Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan

The Hippie Trail, once a symbol of freedom and enlightenment, today is synonymous with danger and war

 Tijana Radeska

Between the mid-1950s and the late 1970s, many people took the opportunity to roam what was once Persia (Iran). Throngs of American hippies, wanting to get as far as possible from the capitalist West, sought places of “love and freedom.”

The love-seeking route usually started at a European capital, most commonly London and Amsterdam, and continued all the way through Germany, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Greece, and Turkey and from there to the Middle East.

The final station was usually Nepal, with a prolonged stay in India, and many were going even farther to Thailand and Vietnam.

A sizable stretch of the Hippie Trail is now marked by cities that have been destroyed and areas that are forbidden to visitors because they are so dangerous.

The hippies were the successors to the beatniks, who during the 1950s held Kerouac’s On the Road as their bible, traveling across the U.S. in buses, seeking freedom in going wherever they wished and enlightenment through taking whichever drugs they could. (Actually, it was Jack London who started this trend in 1920)

During the 1960s, their attention turned to the East, across the ocean to Ginsburg’s glorified city, Varanasi, which over the years became the Mecca of the hippies. India was even more popular after the Beatles moved into an Indian ashram.

Routes of the Hippie Trail. Author: NordNordWest. CC BY-SA 3.0 de

The hippie youths from America could afford such a trip, because compared to their cost of living at home, it was relatively cheap there.

Apart from the European cities, the entire journey from Yugoslavia to Nepal was for the Americans incredibly low priced and they could afford to live modestly as they traveled. It was also at that time much safer to hitchhike. Many traveled along the trail in a classic Volkswagen van, the vehicle that became symbolic of the hippie movement.

Some of the travelers accepted volunteer positions with the Peace Corps or development projects sponsored by Europe and tended to spend much more time with the locals than the average tourist.

Their voyage was also, according to many anecdotes, one of dope—from smoking joints in Amsterdam and London to the hashish found in Afghanistan, to everything they could find in India and Nepal.

The Hippie Trail represented an alternative Silk Road on which, instead of silk and spices, freedom and love were the ultimate gains.

It was a kind of pilgrimage for many Americans who felt suffocated by the growth of materialism. The trail was a search for oneself and spiritual enlightenment through using different types of drugs or exploring various forms of religion. An escape from the “evil West” into the “more humane” side of the world.

“Be Your Own Goddess” art bus (1967 VW Kombi)

The Huffington Post published an article in 2013, “When Afghanistan Was Just a Stop on the Hippie Trail” written by Christian Caryl. It is painful to read this article today when it describes with such nostalgia what Afghanistan once was: an impoverished place at a moment of modernization, home to a curious people open for discussion with the “strange foreigners.”

Caryl writes about Kabul as a place where, at the time, the American seekers of enlightenment could easily afford to wander around for days and even weeks, many staying at the Sigi’s Hotel, which became a landmark on the trail.

Afghanistan was a beautiful stopping point and it is sad to read how its people, who were open-minded about modernity and eager for prosperity, had their spirits broken by the Russian invasion of 1979. (Wrong. The spirit was still there until the USA/Saudi Kingdom decided to send jihadists)

Hippies sitting with the locals in Chiang Mai, Thailand, November 1973.
Author: Catatonique. CC BY-SA 3.0

The “Intrepid,” as the young, long-haired Americans used to call themselves, were indeed united in love on their voyage. They left messages with travel tips on the walls of The Pudding Shop in Istanbul and also wrote promises that they would find each other on the beaches of Goa or the streets of Kashmir.

The Intrepids weren’t just pioneers of the holy trail that leads from India to Southeast Asia; they also established an alternative human economy for the locals, who organized low-budget bus trips and cheap hostels.

There were religious leaders who specialized exclusively in transcendental awakening for foreigners in India and Nepal. The “Old Freak Street” as the locals call it still exists in Kathmandu, and it is dedicated to the hippie pilgrims of the time.

Unfortunately, things changed after 1979.

Afghanistan was closed due to the Soviet invasion and the Iranian Revolution.

After the Arab-Israeli War that began in 1973, there were strict visa restrictions placed on Western citizens in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.

With the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975, tensions could be felt all around and traveling wasn’t as safe as before. Places like Kashmir and Chitral became less welcoming than they used to be because of unrest in the area.

The hippies caught the last train to a world that nobody expected would one day cease to exist. They created a trail of which half is lost in history due to politics and terror.

The Westerners who traveled the East during those two decades are considered pioneers of the spiritual journeys around the Indian subcontinent, Nepal, and Southeast Asia, but their style and naivety were unique.

Tourism, essentially pioneered by the hippies, ultimately destroyed local cultures. Profiteers of the ever-globalizing economies led to the sterilization of cultural places.

Having photos taken in certain locations became the ultimate goal for tourists, and locals established a system of profiting from Western money with little curiosity about their visitors.

Traveling became such an obligatory part of many cultures that there are those on journeys who feel at home wherever they go. Fortunately, there are still some stunning places not yet invaded by tourism, and hopefully, the greatest effort can be made to take care of them.

Advertisements
Sat Aug 5, 2017 10:14AM
Arrivée du premier train redonnant vie à la célèbre « route de la soie », le 15 février 2016. ©AFP
Arrivée du premier train redonnant vie à la célèbre « route de la soie », le 15 février 2016. ©AFP

Est-ce la renaissance “eurasiatique” ce dont ont peur le plus les États-Unis à chaque fois qu’ils évoquent l’avenir des relations entre l’Iran d’une part et la Russie et la Chine de l’autre?

Or en dépit de tous les obstacles dressés par Washington, la route de la soie finira par renaître.

Le projet de la ligne de chemin de fer reliant Khaf, en Iran, à Herat, en Afghanistan, sera lancé d’ici une semaine, selon Abbas Nazari, directeur des affaires internationales de l’Organisation des Chemins de fer.

Interviewée par Sputnik, cette autorité iranienne détaille ce projet :  « À la faveur de cette liaison ferroviaire, l’Afghanistan aura accès, via l’Iran, à onze corridors de transport internationaux, y compris à une sortie sur la mer. »

Cet énorme projet permettra aussi à l’Afghanistan, à l’Inde et au Pakistan d’avoir un accès direct aux marchés d’Asie Centrale, d’Europe et de Russie, en évitant les ports et le canal de Suez qui est surchargé, ce qui n’ira pas sans déplaire à l’Égypte et à ses alliés israéliens et américains.

Selon le responsable iranien, l’Iran et les pays impliqués dans ce méga projet comptent sur cette ligne de chemin de faire pour intensifier les échanges non seulement entre l’Iran et l’Afghanistan, mais aussi entre l’Iran et l’Europe car cette liaison ouvrirait aussi et surtout un corridor de transport qui relierait la Chine à l’Europe.

De l’Ouzbékistan jusqu’à Mazar-i-Sharif, en Afghanistan, 27 km de voie ferrée ont été posés par lesquels transiteront quelques cinq millions de tonnes de marchandises chaque année.

En effet, l’Iran rallie sa voix à l’Organisation de coopération économique (ECO) dont les dirigeants ont convenu de la nécessité de construire une voie ferrée qui relierait la Chine au Kirghizstan, au Tadjikistan, à l’Afghanistan, à l’Iran et à l’Europe.

Et la sécurité? 

Abordant le problème de la sécurité sur ce tronçon de la voie ferrée, M. Nazari a estimé qu’il s’agissait plutôt d’un problème politique et que les entreprises iraniennes engagées dans ce projet n’avaient connu jusqu’ici aucun problème de sécurité.

La Chine est le principal partenaire commercial de l’Iran. Et les deux pays veulent porter leurs échanges à 600 milliards de dollars d’ici dix ans, contre environ 50 milliards actuellement.

Les sanctions US contre Téhéran revigorent d’ailleurs cette dynamique. La route de la soie a permis de transporter pendant des siècles les marchandises, dont le précieux tissu, entre l’Asie à l’Europe.

Stopped the Taliban from shutting down her school: Sakena Yacoobi opened secret schools

When the Taliban closed all the girls’ schools in Afghanistan, Sakena Yacoobi set up new schools, in secret, educating thousands of women and men.

In this fierce, funny talk, she tells the jaw-dropping story of two times when she was threatened to stop teaching — and shares her vision for rebuilding her beloved country.

Speech in May, 2015

Sakena Yacoobi. Education activist. At the Afghan Institute of Learning, Sakena Yacoobi provides teacher training to Afghan women, supporting education for girls and boys throughout the country. Full bio

TED

(Arabic) I seek refuge in Allah from cursed Satan. In the Name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful.

0:15 (English) I was born in a middle class family. My father was five years old when he lost his father, but by the time I was born, he was already a businessman.

But it didn’t make a difference to him if his children were going to be a boy or a girl: they were going to go to school. So I guess I was the lucky one.

My mother had 16 pregnancies. From 16 pregnancies, five of us are alive.

You can imagine as a child what I went through. Day to day, I watched women being carried to a graveyard, or watched children going to a graveyard.

At that time, when I finished my high school, I really wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to be a doctor to help women and children. So I completed my education, but I wanted to go to university.

Unfortunately, in my country, there wasn’t a dormitory for girls, so I was accepted in medical school, but I could not go there. So as a result, my father sent me to America.

I came to America. I completed my education. While I was completing my education, my country was invaded by Russia.

And do you know that at the time I was completing my education, I didn’t know what was going on with my family or with my country. There were months, years, I didn’t know about it.

My family was in a refugee camp. So as soon as I completed my education, I brought my family to America. I wanted them to be safe.

But where was my heart? My heart was in Afghanistan.

Day by day, when I listened to the news, when I followed what was going on with my country, my heart was breaking up. I really wanted to go back to my country, but at the same time I knew I could not go there, because there was no place for me.

I had a good job. I was a professor at a university. I earned good money. I had a good life. My family was here. I could live with them. But I wasn’t happy. I wanted to go back home.

So I went to the refugee camp. And when I went to the refugee camp in Pakistan, there were 7.5 million refugees.About 90 percent of them were women and children.

Most of the men have been killed or they were in war. And you know, in the refugee camp, when I went day-to-day to do a survey, I found things you never could imagine.

I saw a widow with five to eight children sitting there and weeping and not knowing what to do.

I saw a young woman have no way to go anywhere, no education, no entertainment, no place to even live.

I saw young men that had lost their father and their home, and they are supporting the family as a 10-to-12-year old boy — being the head of the household, trying to protect their sister and their mother and their children.

 it was a very devastating situation. My heart was beating for my people, and I didn’t know what to do.

At that moment, we talk about momentum. At that moment, I felt, what can I do for these people? How could I help these people? I am one individual. What can I do for them?

at that moment, I knew that education changed my life. It transformed me. It gave me status. It gave me confidence. It gave me a career. It helped me to support my family, to bring my family to another country, to be safe.

And I knew what I should give to my people is education and health, and that’s what I went after.

But do you think it was easy? No, because at that time, education was banned for girls, completely.

And also, by Russia invading Afghanistan, people were not trusting anyone. It was very hard to come and say, “I want to do this.” Who am I? Somebody who comes from the United States. Somebody who got educated here. Did they trust me? Of course not.

I really needed to build the trust in this community. How am I going to do that?

I went and surveyed and looked . I asked. Finally, I found one man. He was 80 years old. He was a mullah. I went to his tent in the camp, and I asked him, “I want to make you a teacher.”

And he looked at me, and he said, “Crazy woman, crazy woman, how do you think I can be a teacher?” And I told him, “I will make you a teacher.” Finally, he accepted my offer, and once I started a class in his compound, the word spread all over.

In a matter of one year, we had 25 schools set up, 15,000 children going to school, and it was amazing.

But of course, we’re doing all our work, we were giving teacher training. We were training women’s rights, human rights, democracy, rule of law. We were giving all kinds of training.

And one day, I tell you, one day I was in the office in Peshawar, Pakistan. All of a sudden, I saw my staff running to rooms and locking the doors and telling me, “Run away, hide!”

And you know, as a leader, what do you do? You’re scared. You know it’s dangerous. You know your life is on the line. But as a leader, you have to hold it together.

You have to hold it together and show strength. So I said, “What’s going on?” And these people were pouring into my office. So I invited them to the office. They came, and there were nine of them — nine Taliban. They were the ugliest looking men you can ever see.

Very mean-looking people, black clothes, black turban, and they pour into my office. And I invited them to have a seat and have tea. They said no. They are not going to drink tea. And of course, with the tone of voice they were using, it was very scary, but I was really shaking up. But also I was strong, holding myself up.

By that time, you know how I dress — I dress from head to toe in a black hijab. The only thing you could see, my eyes. They asked me, “What are you doing? Don’t you know that school is banned for girls? What are you doing here?” And you know, I just looked at them, and I said, “What school? Where is the school?”

And they look at my face, and they said, “You are teaching girls here.” I said, “This is a house of somebody. We have some students coming, and they are all learning Koran, Holy Book. And you know, Koran says that if you learn the Holy Book, the woman, they can be a good wife, and they can obey their husband.”

And I tell you one thing: that’s the way you work with those people, and you know —

 So by that time, they started speaking Pashto. They talked to each other, and they said, “Let’s go, leave her alone, she’s OK.” And you know, this time, I offered them tea again, and they took a sip and they left.

 my staff poured into my office. They were scared to death. They didn’t know why they didn’t kill me. They didn’t know why they didn’t take me away. But everybody was happy to see me. Very happy, and I was happy to be alive, of course.

I was happy to be alive. But also, as we continuously gave training during the fall of the Taliban — of course during the Taliban there is another story. We went underground and we provided education for 80 schoolgirls, 3,000 students underground, and continuously we trained.

With the fall of the Taliban, we went into the country, and we opened school after school. We opened women’s learning center. We continuously opened clinics. We worked with mothers and children. We had reproductive health training. We had all kinds of training that you can imagine. I was very happy.

I was delighted with the outcome of my work. And one day, with four trainers and one bodyguard, I was going up north of Kabul, and all of a sudden, again, I was stopped in the middle of the road by 19 young men.

Rifles on their shoulders, they blocked the road. And I told my driver, “What’s going on?” And the driver said, “I don’t know.” He asked them. They said, “We have nothing to do with you.” They called my name. They said, “We want her.” My bodyguard got out, said, “I can answer you. What do you want?” They said, “Nothing.”

They called my name. And by that time, the women are yelling and screaming inside the car. I am very shaken up, and I told myself, this is it. This time, we all are going to be killed. There is no doubt in my mind.

But still, the moment comes, and you take strength from whatever you believe and whatever you do. It’s in your heart. You believe in your worth, and you can walk on it.

I just hold myself on the side of the car. My leg was shaking, and I got outside. And I asked them, “What can I do for you?” You know what they said to me? They said, “We know who you are. We know where you are going. Every day you go up north here and there. You train women, you teach them and also you give them an opportunity to have a job. You build their skills. How about us?”

 “And you know, how about us? What are we going to do?” I looked at them, and I said, “I don’t know.”

They said, “It’s OK. The only thing we can do, what we know, from the time we’re born, we just hold the gun and kill. That’s all we know.” And you know what that means. It’s a trap to me, of course. So I walk out of there. They said, “We’ll let you go, go.”

And so I walked into the car, I sit in the car, and I told the driver, “Turn around and go back to the office.” At that time, we only were supporting girls. We only had money for women to train them, to send them to school, and nothing else.

 By the time I came to the office, of course my trainers were gone. They ran away home. Nobody stayed there. My bodyguard was the only one there, and my voice was completely gone. I was shaken up, and I sat on my table, and I said, “What am I going to do?” How am I going to solve this problem? Because we had training going on up north already. Hundreds of women were there coming to get training.

 I was sitting there, all of a sudden, at this moment, talking about momentum, we are, at that moment, one of my wonderful donors called me about a report. And she asked me, “Sakena?” And I answered her. She said, “It’s not you. What’s wrong with you?” I said, “Nothing.” I tried to cover.

No matter what I tried to do, she didn’t believe me, and she asked me again. “OK, tell me what’s going on?” I told her the whole story. At that time, she said, “OK, you go next time, and you will help them. You will help them.” And when, two days later, I went the same route, and do you know, they were not in here, they were a little back further, the same young men, standing up there and holding the rifle and pointing to us to stop the car.

So we stopped the car. I got out. I said, “OK, let’s go with me.” And they said, “Yes.” I said, “On one condition, that whatever I say, you accept it.” And they said, yes, they do.

So I took them to the mosque, and to make a long story short, I told them I’d give them teachers. Today, they are the best trainers. They learn English, they learn how to be teachers, they learn computers, and they are my guides. Every area that is unknown to us in the mountain areas, they go with me. They are ahead, and we go. And they protect us.

That tells you that education transforms people. When you educate people, they are going to be different, and today all over, we need to work for gender equality. We cannot only train women but forget about the men, because the men are the real people who are giving women the hardest time.

So we started training men because the men should know the potential of women, know how much these potential men has, and how much these women can do the same job they are doing. So we are continuously giving training to men, and I really believe strongly.

I live in a country that was a beautiful country. I just want to share this with you. It was a beautiful country, beautiful, peaceful country. We were going everywhere. Women were getting education: lawyer, engineer, teacher, and we were going from house to house. We never locked our doors.

But you know what happened to my country. Today, people cannot walk out of their door without security issues. But we want the same Afghanistan we had before. And I want to tell you the other side.

Today, the women of Afghanistan are working very hard. They are earning degrees. They are training to be lawyers. They are training to be doctors, back again. They are training to be teachers, and they are running businesses. So it is so wonderful to see people like that reach their complete potential, and all of this is going to happen.

16:13 I want to share this with you, because of love, because of compassion, and because of trust and honesty. If you have these few things with you, you will accomplish.

We have one poet, Mawlānā Rūmī. He said that by having compassion and having love, you can conquer the world. And I tell you, we could. And if we could do it in Afghanistan, I am sure 100 percent that everyone can do it in any part of the world.

How I defend the rule of law

Kimberley Motley. Posted Oct 2014

Let me tell you a story about a little girl named Naghma.

Naghma lived in a refugee camp with her parents and her eight brothers and sisters. Every morning, her father would wake up in the hopes he’d be picked for construction work, and on a good month he would earn 50 dollars.

The winter was very harsh, and unfortunately, Naghma’s brother died and her mother became very ill. In desperation, her father went to a neighbor to borrow 2,500 dollars.

After several months of waiting, the neighbor became very impatient, and he demanded that he be paid back. Unfortunately, Naghma’s father didn’t have the money, and so the two men agreed to a jirga.

So simply put, a jirga is a form of mediation that’s used in Afghanistan’s informal justice system. It’s usually presided over by religious leaders and village elders, and jirgas are often used in rural countries like Afghanistan, where there’s deep-seated resentment against the formal system. At the jirga, the men sat together and they decided that the best way to satisfy the debt would be if Naghma married the neighbor’s 21-year-old son. She was six.

01:23 Now, stories like Naghma’s unfortunately are all too common, and from the comforts of our home, we may look at these stories as another crushing blow to women’s rights. And if you watched Afghanistan on the news, you may have this view that it’s a failed state.

However, Afghanistan does have a legal system, and while jirgas are built on long-standing tribal customs, even in jirgas, laws are supposed to be followed, and it goes without saying that giving a child to satisfy a debt is not only grossly immoral, it’s illegal.

In 2008, I went to Afghanistan for a justice funded program, and I went there originally on this 9-month program to train Afghan lawyers.

In that nine months, I went around the country and I talked to hundreds of people that were locked up, and I talked to many businesses that were also operating in Afghanistan. And within these conversations, I started hearing the connections between the businesses and the people, and how laws that were meant to protect them were being underused, while gross and illegal punitive measures were overused.

And so this put me on a quest for justness, and what justness means to me is using laws for their intended purpose, which is to protect.

The role of laws is to protect. So as a result, I decided to open up a private practice, and I became the first foreigner to litigate in Afghan courts. Throughout this time, I also studied many laws, I talked to many people, I read up on many cases, and I found that the lack of justness is not just a problem in Afghanistan, but it’s a global problem.

And while I originally shied away from representing human rights cases because I was really concerned about how it would affect me both professionally and personally, I decided that the need for justness was so great that I couldn’t continue to ignore it. And so I started representing people like Naghma pro bono also.

Since I’ve been in Afghanistan and since I’ve been an attorney for over 10 years, I’ve represented from CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to ambassadors to little girls like Naghma, and with much success. And the reason for my success is very simple: I work the system from the inside out and use the laws in the ways that they’re intended to be used.

I find that achieving justness in places like Afghanistan is difficult, and there’s three reasons.

The first reason is that simply put, people are very uneducated as to what their legal rights were, and I find that this is a global problem.

The second issue is that even with laws on the books, it’s often superseded or ignored by tribal customs, like in the first jirga that sold Naghma off.

And the third problem with achieving justness is that even with good, existing laws on the books, there aren’t people or lawyers that are willing to fight for those laws.

And that’s what I do: I use existing laws, often unused laws, and I work those to the benefits of my clients. We all need to create a global culture of human rights and be investors in a global human rights economy, and by working in this mindset, we can significantly improve justice globally.

Now let’s get back to Naghma. Several people heard about this story, and so they contacted me because they wanted to pay the $2,500 debt. And it’s not just that simple; you can’t just throw money at this problem and think that it’s going to disappear. That’s not how it works in Afghanistan.

So I told them I’d get involved, but in order to get involved, what needed to happen is a second jirga needed to be called, a jirga of appeals. And so in order for that to happen, we needed to get the village elders together, we needed to get the tribal leaders together, the religious leaders.

Naghma’s father needed to agree, the neighbor needed to agree, and also his son needed to agree. And I thought, if I’m going to get involved in this thing, then they also need to agree that I preside over it.

05:29 So, after hours of talking and tracking them down, and about 30 cups of tea, they finally agreed that we could sit down for a second jirga, and we did. And what was different about the second jirga is: this time, we put the law at the center of it, and it was very important for me that they all understood that Naghma had a right to be protected.

And at the end of this jirga, it was ordered by the judge that the first decision was erased, and that the $2,500 debt was satisfied, and we all signed a written order where all the men acknowledged that what they did was illegal, and if they did it again, that they would go to prison.

And most importantly, the engagement was terminated and Naghma was free. Protecting Naghma and her right to be free protects us.

06:29 Now, with my job, there’s above-average amount of risks that are involved. I’ve been temporarily detained. I’ve been accused of running a brothel, accused of being a spy. I’ve had a grenade thrown at my office. It didn’t go off, though.

But I find that with my job, that the rewards far outweigh the risks, and as many risks as I take, my clients take far greater risks, because they have a lot more to lose if their cases go unheard, or worse, if they’re penalized for having me as their lawyer. With every case that I take, I realize that as much as I’m standing behind my clients, that they’re also standing behind me, and that’s what keeps me going.

07:13 Law as a point of leverage is crucial in protecting all of us. Journalists are very vital in making sure that that information is given to the public. Too often, we receive information from journalists but we forget how that information was given. This picture is a picture of the British press corps in Afghanistan. It was taken a couple of years ago by my friend David Gill.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, since 2010, there have been thousands of journalists who have been threatened, injured, killed, detained.

Too often, when we get this information, we forget who it affects or how that information is given to us. What many journalists do, both foreign and domestic, is very remarkable, especially in places like Afghanistan, and it’s important that we never forget that, because what they’re protecting is not only our right to receive that information but also the freedom of the press, which is vital to a democratic society.

08:10 Matt Rosenberg is a journalist in Afghanistan. He works for The New York Times, and unfortunately, a few months ago he wrote an article that displeased people in the government. As a result, he was temporarily detained and he was illegally exiled out of the country.

I represent Matt, and after dealing with the government, I was able to get legal acknowledgment that in fact he was illegally exiled, and that freedom of the press does exist in Afghanistan, and there’s consequences if that’s not followed. And I’m happy to say that as of a few days ago, the Afghan government formally invited him back into the country and they reversed their exile order of him.

08:59 If you censor one journalist, then it intimidates others, and soon nations are silenced. It’s important that we protect our journalists and freedom of the press, because that makes governments more accountable to us and more transparent. Protecting journalists and our right to receive information protects us.

Our world is changing.

We live in a different world now, and what were once individual problems are really now global problems for all of us. Two weeks ago, Afghanistan had its first democratic transfer of power and elected president Ashraf Ghani, which is huge, and I’m very optimistic about him, and I’m hopeful that he’ll give Afghanistan the changes that it needs, especially within the legal sector.

We live in a different world. We live in a world where my eight-year-old daughter only knows a black president. There’s a great possibility that our next president will be a woman, and as she gets older, she may question, can a white guy be president? (Laughter) (Applause)

 Our world is changing, and we need to change with it, and what were once individual problems are problems for all of us. According to UNICEF, there are currently over 280 million boys and girls who are married under the age of 15.

Two hundred and eighty million. Child marriages prolong the vicious cycle of poverty, poor health, lack of education.

10:33 At the age of 12, Sahar was married. She was forced into this marriage and sold by her brother. When she went to her in-laws’ house, they forced her into prostitution. Because she refused, she was tortured. She was severely beaten with metal rods. They burned her body. They tied her up in a basement and starved her. They used pliers to take out her fingernails. At one point, she managed to escape from this torture chamber to a neighbor’s house, and when she went there, instead of protecting her, they dragged her back to her husband’s house, and she was tortured even worse.

11:24 When I met first Sahar, thankfully, Women for Afghan Women gave her a safe haven to go to. As a lawyer, I try to be very strong for all my clients, because that’s very important to me, but seeing her, how broken and very weak as she was, was very difficult. It took weeks for us to really get to what happened to her when she was in that house, but finally she started opening up to me, and when she opened up, what I heard was she didn’t know what her rights were, but she did know she had a certain level of protection by her government that failed her, and so we were able to talk about what her legal options were.

12:18 And so we decided to take this case to the Supreme Court. Now, this is extremely significant, because this is the first time that a victim of domestic violence in Afghanistan was being represented by a lawyer, a law that’s been on the books for years and years, but until Sahar, had never been used. In addition to this, we also decided to sue for civil damages, again using a law that’s never been used, but we used it for her case. So there we were at the Supreme Court arguing in front of 12 Afghan justices, me as an American female lawyer, and Sahar, a young woman who when I met her couldn’t speak above a whisper. She stood up, she found her voice, and my girl told them that she wanted justice, and she got it. At the end of it all, the court unanimously agreed that her in-laws should be arrested for what they did to her, her fucking brother should also be arrested for selling her — (Applause) — and they agreed that she did have a right to civil compensation. What Sahar has shown us is that we can attack existing bad practices by using the laws in the ways that they’re intended to be used, and by protecting Sahar, we are protecting ourselves.

13:48 After having worked in Afghanistan for over six years now, a lot of my family and friends think that what I do looks like this. (Laughter) But in all actuality, what I do looks like this. Now, we can all do something. I’m not saying we should all buy a plane ticket and go to Afghanistan, but we can all be contributors to a global human rights economy. We can create a culture of transparency and accountability to the laws, and make governments more accountable to us, as we are to them.

14:22 A few months ago, a South African lawyer visited me in my office and he said, “I wanted to meet you. I wanted to see what a crazy person looked like.” The laws are ours, and no matter what your ethnicity, nationality, gender, race, they belong to us, and fighting for justice is not an act of insanity. Businesses also need to get with the program. A corporate investment in human rights is a capital gain on your businesses, and whether you’re a business, an NGO, or a private citizen, rule of law benefits all of us. And by working together with a concerted mindset, through the people, public and private sector, we can create a global human rights economy and all become global investors in human rights. And by doing this, we can achieve justness together.

Air Attack on MSF’s Kunduz Hospital: An MSF Nurse Recounts from Afghanistan

October 03, 2015

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) nurse Lajos Zoltan Jecs was in Kunduz trauma hospital when the facility was struck by a series of aerial bombing raids in the early hours of Saturday morning.

This was a US strike. And the US is investigating.

Prior to this bombing a US helicopter was shut down and 11 of its crew dead.

He describes his experience:

Noor Khalil shared this link.

“It was absolutely terrifying.

I was sleeping in our safe room in the hospital. At around 2am, I was woken up by the sound of a big explosion nearby. At first I didn’t know what was going on.

Over the past week we’d heard bombings and explosions before, but always further away. This one was different, close and loud.

At first there was confusion, and dust settling. As we were trying to work out what was happening, there was more bombing.

After 20 or 30 minutes, I heard someone calling my name. It was one of the Emergency Room nurses. He staggered in with massive trauma to his arm. He was covered in blood, with wounds all over his body.

At that point my brain just couldn’t understand what was happening. For a second I was just stood still, shocked.

He was calling for help. In the safe room, we have a limited supply of basic medical essentials, but there was no morphine to stop his pain. We did what we could.

I don’t know exactly how long, but it was maybe half an hour afterwards that they stopped bombing. I went out with the project coordinator to see what had happened.

What we saw was the hospital destroyed, burning. I don’t know what I felt, just shock again.

We went to look for survivors. A few had already made it to one of the safe rooms. One by one, people started appearing, wounded, including some of our colleagues and caretakers of patients.

We tried to take a look into one of the burning buildings. I cannot describe what was inside. There are no words for how terrible it was. In the Intensive Care Unit six patients were burning in their beds.

We looked for some staff that were supposed to be in the operating theater. It was awful.

A patient there on the operating table, dead, in the middle of the destruction. We couldn’t find our staff. Thankfully we later found that they had run out from the operating theater and had found a safe place.

Just nearby, we had a look in the inpatient department. Luckily untouched by the bombing. We quickly checked that everyone was OK. And in a safe bunker next door, also everyone inside was OK.

And then back to the office. Full, patients, wounded, crying out, everywhere.

It was crazy. We had to organize a mass casualty plan in the office, seeing which doctors were alive and available to help. We did an urgent surgery for one of our doctors. Unfortunately he died there on the office table. We did our best, but it wasn’t enough.

The whole situation was very hard. We saw our colleagues dying. Our pharmacist…I was just talking to him last night and planning the stocks, and then he died there in our office.

The first moments were just chaos. Enough staff had survived, so we could help all the wounded with treatable wounds. But there were too many that we couldn’t help. Somehow, everything was very clear. We just treated the people that needed treatment, and didn’t make decisions. How could we make decisions in that sort of fear and chaos?

Some of my colleagues were in too much shock, crying and crying. I tried to encourage some of the staff to help, to give them something to concentrate on, to take their minds off the horror. But some were just too shocked to do anything. Seeing adult men, your friends, crying uncontrollably—that is not easy.

I have been working here since May, and I have seen a lot of heavy medical situations. But it is a totally different story when they are your colleagues, your friends.

These are people who had been working hard for months, non-stop for the past week. They had not gone home, they had not seen their families, they had just been working in the hospital to help people… and now they are dead. These people are friends, close friends. I have no words to express this. It is unspeakable.

The hospital, it has been my workplace and home for several months. Yes, it is just a building. But it is so much more than that. It is healthcare for Kunduz. Now it is gone.

What is in my heart since this morning is that this is completely unacceptable. How can this happen? What is the benefit of this? Destroying a hospital and so many lives, for nothing. I cannot find words for this.”

 

Got to stare at ugly pictures of handicapped soldiers and civilians “collateral damages”

It’s impolite to stare.

But when it comes to severely injured soldiers, maybe we don’t look enough; or maybe we’d rather not see wounded veterans at all.

That’s the message you get from photographer David Jay’s Unknown Soldier series.

Jay spent three years taking portraits of veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but before that — for nearly 20 years — he was a fashion photographer.

His stylish, artful images appeared in magazines like Vogue and Cosmopolitan.

“The fashion stuff is beautiful and sexy — and completely untrue,” he says.

Truth became the focus of Jay’s work for the first time about 10 years ago, when he started The SCAR Project, a series of portraits of women, naked from the waist up, with mastectomy scars.

Around the time he was taking those photos, he was also trying to comprehend the news coming from Iraq and Afghanistan.

May 25, 2015 3:43 AM ET

“We hear about ‘this number of men were killed’ and ‘this many were injured,'” Jay says, “and we think of them — maybe they got shot — or we don’t really picture what these injured men look like.”

So Jay visited Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, D.C., and one of the first injured soldiers he met there was Capt. Nicholas Vogt.

In 2011, an explosive device detonated under Vogt’s feet in Afghanistan, nearly killing him. His legs had to be amputated.

(Thousands around the world are being exploded every day by cluster bombs and land mines, furnished by the US and England. England provided cluster bombs to Israel, 3 days before cease fire in 2006, in order to prevent people from returning home. 10 years later, the UN are still demining south Lebanon))

“I had never seen anything like it,” Jay says. “It appeared that he ended at his waist.”

He asked Vogt if he would be willing to be photographed.

“And Nicholas was very kind and said, ‘Listen, I understand what you’re doing but I don’t think I can take part in that, certainly [not] right now,'” Jay recalls.

About a year later, Jay was back at Walter Reed and from across the room he heard someone yell, “Hey, photographer!”

This time, Vogt wanted to participate. He’d been working hard at his recovery and seeing results. He was swimming a lot and he had a girlfriend (a nurse at Walter Reed who is now his fiancé). Vogt gave Jay permission to take his picture, but he had some parameters.

“I wanted to make sure there was action, it was movement,” Vogt says. “Because I didn’t want to portray myself as someone that’s just waiting for medical retirement and going to be stationary for the rest of my life.”

David Jay delivered. In his portrait of Vogt, he captures that sensation of jumping into a swimming pool and feeling your body descend to the bottom. Vogt’s arms are stretched out and his eyes are tightly shut. Beneath his black swim trunks, there is nothing.

Vogt doesn’t know how other people will react to the portrait, but he’s glad he did it. “I just know I felt fulfilled afterwards,” he says. “I felt like it represented me as a person. Yeah, I was happy with the result.”

Army Spc. Jerral Hancock sits for a portrait with his son Julius. It is believed that Hancock was trapped under the wreckage of his Army tank in Iraq for half an hour before he was rescued. Courtesy of David Jay/Unknown Soldier hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of David Jay/Unknown Soldier

Army Spc. Jerral Hancock sits for a portrait with his son Julius. It is believed that Hancock was trapped under the wreckage of his Army tank in Iraq for half an hour before he was rescued.

 

Other portraits in Jay’s Unknown Soldier series are more graphic.

Take Army Spc. Jerral Hancock: On his 21st birthday, a roadside bomb hit the tank Hancock was driving in Iraq. The explosion sent shrapnel into his spine, paralyzing him.

Jay’s photographs of Hancock show him with his young son — in one, their eyes are fixed on each other; in another, they’re looking at the camera.

In both, the veteran is bare-chested, revealing his tattoos and the mangled skin and bone where his left arm was amputated.

Then there’s Sgt. Joel Tavera: When a rocket hit his Humvee in Iraq, he received third-degree burns across two-thirds of his body, including almost all of his face.

Jay believes these wounds belong to all of us: “You can imagine how many times each of these men and women have heard a parent tell their child, ‘Don’t look. Don’t stare at him. That’s rude.’

I take these pictures so that we can look; we can see what we’re not supposed to see. And we need to see them because we created them.”

Jay believes seeing is one step closer to understanding.

The Library of Congress has acquired images from his Unknown Soldier collection as part of its visual documentation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Patsy Z shared this link

As our lives go on as usual today, lets remember our vets, who’s lives are changed forever– and often lost.

Photographer David Jay says, “I take these pictures so that we can look;
we can see what we’re not supposed to see. And we need to see them because we…
npr.org

 

Americans have yet to grasp the horrific magnitude of the ‘war on terror’

New report documents unspeakable humanitarian and political toll

April 10, 2015

Even as the U.S. expands its military involvement in the Middle East and delays the troop drawdown from Afghanistan, the staggering human toll of the U.S. “war on terrorism” remains poorly understood.

A new report (PDF), whose release last month coincided with the 12th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, attempts to draw attention to civilian and combatant casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Yet the study, authored by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and other humanitarian groups, barely elicited a whisper in the media.

Washington’s preoccupation with the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other regional conflicts has largely obscured the humanitarian, economic and political toll of its “war on terrorism.”

But ISIL’s resurgence is Not unrelated to Washington’s military campaign.

“ISIL is a direct outgrowth of Al-Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion,” President Barack Obama told Vice News last month.

Until the U.S. comes to grips with the aftereffects of its counterterrorism policies, it will continue to pursue counterproductive strategies that cause incalculable damage.

The report estimates that at least 1.3 million people have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan from direct and indirect consequences of the U.S. “war on terrorism.”

One million people perished in Iraq alone, a shocking 5% of the country’s population.

The staggering civilian toll and the hostility it has engendered erodes the myth that the sprawling “war on terrorism” made the U.S. safer and upheld human rights, all at an acceptable cost.

As the authors point out, the report offers a conservative estimate. The death toll could exceed 2 million.

Those killed in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere from U.S. drone strikes were not included in the tally.

Besides, the body count does not account for the handicapped, thewounded, the grieving and the dispossessed.

There are 3 million internally displaced Iraqis and nearly 2.5 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, and 4 million in Syria

The U.S. tracks its own military deaths and physical injuries in Afghanistan and Iraq. (Its involvement in Pakistan has been more sporadic and secretive.)

Unsurprisingly, there are no conclusive government statistics on casualties and deaths among enemy combatants and civilians. This omission is by design.

In fact, authorities have sometimes deliberately falsified details about the carnage that the U.S. has wrought.

This isn’t the first accounting on the suffering unleashed by U.S. counterterrorism efforts, but the American public remains woefully misinformed.

A 2007 poll found that Americans estimated the Iraqi death toll at 10,000.

And it is not just the body count that has been obscured.

A 2011 study by the University of Maryland found that 38% of Americans still believe that the U.S. uncovered clear evidence that Saddam Hussein was working closely with Al-Qaeda, though the claim is patently untrue.

The failure to reckon with past miscalculations bodes ill for avoiding the same mistakes in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, where Washington is providing logistical support for the Saudi-led intervention.

The U.S. has evinced shocking indifference to the suffering its policies have caused.

The report admonishes policymakers and the public to avoid historical amnesia about the war’s costs — a phenomenon not unique to the recent past.

A flawed understanding of the toll of the Vietnam War still persists.

The death toll of 58,000 U.S. soldiers in Vietnam may be etched into our national consciousness, but those psychologically harmed from the war faded from view (It is reported that 60,000 veterans committed suicide).

And few can correctly cite the 2 million dead Vietnamese noncombatants, the lives lost and devastation from bombings in Laos and Cambodia or the war’s enduring legacy of health and environmental harms caused by defoliants. (Three generation later, Vietnamese are born with horrible disfiguring due to Orange gas)

There are other haunting parallels as well.

The Vietnam War had a destabilizing effect in the region that allowed the Khmer Rouge to thrive in Cambodia, where it committed genocide, for which there has been no real reckoning.

It is all too easy to dismiss the fighting in the Middle East as ancient and inevitable internecine conflicts that are wholly independent of U.S. intervention.

But that account precludes a reflective and critical assessment of how the region’s disintegration unfolded.

The “war on terrorism” is not over in Afghanistan.

In December the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported that 2014 saw the highest rate of civilian deaths and injuries in the five years the organization has kept statistics.

After announcing plans to wind down U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Obama recently said nearly 10,000 U.S. soldiers would remain in the country through the end of 2015.

The use of private military contractors, for which statistics are intentionally vague, clouds the full scope of the U.S. presence there. (Recently, the US court convicted 4 contractors to a life sentence for crimes in Iraq)

Obama maintains that the target date for the final drawdown remains unchanged, but anti-war activists who hoped his election would herald the end of the George W. Bush–era aggression have reined in their relief.

The “war on terrorism” costs the U.S. not only blood but also treasure.

The Costs of War project at Brown University estimated in June 2014 that the U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan would cost taxpayers “close to $4.4 trillion, not including future interest costs on borrowing for the wars,” through the end of 2014.

Last year 18% of the federal budget, or $615 billion, went to defense spending.

About 27% of 2014 tax payments went directly to the military, and an additional 18% went toward paying for past military actions. Interest costs will be at least $7.9 trillion by 2054 (PDF), unless Washington changes the way it pays its war debt. (With increased preemptive wars)

Despite the costs and inefficacy of Washington’s military interventions, support for the use of force has grown:

In three surveys by the Pew Research Center over the last decade, fewer than 40% of Americans believed in the use of force as the best strategy to combat terrorism, but recent Pew poll found that nearly half the Americans surveyed believed that military force is the best way to combat global terrorism.

The threat of terrorism has not receded in the wake of U.S. interventions.

Sanitizing the effect of Washington’s past military campaigns leads to a flawed and inhumane cost-benefit analysis for future missions.

And it provides political cover for leaders who should answer for the turmoil the U.S. has engendered.

The failure to reckon with previous miscalculations bodes ill for avoiding the same mistakes in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, where Washington is providing logistical support for the Saudi-led intervention.

This will not only cause unspeakable human suffering beyond our borders but also may come back to haunt us once more.

Lauren Carasik is a clinical professor of law and the director of the international human rights clinic at the Western New England University School of Law.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

Andrew Bossone shared this link and comments on FB

The staggering civilian toll and the hostility it has engendered erodes the myth that the sprawling “war on terrorism” made the U.S. safer and upheld human rights, all at an acceptable cost.

As the authors point out, the report offers a conservative estimate. The death toll could exceed 2 million. Those killed in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere from U.S. drone strikes were not included in the tally. Besides, the body count does not account for the wounded, the grieving and the dispossessed.

There are 3 million internally displaced Iraqis and nearly 2.5 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.

See More

New report documents unspeakable humanitarian and political toll
america.aljazeera.com

adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

June 2019
M T W T F S S
« May    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Blog Stats

  • 1,292,123 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 669 other followers

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: