We, the Voices for Creative Nonviolence UK delegation , have now returned from Afghanistan. We spent two weeks in Kabul as guests of the Afghan Peace Volunteers. This is a remarkable and unique community of young men who first came together in Bamiyan under the guidance of a local doctor, Hakim. Inspired by the nonviolent spirit of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, the group first came together in 2008 to create a peace park in their locality. Bamiyan is a mainly Hazara area of Afghanistan and the local people have suffered at the hands of the Taliban. In March, 2001 the Taliban destroyed two ancient giant statues of the Buddah in Bamiyan. For a more detailed background to the APV, visit their website,
We’re back in a taxi and heading to visit a woman who has lost two of her sons during a suicide attack in Kabul. The taxi travels along a narrow bumpy street. The snow has now turned to compacted ice. I
recognize the area as being close to the Kuchi refugee camp we visited the day before. The district seems to be a fairly poor residential area with the common style of modest Afghan housing akin to the two-up two-down housing found in the north of England.
We exit the taxi and pick our way through a maze of side streets. The path is a typical Kabul disheveled path, our partially sighted delegate Susan is led by one of the youth peace makers- around puddles, over
potholes and into a side door set into a weathered mud wall. Terrorist attacks are almost daily in Kabul and more often than not, as per usual, it’s ordinary people who suffer the most.
and Martha Hennessey interviewed by Dennis Bernstein
I’m very intrigued with the country Afghanistan. It has an amazing history, amazing people, and with my one trip there, I just felt in my bones that I needed to come back and see these people again. And the question of, you know, who the enemy is– I do come from a faith-based slant on this, and I just want to meet the so-called enemy. And my brother fought in Vietnam when I was 14 years old, and so war to me has been a very personal experience, and I’ve also worked with a veteran population in my therapy training. And so, for me it’s so important to not condemn everyone and anyone and to just go into desperation and isolation. For me, I have to reach out. I have to go and meet the people and work with people, and for me this is very important, and I have great hope. I know, you paint quite a picture of our culture in, awash in such greed and violence, but I, I hold out hope, and we have to just keep forward with this effort. It’s so important.
Ali on top of the pile of duvets on the truck: with me watching in the background
…One hundred fifty duvets turned out to be a very big pile that was challenging to fit on the truck. The crew piled the duvets layers deep, as high as they could reach. Then Faiz climbed on top. Ali climbed partway up and the rest of the crew continued to carry out piles of two or three at a time while Faiz and Ali spread them on top higher and higher. Once they got that tall pile strapped down they started another the same way and then we were soon off to take the duvets to a house where they would be distributed to some of the poorest people of Kabul…
…Ordinary Afghans are keenly aware that each year the American and other International Security Assistance Forces remain in Afghanistan, the security situation continues to worsen. Afghan women repeatedly expressed to us their fear for their safety and the safety of their children. Women from a variety of groups repeatedly expressed their concern about suicide bombings, which are increasingly common in Kabul. They wonder why is it that despite the billions of dollars of aid money from the Americans, the children in the refugee camps located less than 20 minutes from the U.S. embassy, are still without blankets…
…This morning, I met first with Faiz, a gentle 22 year old student with black hair and a beard who has lost both his parents and his brother from war and poverty.
…“I have observed the pain of the people, especially the children. Something needs to be done, but what? Our society claims to be Muslim, but it’s so hypocritical since so many families, women and children need help… The youth have to grow if there is ever to be peace, so this is worth pursuing. I want to pursue the beautiful idea of nonviolence. I’ve learned that if people can’t be honest about their violence and forgive one another, and learn to talk and negotiate, then there will be no way to resolve our ongoing violence. The wars will drag on. I hope to promote nonviolence in Afghan society.”
A small group of international peace activists spent the past week in Kabul, Afghanistan with the Afghan Peace Volunteers for International Human Rights Day. The Afghan Peace Volunteers are a small group of young people, under the mentorship of Singaporean physician Hakim, who are sowing the seeds of nonviolent change in Afghanistan. Their current projects are multiple, but possibly the most meaningful is their struggle to live peacefully together in an interethnic, cooperative community. They share space, chores, cooking and managing the various project of the group. They take photographs, organize cooperatives, distribute aid to the poor, and make youtube videos spreading peaceful messages to others. They ask each other ‘hard questions’ and discuss their own personal struggles, stereotypes and discrimination. Finally, they make friends with other Afghans and a variety of internationals. In a country that has been torn by nearly four decades of war and taught that outsiders should not be trusted, this is a small but powerful change.
Mairead Maguire: …I come from Northern Ireland and we had war and fighting among all the different ethnic groups, and it went on for a long time, a lot of people died.
My sister’s three little children were killed in our war.
People came out, and they said: we want nonviolence, we want dialogue, we want negotiation from our politicians. We want to solve the problems through forgiveness, through love, through dialogue…
The UN Kabul office can deliver the ceasefire petition to the Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.
Afghans are so tired of war.
The Afghan Peace Volunteers, Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire and internationals who have become ‘2 Million Friends’ think that a UN-brokered ceasefire by all warring groups is an urgent, humanitarian and socio-economic responsibility.
Given the uniqueness of the project—a small group of young people trying to live nonviolently in a country that has been ravaged by violence for more than thirty years, as well as the grave challenges facing Afghanistan, it is important that the world knows about these nonviolent efforts and the principals behind this movement.