Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sunglasses | A Three Minute Vignette by Mustafa Kia

A young Afghan woman's desire to buy sunglasses despite the conflict between traditional Afghan customs and western values.

by Mustafa Kia / Afghanistan (2009)

An Afghan Narrative | One Man’s Story

Wage Peace,
Pablo Ancona, Santa Fe, NM.

From the traveling mural exhibit Windows and Mirrors.

We now have an MP3 recording from last week’s excellent conference call briefing with Zaher Wahab. He describes the daunting challenges Afghan’s face and the rewards he received working with bright, capable, and enthusiastic students at a teacher training college in Kabul.

It is about the impact of war and the choices Afghans are making to create a brighter future. Make time to listen. You will be inspired.

Themes you will learn more about:

• The profound constitutional crisis
• The fiscal crisis triggered by the collapse of the largest private bank and the country being put on probation by the IMF
Government inability to provide security, employment opportunities, electricity, clean water, schools and health clinics for Afghans.

Dr. Zaher Wahab was born in Afghanistan, received a B.A. in sociology from the American University of Beirut, an M.A. in comparative education from Teachers College, Columbia University and an M.A. in anthropology and a Ph.D. in international development education from Stanford University.

He served as a senior adviser to the Minister of Higher Education in Afghanistan for five years from 2002-2007, and was instrumental in designing and now teaching the only Masters Degree program for teacher education faculty throughout Afghanistan.

He teaches Foundations of Education, Race-Culture-Power, Paulo Freire, and the Middle East in Global Perspective at Lewis and Clark College and has served as a Fulbright Scholar in Egypt, Turkmenistan and twice in Kazakhstan.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Afghanistan: Shining a Light on the Dark

More than $1.6 billion from the US and at least 14 other countries has been spent on energy projects since 2002

Yet after years of reconstruction efforts, no other country in the world has less electricity per person that Afghanistan.

This interactive study by the Associated Press has graphics and video that explains what went wrong.

Powers of Darkness in North Afghanistan
By Abdul Latif Sahak | Institute for War and Peace Reporting | 5 July 2011

Although the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif enjoys a measure of stability and a conveniently-located source of electricity, residents say they are only getting a couple of hours of power a day.

Apart from making life more difficult in the summer heat, the power outages have led to fears of infection due to problems with keeping foodstuffs cool.

Residents are angered that the massive amounts of aid money injected into Afghanistan has failed to improve electricity supplies, a basic building-block of economic development.

People in Mazar-e Sharif get between one and three hours of electricity every 24 hours. IWPR interviewed one man, Fereidun, who said he had an hour a day, but with a current so weak that it would not run his refrigerator.

“You see, I can’t bear this hot weather even though I’m an adult. How can children bear it?” Fereidun said, fanning himself as he sat under a tree in front of his house. “I use this fan on my children all night. Sometimes I even pass out. If there was electricity, I wouldn’t have these problems, as I own [an electric] fan and a refrigerator.”

Fereidun placed the blame squarely on local government, saying, “For God’s sake, every government official in the province has been working for the last ten years as if he inherited his post. If they can’t work, others must replace them.”

How People Define Violence and Justice in Afghanistan

A First Step on a Long Journey:
How People Define Violence and Justice in Afghanistan (1958-2008)

Published by, Afghan Civil Society Forum-organization (ACSFo)

This ambitious report is based on a survey of 3600 people in nine of Afghanistan’s provinces (Badakhshan, Balkh, Bamyan, Herat, Faryab, Kabul, Kandahar, Nangarhar and Paktia). Four hundred surveys were done in each province.

The goal is to start creating a measure of human rights abuses that have taken place under recent governments in Afghanistan. The level and consistency of instability and violence over the years is staggering. There are patterns that need to be broken. The many charts and graphs of this study can help to put it all into perspective as Afghans work towards the need for transitional justice this time around.

Participants were asked a series of broad questions around war, justice and the rule of Law. They were then asked to rank their response to different periods of rule in the country. The time periods were the Zahir Shah reign, Dawood Khan Republic, Communist regime, Mujahedin, Taliban Islamic Emirates, and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (current).

The book has six chapters beginning with an overview of the last 50 years and then broad themes looking at the following.

Justice – including the Imprisonment/killing of intellectuals
Security – including refugee
Violations and Killings – including extra-judicial killings
Transitional justice – including immunity of criminals from prosecution
People’s Recommendations – including expectations of the government


"Afghanistan is in the most momentous period of history. On the one hand, it is in the constructive change process and on the other hand it faces the formidable challenge of past human rights abuses and crimes. The Government of Afghanistan supports investigation of past crimes. The establishment of an independent human rights commission as agreed in Bonn Accord, the convention of national human rights workshop and President Hamid Karzai’s emphasis on investigating the past crimes in its inauguration, and refraining from signing the national reconciliation bill 2007 are all examples of support to the transitional justice process. Nevertheless, the Government of Afghanistan has not been able to formulate a clear mechanism to implement transitional justice. Afghans demand justice more than ever. Investigating the previous crime is a legitimate right of Afghans. If the government does not seriously consider this issue, the current distrust and gap between people and government will increase and can create gigantic problems for Afghanistan’s future.

Afghans have witnessed many rights violation and crimes committed by ethnic and ideological leaders, commanders, belligerent factions and locally powerful forces. After 9/11, the international community and civil institutions have taken steps to redress people’s grief. They have strived to assess the human rights violations and crimes committed during different periods in order to inform people. As a result, human rights organizations have published several reports on human rights issues. Nonetheless, Afghanistan has a long road to truth seeking and there exists a wide-range of hidden crimes. Human rights organizations have not been able to identify these hidden areas, since there are powers in the country that prevent the truth to be found.

How People Define Violence and Justice is a research project on international crimes, massacres, rapes, murders, destruction of residential areas, homicide and imprisonment of intellectuals, torture and human rights abuses of the past fifty years. This research extends to the past fifty years of Afghan history and starts from Shah Mahmud Khan premiership during Muhammad Zahir Shah monarchy. Human rights abuses have deep roots and can be traced back to Muhammad Hashim Khan premiership. Therefore, certain parts of this report refer to that period. Afghanistan witnessed rather stable regimes during Muhammad Zahir Shah monarchy and Dawood Khan republic; however, human rights abuses were systematically committed during those periods. An outstanding example of which was depriving ethnic and religious minorities from political and social participation and from the right to education which continued till the end of Dawood Khan republic.

After the communist coup in Afghanistan, the civil war broke out. During these periods heinous human rights abuses took place, the most prominent of which were arbitrary imprisonments, forced disappearances and massacres. After the collapse of Communist regimes and Mujahedin triumph, a new chapter of crimes in Afghanistan began. Ethnical, sectarian and lingual conflicts, territorial divide of cities and villages by belligerent factions, rule of local commanders on the lives and properties of people, destruction of house, rapes, plundering government and people’s properties and stealing historic monuments are examples of such crimes.

During Taliban rule, areas such as northern Kabul and Bamyan were turned into burned lands. Some evident examples of Taliban crimes were the massacre in northern Kabul, Bamyan and Mazar-e- Sharif, women rights violation, confiscation of public properties, wanton imprisonments, forced disappearances, and humiliation of human dignity.

In order to assess the past events, How People Define Violence and Justice Project developed a questionnaire that encompasses these abuses and crimes. It consists of five sections and 36 questions. The last fifty years that constitutes our scope of research has been divided in six following periods:

1. The Monarchy (King Mohammad Zahir Shah) 1958 – 1973
2. The Republic (President Mohammad Dawood) 1973 – 1978
3. The Communist Regime 1978 – 1992
4. The Islamic State (Mujahedin) 1992 – 1995
5. The Islamic Emirates (Taliban) 1996 – 2001
6. Islamic Republic (Karzai) 2001 – 2008

The research has been conducted in nine provinces including Kabul, Kandahar, Badakhshan, Bamyan, Herat, Nangarhar, Paktia, Balkh and Faryab. In each province 400 questionnaires were filled, making the total number of interviewees 3600 respondents. These provinces were selected on the basis geographical, political, historical and ethnical criteria. The various sections of this report are in the order of questions answered by respondents. In other words, the table of contents of the current report, with a few changes, is the same as the questionnaire.

The standards for justice and human rights violation in this project are defined by people. Views, beliefs and utterances of respondents constitute the basis of this research. We have strived to utilize the concept of Do No Harm during the implementation of this project, and therefore we have refrained from stating directly the names of criminals. Nonetheless, the names given by the people are noted in the questionnaires and are recorded in ACSFo’s archives.

ACSFo cherishes the value of reflecting the voice of masses and has remained impartial throughout the course of this research. ACSFo has tried to project the grievances of the victims in this research and present it in a statistical format. This research demonstrates the realities in words of the respondents who were and are victims of the 50 years of atrocity. This research has been conducted therefore to bring to light the darkest realities from the point of view of the respondent so that measures are adopted to prevent its reoccurrence."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Windows and Mirrors | Video Animation

Art reveals hidden truths.

We invited muralists from around the world and school children in Kabul to create art illustrating the human cost of war in Afghanistan. This is their work.

Check out our new video animation with images taken from Windows and Mirrors: Reflections on the War in Afghanistan. The art exhibit is a touring show and an online experience that shows the devastating impact of the war in Afghanistan.

To see the new webpage click here.
To post a link to the video on Facebook and Twitter click here.

Principles Sold-out | A Farewell to Afghanistan

A sharp critique of the United Nations and the broader International community’s role in bringing the warlords back to power in Afghanistan. Jan Malekzade worked as a UN Political Officer in Afghanistan from 2001-2003 and from 2009-2011. He has just left the country and offered this post.

“Afghanistan's heritage of literature is one on of the oldest and most sophisticated of the world and most Afghans can easily recite by heart the ancient verses of Jalaluddin Rumi, Jami, Rudaki, Nasir Khosrou Balkhi, the poetess Rabia Balkhi and the Pashtun warrior/poet Khushal Khan Khattak. Instead of the usual farewell message I would like to share with you a parabel I was told by an Afghan friend. It describes my experience of the last two years in Afghanistan better then lengthy words:

A Malik (land owner) called his servant and told him that he would release him after 30 years of servitude, if he fulfilled a last task. The old man had been serving the Malik for his whole life, cultivating his lands and keeping his gardens lush and green. He was tired and looking forward to be released into retirement. The Malik asked him to build a house as large, as comfortable and as luxurious as possible and not shy away from any costs.

The servant started with the construction, but was angered that in his old age he had been given such a difficult job. The fundaments of the house were done hastily, the walls not strong enough and the whole building came out as quiet unstable. The servant went to the Malik and told him that the house had been completed and insisted that he would now be granted his well deserved retirement.

The Malik agreed to release his servant and told him that he had a special gift for him: 'The house you have built is yours!

“I was in 2001 in Afghanistan when the Afghans were left with no choice but to accept that the old class of war criminals and civil war leaders were brought back from exile and dealt with as 'heroes of resistance against the Taleban'. In fact it was a simple - but wrong - tactical calculation of the Coalition: instead of expensive troops on the ground they armed and financed these ragtag criminals with a record of some of the worst human rights crimes and re-installed them in a country that had forced them into exile. In June 2001, when I was posted with the Northern Alliance in the tiny mountain area that the Taleban had not yet under their control, these 'heroes of resistance' were busy with feuding each other over income of smuggling alcohol into Afghanistan from Tajikistan.

The silent consent of the UN to re-instate these war criminals into positions of power was hard to stomach in 2002, and many of us argued with our seniors that they had sold the principles of the UN for a cheap political compromise. But at least there was a civil society left with whom we worked. There were more legitimate representatives of Afghan society, like those we had helped to elect into the Emergency Loya Jirga in June 2002.

Coming back in 2009 was a sobering experience: not only that war criminals had consolidated their power, now controlling large parts of an economy that was once described by Ashraf Ghani as a 'drug economy' (before he became a government official).

To many of my Afghan friends it seemed that the international community had spared no effort to push Afghanistan back into civil war and conflict. After the resurrection of the warlords, their old foes, the Taleban, who had forced one of the most obscurantist and violent regimes in human history upon the Afghan population, are now dealt with as a legitimate political power to negotiate with.”

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Quarterly Report | Afghanistan NGO Safety Office

The chart shows the number of countrywide attacks from armed opposition groups. The NGO safety network believes that the core of the insurgency is the struggle against the foreign presence. You can click on the chart to enlarge.

This quarterly report from the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office documents the escalating violence. Finding that civilian deaths have increased 106% since the US troop surge in June 2009.

The short report is packed with helpful charts and graphs. It includes a short summary statement with a section on NGO trends and one that looks at the state of the conflict.

Here are some of the more revealing figures.

The number of armed opposition group initiated attacks has grown 42% over the second quarter of 2010 and 119% since the US military surge began in June 2009.

“Throughout 2010 and for 2011 to date, the data shows no deviation from the established pattern (going back to 2006) of continuous growth starting in February and likely to peak in August/September this year.”

They have a term for this.

“We call this co-evolutionary dynamic the ‘perpetually escalating stalemate’ and it suggests that disengagement and de-escalation may stand a chance of achieving what staying and fighting never could – delegitimizing the insurgency, which at its heart is a struggle against the foreign presence, by removing its reason for being and compelling local settlement.”

Friday, July 15, 2011

AFSC Conference Call Briefing on Afghanistan | Dr. Zaher Wahab | Thursday 21 July | 8 PM EASTERN

The War in Afghanistan
Thursday 21 July

Number: 866/740-1260
Access Code: 2414586#

Join us for an open conference call briefing on the war in Afghanistan. Dr. Zaher Wahab has recently returned from three months in Kabul. He returns each year to teach at the only Masters Degree program for teacher education faculty throughout Afghanistan. This toll-free call is open.

On Thursday (14 July) the UN released their bi-annual report that monitors violence against civilians, they have documented steady increases in violence. The most recent report finds that the first six months of this year were the deadliest since 2001. The month of May had the largest number of civilian deaths since the monitoring began.

During this time Dr. Wahab was working in Kabul.

Join us for a unique opportunity to hear about the challenges Afghans face


Last year Dr. Wahab brought back drawings from Afghan high school students in Kabul – boys and girls – that are now part of the traveling mural exhibit Windows and Mirrors: Reflections on the War in Afghanistan. You can read an interview of his experience with the students below.

Student Art From The Ashes of War

Dr. Zaher Wahab was born in Afghanistan, received a B.A. in sociology from the American University of Beirut, an M.A. in comparative education from Teachers College, Columbia University and an M.A. in anthropology and a Ph.D. in international development education from Stanford University.

He served as a senior advisor to the Minister of Higher Education in Afghanistan for five years from 2002-2007, and was instrumental in designing and now teaching the only Masters Degree program for teacher education faculty throughout Afghanistan.

He teaches Foundations of Education, Race-Culture-Power, Paulo Freire, and the Middle East in Global Perspective at Lewis and Clark College and has served as a Fulbright Scholar in Egypt, Turkmenistan and twice in Kazakhstan

Thursday, July 14, 2011

ICRC | Insecurity at a critical level for civilians

Pierre Krähenbühl, the director of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), is in Afghanistan on a five-day visit. He has met with national and international leaders and officials and with members of the armed opposition to share ICRC's concerns for the civilian population at a time when the armed conflict is entering a new phase.

Here is his statement.

"Insecurity is at a level that is critical for Afghans everywhere, in cities as in remote rural villages.

"Afghans today are living in an environment where increasing numbers of people openly carry weapons and armed groups proliferate," said Mr Krähenbühl. "Besides uniformed forces, a multitude of opposition and pro-government armed groups are actively engaged in fighting."

''Afghans living in villages where conflict is rife are having to take an impossible decision: choose sides or leave home,'' added Mr Krähenbühl. "This is the reality of Afghanistan today."

Afghanistan is the ICRC's biggest operation in terms of resources committed. The organization has nearly 1,600 national staff and 142 expatriates based in its main delegation in Kabul and in five sub-delegations and 10 offices countrywide. In addition, it operates seven physical rehabilitation centres.

UN Mid-Year Report | Deadliest Time for Civilians

The first six months of this year has been the deadliest for civilians since the assault and occupation beginning in 2001. That is according to figures released this morning by the United Nations. The report shows a dramatic increase in civilian deaths and injuries – up by 31 percent in the first six months of 2010.

This May was the deadliest month for civilians since the UN began documenting civilian casualties in 2007, with 368 civilian deaths, followed by June with 360 civilian deaths. The previous high was August 2010 when 350 civilians were killed.

June also saw an all-time high in the number of security incidents recorded in a single month and the highest number ever of IED attacks recorded in a one-month period. (Click here for a transcript of the press conference statement)

Background –

Starting in 2009, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) began to document and publish details about the violence against civilians in Afghanistan every six months. Each six month report has shown an increase in violence against civilians. It is important to note that the beginning of the reporting cycle started with levels of violence higher than at any point since 2001. Irrefutable evidence that violence against civilians is increasing.

Here is how they defined general trends in the first mid-year report of June 2009.

"Armed conflict in Afghanistan intensified significantly after 2005, with insurgent/AGE attacks and operations by PGF encroaching into more areas of the country. As the conflict has widened and deepened throughout 2007, 2008 and into 2009, almost a third of the country is now directly affected by insurgent activities with differing intensity."

Annual Report 2009

"The intensification and spread of the armed conflict in Afghanistan continued to take a heavy toll on civilians throughout 2009. At least 5,978 civilians were killed and injured in 2009, the highest number of civilian casualties recorded since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001."

Mid-Year 2010

"The human cost of the armed conflict in Afghanistan is escalating in 2010. In the first six months of the year civilian casualties – including deaths and injuries of civilians - increased by 31 per cent over the same period in 2009."

Annual report 2010

"The human cost of the armed conflict in Afghanistan grew in 2010. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and UNAMA Human Rights recorded 2,777 civilian deaths in 2010, an increase of 15 per cent compared to 2009. Over the past four years, 8,832 civilians have been killed in the conflict, with civilian deaths increasing each year."

Mid-Year 2011

"UNAMA documented 1,462 civilian deaths in the first six months of 2011, an increase of 15 percent over the same period in 2010. The main trends that led to rising civilian casualties in early 2011 were increased and widespread use of improvised explosive devices, more complex suicide attacks, an intensified campaign of targeted killings, increased ground fighting, and a rise in civilian deaths from air strikes, particularly by Apache helicopters."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Afghans Flee Shelling From Pakistan

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Maria Abi-Habib reports.

As many as 12,000 Afghan civilians have fled villages along the border with Pakistan since mid-June, seeking refuge from frequent artillery barrages fired by Pakistani security forces, displaced families and the United Nations say.

"Afghans are fleeing village by village," said Ilija Todorovic, head of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees office that covers the mountainous Afghan border provinces of Kunar and Nangarhar targeted by Pakistani fire. "The shelling started in January, picked up in the spring and intensified in June with entire towns destroyed."

The most recent surge in the shelling, which is causing a crisis in relations between Kabul and Islamabad, occurred as the U.S. steps up pressure on Pakistan to clamp down on militants following the killing of Osama bin Laden in May. While Pakistan's security establishment tolerates and even assists Afghan insurgents, the Pakistani army is fighting a separate Pakistani Taliban insurgency in tribal areas along the border.”

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Karen DeYoung comments on the announcement of the US withholding $800 million in military aid to Pakistan.

“The Obama administration has delayed payment of hundreds of millions of dollars in promised military aid and reimbursement to Pakistan to reflect its displeasure with that country’s lagging security cooperation, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials.

The decision to withhold the aid follows Pakistan’s cancellation of visas for more than 100 U.S. Special Operations trainers working with that country’s Frontier Corps, along with its refusal to issue visas for equipment technicians, after long-escalating bilateral tensions culminated in the cross-border U.S. raid in May that killed Osama bin Laden.

Pakistan’s actions “have given us reason to pause,” White House Chief of Staff William M. Daley said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “Until we get through these difficulties, we’ll hold back some of the money that the American taxpayers have committed to give.””

Friday, July 8, 2011

Petraeus’ Year-Long Air War | 5,800 Attacks

Copied in full from Noah Shachtman and Spencer Ackerman 5 July post to Danger Room.

When Gen. David Petraeus took command of the Afghan war effort a year ago, his officers insisted that there was no way he’d go back to the bad old days of bombing the country from the sky. This was a counterinsurgency campaign, they said; winning over the population was way more important than nailing any target. Airstrikes would be solely a “tactic of last resort,” as one general told Danger Room, used only if ground troops “cannot withdraw.”

A year later: never mind. The air war is back, according to U.S. military statistics, and in a major way. During Petraeus’ year on the job, coalition warplanes fired their weapons and dropped their bombs on 5,831 sorties. It’s a 65 percent increase from the 3,510 attack runs flown in the previous 12 months. And there’s no sign of a let-up. There were 554 lethal flights in June, compared to about 450 each in June of 2009 and 2008.

It’s yet another sign that the “population-centric” counterinsurgency straegy, popularized by Petraeus and executed almost too faithfully by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, is being phased out in Afghanistan. Instead, the focus is on taking individual militants off the battlefield; “counterterrorism,” in military parlance. That means night raids by Special Operations Forces, 1,700 in the last year alone. That means death from above. And as the Obama team starts bringing troops home, expect this all to continue — especially in volatile eastern Afghanistan.

Sure, 33,000 ground troops are supposed to come home by next September. But the number of Special Operations Forces will likely grow. And the warplanes – they’re staying, too. During the week of June 26th, they made a staggering 207 attack runs — easily the most of 2011.

U.S. officials claim that the aggressiveness of the past year has helped break the Taliban’s momentum — especially in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand. Yet civilian deaths are up 20 percent over this time last year. And while things may be looking up in the south, the strategic center of the Afghanistan conflict — the east, which borders Pakistan — has been falling off the cliff. The solution won’t be more troops there, the White House says. It’ll likely be more air power.

According to Petraeus, the east will soon see a “shift of intelligence assets,” along with “armed and lift helicopters and perhaps the shift of some relatively small coalition forces on the ground.” Afghan forces will have to hold any territory against the Taliban and the Haqqani network, backstopped by coalition commandos, drones, warplanes and attack helicopters. Together, they’ll have to “slowly attrit the [Haqqani] network, and force their commanders back in North Waziristan to fill their spots,” says Jeffrey Dressler of the Institute for the Study of War. It’ll be a “challenge” to “keep that pressure on” from the sky.

Any of this sound familiar? When the insurgency began gathering strength from 2006 to 2008, the U.S. used airstrikes to compensate for its meager troop numbers. That resulted in outrage from Afghans, as the strikes would periodically wipe out dozens of innocents at a time, and a decision by U.S. commanders to scale back the air war in favor of a big counterinsurgency campaign.

Except that the new U.S. air war isn’t a replay of the old one. Thanks to an influx of spy planes, both manned and unmanned, American-led forces can observe (and listen to) suspected militants like never before. In the first half of 2009, the coalition flew 120 surveillance flights per week, on average. This past week, there were 687 spy sorties — almost a five-fold increase.

Advances in processing that data give the troops the ability to pounce quickly and surgically. It’s one of the reasons why the U.S. and its allies are now responsible for only 10 percent of civilian casualties, according to United Nations statistics, compared to 39 percent in 2008.

But for Afghans weighed down by a decade of war, it may not matter much who is doing the killing. The U.S.-led coalition promised to bring some stability to Afghanistan. Every corpse is a sign that goal has gone unmet. Maybe that’s one reason why Afghan president Hamid Karzai has called for all but ending the airstrikes and the night raids. What’s Karzai’s alternative — to tell the Taliban to knock it off?

Besides, it’s not like Petraeus listened to Karzai’s pronouncement. All of the bombing from the last month happened after Karzai made his plea.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Afghan Solution | New DVD

This beautifully shot video takes us not only into the streets of Kabul but into rural Afghanistan where the thorniest issues exist and most of the fighting takes place.

With a reliance on Afghan voices, the fundamental political issues are exposed and explored;

– the failure of the Bonn gathering to invite all parties to the negotiations on Afghanistan’s future;

– the ill-conceived strategy to create a strong centralized government; and

– the fact that many Afghans have not benefited from the foreign aid that has been spent in the country.

It’s a living political history and expose on the powerbrokers. Insights from traditional – and new – structures of power highlight the challenges Afghans face, and offer solutions.

It includes a concise history of the US role in arming the Mujahedeen to fight the Soviet Union in the 1980’s, the subsequent support for those same groups in the overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001, and the current deployment of 150,000 foreign troops in the country.

I would recommend this film for community screenings and discussion.

Here is another formal review.

“The opening line of the film, describing Afghanistan as a “country at war with its future,” encapsulates the thesis of this outstanding work. The film gives a full assessment of the lurking but distinct threat that the Taliban currently presents in Afghanistan, as well as an assessment of the interventions of the United States.

Interviewed members of Parliament call for more reconstructive projects, such as building roads and digging wells, and warn of the consequences of an abrupt withdrawal, as the Soviets did in 1989. Otherwise, Afghanistan will devolve into a hub of international terrorism. The people of Afghanistan are quick to cite that the lack of United States initiatives in areas that are not combating the Taliban.”

To read the entire review click here.

Go here to see a clip and visit the project home page.

Distributed by Cowgirl Media Inc.
440 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016
Produced by Cowgirl Media, Inc.
Directed by Josie Maynard
DVD, color, 52 min.
Middle Eastern Studies, Political Science

Afghan Refugees and Displaced

"War has displaced Afghans from their homes and from their country for over three decades. With the assistance of the largest repatriation program coordinated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), five million Afghans returned from Pakistan and Iran between 2002 and 2011. However, the rate of refugee returns has declined significantly since 2008 due to worsening security in Afghanistan.

Key Findings

• As of 2011, there remained 1.8 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan

• There are an estimated 415,000 IDPs in Afghanistan

• Over a third of these IDPs were displaced between June 2009 and September 2010 as a result of armed conflict

• Many IDPs and return refugees unable to resettle in their place of origin live in informal settlements in Kabul and other cities

• Over half of all Afghans do not have clean water and 63 percent lack effective sanitation

• One third of Afghans survive on less than a $1 a day

• Another third of the population is ranked just above this extreme poverty marker

• Today Afghan women have a life expectancy of just 43 years"

From - Eisenhower Research Project

Additional Resource:

Refugees International - Field Report (June 2011)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fatana Jahangir Ahrary | Two Poems


Like an enervated man
Gasping for air
Like a wounded bird
Searching for remedy
Like a guilty conscience
Seeking some virtue
Like a hungry child
Craving some sustenance
Like a thirsty creature
Yearning for some water
I want some serenity
I need some harmony
I am waiting for some tranquility
Come please Come
Peace Peace Peace


Remember you promised
When the birds fly back home
When the winter is gone
When the spring sun shines again
You will be here
You will be back
Winter is gone
Birds are back home
Spring sun is shining
You are not here
You are not back

by: Fatana Jahangir Ahrary

Working Note: I write poems mostly in Dari, but once in a while I write English. This is when I think in English. I do not translate my English poems to Dari or vice versa. I started writing poetry since I was in 4th grade but only in Dari and of course at that age no one considered it poetry. I taught myself English at home by myself and never took any classes to learn English. I started writing in English when I was 26 or 27 years old.

Bio: I was 21 years old when I came to USA. I am 40 years old now and work as a supervisor for Autosterade International of Virginia. I lived in New York for 16 years. My husband was killed in a robbery 14 years ago in New York. I have two daughters who are both in college. I now live in Virginia.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Windows and Mirrors Profile | NYT

The Windows and Mirrors exhibit opens this evening in Chicago. There are three weeks of activities planned with next stops in Atlanta and San Francisco.

Mural Exhibit Depicts Costs to Civilians in Afghanistan
By Kari Lydersen | New York Times | 1 July 2011

John Pitman Weber remembers the 1960s and ’70s in Chicago, when scores of artists would join mammoth marches protesting the Vietnam War and antiwar murals were a common sight on city streets.

Today, public art is much more “domesticated and institutionalized,” said Mr. Weber, the co-founder of the Chicago Public Art Group and one of the city’s best-known muralists. But Mr. Weber hopes a traveling exhibit of murals about civilian casualties in Afghanistan will evoke a past era when murals made bold political statements and spurred frank discussion about foreign policy.

The exhibit, “Windows and Mirrors,” runs through July 23 at the ARC Gallery, 832 West Superior Street.

Mr. Weber helped the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker peace group, get the project going last summer, signing up noted muralists from around the country, including himself and seven other Chicagoans.

The 32 murals on exhibit here, which are painted on large panels of parachute fabric rather than walls, are graphic and disturbing: images of women wailing in despair; children playing amid explosions; corpses in an abstract, colorful array that Mr. Weber likens to “a cave painting.”

According to the United Nations, May was the deadliest month for Afghan civilians since it began keeping track in 2007, with at least 368 killed. Human rights groups say the true civilian toll may be significantly higher because many people die of disease, cold or hunger after being displaced from their homes by fighting.

The two murals by Lillian Moats, a Chicagoan, explore the impact of unmanned drones on civilians. One shows people fleeing a drone that casts a blood-red shadow. Another features a woman at a window, unaware that she is framed in digital cross hairs on the computer screen of a remote operator.

Mr. Weber’s piece, based on a news photograph, depicts a young boy learning to walk with a prosthetic leg, below a hodgepodge of low-tech artificial arms and legs jumbled on a shelf.

“The tens of thousands who must learn to live with their mutilations seem to me more dramatic than the mourning of the tens of thousands dead,” Mr. Weber said in his artist’s statement.

The prevalence of amputees is also depicted in drawings by Afghan children displayed alongside the murals. Zaher Wahab, an artist who splits his time between the United States and Kabul, Afghanistan, asked the children to draw situations representative of their daily lives. They drew pictures of children with amputations, a bleeding pigeon and a frowning sun.

The exhibit made its debut in Philadelphia in October and is touring cities across the country. At each stop, artists are working with local schools to create pieces. In Chicago, they have been at Josephine Locke Elementary School and Sullivan, Thomas Kelly and Orr Academy high schools.

Mary Zerkel, the American Friends Service Committee’s national coordinator of “Windows and Mirrors” and a Chicagoan, said she hoped the exhibit would remind people to contemplate the effects of a war that seems endless, even as President Obama last week announced a troop withdrawal in coming months.

“It’s been almost 10 years — my daughter’s entire life — this war has been going on,” Ms. Zerkel said. “People talk about ‘Afghanistan fatigue.’ They’re tired of thinking about it. We hope this makes people talk and remember.”

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Afghanistan 101 is a blog of the American Friends Service Committee
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