In the morning we were visited by one of the female members of the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers; Lena, a young intelligent outspoken Afghan woman who has just qualified as a teacher and has already taught in various
schools inside Kabul. Over tea and left over birthday cake we talked about change in Afghanistan, she was adamant that real change for women, society and the country could only come for families and the community; she had no faith in the Government. Lena was very much anti NATO intervention and felt that foreign involvement in Afghanistan was only bringing further violence and unrest. She also empathised the importance of Free State education for all, explaining that she could earn a very good wage working for private schools, but she preferred to work in government schools, educating the people of Afghanistan; she felt that providing she had food for lunch and dinner that was good enough for her.
We were then visited by Feda Mohammed former official in the ministry of education and now an education consultant. Over lunch we got round to the current hot topic of the now: foreign intervention in Afghanistan. Feda, a slim tall middle aged family man dressed in a neat suit and tie put across the opposing view to Lena, he was very much in favour of NATO and foreign intervention, his analysis was very black and white, Afghanistan could either have foreign occupation or the Taliban (a horrible prospect to most in Afghanistan, especially those who had experienced their previous reign) he viewed the death of civilians by NATO “collateral damage” as a necessary part of the course to eradicating the Taliban, even if those deaths included his 3 sons… there was a stony silence in the room.
AYPV Abduli, a 16 year old Hazara boy from Bamiyan whose father had been killed by the Taliban was asked for his opinion . . . then possibly one of the most moving moments of my life took place, Abduli was silent for a while and then quietly said “If a talib was in this room now I know there is only one way forward to resolve the situation … forgiveness”. The room fell silent, I looked down and wept quietly, I wept for his pain and wept for his strength and wisdom, I was astounded that such a young person who had experienced one of the worst things a child could endure had chosen the hardest path to walk. Without a doubt that moment will stay with me forever and whenever I weaken in my conviction to walk the path of non-violence and forgiveness I will think of Adbuli.
The discussion continued for a further 2 hours, I was so impressed that the teenage members of the AYPV sat through the whole thing making intelligent, wise and insightful contributions. By the end of the discussion Feda looked bombarded, thankfully USA Ken warmly thanked Feda and affirmed that he was a brother as his views were formed by what he thought was best for Afghan people.
After the meeting we went for a walk to the nearby river which I had past the day before, more or less dry except for a murky trickle which wriggles a path through piles of rubbish. Roughly 7 ft deep it’s easy to jump into the basin, as a result it has become a hang-out for local drug addicts.
As we approached the bridge I could see a group of men huddled in the middle of the dry waste ridden river bed, some men were sheltering underneath the bridge while there was a crowd of men gathered on the bank sitting and watching the gathered party in the river bed. When we got closer the desperate situation became clear, a group of around 40 men were sitting in the middle of the river bed, completely in the open, without inhibition or self-respect getting high on heroin. Many of them were black with grime, beaten up weathered faces, lost eyes. Their were small groups huddled under scarves inhaling the intoxicating fumes, some huddled round an open fire cooking up the drug, lost bodies stagger around without consciousness, another man picked through the rubbish looking for any scraps of value .
Hakim told me that the previous week a dead body was pulled out of the river bed and left on the side of the bank. Apparently many Afghan men travel to Iran for work and gain a drug habit in periods of unemployment, they return to Afghanistan and continue their addictions stealing off family and relying on crime to maintain their habit. Bizarrely there was a small crowd of men sitting on the bank watching the addicts; it was almost like watching animals in a zoo. The whole scene was totally depressing, Hakim turned to me: “the human race are not coping, it’s gone so wrong”.
When we returned to the apartment more members of the AYPV had turned up, a film making couple; Farzana a female actress, (possibly one of only ten actresses in the country) and Farrod a camera man and editor. They spoke about their work and future short film ideas. Farzana currently works with a young theatre group (she is the only woman) who are working on the story The Little Prince. We then watched a short film which Farrod had been involved in making, a short Iranian film about a Hazara refugee boy who has an unquenchable thirst for learning and going to school. Like many Iranian films it was beautifully paced and filmed. The couple stayed for our usual carb based dinner before the evening wound down with 2 hours of English studies and then several intense rounds of the card game Uno.