With Voices for Creative Nonviolence UK, I have had the opportunity to practise peace education in Afghanistan for a few days. We are delivering workshops in conflict resolution and mediation with street children, and some ‘train the trainer’ sessions with Afghan Peace Volunteers. The APV have a team of nine young men and women who are coordinating work on conflict resolution.
The great thing about doing peace education with children and young people is that it comes naturally, no matter where you are. Young people get the need for fairness, the need to be heard, the need for justice.
That said, there are lots of challenges to doing this work compared with Britain. Translating not just the words but the ideas is not easy. A metaphor I often use is the “conflict escalator”, carrying you up out of control; as far as I can tell there’s only one escalator in Kabul (donated by a penitent of Bin Laden’s family), and the city’s street children are not so familiar with it. Gender norms, family, school and the balance between the individual and the group: all these are different. Moreover, violence is present in homes and the streets. Most if not all of the children we’ve spoken to have witnessed violence, making the idea that conflict and violence are not synonymous, hard to grant.
As a teacher, there are concepts and tools I want to convey, but the Afghan Peace Volunteers are teaching me about the conflict resolution they already do. Other Afghans have been surprised at how APV bring together Hazari, Pashtun, Tajik and Uzbeks under one roof. Afghanistan of course has an ancient tradition of conflict resolution, but I suspect Kabul’s young people have innovations of their own. So really, I’m the student.
Peace education is already happening here as well. Besides APV, we’ve been in contact with Sanayee Development Centre, the US Institute and Jesuit Relief Services, all of which are reaching young people with different elements of peace education.
Ultimately, I will be happy if we have fun together. Solidarity is a big motivation for being here. Whatever the intent, many of the interventions by my country and others have made Afghans less safe and less free. But I want to picture Afghanistan as more than the home of drone strikes, illicit poppy cultivation and the marginalization of women. The Afghan Peace Volunteers have taken me beyond these headlines, showing that nonviolence can flourish even when there seems to be no space for it.
Conflict is experienced by everyone everywhere, so educating everyone in peaceful conflict resolution is not a “special” intervention that Afghans need more than others; it is a universal right. The work of Afghan Peace Volunteers says to the world that they are not giving up on this or any other rights for their young people, and I hope I can stand with them in that.
Henoko Town, Okinawa, around one hundred and fifty Japanese protesters gathered to stop construction trucks from entering the U.S. base ‘Camp Schwab’, after the Ministry of Land over-ruled the local Governors’ decision to revoke permission for construction plans, criticizing the “mainland-centric” Japanese Government of compromising the environmental, health and safety interests of the Islanders.
Riot police poured out of buses at six a.m., out-numbering protesters four to one, with road sitters systematically picked off in less than an hour to make way for construction vehicles.
All the mayors and government representatives of Okinawa have objected to the construction of the new coastal base, which will landfill one hundred and sixty acres of Oura Bay, for a two hundred and five hectare construction plan which will be part of a military runway.
Marine biologists describe Oura Bay as a critical habitat for the endangered ‘dugong’ (a species of manatee), which feeds in the area, as well as sea turtles and unique large coral communities.
The bay is particularly special for its extreme rich ecosystem which has developed due to six inland rivers converging into the bay, making the sea levels deep, and ideal from various types of porites coral and dependent creatures.
‘Camp Schwab’ is just one of 32 U.S. bases which occupies 17% of the Island, using various areas for military exercises from jungle training to Osprey helicopter training exercises. There are on average 50 Osprey take off and landings every day, many next to housing and built up residential areas, causing disruption to everyday life with extreme noise levels, heat and diesel smell from the engines.
Two days ago there were six arrests outside the base, as well as ‘Kayactivists’ in the sea trying to disrupt the construction. A formidable line of tethered red buoys mark out the area consigned for construction, running from the land to a group of offshore rocks, Nagashima and Hirashima, described by local shamans as the place where dragons (the source of wisdom) originated.
Protesters also have a number of speed boats which take to the waters around the cordoned area; the response of the coast guard is to use the tactic of trying to board these boats after ramming them off course.
The overwhelming feeling of the local people is that the Government on the mainland is willing to sacrifice the wishes of Okinawans in order to pursue its military defense measures against China. Bound by Article 9, Japan has not had an army since World War Two, though moves by the Government suggest a desire to scrap the Article and embark on a ‘special relationship’ with the U.S., who is already securing control of the area with over 200 bases, and thus tightening the Asia pivot with control over land and sea trade routes, particularly those routes used by China.
Meanwhile, Japan is footing 75% of the bill for accommodating the U.S., with each soldier costing the Japanese Government 200 million yen per year, that’s $4. 4 billion a year for the 53,082 U.S. soldiers currently in Japan, with around half (26, 460) based in Okinawa. The new base at Henoko is also expected to cost the Japanese Government a tidy sum with the current price tag calculated to be at least 5 trillion yen.
Okinawa suffered devastating losses during the second world war, with a quarter of the population killed within the 3-month-long ‘Battle of Okinawa’ which claimed 200,000 lives in total. Hilltops are said to have changed shape due to the sheer bombardment of ammunition.
Local activist Hiroshi Ashitomi has been protesting at Camp Schwab since the expansion was announced 11 years ago, he said: “We want an island of peace and the ability to make our own decisions, if this doesn’t happen then maybe we might need to start talking about independence.”
14 year anniversary of the US/NATO led war in Afghanistan we urge everyone to vigil outside their local hospital in remembrance of the 22 people killed during the attack on the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, North Afghanistan.
Support Médecins Sans Frontières who are calling the attack a war crime and are demanding for an independent investigation.
Suggested sign for vigil: “Bombing a hospital is a war crime, the same is true in Afghanistan”.
Stand in solidarity with Afghans who have endured 35 years of war, who say they have had ENOUGH of violence, who say that life now is more insecure than under the taliban.
Take photos and send a press release to your local newspaper.
Social media: @MSF #Kunduz #WarCrime @We_Say_Enough @vcnvuk #MSF #IndependentInvestigation
22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
by Kathy Kelly
October 5, 2015
Before the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing in Iraq, a group of activists living in Baghdad would regularly go to city sites that were crucial for maintaining health and well-being in Baghdad, such as hospitals, electrical facilities, water purification plants, and schools, and string large vinyl banners between the trees outside these buildings which read: “To Bomb This Site Would Be A War Crime.” We encouraged people in U.S. cities to do the same, trying to build empathy for people trapped in Iraq, anticipating a terrible aerial bombing.
Tragically, sadly, the banners must again condemn war crimes, this time echoing international outcry because in an hour of airstrikes this past Saturday morning, the U.S. repeatedly bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, a facility that served the fifth largest city in Afghanistan and the surrounding region.
U.S./NATO forces carried out the airstrike at about 2AM on October 3rd. Doctors Without Borders had already notified the U.S., NATO and Afghan forces of their geographical coordinates to clarify that their compound, the size of a football field, was a hospital. When the first bombs hit, medical staff immediately phoned NATO headquarters to report the strike on its facility, and yet strikes continued, at 15 minute intervals, until 3:15 a.m., killing 22 people. 12 of the dead were medical staff; ten were patients, and three of the patients were children. At least 37 more people were injured. One survivor said that the first section of the hospital to be hit was the Intensive Care Unit.
“Patients were burning in their beds,” said one nurse, an eyewitness to the ICU attack.”There are no words for how terrible it was.” The U.S. airstrikes continued, even after the Doctors Without Borders officials had notified the U.S., NATO and Afghan military that the warplanes were attacking the hospital.
Taliban forces do not have air power, and the Afghan Air Force fleet is subordinate to the U.S., so it was patently clear that the U.S. had committed a war crime.
The U.S. military has said that the matter is under investigation. Yet another in an endless train of somber apologies; feeling families’ pain but excusing all involved decision makers seems inevitable. Doctors Without Borders has demanded a transparent, independent investigation, assembled by a legitimate international body and without direct involvement by the U.S. or by any other warring party in the Afghan conflict. If such an investigation occurs, and is able to confirm that this was a deliberate, or else a murderously neglectful war crime, how many Americans will ever learn of the verdict?
War crimes can be acknowledged when carried out by official U.S. enemies, when they are useful in justifying invasions and efforts at regime change.
One investigation the U.S. has signally failed to carry out would tell it how much Kunduz needed this hospital. The U.S. could investigate SIGAR reports (“Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction”) numbering Afghanistan’s “U.S. funded health care facilities,” allegedly funded through USAID, which cannot even be located, 189 alleged locations at whose coordinates there are demonstrably no buildings within 400 feet. In their June 25th letter they astoundingly write, “My office’s initial analysis of USAID data and geospatial imagery has led us to question whether USAID has accurate location information for 510—nearly 80 percent—of the 641 health care facilities funded by the PCH program.” It notes that six of the Afghan facilities are actually located in Pakistan, six in Tajikstan, and one in the Mediterranean Sea.
Now it seems we’ve created yet another ghost hospital, not out of thin air this time but from the walls of a desperately needed facility which are now charred rubble, from which the bodies of staff and patients have been exhumed. And with the hospital lost to a terrified community, the ghosts of this attack are, again, beyond anyone’s ability to number. But in the week leading up to this attack, its staff had treated 345 wounded people, 59 of them children.
The U.S. has long shown itself the most formidable warlord fighting in Afghanistan, setting an example of brute force that frightens rural people who wonder to whom they can turn for protection. In July of 2015, U.S. bomber jets attacked an Afghan army facility in the Logar Province, killing ten soldiers. The Pentagon said this incident would likewise be under investigation. No public conclusion of the investigation seems ever to have been issued. There isn’t always even an apology.
This was a massacre, whether one of carelessness or of hate. One way to join the outcry against it, demanding not just an inquiry but a final end to all U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan, would be to assemble in front of health care facilities, hospitals or trauma units, carrying signage which says, “To Bomb This Place Would Be a War Crime.” Invite hospital personnel to join the assembly, notify local media, and hold an additional sign which says: “The Same Is True in Afghanistan.”
We should affirm the Afghans’ right to medical care and safety. The U.S. should offer investigators unimpeded access to the decision makers in this attack and pay to reconstruct the hospital with reparations for suffering caused throughout these fourteen years of war and cruelly manufactured chaos. Finally, and for the sake of future generations, we should take hold of our runaway empire and make it a nation we can restrain from committing the fathomlessly obscene atrocity that is war.
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)
Drone 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.
Former 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 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.”
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.
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
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: email@example.com
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.
RAF 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 family 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: 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: 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: 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: 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.
CHICAGO: 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 celebration 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.
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: 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: 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.
St Michael’s Mount- near Penzance
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 Bonn Street town centre, members of Fellowship for Reconciliation and CND Oxford
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: 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
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.
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.
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
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.
Between 120-200 duvets are loaded up into a truck for each distribution run.
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.
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
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.
Problems 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 RecipientsKarte 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.
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”.
Najeeba 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
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 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.”
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)
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.
1) 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.
2) 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
3) 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!
4) 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: firstname.lastname@example.org