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.
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,
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
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
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
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
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 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
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!
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
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
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.