Tag Archives: Hakim

To Touch A Colourful Afghanistan

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

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

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

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

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

Spending International Peace Day, 21st September 2016, together

 

 

To Touch A Colourful Afghanistan

by Dr Hakim

With regards to human hope in Afghanistan,

most of the world is blind.

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

as mainstream media have replaced our eyes

and is just as obsessed with war as politicians are,

as if war is attractive.

We overlook the resilience Nature demonstrates

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

plain people, Afghans, Syrians, Yemenis,

or ‘the others’ on different killing lists.

We don’t even hear what’s obvious,

“We are human beings.”

Not objects, not targets.

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

For Banafsha, a sound is a colour,

touch is colour,

understanding is colour.

A bullet isn’t a colour….

“Bombs frighten me,”

Hadisa, a volunteer teacher, said at our meeting.

The watchman of another school for the visually impaired was killed

by extremists who entered via the yard of the blind,

into the American University Hadisa studies at,

to wreck havoc,

drowning in a failed tit-for-tat war,

shoot, anger, shoot, revenge.

All that was achieved

was a bloody red.

Mehdi Salami played the keyboard while the visually impaired students sang

We’ve even forgotten that Afghans sing,

that music can be heard everywhere,

the bees, the wind, the transformed caterpillars,

and leaves turning their faces towards the sun.

Mursal cried when she heard the blind students sing together

While they create tunes, they serve the Earth too,

pollinating, producing sweet seeds of future life.

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

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

When Mursal heard the keen voices of the students

singing verses which lyricized the Dari alphabet,

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

and she cried. 

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

“If we can embrace our differences through respect,

we naturally become one,

the blind and the sighted,”

Mehdi Salami, Rayaab’s Deputy Director encouraged.

It made inspiring sense that

if we can bridge ‘darkness and light’,

we can merge all other diversities.

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

but she so very much wanted to come,

Sonia, with soya biscuits which Rayaab served us with refreshments

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

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

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

Trees provided her a walking aid,

to free her from our doubts.

As we said goodbye in the dim corridor space,

we remembered Tina Ahmadi’s request

that this not be the only time of our friendship,

that we should meet again and again.

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

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

that meaning, love and calm may pass us by,

but are grappled with in intense pursuit

by them, those we often ignore.

It is hoped that we’ll always invite ourselves to

behold the everyday struggles of Afghan folk from all walks,

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

not to rush past with our usual fleeting glances,

 but to pause with a ‘full heart’,

to wonder,

and to touch.

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

 

 

 

refugee camp

Internal refugees, motherhood, and illegal land grabs in Afghanistan

Refugee camp in the Perwan Dodo area of Kabul.

by Maya Evans with Hakim

A few days ago we visited a refugee camp, in the Perwan Dodo area of Kabul. The camp is relatively small compared to camps we’ve visited previously, with around forty families occupying an area about the size of a football pitch. Most of the families were from Pawan Province which is to the north of Kabul. They had become internal refugees after fleeing from their homes due to the fighting or lack of jobs.

It had been raining the night before and the road in front of the camp was flooded. There was a man in knee length wellies wading up to his shins in the water sucking it up with a large tube coming from a truck. We ducked under a curtain of ragged sheets which acted as a makeshift wall between the camp and the busy road. The little lanes which weaved around the camp leading to the various huts were a mud fest. As soon as we stepped into the camp our shoes became encrusted with mud.

Janey interviews a mother in a refugee campJaney had wanted to interview a mother in a refugee camp as part of her short film project about the life of mums in Afghanistan. We were introduced to Paiky, a 42 year old mother of six. Her home was a hut made from mud with a small porch area which seemed to be used for cooking and then a larger area where the family of eight lived. Our Afghan camerawoman Alka set up her equipment while Paiky arranged herself under a large green patterned blanket. We had yet to hear her story but it was already obvious that she was in a lot of pain.

Janey and I sat next to her while some of her children peeked from behind a curtain which led into the darkened main area of the hut. The interview initially started with some of the men present but after a few minutes Paiky requested that they leave. Once the men left the porch Paiky opened her heart and poured forth about her life and physical ailments. She had given birth to four of her six children alone. Her last birth was also unassisted and due to lack of medical care she is still in constant pain six years later. She says the discomfort is so extreme that she can’t wear trousers or any garment on the bottom half of her body. She lifted her blanket and dress to show me her swollen stomach with some extremely sore looking veins running across it. Janey later said she wasn’t in a position to see her stomach but my expression had said it all.

At the end of the interview I joked with three of Paiky’s children, my limited Dari allowed me to describe them as “dost” friends, and in replyRefugee Family they laughed and called me “holla”, aunty. When I looked into the soft eyes of Rafiq who was about eleven, his smile was so warm and sincere that I immediately felt a deep connection with him. Paiky explained that he was the main bread winner of the family. Every day he went out into the street and washed cars for a living, and my heart went further out to this eleven year old man.

Outside our male companions were talking to the elders of the camp. They were learning more about the political economics of the situation. Apparently, the site was previously occupied by another group of internally displaced people (IDPs) who have now been housed in a building development overlooking the present camp. The site is now part of the land grab racket which is currently gripping Afghanistan and is described by Barmak Pazhwak, at the US Institute of Peace,  as “the next big conflict” for the country, while the Afghan Land Authority have assessed that 197,266 hectors of public land has been grabbed.

In 2008 Oxfam published a report which described land issues as now being the main cause of dispute within Afghanistan. The problem lies with the recent falsifying of land ownership documents. Previously there was no legal documentation proving the ownership of land in Afghanistan and land just belonged to families and was passed down between generations. The land theft has given rise to what is locally described as a “land mafia” who are suspected to be a mixture of rich corrupt property developers, drug dealers and war lords – many of whom are currently within the Afghan Government. Kabul is now gripped by this land theft racket.

Refugee KidsIn the case of this camp’s site, the previous refugees had negotiated a deal with the owner of the land, a rich property developer who is said also to have land in Canada and Dubai. Furthermore it is alleged that the developer had struck a deal with a warlord who negotiated housing for the refugees in return for their loyalty as fighters. The buying of refugees’ loyalty is now becoming common place. Many refugees who last year were considered among the poorest in the country are now relatively well off and living in new housing.

Property prices boomed in Kabul up to a year ago with rocketing rents fuelled by the large number of internationals living in Kabul who are earning big money. Recently rents have stalled and are predicted to level out, but are still at massively inflated prices by local standards. Everyday we hear about the problems for ordinary people in Afghanistan – a country with the highest number of drug addicts in the world; the highest infant mortality, mental health problems, domestic violence and internally displaced people – the list goes on and on. Land theft is just another problem to add.

Read more: http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/afghanistan-the-cost-of-war.pdf

http://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/land-grabs-in-afghanistan-1-nangrahar-the-disputed-o-rangeland

http://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/a-new-round-of-anti-sherzai-protests-in-nangarhar