Afghan youth’s wish to “Stop fighting!”

Afghan youth to the leaders of today, “Stop fighting! And stop saying that we the people don’t understand. We’ve seen through your greedy games.”

Six Afghan Peace Volunteers ( Afghanistan ) were invited by Ekta Parishad ( India ) to participate in the International Program on Gandhi and Nonviolence in India from the 10th of September, 2014 to the 26th of September, 2014. Youth from 13 other countries participated.

Wars

War isn’t peace.

Love can open every border!

Join us on this photo-journey as we and internationals encourage one another to nurture ‘borderfree’ relationships and communities of nonviolence, so that we can live, study, work and relate differently from the ‘adults’ who can’t stop fighting.

Members of Team

“I am happy when I see people from different ethnic groups together.”

Barath Khan, 21, Pashtun, 2nd year law undergraduate

 

 “I am sometimes happy, and sometimes sad.”

Mohammad Hussein alias Khamad, 25, Hazara, 1st year law undergraduate

 

“I am hopeful for the future.”

Faiz Ahmad, 23, Tajik, 3rd year journalism undergraduate

 

 “I am a lover of gardens.”

Raz Mohammad, 22, Pashtun, 2nd year civil engineering undergraduate

 

“I am a dreamer.”

Abdulhai, 18, Hazara, 11th grader

 

 “I am passionate about dancing.”

Zekerullah, 18, Hazara, 8th grader

A few words on the first and second day of travel, 10th and 11th September 2014

 

 A row of excitement at Kabul International Airport. “We’re on our way!”

Left to right : Abdulhai, Barath, Khamad, Faiz, Raz. Zekerullah”

 

Our feelings at while at Kabul International Airport

“It’ll be so ‘delchasp’ ( Dari for ‘sticky for the heart/interesting’ ) to meet new friends in India,” Khamad

“Traveling is one of my dreams!” Abdulhai

“I feel new, excited and curious!” Barath Khan

“So many things are happening that it feels a little like a mess,” Zekerullah

“Things happen by chance. What if something happens to the plane?” Faiz

“Afghanistan still seems so backward in using technology,” Raz Mohammad


Traveling light, 7 of us arrived in Delhi with only two checked-in luggage,

one of them full of Borderfree Blue Scarves!

Rain and greenery struck us on the roads

Paint peeling off walls, pigeons perched on wire

after the rain

homeless in Delhi

crippled beggar boy among cars

 

mother and daughter selling flowers


 young girl selling pens to make a living

Meeting our new friends, Ravi ( red shirt ) and Lachman ( extreme right ) ,

at the Ekta Parishad office in Delhi

Random feelings through the day

“Out through the plane’s window, I was happy to see that the clouds in the sky were as beautiful as snow!” Khamad

“Young girls and mothers walked on the main roads, begging for money from car passengers. Poverty is everywhere….it’s not a good feeling.” Abdulhai

“I had to reassure my mother just before the plane took off that I’ll call her as soon as I landed in Delhi,” Barat Khan

“The rain was so heavy! No wonder Delhi is so green. I smelt so many different odours that at first, I thought there were cows nearby!” Zekerullah

“I want to write what I can about the trip as I realize how precious opportunities like this are,” Faiz

“When I left Afghanistan, I felt both happy and sad. Sad because for the first time, I was leaving home,” Raz Mohammad

The third day dawns, Friday the 12th of September

 

chapattis at a roadside stall for breakfast

At Gandhi Smriti ( Birla House ), where Gandhi was assassinated

When going for his morning prayers

 

 At Raj Ghat Gandhi memorial,

where Gandhi‘s funeral was held & where he was cremated

The Afghan Peace Volunteers with the World Gong for Peace

On the Indian Rail on the way to Gwalior

Some more thoughts

 “When we had chapattis for breakfast at a roadside stall, the vendors were curious that we ate so many pieces of chapatti, not just one! Our ‘naans’ ( Afghan bread ) are much bigger than their chapattis!” Abdulhai

“I got off the train at the station to buy drinks, and almost got left behind when the train started moving off…what would I have done without knowing how to speak any Hindi?” Barat Khan

 “I felt a kind of sorrow when I saw homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk.” Zekerullah

“The people of India are gentle. They are a good people!” Khamad

 The third day dawns, Friday the 12th of September 

 

 

“Wake up!” exhorted Lachman, who had walked through seven carriages to make sure all of us alighted at Gwalior station at 0110 hrs. “Ravi and Dilip are already waiting on the platform for all of you!”

Ravi, Dilip and Lachman are 3rd, 4th and 6th from the left

Indians, Afghans and other citizenry don’t have to fight any of their elite’s wars

“Can we stay with you and others, and not at this hotel?” requested all the youth. “Thank you for wanting to stay at our centre in Gwalior, the Mahatma Gandhi Seva Ashram. We can see that you’re committed to deep values,” Ravi, who has been working with Ekta Parishad for four years, responded.

“Eighth grade!” Ravi remarked upon hearing Zekerullah introduce himself. “I wish I had not spent 30 years figuring out what to do with my life. People like Zekerullah who grapple with what they want in their youth give me hope!”

Borderfree at Mahatma Gandhi Seva Ashram in Gwalior!

Exchanging the blue ( sky and humanity without borders )  of our scarves

with the green and white ( land and peace ) of Ekta Parishad sling bags.

 “Sunil ( the manager of the Ashram ) is so hardworking!” noticed Abdulhai immediately, washing his food tray after the vegetarian lunch, like everyone else. 

“The Ashram staff are so considerate, waiting for us to have enough food before they had their meal,” Barath

 

Sunil has the same blue-green eyes as Barath

 “Gwalior is different from Delhi,” remarked Zekerullah. “The air seems better!” We could see low hills on the horizon. No tall buildings. Fields green with rice, groundnuts, sugar cane, millet and wheat. House compounds of workers chiseling stones into plates for use in construction.

We were taken to Jai Vilas Palace, where the Scindia royal family used to stay. Built in 1874, 35 of its rooms have been converted into a museum which we visited. It had the high ceilings and ornamented décor that would have reflected the squeals and laughter of its previous royal occupants, echoing with its pompous size.

Jas Valis Palace

 “Abdulhai, I think you and I would feel lonely here despite being surrounded by the comforts of wealth,” I said.

 A few of the youth gathered to ‘protest’ before a museum display of a palace guard raising a sword,

“Can we take a photo with you?” enthusiastic Indian high school students who were also visiting Jas Vilas Palace requested. “Of course!” resounded Zekerullah, Abdulhai, Faiz and Barath

Fight with one another? You must be kidding!

It’s the youth of the world who will be friends, and stop our wars!

 

The fourth day grows, Saturday the 13th of September

‘Paho’ ( rice and potatoes ) for breakfast

 Zekerullah said on the way to visiting two Adivasi ( indigenous ) villages, “Indian drivers honk a lot, but they don’t honk at the cows!

 

 

From left to right : Abdulhai, Raz, Pranu, Zekerullah, Khamad, Rosselle,

Roya, Barath, Lithon, Faiz, Shradda, Ravi and Dr Ran Singh.

Rosselle is Italian, and speaks conversational Hindi.

Lithon is from Action Aid in Bangladesh.

Pranu is involved in a land reform movement in Nepal.


 “Khub hastid? ( Dari for ‘Are you fine?’ )” asked Roya, a South African peace builder whose mixed family is an example of breaking false human borders. “My father is Iranian, my mother Scottish, and I’m married to a Zimbabwean. My younger brother is married to a Chinese! How’s that?!”

 

“What a welcome by the villagers!” the Afghan youth agreed.

 

 

 

The boys and men

 

 

 

The women

 

 

 

Foot marches are a way of nonviolent action for the Adivasis with Ekta Parishad.

They had 100,000 people in their 2012 Jan Satyagraha March

 

 

 

The first Adivasi village we visited. At every village,

 they told us stories over how they are nonviolently asking for their land rights

 

 

 

The village women leaders singing of their struggle

 

 

A village community leader of how a bullet had scraped his nose and killed a child

“We will not fight, and we will not leave our land.”

 

 

 

Zekerullah and Khamad with two children outside their village house

 

The villagers depend on farming the land for their livelihoods

 

 

 

They served us lunch with bowls and plates made from dried leaves stitched together by twigs

 

 

People Power!

India breathes in the villages

http://youtu.be/TRDnUAqlWdw

 We visited an Indian village of adivasis ( tribal people ) & saw their resolute unity in claiming their entitled rights to the land.

They marched, sang, danced, organized nonviolently and told us their stories.

Their struggle is the struggle of the world.

“If the police comes, and tries to evacuate us, we will give up our lives, but we will not leave this land.”

“Victory to the people of the world!”

 

So many thoughts

“I felt so happy when a village lady danced along ( Zekerullah had danced in gratitude for the hospitality of the villagers ). I’m motivated to develop a team of multi-ethnic APVs who will dance the ‘atan’ ( Afghan traditional dance usually only danced by the Pashtuns).” Zekerullah

“I loved the way the village women sang with one voice. I also liked the way the two men told their stories through songs.” Khamad

“I enjoyed the use of bowls and plates hand-made from leaves.” Raz

“Courage is not related to wealth. We could see how courageous these impoverished people are!” Faiz

“The rich will not sit or work together, the way the poor do!” Barat Khan

“Change cannot happen through one person. Change needs everyone.” Abdulhai

The fifth day and sixth day, Sunday & Monday the 14th & 15th of September

 

 

 

Indian female community leader mobilized women

to solve their village problem of alcoholism among the men

 

 

 

The women collect these medicinal roots to sell and the people grow groundnuts on the land.

The villagers want rights to the land they and their forefathers have always worked on

St
oring hay

70% of the Indian population is dependent on the land for their livelihoods

 

 

 

At another Ashram in Chambal region

 

 

 

Dacoits, who were bandit fighters,

surrendered in a reconciliation program initiated by Subra Rao and Rajagopal

 

 

 

Self-reliant small industry continues at the Ashram through the hand-weaving of towels and clothes

 

 

 

The Ashram has also adopted nonviolent methods of bee-keeping.

Wild bees have decreased in numbers due to pesticide use.

 

The seventh & eighth day, Tuesday & Wednesday 16th & 17thof September

 

The start of the International Youth Camp on Nonviolence

at the Manav Jeevan Vikas Samiti ( Centre of Human and Youth Development

Organic farming on 150 acres of land at Manav Jeevan Vikas Samiti,

providing food for the 150 participants at the conference!

 

 

 

With 25 internationals from 13 other countries : India, Bangladesh, Nepal, France, Italy,

Germany, Switzerland, Columbia, Guatemala, Brazil, Senegal, Zimbabwe, South Africa

 Planting a tree for Afghanistan at Manav Jeevan Vikas Samiti 

 

 

 

Abdulhai dancing with international and Indian participants

 

 

 

Drawings are a key method in teaching nonviolent actions to villagers

 

 

 

Singing and dancing is a prominent non-violent teaching and mobilization method

Our Eyes and Ears Open

“I felt disappointed with myself for not being able to speak English or Hindi, but was glad I could communicate through dance!” Zekerullah

“Things are well organized with good participation from everyone.” Raz

“I’m enjoying the interaction with new friends from different countries, and understanding more of different customs and personalities!” Abdulhai

 “Speaking to the youth from the various countries has shown me that we all face common problems with bad education systems, unemployment and social injustices.” Faiz

“I found the long discussions a little boring but when someone claps, sings or dances, everything comes alive!” Barath

“No one bothers or troubles anyone here! It’s so nice!” Khamad

The ninth day, 18th of September, Nonviolent Mobilization

“The crises in various countries mentioned by different international participants have common roots.

Rosselle, the Italian educator, spoke of unemployment and violence against women in Italy.” Faiz

 

David, from Switzerland, a recent graduate in Social Work,

 is volunteering with Ekta Parishad for the next 6 months

 

Abdulhai taking a break from the discussions and the humid heat

The Latin American team presented their ideas to the Indian participant

Marcello and Taka from Brazil sharing about the Free Fare Movement in Brazil,

a people’s movement to demand free public transport.

The tenth day, Friday the 19thof September, Plant for Peace


We joined tree planting events organized by Kadam Sasanth,

an Indian NGO running a ‘Plant for Peace Campaign’

 

 

 At a high school, we helped distribute seeds ( seen here in packets on the table ) to students

as part of a tree planting competition in which 90,000 students will vie for the best nurtured tree

 

 Kadam Sanstha has had its members grow a tree every day and on their birthdays since 2004

 

 

The Afghan youth planting their tree with members of Kadam Sasanth.

Kadam Sasanth has plans for a month long tree-planting campaign

in Israel/Palestine whose purpose is to ask for a permanent ceasefire

 

Forming a Borderfree human chain of solidarity to end all wars,

including socio-economic, environmental and military wars

 

The Afghan Peace Volunteers & internationals ( Roselle from Italy, Sebastian from Columbia, Gilbert from Zimbabwe, Kumar from Nepal )

briefly explained a dream to form a global human chain

 

The circle of the human family

Walking hand in hand, scarf to scarf

 

Under the same blue sky!

 

Borderfree Skyline in India

http://youtu.be/rGj7RC_9gWM

 

The 12th day, 21st September, International Day of Peace

Lighting candles to remember those lost to violence in wars around the world

 

Sebastian from Columbia ( wearing cap ) , told us that up to 1 million Columbians

 

have been killed in armed conflict in Columbia over the decades of armed conflict

 

 

The 13th day, 22nd September, Last Day of Program

 

 

Doing yoga as an exercise and meditation. 

The participants are in a hut of the Bhopal Gandhi Ashram symbolizing the unity of major world religions

 

The international participants having a day out along Bhopal lake

 Bhopal Lake

The 14th & 15th day, 23rd & 24th September, Visiting Lotus Temple. Lodhi Garden and the Taj Mahal

 

At the Bahai’s  Lotus Temple in Delhi

Zekerullah thinking about our Borderfree Nonviolence Library in Kabul

while sitting in the Library of Lotus Temple

The team at Taj Mahal

Zekerullah and Abdulhai resting on the marble porch of Taj Mahal

Barath making new Indian friends at Agra Fort.

Barath has found Indians friendly and not prejudiced compared to Afghans

At Agra Fort, Zekerullah reflects on the lessons he learnt during trip:

“We need to persuade ordinary people everywhere about nonviolence and that is a challenge!”

A Tajik, Hazara and a Pashtun taking the midnight train back to Delhi

 

Some further reflections

 “An important part of Ekta Parishad’s work is the small but significant financial contribution from the poorest Indian villagers, some saving one rupee a day for their cause, ” Faiz

“Whenever we were introduced as Afghans during this trip, I sensed that people were both curious and surprised, as if they expected us to be wild people, though all of them were kind to us. I felt sad when we sad to say goodbye to our new-found friends, ” Zekerullah

“I’m angry that the leaders of Afghanistan have maintained a system of injustice and war that has weakened our minds. I couldn’t analyze social affairs like others could during the program. I also learnt that if we work hard, we can achieve the things we wish for,” Khamad

“What internationals value and what we value seem quite different. Lifestyles are also very different. We each have to figure out what we want in life,” Abdulhai

“I feel the acute difference between the situation in other countries and in Afghanistan is that Afghanistan has an ongoing war. The Indians and other international delegates will not return to an uncertain situation of war. We will,” Raz

“We need a lot of time and patience to do this work of nonviolence in Afghanistan.” Barath

What the Afghan Peace Volunteers learnt in India

http://youtu.be/p8olZKlED1s

 


 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Who we are

The Afghan Peace Volunteers are a grassroots group of multi-ethnic Afghan youth who are committed to nonviolence and who wish to live without wars. They volunteer at the Borderfree Community Centre of Nonviolence.

Ekta Parishad is a non-violent people’s movement dedicated to helping India’s poorest people gain self-governance over livelihood resources, especially land, water and forest.

We wish to live without Wars

Today’s socioeconomic wars are such that the 85 richest people of the world own the same wealth as 3.5 billion poorest people.

We human beings have extracted from, over-heated and waged such wars against Mother Earth and the environment that we’re risking ‘severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts on people and ecosystems’.

We are killing one another in offensive and defensive wars, ‘wars against terrorism’, ‘humanitarian’ wars, ‘preventive’ wars, proxy wars, all sorts of military wars. In some war zones, like in Afghanistan, the majority of civilian casualties are now our children.

The wars waged on our learning through profit-and-power driven education systems attempt to trick us into believing that the status quo of exploitative and authoritarian inequalities is necessary. We reject this militarized thinking, because experience and understanding has taught us that wars have NOT made us safer, but has made the world less secure and less pem/strongeaceful.

 

 

/pstrong

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