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Suicide Bombing in Kabul

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
recognise 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 dishevelled 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.

The two-up, two-down has a small yard with a few chickens stalking
around, a line of washing with kids clothing. We step into a very basic
home, the front room is barely furnished, but for the traditional form
of heating, a stove under a frame covered in blankets. We sit on
cushions around the heater and bury our feet under the warm blankets.

We’re then introduced to Rohila, a woman in her early forties.  She sits
down opposite us and also tucks her feet under the communal blanket. She
ushers her small children to sit with her. A girl aged 11 and a small
boy aged 7, they huddle in close to her, she wraps her arms tightly
round them.

Rohila and her children

Rohila and her children

Her face carries creases of fear, worry and depression, her body seems
enveloped with tiredness.  She starts her story.

The incident happened 2 years ago, her teenage sons aged 14 and 15 were
walking home from school. Usually they would make their way back from
school separately and at different times, but for some reason that day
they were walking home together.

For some unexplained reason there was a military tank on the roadside
where they were walking. At the same time the boys passed the tank a
suicide bomber drove a car into the tank causing it to flip over and
kill 12 people. The official story reported 2 deaths. Rohila describes the day:

“The explosion was so strong that we felt the vibrations in the house.”
Since the incident she has become too afraid to let her other two children
go to school. Her daughter Shazia says she wants to become a teacher and
her son Roshot aspires to be a doctor. Neither have gone to school in
the last year.

Rohila’s mourning face describes her feelings: “I’ve spent so much of my
life bringing up my sons, now I don’t know if I’m alive or not, I don’t
know if it is day or night. Every time I pass a grave my heart breaks, I
don’t know why this has happened, war hasn’t ended. Maybe god has bought
this on us. Inshallah the foreign forces will stop the war”

By a strange coincidence one of the peace volunteers had lost his cousin
in the same incident. He sat opposite Rohila and talked with intense
seriousness about his cousin’s death. However, unlike Rohila, he doesn’t
feel the responsibility for the war ending rests with foreign forces. Instead he concludes:
“If the foreign military leaves Afghanistan that may stop some terrorist bombing, but we have the problem that other neighbouring foreign countries are also fuelling violence in the country.”

“People who commit suicide bombing have lost some of their family members and they want revenge for their anger, for example drones kills a family, some say: we don’t have anything for life because I lost all of my family, I don’t have a meaning for life anymore.  The political leaders have lost empathy with the people, they don’t feel their sadness.”

He ends his thoughts by summarizing:

“War creates more war, it doesn’t
stop the violence.”

Kuchi Refugee Camp, Kabul

by Maya Evans

The first day of snow is turning to slush as we pull up outside a Kuchi
refugee camp on the edge of Kabul. A small heard of goats dressed in old
jumpers graze on a skip of rubbish, our taxi driver pulls up over some
large puddles;  I tiptoe out of the vehicle onto solid land. The refugee
camp is home to around 65 Kuchi nomadic families who have spent their
lives wandering the land with livestock.

The camp is set in the former Shah’s palace grounds, perhaps once the
grandest building in Kabul, the decrepit palace now stands alone on a
hill fort, dilapidated and riddled with bullet holes, a sad relic of a
former time.

refugee camp_shahs palace_hindu kush

The refugee camp is in a large walled off area which seems to be an
extension to the palace grounds. Ramshackle tents constructed from what
appears to be bits of rags, old sacking, old mats, juxtapose with the
breathtaking snow-capped mountain ranges of the Hindu Kush, more
synonomous with the pages of a National Geographic than a scene of
desperate poverty and deprivation.

The Kuchi are traditionally nomadic people who wander land from Pakistan
to Iran grazing cattle and gaining casual work. We hear that the Kuchi
are considered amongst the least respected group of people within
Afghanistan with tales of thievery and low living standards connected
with their image. It remindeds me of the widely held perceptions which
many Britons hold of the traveller community in the UK. Although the
Kuchi are technically Pashtun in ethnicity they are considered a group
apart and receive little to no alleigance from other Pashtuns.

As we walk into the camp we are greeted by a gaggle of young children
dressed in a patchwork of clothing styles: one small boy wearing a pair
of high-heeled women’s shoes wading through the mud, another boy in an
adult’s fleece top dangling around his knees, a girl in a leopard print
jacket over a traditional Afghan trouser suit.

Refugee kids in snowbound Kabul

Refugee kids in snowbound Kabul

We walk through a bit of the camp, past a group of women huddled under a
makeshift shelter, some wearing burkas, others wearing modern clothing
likely donated from a western source. The children follow us every step
of the way wanting to have their photos taken. The tents and shelters
are tightly packed together, there’s a cow tethered to a stick, some
chickens pecking the ground, the bright sun melts the snow from the day
before. The ground underfoot is a mixture of slush and mud.

Goats finding what they can to eat

Goats finding what they can to eat

It seems like the camp elders are trying to work out the best tent to
host us in. Eventually we were shown into a medium sized tent
constructed from hardy canvas material. The muddy  floor is lined with
off-cuts of carpet and small rugs, I remove my shoes and step into the
tent which is large enough to stand up in. I walk to the back of the
tent and sit on the floor, the bits of carpet feel cold and damp. The
other delegates and some members from the Afghan Peace Volunteers also
enter the tent and we are introduced to Frida, a female elder of the
camp who explains she’s received training from the Ministry of Public
Health to teach other women about hygiene, she holds up a badge in a
plastic sleeve. Frida is immediately striking, perhaps in her 50’s, her
weathered face set with deep expressive wrinkles seems to exude strength
and wisdom. Her eyes are intense and you somehow know she has seen and
done much in her hard life.

We learn that the camp has been there for 4 years, that the land belongs
to the Government and the refugees live with the fear of being told to
leave at any point… some sort of military helicopter flies overhead
and drowns out Frida’s voice for a few seconds.

Frida explains that they were in Pakistan until the UNHCR told them to
return to Afghanistan and they would receive help. She tells us that so
far they have received none of that promised help.

frida

Her voice is emotional as she explains (via an interpreter): ”Guests
are like the light of our lives, we are unable to have our needs heard
by leaders such as Karzai- why as president can’t he find a way to look
after his people.”

She explains that a man standing just outside the tent had to bury his 2
dead children in the street as the Government refused to give them a
plot for their dead.

Frida goes on: ”If we can’t bury our dead we may as well not live”.

A man who is sat in the doorway wrapped in a classic Afghan blanket
wearing a traditional Pashtoon hat explains his feelings: ”We are all
trampled upon, no one will speak up for us or talk about our concerns,
aren’t we born here, don’t we belong to this land?”

We learn that all the men are unemployed, unable to find work, the
children don’t go to school. Apparently there is a German NGO who
provide some basic medicines but beyond that they can not get treatment
for proper medical help.

Kuchi men talk about unemployment

Kuchi men talk about unemployment

An older man also sat inside the tent, perhaps Frida’s husband, is asked
for his opinion: ”There are so many problems I don’t know where to
start, I’m an old man but I want to work, but I can only tie up donkeys,
maybe if I had a few sheep it might be a way I could get by. The tents
sometimes get so cold that we prefer to sleep outside.”

Kuchi refugee man who wants to keep a few sheep

Kuchi refugee man who wants to keep a few sheep

I ask if there is a message to send the people in Britain, he replies:
”If the people of Britain could do what they can to help us get through
the cold of winter, we are without work or necessities to get by, even
if you can’t help us, we are grateful for you hearing this message.”

I personally would like to add to his message.

The people of Britain should be speaking out against our own Government who have been central in installing the current corrupt Afghan Government who care very little for the welfare of its people. Our Government has been and continues to be central to the ongoing war which is stopping innocent people from living a life with basic human rights standards. The situation for the
350,000 internally displaced Afghans currently in the country is a
symptom of a much bigger issue: it’s not working, and it will never work while Governments such as ours  continue to prop up and maintain
corruption and inequality.

Peace campaigner’s talk on upcoming Afghanistan visit

From the Hastings Observer: “A PEACE campaigner will be speaking about her forthcoming peace delegation to Afghanistan and solidarity peace work with non-violent activists on Monday (December 10).

Maya Evans is at The Roomz, in Western Road, St Leonards from 8pm and the talk is part of ‘2 Million Friends’, an international solidarity campaign to remember the two million Afghans who have died in fighting in Afghanistan over the last 32 years” (to read more from the Observer report)

Maya Evans’ letter in the Guardian

Maya’s letter to the editor of the Guardian, from her cell in Her Majesty’s Prison, Bronzefield in Ashford, Middlesex, starts off:

“Two days ago, I received a 13-day prison sentence for my role in a 2009 protest outside Britain’s military nerve centre in Northwood against the bombing of Afghanistan. When I was in Afghanistan earlier this year I met a young man whose sister had been left widowed, with an infant son, by a Nato air strike……” (to read more)

Maya Evans Speaking in Stroud

When Maya is released, she has a full speaking tour, including a March 16 talk to the Mid-Gloucestershire Group of  Amnesty International, in Stroud. (DETAILS)

Other speaking dates can be found (Here)

Meanwhile, don’t forget to send her a quick postcard of support. (See below)

Maya and supporters just before sentencing hearing. (from Indymedia)

Maya withi supporters before sentencing hearing

Send support for Maya!!

Maya Evans was jailed for 13 days this morning (Wednesday 29 February)
for her role in the May 2009 Northwood protest against the bombing of
Afghanistan (see below for details). She is currently being held at
Bronzefield Prison in Surrey, and should be released next Tuesday (6
March) morning.

Please send postcards of support (the more cheerful the better!) to:

Maya Evans
HMP Bronzefield
Woodthorpe Road
Ashford, Middlesex
TW15 3JZ

 

 

MAYA EVANS JAILED FOR AFGHAN WAR PROTEST

29 February, Hastings Magistrates Court: A peace activist who won a
“partial victory” in the High Court regarding British complicity in
torture in Afghanistan was jailed this morning for her part in an
anti-war protest.

Maya Anne Evans (32) from St Leonards was jailed for 13 days for
non-payment of over £300 in fines and costs, stemming from a court case
in November 2009.

Ms Evans was arrested in May 2009 for taking part in a nonviolent
“Die-in for NATO’s Victims in Afghanistan” outside Britain’s military
nerve centre at Northwood, and later convicted of “obstructing the
highway”. The demonstration – held to mark the 2nd anniversary of a NATO
bombing attack that killed 47 Afghan civilians – was held to demand an
end to the bombing of Afghanistan and the withdrawal of British troops
from the country [1]. NATO bombing has continued since then. Indeed,
NATO recently confirmed the death of eight civilians in an airstrike
earlier this month [2].

Refusing to pay the fine on grounds of conscience, Ms Evans explained
that she had just returned from a trip to Afghanistan where victims of
the 10+ year war had pleaded with her to return to the UK and highlight
their plight. “I don’t feel what I did on 27 May 2009 was a crime”, she
told the Court. “We were trying to highlight the war crimes that had
been committed.”

Ms Evans recently returned from a month-long visit to Afghanistan where
she worked with Afghan peace activists, and met with refugees, human
rights workers and the relative of a civilian killed in an unmanned
“drone” strike [3].

In 2005 she was convicted for reading the names of the Iraq war dead
opposite the Cenotaph without police permission [4], and in 2010 she won
“a partial victory” in the High Court, regarding British complicity in
the torture of Afghan detainees [5].

Ms Evans said: “In Afghanistan I met a young man whose sister had been
left widowed, with an infant son, by a NATO airstrike that killed five
civilians. Meeting the victims of US and British policies has only
strengthened my conviction that we need to terminate Britain’s role in
this senseless and bloody war.”

She added: “Afghan peace campaigners urged me to do all I can to stop
British involvement in their country. It is all of our responsibility to
campaign against the death of innocent Afghan civilians, to pressurise
our government which currently has blood in its hands.”

For more info contact 07783 226 987

NOTES
[1]
http://www.demotix.com/news/76194/wedding-die-protest-london-afghanistan-war-base
[2] “NATO Confirms Recent Airstrike Killed 8 Afghan Civilians”, Voice of
America, 15 February 2012, http://tinyurl.com/natoairstrike
[3] See https://fromhastingstokabul.wordpress.com
[4] “MPs condemn arrest of woman who spoke out”, Daily Mail, 8 December
2005 (http://tinyurl.com/zoep7)
[5] ”Partial victory’ in challenge to UK Taliban transfers’, BBC, 25
June 2010; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10412708å

Update on Maya’s Whereabouts

Apologies for this blog not being kept up recently.

Maya has been away for several weeks speaking about her recent trip to Afghanistan.

And on the 29th of February she had a date with the justice system, to deal with her participation in a non violent protest “Die-in for NATO’s Victims in Afghanistan” at the Northwood military base.

Details to follow.

Maya gets good writeup in the Hastings Observer

Forgotten last week was the good write up in Hasting’s local paper, the Observer.