Writings by Kathy Kelly
Hakim, Kathy and the Afghan Peace Volunteers
June 30, 2012
“We love you!”
Yesterday, Americans sent two very important and very different communications to our friend Dr. Wee Teck Young, a Singaporean physician and activist who lives and works in Kabul, Afghanistan. The “We love you!” was a press release announcing that the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) had awarded him their “International Pfeffer Peace Prize” in recognition of his contributions to peace working with dedicated young Afghans in Kabul. The “Stay out!” was from the American government, refusing him a visa to enter the United States with these young people, in the furtherance of this work. It seems all too likely that the actions and choices which have earned him his well-deserved award are the same factors that persuaded U.S. consular officials to deny him entry to the United States. The question is whether we can be a voice to affirm that his work, and the work of the young Afghans working with him, has value in the United States, where awareness of the costs of war, and of the lives of ordinary Afghans, is desperately needed.
No One Hears the Poor
May 28, 2012
Here in Kabul, Voices co-coordinator Buddy Bell and I are guests at the home of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, (APV), where we’ve gotten to know four young boys who are being tutored by the Volunteers in the afternoons, having “retired” from their former work as street vendors in exchange for a chance to enter a public school. Five afternoons a week, Murtaza, Rahim, Hamid and Sajad wheel their antiquated bicycles into the APV “yard.” They quickly shake the hand of each person present and then wash their feet outside the back door before settling into a classroom to study language, math and art, tutored in each subject by a different Volunteer. They’ve cycled here from school through heavy traffic, which worries their mothers, but the families cannot afford for the boys to take a public bus.
Today, their mothers were here to observe the class, quietly sipping tea as they watched the two youngest boys practice writing the Dari alphabet, (Dari is an official Afghan language), while the older boys, age 12 and 13, took turns reading, in Dari, a chapter about the respiratory system from an elementary school science book. The APVs hope to help the mothers learn tailoring, so they can become tailors in the community and earn a modest income.
December 27, 2011
Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers and Voices for Creative Nonviolence celebrate Maya Evans’s birthday in Kabul photo credit: AYPV
Kabul—Arab Spring, European Summer, American Autumn, and now the challenge of winter. Here in Kabul, Afghanistan, the travelers of our small Voices for Creative Nonviolence delegation share an apartment with several of the creative and determined “Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers” who’ve risked so much for peace here and befriended us so warmly over the past two years.
“Occupy Together” efforts proliferating across the world may yet help young friends in Afghanistan find reasons for hope.
Kathy Kelly at Jeju IslandJeju Island, South Korea – For the past two weeks, I’ve been in the Republic of Korea (ROK), as a guest of peace activists living in Gangjeong Village on ROK’s Jeju Island. Gangjeong is one of the ROK’s smallest villages, yet activists here, in their struggle against the construction of a massive naval base, have inspired people around the world.
An Afghan friend, Nur Agha Akbari, was killed by gunmen in Afghanistan two weeks ago. The photo above shows his daughters sitting at his graveside.
July 3, 2013
On June 17th, in Afghanistan, The Frontier Post reported that unidentified gunmen shot dead two employees of the agriculture ministry as they traveled through the Logar province. One of them was our friend, Noor Agha Akbari. He and his colleague had been distributing gardening items in the Alam district and were on their way home to their families in Kabul.
In 2010, the first Voices for Creative Nonviolence delegation to visit Afghanistan carried a short list of people whom an expat then living outside of Afghanistan strongly recommended we contact. When we called Nur Agha Akbari, he immediately agreed to meet with us, and so began a friendship which eventually allowed dozens of people from the U.S. to better understand challenges faced by ordinary Afghan families struggling for a better, fairer society. Now we are extending condolences to his family. As noted above, gunmen killed him as he traveled back to Kabul after having distributed gardening items in the Logar province.
Mr. Akbari was a robust, energetic, well educated man from a respected, academic Afghan family. In the late 1970s, Nur had gone to study agriculture in the UK and remained there, becoming an organic farmer. His four brothers had stayed in Afghanistan, or else returned there after studies abroad. His two eldest brothers had trained in the Soviet Union – one as an engineer, one as a nuclear scientist – and had received early warning of the likelihood of what came to be the 1979 Soviet invasion. They spoke out publicly about their fears as the invasion grew more and more imminent.
On December 27 of that year, Soviet troops occupied major government, media and military buildings in Kabul, initiating a nine-year war between a nationalist/fundamentalist resistance (the “Mujahideen”) and the Soviet occupiers. Soviet officials fired Nur’s oldest brother from his cancer research work at Kabul University and blacklisted him. He found himself unable to work, and soon joined the resistance. Nur doesn’t know much about what happened to him then, but he was among thousands of people bulldozed into mass graves after capture and execution by the Soviets. All told Nur knows very little about the fates of his three older brothers, all killed in the war. But their tragedy would largely shape his life.
Nur had arranged for his surviving, younger, brother to join him in the UK. But Nur would lie awake at night, thinking about the children and the wives of his slain brothers. Concerned that his nephews and nieces were now fending for themselves in Afghanistan’s war zones, fatherless and penniless, he resolved to return home.
It’s hard to fathom the vast indifference of Western observers to what their militaries are doing in Afghanistan - to the lives lost, the futures broken, the families and friendships and loves torn apart - all of which will occur in the next country we collectively agree to demolish, and the next.
Juma Gul, 9 years old, survivor of a drone attack
May 9, 2011
On May 4, 2011, CNN World News asked whether killing Osama bin Laden was legal under international law. Other news commentary has questioned whether it would have been both possible and advantageous to bring Osama bin Laden to trial rather than kill him.
World attention has been focused, however briefly, on questions of legality regarding the killing of Osama bin Laden. But, with the increasing use of Predator drones to kill suspected “high value targets” in Pakistan and Afghanistan, extrajudicial killings by U.S. military forces have become the new norm.
Kabul—Before coming to Afghanistan, I spent a week with students and teachers from a Colorado College nonviolence class who invited me to join them for their retreat near Crestone, Colorado, in an area of the Rocky Mountains described as one of the ten most peaceful places on earth. Coyotes, woodpeckers, and songbirds were easily audible. We reveled in the quiet beauty of an area that is home to 23 spiritual groups, all of whom prize the valley they share as a sacred space.
General Petraeus assures his superiors that the U.S. is effectively using drone surveillance, sensors and other robotic means of gaining intelligence to assure that they are hunting down the right targets for assassination. But survivors of these attacks insist that civilians are at risk. In Afghanistan, thirty high schools have shut down because the parents say that their children are distracted by the drones flying overhead and that it’s unsafe for them to gather in the schools.