Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The beginning of the journey

Afghanistan’s Hazara people, targeted by the Taliban, still have a strong reason to seek protection from countries like Australia, writes Michelle Dimasi in Kabul
06 October 2010

EARLIER on the day I started writing this article my friend Nafisa and I drove by taxi through Kabul. It was the beginning of Eid, the three days of celebration that mark the end of Ramadan, and in the streets the people in their bright new clothes contrasted with the dusty roads and debilitated buildings. Among piles of rubbish and rubble, boys chased one another with the toy guns they’d bought with their Eid money. At one point a plastic yellow bullet flew through the open window of our taxi, and when we arrived at Nafisa’s home her seven-year-old son greeted us armed with a plastic Kalashnikov about half his height, complete with a detachable dagger.

Full story in ....

Monday, September 6, 2010

Plan to Woo Taliban Foot Soldiers Stalls

Six months after Afghanistan’s foreign backers agreed to generous funding for a reintegration effort, so far only $200,000 has been spent by the United States and little or nothing by other donors.

How Are the Suiciding Taliban Nurtured?

Watching this film, I was thinking on what will happen when Religion is mixed with ignorance, political agenda and poverty of people. They are dying for a sacred cause of which they know nothing. Who is responsible?... And who is/are to answer this question? .... We'd better keep thinking on this question.

To see the film, please follow the following link:

Republic of Silence

Friday, August 27, 2010

In Bold Display, Taliban Order Stoning Deaths

Published: August 16, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban on Sunday ordered their first public executions by stoning since their fall from power nine years ago, killing a young couple who had eloped, according to Afghan officials and a witness.

The punishment was carried out by hundreds of the victims’ neighbors in a village in northern Kunduz Province, according to Nadir Khan, 40, a local farmer and Taliban sympathizer, who was interviewed by telephone. Even family members were involved, both in the stoning and in tricking the couple into returning after they had fled.

Mr. Khan said that as a Taliban mullah prepared to read the judgment of a religious court, the lovers, a 25-year-old man named Khayyam and a 19-year-old woman named Siddiqa, defiantly confessed in public to their relationship. “They said, ‘We love each other no matter what happens,’ ” Mr. Khan said. (See full story in NYT)

CIA making secret payments to members of Karzai administration

By Greg Miller and Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, August 27, 2010; 12:14 AM

The CIA is making secret payments to multiple members of President Hamid Karzai's administration, in part to maintain sources of information in a government in which the Afghan leader is often seen as having a limited grasp of developments, according to current and former U.S. officials. (full story in ....)

Monday, August 23, 2010

One Hundred & Ninety Days - My presentation (2)

Today is my presentation for the fellows. So far, Ana Paula Hernandez from Mexico, Shba Cahndran from India, Marvin Rees from the UK, and Alexy Navalny from Moscow have given their presentations. All have shown great success both in their works and in crossing them to the fellows. Today is mine and Diana Tsui from Hong Kong.
I have some short notes in mind: a brief introduction of myself; a picture of my country and its contemporary history; and then my vision and works at Marefat. I will give more chance to the questions of the fellows.
Three main snapshots in my country’s ongoing image: political instability; extreme poverty; tribal culture and customs.
People in my country are suffering from the lack of trust. Firstly the Communists came with big promises that will be fulfilled by the government. They failed and put the country in dark bloody disasters. Then Islamists came showering people with all their subjective claims and abstract concepts and system of values. They also proved evil.
Now, democracy and civil norms of life is being imported to the country. It is appealing, but with less room on the culture and social structure of the community, it is also facing great challenges. If situation goes the same as it is now, the country will be plunged back to the anarchy and fragmentation.
Our experience is based on the current realities of the ground. We are optimistic, but not unrealistic. People should regain their trust. It is difficult but there is no alternative. For the time being every thing is dependant on the foreign aids and assistance. Tomorrow the situation will change. The international community will decide to decrease its attention to Afghanistan. What is going to happen then?
Education is the main key to help people discover themselves. There are some key points:
1) people should regard education as their own prime need;
2) people should regard education as a long-term necessity not a short-term project;
3) people should invest on education based on their own homegrown resources, not merely on foreign aids and assistance;
4) people should let their boys and girls like to get education;
5) civic education should be included in the whole curricula of the schools;
6) culture of violence and hatred should strongly be addressed and talked about;
7) every bits of education should be translated into practical impressions so as the people should find the tangible benefits of going to school and having books on their hands.
We started our school in Pakistan at the peak of Civil War and dark rule of Islamist parties and the Taliban. We drafted textbooks of our own. Marefat became the education shelter for more than 6000 students in three main cities of Pakistan: Rawalpindi, Attock, and Peshawar. By the fall of the Taliban we moved to Kabul and started everything from the zero. All our students were 35 in a four-room bombed-out muddy building. Our asset was hardly more than 35000 Pakistani Rupees, less than $$600.
Our first step was talking with the community. We encouraged them to not only send their kids, boys and girls, to school but also contribute in their education too.
We gradually succeeded in our goal. The trust of the community along with the motivation of the staff that we had, helped Marefat to flourish and now, after seven years, we have more than 2500 students, 102 teachers, and have sent five rounds of our graduates to the university with nearly 97% success. Tens of our students have got scholarships in different countries. Hundreds more have become successful contributors to their family breadwinning group.
Above all, Marefat has succeeded in developing a new vision among the community. The poverty-stricken ethnically suppressed Hazara community, is now proud of having their kids in school where humanism, democracy, human rights, social studies, liberal interpretation of the faith is part of its regular curricula. Last year, a group of fanatical clerics drafted a controversial law which violated most of the women rights. Marefat students were among the first groups to oppose that law and launched a protest against that going to parliament. At the same day, the fanatical clerics stormed the school called for my execution and burning of the school. They issued decrees and staged public instigations through all the mosques. But none of these attempts could harm our social prestige and credibility. We continued our school just one day after the attack. No more than three months later, the pressure on the president came to an encouraging end: eighteen articles including one whole chapter was totally removed for the law, and around 72 amendments were applied to that. This is a success and a great development on the ground.
Still we have big challenges ahead. The democratic growth is nascent and highly vulnerable. Institutional guarantee for the developments are badly missing. Government is not only corrupt but also alien to the ongoing changes of the community as well as all over the world.
Politics in my country is strongly based on ethnocentric assumptions. Due to that no one cares about the harm that Taliban will pose to the civil development and human rights of the people. They mostly think about the return of the totalitarian power. Besides all our works, we have to be cautious of this threat too.

One Hundred & Ninety Days - First impression (1)

What a great privilege and experience as part of the World Fellows 2010! There are 14 other fellows from different parts of the world with great achievements in the field of their activities. All with high education and great visions have come to the YALE to be part of the international campaign for a better world.
My acquaintance with the fellows 2010 is an interesting story. I was walking along the dusty street of Dashti Barchi, in a remote forgotten part of Kabul in Police District 13. Parwiz Barhimi, an awarded student of the YALE who was teaching at AUAF (American University for Afghanistan), was besides me. Just one day before we had a meeting with Rory Stewart in Marefat High School. Parwiz returned to me saying: Don’t you want to come to the YALE? I was shocked. “No kidding!” I said. “No, I’m serious”, he replied.
It was the beginning of my information about the World Fellows Program. He talked a lot about the program and encouraged me to apply for that. He was pretty sure that I will be selected.
I started searching for detailed information. Went to the YALE website and read almost many parts of the sections related to the WFP.
Parwiz promised to nominate me and asked me to work on the essays and finding some who should recommend me for the program.
In about two or days, every thing was done: I made the essays and found Ronald Neumann, the former American Ambassador, Lady Frances D’Souza, from the House of Lords in the UK, and Rory Stewart at Harvard, to recommend me. All of them were too generous to accept sending recommendations.
That was it. I was counting all bits of news about the program. Once I got the email to be short-listed among 82 applicants, the target seemed to be closer. Then, interview,... and finally, the letter of award!
Now, I am in New Haven, sitting in my room, looking from the window at the green trees with rain-washed leaves. Rain started yesterday and has continued non-stop till now. It is 06:41am. I have been awake since 03:20am. Still I have problem with my sleep hours. I am accustomed with Kabul time. However, I don’t feel tired. The weather is energizing. Moreover, the thought on how to use the best of my time and opportunities, is also thrilling.
I will keep posting my daily impression in this page. Please follow me and let me have your words and comments. You can be my indirect mentor…. If you had time, please visit my Farsi blog too. Most of my writings come there. Still I feel home with Farsi then English!