Nowruz, celebrated on the spring equinox each year in Afghanistan, Iran and Kurdish regions everywhere is a very special holiday that celebrates the New Year, literally, New Day. Families and friends gather on Nowruz to celebrate and to appreciate the beginning of a new cycle. The Global Days of Listening Skype Call also broadcast on Livestream on March 21 was very much a celebration of Nowruz with friends and peace lovers around the world sharing ideas and actions in solidarity.
Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV) facilitated the discussion from Chicago. Over the course of three hours, Dr. Hakim Young with Zarguna in Bamyan and Hoor and the APVs (Afghan Peace Volunteers) joined the conversation from Bamyan and Kabul. Sherri Maurin called in with Dr. Fatih Faiz from Erbil, Iraq with his students Chra and Husan. Madelyn MacKay from rural British Columbia, Canada joined to talk about Nonviolent Peace Force. Bernie Myer from Olympia Washington shared his experiences as the American Gandhi in India, and George Fisher and Susan Peretti, Quakers from long Island discussed the atrocities at Kunduz Hospital and what can we do now.
At one point Dr. Hakim summarized his, and the APV’s feelings about what needs to happen now. He said:
“We are no longer in a system which allows us to hold the authorities accountable. I don’t feel that Afghans and the people of the Middle East are patient any more. I feel that we cannot wait for the authorities to act. I feel that the active thing to be done that would make us happiest is just to connect with one another and to flood our circles and relationships with what we know and what we can see because what we see in reality is so very different from anything that any politician today would say officially. So what we would say in our relationships and our communities would ring a bell. It would harness great support.
I think that perhaps, maybe Our challenge is to continue to do this in a way which will overcome the religious control over the media and over the narratives and over decision making. I feel that the religious way or corporate or political elites who make those decisions need to be sidelined because they are a very small minority and we are many and we can, if we would do the hard work of building those relationships and build them fast and we have the tools for them. Maybe its discouraging to think that might take a long time but surely we feel here in Afghanistan now among the Afghan Peace Volunteers at our Center that We Will Not Wait Any More. #Enough! That is enough of this repetitive approach from the global elites. We will not wait. We will do what we can. ” ~Dr.Hakim
Dr. Hakim came on the line first, from Bamyan province in Afghanistan where he was visiting with APVs Zarguna and Karima, who were visiting their families, and Hama Jan, a local friend in Bamyan. They had just come from the Peace Park where they planted some evergreen trees and replace a worn and oft stolen painted wooden sign with a marble one that’s engraved. They were much enjoying the activity and the company.
The conversation turned to International Women’s Day. The APVs went cycling through Kabul with a group, half girls and half guys. There were 70 of them riding together. They rode streets of Kabul and had a great time. Some bystanders supported them, some just stared and others were skeptical. They just smiled and rode on by. Some women asked to join them. It was very freeing. I am very interested in this because when I was at the Conference on Saudi Arabia a couple of weeks ago they showed a film about a young girl (Wadjda) who badly wanted to ride a bike in Saudi Arabia where women are generally not free to engage in athletic activities or drive a car. Now, in Kabul these young women are riding high. This is new.
Zarguna said that she didn’t join the bike ride, but she had attended her class that day. Zarguna is studying permaculture. There was more talk then, about the importance of bringing the best possible agricultural standards to Afghanistan to restore the ecology there and provide food for the people. The APV have been planting trees and other goodies in Kabul as well. They understand that they must rebuild the ability of Afghanistan to sustain the people through scientific techniques of agriculture that focus on sustainability and preservation of the land.
The APVs who remained in Kabul were out flying kites (not drones), a popular Nowruz activity in Afghanistan. I bet the wind is usually good there – and there aren’t a lot of trees in the mountains to catch your kite away from you. Hoor Arifi called and said they were having a fine time and would call in later.
Brock McIntosh had visited the APV last year with a friend in Iraq Veterans Agains the War (IVAW). He greets them and tells that he is now in graduate school in the US. He talks about a friend, a member of IVAW who had come with him to Afghanistan, a loving and generous person who has since committed suicide. Brock is getting a Masters Degree this year that will facilitate development of programs to assist people in war zones.
In conclusion, Dr. Hakim pointed out that the Border Free Community Center in Kabul is a place where they want people to be border free; not governments.
GDoL Nowruz Conversation, Part 1 With Kathy, Hakim and Zarguna, and Brock
Hakim and Zarguna speak at length about the APV interest in Permaculture and the progress of the Borderfree School for street kids. Hakim speaks a little about the bike ride in Kabul on International Women’s Day. The school has enrolled 8 new kids in the last month. The children learn literacy skills from the older APVs. They street children have been slow in learning. The APVs surveyed them about what would help them learn more efficiently, and they are enthusiastic about implementing some changes. Most of the children live in very difficult circumstances and work very hard to support their families who live in a poverty that is incomprehensible to most Americans. I mentioned that a friend rankled at the term ‘borderfree’ as a political description. Dr. Hakim replied (as expected) that the Borderfree Community Center is about borderfree people not borderfree political structures.
GDoL Nowruz Conversation, Part 2 Kathy, Hakim and Zarguna on the Borderfree School
In the next portion of the call, the AVPs in Kabul are finally able to come on the call. They have returned from Flying Kites (Not Drones). About 20 of them rode their bicycles to the site and back, about an hours ride, so they are very tired, but it was a beautiful day. Kite flying is a common entertainment in Afghanistan and a traditional part of the Nowruz celebration.
Susan and George come on the call. They talk a little about the activities the Quakers around New York City are involved in. Kathy asks them what they think of the Kunduz bombing. They are horrified. Everyone aggression that this was an egregious violation of the human rights of the Afghan people, and Susan says that the least the US government should do is openly admit their error and apologize to the people of Afghanistan. Dr. Hakim agrees, stating:
” If the conclusion of the US military is that they should not have bombed the hospital then that should be clearly announced before the people of Afghanistan. Often events like this are put away and hidden from public view. If the conclusion that this is wrong it should be very clearly announced and not hidden.”
They talk about ‘What can be done’. Hakim states that the people must take the lead. He and the APVs think that it is clear we cannot wait for the authorities to act. We most talk about the world as we know it rather than as it is presented to us by corrupt media and politicians. If we build networks of like minded people around the world, we can empower ourselves to build a better world. [Hakim’s exact quote is above]
GDoL Nowruz Conversation, Part 3 Kathy, Hakim, APV, George & Susan on Kunduz
Bernie Myers and Madelyn MacKay join the call. Bernie has a unique story to tell. He is a long time antiwar activist currently living in Olympia Washington where he is active in protesting nuclear weapons and in particular the nuclear armed Trident submarines stored there. He physically resembles Mahatma Gandhi, so he has been attending an International Peace Festival and the Children’s Peace Museum in India, where he is the American Gandhi. At these events, Bernie sees people from numerous countries and he feels like he is helping relationships to connect. He teaches about the historical Gandhi, and about Gandhi’s nonviolent methods. Bernie also shares the information about the activities of peace activists in the US, and last year, he strongly promoted the APV #Enough campaign. He finds these trips very rewarding.
Madelyn spoke of her experiences linking peacemakers together. She has been involved in ‘Training the Trainers’ for Nonviolent Peace Force and other organizations. They teach people to work with civilians in conflict areas such as South Sudan, The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Iraq. She shared her experiences with this work at some length. Zarguna asked if she could give them some ideas to help the APV with their latest project, involving their mothers in the work of peacemaking. They discussed this for a while. Madelyn suggested starting while the war is still on by bringing the women together to build trust. She suggested finding a female leader in the community to act as convener. Another idea Madelyn raised is based on the fact that, when women are directly involved, peace negotiations are more successful and bring about longer periods of peace. She suggested a listening project to bring the women together with the men after they become comfortable working with one another.
GDoL Nowruz Conversation, Part 4 Bernie and Madelyn on Peacemaking
Finally, Sherri and Dr. Fatih came on the line from Erbil, a Kurdish city in northern Iraq that is currently flooded with refugees from all over Iraq and Syria. In Erbil, a Kurdish city, Nowruz is the biggest holiday of the year, when families and friends celebrate the promise of spring and a new year together. Also with them were two fo Dr. Fatih’s medical students, Chra and Husan. Chra comes from Australia where her family were Kurdish refugees when she was a child. Husan hails from Baghdad. His father, the Dean of a Medical College was murdered, and the family was forced to flee to the Kurdish region. Husan said he is very interested in working with the refugees as he knows what it is like to be one. Chra, spoke about how the Kurdish society turned out to be much more open for women than she had expected. Dr. Fatih spoke of how many of the refugees from Syria want very much to go home but they are losing hope.
GDoL Nowruz Conversation, Part 5 where Sherri and Dr. Fatih join us with Chra and Husan
Use the sliders to listen to the conversations and click on any picture to see it full-sized. You can learn more about the Afghan Peace Volunteers and their Borderfree Community Center at http://ourjourneytosmile.com. You can learn about their #Enough campaign at http://enough.ourjourneytosmile.com
You an learn about Global Days of Listening and find out how to participate in the monthly calls at http://globaldaysoflistening.org
Kathy Kelly blogs at Voices for Creative Nonviolence: http://vcnv.org