On New Year’s Day, I had the opportunity to join peace activists from all over the world, in a conference call and on a Skype call, with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers (AYPV) and their mentor, in Kabul. It was truly inspiring. These young people told us how they continue to work for an end to the violence in their country. They told us how much they appreciate our efforts to achieve an end to this terrible war.
The members of AYPV asked me what we do here, to help to end the war. They asked if we get much media coverage. They asked if our efforts influence our government. I told them that thousands of us demonstrate to end the war, and that many peace groups hold weekly vigils, as well. I told them that many activists write to their members of Congress, and many visit their Representatives. I pointed out that there is sometimes good local media coverage, but that national coverage in the mainstream media is not nearly as extensive as it should be.
I asked if there was a difference in opinion about the American and NATO forces, among people in Kabul, as compared to people in the rural areas of Afghanistan. They said that throughout the country, the Afghans are “suspicious of any foreign presence.” They said that, in rural areas, the Afghans are “not sure of why the Americans are there.” They said that, in Kabul, because there is much more extensive access to the media, the people “question the Americans’ intent.” The young people told me that many of the people in Kabul believe that the U.S. and NATO forces are there “for empire, world control, political power,” and to establish “a military presence” in the area. One of the Afghans said, “It’s all about the money.” They told me that, at first, many Afghans welcomed the invasion. They said that now, however, most people, in all areas of the country, believe, “The war has not helped the people of Afghanistan.”
The Afghan Youth told me that most people in Afghanistan believe that most Americans support the war. They were very glad that recent polls indicate that over 60% of Americans are now opposed to the war.
The young people said that they felt that their country needs aid that is directed toward providing health care, improving education, providing safe drinking water, and expanding access to electricity. They said that only 15% of the people have electricity, and that, in many cases it is for only about two hours per day. They said that in both Kabul and the rural areas, “no aid has reached ordinary people.”
I was able to record portions of the conversation, as it was streamed over the Internet. To hear the various comments, simply click on the icon that follows each quote.
Mike Ferner (of Veterans for Peace) spoke of the importance of organizing. Mike, in a recent post on WarIsaCrime.org, said that these young people were “as charming and well-mannered as teenage boys can humanly be. Their mentor, Hakim, displayed patience and tireless compassion.” Hear Mike’s comments here:
Coleen Rowley (former FBI agent, now peace activist) discussed the importance of “reaching out.” Listen to Coleen here:
Coleen also spoke of “the myth of … bringing freedom to the world.” Listen here:
One of the Afghans spoke of the AYPV’s desire to “present a non-military and nonviolent option,” proposing the withdrawal of troops, the provision of reparations for the people of Afghanistan, and the bringing to account of war criminals. He said, “We ask for your solidarity.” Listen here:
In response to a question I had asked, one of the Afghans expressed concern that “power is concentrated in the hands of a few; and nobody is fooled here.” “People want the forces out, even in Helmand.” Hear these comments here:
One of the Afghans told us that many Afghans reluctantly join the military or the police, because they need the income. He said that this has promoted a “culture of militarism.” Listen here:
Susan, a peace activist from New York, summed things up very well, asserting, “We will not give up!” Listen to Susan’s comments here:
Related information can be found on the websites of The People’s Journey (TPJ) and Our Journey to Smile (OJS). TPJ will be posting other audio of the AYPV conversations. If any of my readers would like to help with audio editing or related tasks, TPJ asks that you please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Links to the TPJ, OJS, and AYPV sites are included, as related sites, in the Afghans for Peace entry in the Peace and Justice Online Directory of Resources.