European Court; in addition a Yemeni drones witness was also harassed. Meanwhile British courts threw out the case of Noor Khan with worries of causing bad relations with the US, while new drone bases are set to open if not in Afghanistan then elsewhere in Asia.

Britain has also been exposed for infringing rules of combat by co-operating directly with the US on launching drone strikes. Currently the cost of life caused by drone strikes is unknown as the MoD refuse to release names and numbers due to “national security”.

Evans added: “These robot killers are fuelling resentment towards foreign occupation as well as making security worse for the ordinary Afghan. The message I heard over and over again was that Afghans do not want drones, they want an end to foreign interference which has brought endless violence, moreover, they want peace.”

The action was inspired by the Afghan Peace Volunteers who want an end to war and the use of drones which currently plague their skies.

Contact: 07973 484 202

Duvet Project 2014

Duvet Project

Karte Sahi Distribution

  •  This year VCNV UK contributed £3,000 to the duvet project, most of those funds were raised by Mary Dobbing and Susan Clarkson who took collections after talks given to peace and Quaker groups.
  • The APV’s projected budget was $30,000- which they have nearly reached, the bulk of the funds come from VCNV US, and Quakers in Australia.

Duvet Porthole

  • The project is run entirely by APV’s on a voluntary basis, the lead co-ordinator is 22 year old Khalida, other members of the co-ordinating group are Ali (aged 17), Marzia, Meena, Zainab and Zorah- all teenage women between the ages of 16 and 18.
  • 60 women are involved in the making of the duvets (20 from each ethnic group Tajik, Hazara, Pashtoon), the seamstresses are assessed at the beginning of the project to check they fulfil a criteria of being in need.
  • There will be 4 rounds of duvet making and distributing, each woman makes 10 duvets per round, which means 2,400 duvets will be made and distributed within the 4 month project.
  • Seamstresses arrive and take away material enough to make 10 duvets, on average a seamstress can make 3 duvets per day, it takes 2 hours to make a duvet, they are paid $1.50 per duvet, the average Afghan wage per day is between $3-$5

Material being weighed

  • Duvets are distributed to the very poor and in need, the APV select community leaders or organisers who draw up a list of needy individuals in their area.
  • Distributions have been at: refugee camps, a school for the blind, a number of mosques, Bobor gardens and disabled groups including the Afghan Landmine Survivors Organization.

Landmine Distribution

  • Between 120-200 duvets are loaded up into a truck for each distribution run.

Truck Departs

  • At a distribution point each recipient (usually a woman) receives 2 duvets, their name is ticked off a list while they hand in an APV receipt.

Seamstresses take material

Khalida Co-ordinator of the project, age 23 This is Khalida’s first job, she’s semi literate and really happy to be working on the project. Her role is as the overall co-ordinator, she works as a volunteer and her responsibilities include purchasing the materials, distributing them to the seamstresses, assessing seamstresses using an eligibility criteria, paying wages to the seamstresses and organising the distribution teams. Her family members support of her work.

Shakila age 14, Co-ordinators assistant – She says she does the job because it helps the poor by helping their daily needs. When they visit the homes of seamstresses some of the ladies don’t even have carpets so they lay cloth on the floor to sleep on.

Feedback from Seamstresses on the Duvet Project

Seamstresses: Freyba, Nafaz, Kid, Soraya

Freyba Her husband was killed around 3 years ago during a suicide bombing at a Shia Hazara Mosque in Kabul. She says in place of unemployment this is a good project, she was hoping for something more on a long term basis but the money she receives is helpful for buying coal and flour.

Nafaz Gul Her husband was sent to prison for 15 years over a land dispute, he was also a drug user which perhaps contributed to his imprisonment, she is alone at home bringing up 4 children. Nafaz says what she gets from the duvet making helps to buy salt, oil and flour for her family, she is grateful that she is able to receive materials to sow.

Zorah Her body aches all over constantly and she usually feels tired. She was widowed during the communist period, for ages she struggled to get ID papers from her home province, this is required in order to receive an annual allowance from the Department of Martyrs. Zorah wants to get on the duvet project as a seamstress.

Soraya She was widowed last year when there was a mini bus attack by a suicide bomber, her husband was on the bus. She is now bringing up 5 children alone. As well as making duvets she also washes clothes and cleans in people’s homes. She says that when the project ends she hope another one will start so she can continue to earn money. The project is good for her as she prefers to work from home. She is keen to receive duvets as well.

Nassima Her husband works as a labourer, she has 4 children. She says the project is some help but hopes work will continue.

Duvets in snowProblems within the project A few of the seamstresses commented that transport costs are a bit of a problem for women who live far away. A taxi to transport the materials home and then the duvets back can be around 800 Afghanis, this is over half the amount (1500 Afghani’s) they receive in wages per duvet batch. Ali (a coordinator of the project)  explained that when they selected the women they had a set budget which didn’t include transport costs. He also pointed out that if they started giving subsidies to women who live far away then all the women should receive something for travel, then there might be accusation that the group had extra funds all along which they were keeping (apparently a common practice with NGOs). Also the issue of whether they refund past travel expenses. We came up with the proposal for Ali to work out an estimation of how much a travel subsidy would cost, we would then try to raise funds to provide a  grant, we hope for all the women.

Feedback from Duvet Recipients Karte Sahi duvet distributionKarte Sahi duvet distribution

Najeeba has four children, one son and three daughters aged 2-14. Sat in the pale sunlight of a cold January morning, she tells me that the duvets she will receive from the APV will be of vital help: “This is a very good thing, there are a lot of poor people in this area”.

We’re in District Five, at the foot of a mountain, in the courtyard of a mosque filled with women in burkas waiting to collect their two puffy, warming duvets, made by women from backgrounds as impoverished as theirs. A cemetery of basic, barely marked graves on uneven ground is just beyond us, and in the distance, a stunningly beautiful blue domed mosque catches the light before giving way to hundreds of homes built into the rock of the mountain. It’s a beautiful sight.Mosque

I ask Najeeba whether her husband works. “My husband pushes a cart for a living, he carries things for other people – rice and oil, to the market. He earns 150 Afghani or just 50 per day, it depends on who hires him”. 150 Afghani is about £1.50.

“I also taking on some needle work from shops which I can sew at home in between looking after my children. I sew scarves and dresses. For embroidering a dress, which can take me two months, I get 2000 Afghani (£20) This involves very hard, detailed work. I sew after I have finished the housework of cleaning and sweeping. I spend three hours a day sewing”.

“Many women are in the same situation as me. I have a lot of hopes for the future though. I hope we can afford to buy our own house and that my husband will find a better job”.

NajeebaNajeeba lives in a simple two room house with no kitchen. They cook their meals and make tea on a simple stove. The rent sets them back 3000 Afghani a month – a large part of her and her husband’s joint income.

“I have high hopes for my children, that they will study and get a good education. Both myself and my husband are illiterate but I hope also to study. Simple things, like understanding phone numbers and names”. I ask her what she feels about the forthcoming elections? “I still have hope. I will vote this year. I believe change will come”.

Other women were asked to participate in an interview but declined

Mother and Child

Activists Deliver Humanitarian Aid to Refugee Camp

VCNV UK PRESS RELEASE 8th January 2014

Mother and Child - photo by Abdulhai Saferali
photo by Abdulhai Saferali

Peace group Voices for Creative Non Violence UK will this week witness £3,000 worth of aid, the total amount of funds raised by the group, delivered to Chaman-e Barbak refugee camp in Kabul, the second biggest camp in the city, home to over 700 families who are among, some of the neediest people in the world.

Representative Maya Evans, aged 34, from St Leonards on Sea, will be at the camp when aid will be distributed; flour, oil and sugar will be divided into portions to last each family through the toughest months of the year where temperatures plummet to around minus 16 degrees celsius, previous years have seen reports of children freezing to death over night (1).

Maya Evans visits refugee camp
Maya Evans visits refugee camp

Maya Evans said: “It’s extremely shocking to see that despite 13 years of a full scale international presence, where at least  £37 billion and $100 billion has been spent by the UK and US governments alone, people are still living in some of the worst conditions in the world; children walking around without adequate foot ware and clothing, open sewers running alongside homes which are basic mud huts, piles of rubbish next to homesteads, it’s so depressing.” (2)

She added: “Most of the money poured into this country has gone towards war, which hasn’t brought the country much closer to peace or improved living conditions. The Afghans I speak to say they are tired of war and want an end to foreign involvement, people are tired and war weary, it’s time to end the violence.”

Girl standing where her home burned to the ground
Girl standing where her home burned to the ground

In addition the Chaman-e Barbak refugee camp experienced a devastating fire last week (4), it left 70 people without homes during the coldest period of the year. Immediate aid was delivered to the camp in the form of duvets for all the affected families, these were  provided by the Afghan Peace Volunteers. (5)

Contact Maya Evans (in Kabul) +93 785980648

(1) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/04/world/asia/cold-weather-kills-children-in-afghan-refugee-camps.html
(2) UK cost:  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/may/30/afghanistan-war-cost-britain-37bn-book
 (3) Article of visit “Locked inWinter”: http://vcnvuk.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/locked-in-winter/
(4) Photos of the VCNV visit to the camp:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Voices-for-Creative-Non-Violence-UK/454714281232864
(5) Afghan Peace Volunteers: www.ourjourneytosmile.org

Refugee camp after the fire
Refugee camp after the fire

Horse adn group

Fly Kites Not Drones 2014

kites not dronesINTERNATIONAL Weekend of Action 21st- 23rd March 2014

Watch the Fly Kites Not Drones video recently made in Kabul

APV Ghulamai fixes string to the kite
APV Ghulamai fixes string to the kite

Afghans celebrate New Year on the 21st March, Voices for Creative Non-Violence is holding a weekend of solidarity with Afghans who will be facing uncertainty and the probable escalation in conflict during the renegotiation of the international presence within Afghanistan.

Kite flying has become synonymous with Afghanistan as a well loved pursuit which was banned under the Taliban, now Afghans are more used to the presence of UK and US armed and surveillance drones flying overhead. In the last 5 years there have been 547 UK drone strikes on Afghanistan, which is now the “drone capital” of the world.

We are encouraging concerned citizens, peace groups and those from the Muslim and Afghan community to fly kites in solidarity with Afghans who now have to live under the mental pressure and physical destruction which British and American drones now inflict upon Afghanistan.

The issue of drones has heightened in the last few weeks as Pakistani drone witness Kareem Khan was kidnapped and tortured -he was set to give evidence in the European Court, in addition a Yemani drones witness has also been harassed. Meanwhile British Courts threw out the case of Noor Khan due to fear of causing bad relations with the US, while new drone bases are set to open if not in Afghanistan then elsewhere in Asia and Britain co-operates directly with the US on launching drone strikes . Currently the cost of life by drones is unknown as the MoD refuse to release names and numbers due to “national security”.

Drone warfare is set to continue, we must resist now and make our voices heard.Afghan Peace Volunteers fly kites of a Kabul hillside

Make your own kite, especially fun to do with groups of children.

See a short Afghan Peace Volunteers video on drones

THINGS YOU CAN TAKE PART IN

Kites and Horses1) FLY A KITE in your area Friday 21st- Sunday 23rd March

Take a photo and send us a mini report of your action. Make signs saying “In solidarity with peace for Afghans”, “Fly Kites Not Drones” etc and give out leaflets. VCNV UK will be returning from it’s third peace delegation to Kabul with a number of Afghan kites which you can order from us.

DRONE WATCH WADDINGTON2) DRONE WATCH WADDINGTON  1 to 3pm, 21st March

Bring a kite, banners and another other resources. The watch will be at the main gate on the A607- down a track off to the left before you reach the village of Waddington, coming from Bracebridge Heath. The  no. I bus to Grantham via Waddington leaves from near Lincoln train station at 12.35 and returns again at 14.58 –There will also be a live Skype link up with the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul

Boys with Kites3) FLY KITES NOT DRONES Saturday 22nd March 2pm LONDON

Join a mass kite flying theatrical event in central London led by the feminist protest group ‘The Activettes’ who will be making props and costumes for a flamboyant daring and never forgotten action!

Another boy with a kite4) GLOBAL DAYS OF LISTENING Skype the Afghan Peace Volunteers on the 21st March, share messages of solidarity and peace, an activity especially suited for young people and groups. Global Days of Listening <GlobalDaysOfListening@gmail.com> www.globaldaysoflistening.org

ORDER leaflets & your genuine Afghan Kite or for further info CONTACT: kitesnotdrones@gmail.com

Kites Not Drones

From Afghanistan, thank you Bradley Manning!

An appeal from Afghanistan to whistle-blow on war

From Afghanistan, thank you Bradley Manning!

From Dr. Hakim and the Afghan Peace Volunteers

Recognition that 95 million human beings were killed in World War I and II has helped the people of the world understand that the method of war is not cost-effective. An awakened world hoped the United Nations could, as determined in the UN Charter, eventually ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’.

The scourge of war in Afghanistan continues, with the United Nations reporting that more than 3,000 Afghan civilians have been killed and wounded in the first five months of this year, a fifth of whom were Afghan children. So, ordinary people should seize opportunities to tell the truth about war.

The 75,000 Afghan War Logs, which Bradley Manning gave Wikileaks to ‘help document the true cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan’, can help all of us evaluate whether the Afghan war is cost-effective. Bradley Manning had also handed Wikileaks a video of the Farah/Granai massacre which occurred in May of 2009, in which 86 to 147 Afghan civilians, mostly women and children, were killed in an airstrike. We can read about the Farah/Granai massacre here and here .

The Afghan Peace Volunteers ask for the Farah/Granai massacre video to be released.

These records report the truths about war, and reveal an obsession among those few people in power to use war in achieving their goals. Bradley Manning said, “In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists…”

How many more documents revealing loss of innocent life are needed to determine that war should be banned, that it should not even be a last resort of ‘defence’?

All weapons, not only nuclear weapons, should be banned. A safe life and secure work environment without weapons is very possible even in Afghanistan.   Consider, for instance, that the Emergency Surgical Centres  in Afghanistan operate all their health facilities without armed protection and that Dr.  Ramazon Bashardost, the third-placed candidate in Afghanistan’s 2009 Presidential elections, has no armed bodyguards.

We human beings are capable of living together without war. Billions of human beings all over the world live daily without killing one another, even when dealing with the most troubled or difficult of family members.

We are capable of an impossible love.

We can establish global norms of resolving all our problems through understanding and dialogue, and exclude war from the negotiation table. To do so, we should exclude from the UN charter the use of war as a last resort. We should disband the UN ‘Security’ Council.

Of course, accomplishing these actions hinges on us, on climate change citizens, Arab Spring citizens, Occupy citizens and the ‘awakening’ citizens of every country to free ourselves from the unequal dominance of corporate governments with their laws and weapons of self-interest.

They won’t free Bradley Manning. We need to free Bradley Manning.

They won’t support Edward Snowden. We need to support Edward Snowden.

They won’t free us. We need to free ourselves.

In Bradley Manning’s internal and better world, he is free! He testified, “I felt I had accomplished something that allowed me to have a clear conscience based upon what I had seen and read about and knew were happening in both Iraq and Afghanistan every day.”

Please take some time to listen to these ‘everyday’ tragedies in Afghanistan.

Please take some time to read and watch the thoughts of the Afghan Peace Volunteers below. Rather than chant the dirges of death, we want to sing out life-giving messages.

Then, without any trace of force, join us in asking for release of the ‘Farah/Granai massacre’ video.

Abdul Ali

I wish to share the pain of those killed in the Farah massacre, so I request Wikileaks to release the video. Thank you, Bradley, for your courage and sense of human responsibility in passing on this video. I support you!

Faiz Ahmad

As a human being and an Afghan citizen, I want to know the truth so that such violent tragedies will never be repeated again. It will show us how much we need the way of non-violence.

Abdulhai

We need to learn that killing, whether by the Taliban or the US/NATO forces, is not acceptable and cannot solve any problem. At this time, Bradley Manning needs us, and we need one another.

Raz Mohammad

It should be clear to the people how, for profit and power, groups like the Taliban and the US/NATO forces, kill without accountability. We want the voices of the people, like that of Bradley Manning, to be heard. We especially want the voices of children to be heard, including the voices of children who have been killed. We want their voices to haunt us. We should give a prize of conscience to Bradley Manning.

Basir Bita

The transparency and conscience that Bradley Manning and Wikileaks seek is so desperately needed in Afghanistan, in the context of governments and power-mongers openly and secretly betraying the people every day.

Barath Khan

We ask for the video of the Farah strike to be published so that the world will know how governments and all warring groups involved in the Afghan conflict have strategies and policies which go against the people, which kill the people. We want the governments and warring groups to be ashamed of their actions. Why should the world or any court of justice condemn and punish those who reveal truths?

Ghulam Hussein

Bradley has delivered truths which the world needs. We are against violence and killing by the Taliban and other Afghan war groups. We are also against violence and killing by the Afghan and U.S./NATO governments. Human beings were not born to abuse, betray or kill one another, but to learn to live together. We were not born to live selfishly, but to live for one another. If human beings want, we can live without war.

The Afghan Peace Volunteers in the video: “Thank you Bradley Manning”

Our sleeping conscience, awake!

Truth is not subject to the baton of the courts.

We are the Afghan Peace Volunteers.

According to the 19th Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states the right to freedom of expression, we want Bradley Manning to be free!

Truth is like the sun that cannot always be hidden by the clouds.

Thank you Bradley Manning!

Shanty housing on a Kabul hillside

War on Terror – reflections

hillside

Lindsey German, from the Stop the War Coalition, reflects on years of the war on terror.

If all had gone according to plan, the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war should have been a time for government jubilation. In Tony Blair’s dreams, he would still be feted as a hero, having toppled a dictator and brought peace and democracy to the Middle East. The actual scenario turned out rather differently. Iraq is in turmoil, terrorism is a much greater threat across many parts of the world than it was when the ‘war on terror’ was launched 11 and a half years ago, attacks on civil liberties have worsened, with torture, rendition and imprisonment without trial now part of the fabric of the war, and discrimination and racism against Muslims growing.

The ostensible reason for the war – the need to prevent Saddam Hussein using his ‘weapons of mass destruction’ which he was supposedly concealing in the grounds of his palaces – has long been revealed to be a lie. The real aim of the war was regime change which would enable strategic control of Iraq and the wider region to be once again in the hands of the west.

Ten years on, the numbers of Iraqi dead are perhaps as high as 1 million, with many more made refugees and displaced. Living conditions for many Iraqis remain terrible, the effects of war have harmed physical and mental health,  and in parts like Fallujah there is evidence of serious problems with pregnancy and childbirth, attributed to the use of depleted uranium by the US forces there. Meanwhile, privatisation of oil and other industries, corruption and vast profits for private security firms are the spoils of the war for western companies and their friends in government.

Yet despite the obvious failure of the Iraq war, successive governments appear addicted to war. There are still over 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, a war which has become more deadly as time has gone on. There is covert intervention in Syria and Iran, and recently David Cameron has announced he dispatch of 300 British troops to join the French intervention in Mali.

All this raises the question of how many more years Britain will continue to bomb and invade countries in the name of fighting terrorism? How many more countries will be drawn into the theatre of war? How many more lives will be lost in the task of eradicating Al Qaeda? How many people, especially in Muslim countries, will find grievances against the bomber and invaders which lead to them taking up arms?

I ask these questions because yet again a serious political crisis has been met with a not just inadequate answer, but one which will produce the diametrically opposite effect than its supposed intention.

David Cameron said of the recent Algerian hostage crisis that ‘This is a global threat and it will require a global response. It will require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months.’

Is that years and decades on top of the 11 and a half years already spent on the war on terror, since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001? Back then, its aim was to eradicate Al Qaeda from Afghanistan – rapidly achieved, although it became active in Pakistan. Since then, Al Qaeda or related Islamic terrorism has become a feature, at different times, in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Mali, Algeria…and on and on. In 2001, no one talked about the threat of such terrorism in most of these countries. Now greater and greater areas of the world have become new sites of conflict.

Everything that the peace and antiwar movements said 10 years ago, when up to 30 million people marched around the world and Britain saw its largest protest demonstration ever, has turned out to be true and everything our rulers told us has turned out to be false. A recent opinion poll in the Guardian showed that 55 % of those questioned thought the 15 February 2003 marchers were right, with even higher proportions among working class respondents.

This is one of the legacies of the antiwar movement: we have created a strong current of anti war opinion which makes it much harder for governments to directly intervene.

Today in Britain the government is enforcing austerity through cuts in  welfare, education and health but never hesitates to spend billions on weapons  and new deployments of troops. The cost of four years of the Afghanistan war, £20 billion, is the same as planned government savings on the NHS.

The issues are connected. The globalised neoliberal system relies heavily on  its military wing to maintain strategic control of markets and to gain access to raw materials. So we face both economic crisis with devastating consequences and a rampant imperialism intervening in ever-wider parts of the globe.

It is these connected issues which make the anti war movement so important. We didn’t stop the war but we did create a mass movement to oppose imperialist war. We have made it harder for them to launch further wars. We have also made the connection between war and economic crisis, and campaigned against attacks on civil liberties and Islamophobia.

Our recent conference which attracted around 1000 people brought together a range of international campaigners, activists and speakers to reiterate our opposition to the war ten years ago. But more importantly, it stressed the need to confront war today by opposing present interventions and future threats.

The threat of war and militarism is such that we need to unite around what we agree on in order to defeat governments and warmongers. Stop the War is involved in organising a demonstration against drones at RAF Waddington base in Lincolnshire on April 27 which we hope will gain wide support. We support the demo and blockade of Trident in Scotland in April, the CND Aldermaston event at Easter and we hope to bring some of these issues together at the People’s Assembly against Austerity on June 22 which will be campaigning against welfare, education and health cuts.

This means a renewal of the anti war and peace movements, a commitment to organising, educating and campaigning in the months ahead. We should know
by now that we cannot rely on the politicians to stop wars. Only the mass of people can do that.

Lindsey German is convenor of the Stop the war Coalition and author of a new book, How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women (Pluto)

“I’m hurting too” Dr Hakim on Drones and Singapore

Hakim in snowThe hurt of militarized authoritarianism in Singapore, Afghanistan and the world

By Dr Hakim ( Dr Teck Young, Wee )

It’s hard for me, an ordinary citizen of Singapore, a medical doctor engaged in social enterprise work in Afghanistan and a human being wishing for a better world, to write this from Kabul.

But people are dying.

And children and women are feeling hopeless.

“What’s the point in telling you our stories?” asked Freba, one of the seamstresses working with the Afghan Peace Volunteers to set up a tailoring co-operative for Afghan women. “Does anyone hear? Does anyone believe us?”

Silently within, I answered Freba with shame,” You’re right. No one is listening.”

So, I write this in protest against my government’s presence in the humanitarian and war tragedy of Afghanistan, as a way to lend my voice to Freba and all my Afghan friends.

I do so in dissent, against the global security of imprisoned minds.

I thought, “If no one listens as humans should, we should at least speak like free men and women.”

Singapore’s complicity in the humanitarian and war tragedy of Afghanistan

It is clear that the Taliban, the many Afghan and regional warlords, militia groups and the Afghan government are responsible for the current humanitarian and war tragedy of Afghanistan.

But Singapore is also responsible because it is one of the fifty U.S. /NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) coalition countries working with the corrupt Afghan government ( rated the most corrupt country in 2012 ).

While the Singapore government would never support any corrupt Singaporean leader even for a day, they have sent troops to support the most corrupt leaders on earth! If accountability is at all important, we cannot say, ‘Oh…never mind!”

Moreover, Singapore has inadvertently become a minor accomplice of the self-interests of the U.S. government in Afghanistan ; The U.S. Vice President , Joe Biden, spoke at the Munich Security Conference recently, “The United States is a Pacific power. And the world’s greatest military alliance ( NATO ) helps make us an Atlantic power as well. As our new defense strategy makes clear, we will remain both a Pacific power and an Atlantic power.”

American power and economic interests naturally do not include the best interests of ordinary Singaporeans or Afghans.

Hakim and kidsThe Afghan humanitarian tragedy

In the normal, logical world, it should inspire the doubt and curiosity of Singaporeans that while the U.S. /NATO coalition was spending billions of dollars every week on the Afghan war ( the U.S. alone was spending two billion dollars every week ), Afghans have been perishing under one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world. At least 36% live below the poverty line and 35% of Afghan men do not have work . The UN calls the acute malnutrition of nearly one million children in the Afghan south ‘shocking’ . Almost three quarters of all Afghans do not have access to safe drinking water .

On several occasions in the past few years, Afghanistan was declared the worst country for children and women, and yet, many of us still hold this warped presumption, “Afghanistan is the worst country for children and women but whatever we are doing over there MUST somehow be right!”

The Afghan war tragedy

In the normal, logical world, it should at least matter to ‘result-orientated’ Singaporeans that the very expensive Afghan/U.S. coalition’s ‘war against terrorism’ has increased rather than decreased ‘terrorism’, with the Global Terrorism Index reporting that terrorist strikes in the region have increased four times since the start of the Iraq war in 2003.

Even President Karzai said in the UK recently that the security situation in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan was better before British troops were deployed.

Adding to this cynical mess of increased ‘terrorism’ at the hands of global superpowers, the U.S. has established an epicenter of drone warfare in Afghanistan, with Afghans and Pakistanis and other ‘insurgents’ as their ‘targets’, and Singapore as one of their many allies. Singapore has had teams helping in drone reconnaissance operations, reconnaissance that may have eventually ended up with a U.S. /NATO decision to kill someone without trial.

I had raised this personal concern once in a meeting room at Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs ; I was appreciative of the attentiveness given to this issue, but sensed that there was no great interest in ‘investigating’ how Singapore’s co-operation in the drone operations in Afghanistan may be violating international law, as was suggested by the ex-UN Special Rapporteur on Extra Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings, Mr Philip Alston.

A recent New York Times article highlights these ‘fears  for U.S. allies’, reporting on a lawsuit in the British courts that ‘accuses British officials of becoming “secondary parties to murder” by passing intelligence to American officials that was later used in drone strikes.’ My life has been changed by listening to Afghan friends like Raz Mohammad tell how ‘drones bury beautiful lives’.museum group pic

The U.N. is finally living up to its charter to ‘remove the scourge of war’ by duly investigating  drone warfare. Major U.S. newspapers are also asking for more transparency over Obama’s weekly, premeditated ‘kill lists’. There has been concern over unchecked Powers getting even more out of all jurisdictions with the appointment of ‘drone justifier’ John Brennan as Obama’s CIA Director nominee.

Even the UN Committee on the Rights of a Child has been “alarmed” at reports of the deaths of hundreds of children from US attacks and air strikes in Afghanistan since the committee last reviewed U.S. practices in 2008.

Singapore should be alarmed too.

Singapore’s own identity as a militarized, authoritarian country

Deep within, like most human beings, Freba yearns for a decent livelihood without war. Abdulhai and the Afghan Peace Volunteers wish for friends from all 195 countries of the world, a better world without borders!

What kind of identity do Singaporeans wish for their country, a peaceful and friendly country or otherwise?

Again, I’m concerned. We like pictures of be-medaled soldiers more than unsung ‘Mother Teresa’ heroines. Our government has a significant number of ex-military commanders.

According to the Global Militarisation Index released by the Bonn International Centre for Conversion (BICC), Singapore has been the second most militarized nation in the world for years. The latest ranking puts Singapore just second to Israel and one brutal position more militarized than Syria.

What also worries me is that this militarized mindset may be behind Singapore’s enthusiasm in the drone show-business, and in ‘unintentionally’ being part of the U.S.’ ‘Asia pivot’ by hosting four U.S. littoral combat ships.

Even on the economic front, while Singapore has one of the higher Gini coefficients of income inequality in the world, not many people in Singapore are aware of or debating Singapore’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership , again a partnership that corporate America is pushing for.

What Singapore has aligned herself with in Afghanistan is militarized authoritarianism that concentrates profit and power in the hands of a few. While this follows global norms, such a system works mainly for the wealth and power of the 1% in the short term, but not for the daily needs of the 99% in either the short or long term.

I personally think that both the democratic and socialist practices of today are ‘non-progressive’ vehicles for the rule of the few ‘Kings, Emperors, Presidents, and Prime Ministers’ over the many presumably ‘ignorant, helpless and sometimes lazy’ subjects. These elitist systems tend to maintain control by ‘pacifying the masses’ through formal education, mainstream media and force.

I hope Singapore can steer itself away from this ‘norm’, an ugly ‘norm’ in which war becomes fun, like when Prince Harry described his combat pilot job in Afghanistan as “a joy … because I’m one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox, so with my thumbs I like to think I’m probably quite useful.”

I believe that for effective defense and genuine security, we ought to be friends with neighbours and all peoples of other lands rather than militarists with superior weapons.

Perhaps these are differences in opinions which can be included in Our Singapore Conversation.

It’s hard for me to write this, but I am sincerely ashamed to be a citizen of the 2nd most militarized nation on earth, a country that has participated in the legally-questionable drone warfare in Afghanistan.

Thankfully, I have hope in Singaporeans like I have hope in humanity. There are alternatives. The world is awakening, the human race is revolutionizing, and so is Singapore’s electorate. Most ordinary folk in the world don’t want to send missiles or guns to kill strangers in other places! Human beings have always preferred otherwise.

My voice is not political. My voice is human.

Afghans are hurting very badly.

kids in refugee campAnd I am hurting too.