* A Different Afghan Winter Photo Essay Series

Green

Permaculture: Being Vulnerable with one another and with the Earth’s Feelings

Bamiyan Peace Park: Even the Stones will Speak

Equal

Genderless Bikes in Afghanistan

Afghan Street Kid Mehdi’s Disappearing Dream

Another hard reality about Afghan duvets

Nonviolent

Relationships can heal ‘terrorism’

Ending the war inside and outside us

For Omid, Mursal, Mehdi, and the Afghan Peace Volunteers, this winter in Afghanistan was different from the usual.

“This is the Afghan story, that I’ve been a breadwinner since I was very little,” 19 year old Omid said with perceptible angst. It is a usual story for young Afghans to have prematurely lost one or two parents, and to have to pick themselves up again and again to face the world. “I’ve taken up different kinds of ‘jobs for the poor’ ( ‘gharibi kardum’).”

“But, it still doesn’t quite work out,” Omid looked down in pensive thought. I could only imagine how Omid had tried twice to smuggle himself to Europe, once running away from threatening gunshots.

“I’ve found a flicker of hope this winter, helping with the duvet project, and then learning about the climate, sun, water, soil and food through the permaculture design course.”

15 year old Mehdi had signed up for the course too.

I wish he had stayed throughout the course with Nisar, another street kid, and 42 other Afghan youth. Mehdi told me shyly, “Teacher, I thought someone else had taken my place in the course.” My guess was that his father needed him to find some extra income for the family. It was to make ends meet that Mehdi had to stop schooling last year. Isn’t this especially hard for an industrious, considerate kid who dreams of being a doctor?

Mursal is 13 or 14, and after two years in the Borderfree Street Kids School, she has discovered the activist within her, recently learning to ride the bicycle with the Borderfree Afghan Cycling Club. One day, she approached me and other volunteer teachers, saying, “I want to organize support for street vendors who are hit by the police with their batons.” My soul lit up, recognizing the struggle against such injustices which sparked the Tunisian revolution and ensuing Arab Spring.

Witnessing the energy of these never-say-die stalwarts who are too young to be shouldering responsibilities which adults have shirked, I feel like I’m at the edge of a cliff.

All over the world, we’re grasping this reality: the political, military and economic elite are bringing ‘The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist’s doomsday’s clock of earth and humanity’ to three ‘minutes to midnight’.

That’s why more and more people are autonomously building another world. Like Omid, Mehdi, Mursal and the Afghan Peace Volunteers, they are saying, “#Enough! is #Enough!”

I’ve tried to tell these stories through *six photo essays. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did in putting them together.

They depict the #Enough! GENeration I’m privileged to be working with, tender human beings who wish to nurture Green, Equal and Nonviolent relationships.

They are sick and tired of war, and want to abolish it. They represent the fragile, better sides of our human nature. They are the 99%.

It excites me that they could change everything even if their group ceases to be, because they try to work with ‘root meanings’ and not ‘superficial terms’, and because they’re suggesting a way, and not a thing or a person that can be eliminated or imprisoned.

These green, equal and nonviolent relationships can change our politics, economy, environment and our understanding of safe and secure spaces. They have been changing me by laughing, crying, worrying, healing and shivering with me.

Their love is carrying me through the whole range of emotions which point me to a better world, to who I really am, a human, a fellow human being.

 

Gender-less bikes in Afghanistan

Despite being officially the ‘inferior’ gender, Halima and Mahtab were determined.

Fatima was excited.

Mursal had practiced hard but couldn’t ride with them on the International Day for Women.

After all, this was Afghanistan, where some prefer women not to be seen in her streets,

where life has stood still and hard,

where war is a mistake repeated by the U.S. and the Taliban and all alike,

where high walls and rampant guns take precedence over food and trees.

It wasn’t just the female volunteers who wanted to rescue the International Day for Women,

the boys understood their responsibility too.

So they turned up together,

and got on gender-less bicycles, borrowed, rented.

With blue neck scarves,

they flocked into a beautiful multi-coloured group,

waiting for no one

to decide on whether they should pedal,

or how,

bearing the stares and insults of people imprisoned in their fearful minds.

They breathed gentle words of strength,

“I feel independent.”

“We feel so good!”

“I’m free!”

They were not thoughtless rebels,

as each and every one wore her head scarf.

Their resistance was fortified in their smiles.

Both boys and girls didn’t care if they were un-noticed by the media –

they knew they were making small history.

15 year old Razia went before the crowd of about 300 celebrants,

after the volunteers had handed the women a rose each,

Razia released her tune,

another ‘unseen’ Afghan element,

the voice of a girl.

Such were the sentiments that floated through the court,

while military helicopters flew overhead,

that some of the listeners cried openly.

Surely tears were not un-manly or un-womanly

on such an occasion.

Because it’s really rough on main street,

the drivers, literally all male,

are impatient,

angry,

desperate to feed their families,

thinking, “What on earth are these boys doing holding up the traffic?”

Weaving past car bumpers and through the shield of male cyclists,

Afsana sailed by, wearing a T shirt that declared in print,

“Take care of…

PLANET Minded,

One-earth,

Green

One chance”.

She, along with the 30 plus female cyclists,

was our sister,

our mother earth,

just as Halima and Mahtab were,

and Bahara and….

Don’t you feel like cycling with this group of new, equal beings,

whatever your worries about Kabul?

Don’t you want to spring a surprise,

to turn a corner,

to be in tandem,

and to take a stand, however inconvenient or uncertain?

Gender-less bikes in Afghanistan

01 Halima and Mahtab

Despite being officially the ‘inferior’ gender, Halima and Mahtab were determined.

02 Fatima felt excited

Fatima was excited.

Mursal Learns to Ride a Bike

Mursal had practiced hard but couldn’t ride with them on the International Day for Women.

03 Afghan woman in the streets

After all, this was Afghanistan, where some prefer women not to be seen in her streets,

04 on the road

where life has stood still and hard,

05 insecurity in Kabul

where war is a mistake repeated by the U.S. and the Taliban and all alike,

where high walls and rampant guns take precedence over food and trees.

06 ready to go

It wasn’t just the female volunteers who wanted to rescue the International Day for Women,

07 Cake for Int Women's Day

the boys understood their responsibility too.

08 Borderfree Afghan Cycling Club

So they turned up together,

09 Genderless bikes

and got on gender-less bicycles, borrowed, rented.

10 Borderfree Blue Scarves

With blue neck scarves,

11 colour and energy

they flocked into a beautiful multi-coloured group,

12 wait for none

waiting for no one

13 off together

to decide on whether they should pedal,

14 the sun

or how,

15 ignore the stares

bearing the stares and insults of people imprisoned in their fearful minds.

16 free

17 what a sight

18 Mahtab felt happy

They breathed gentle words of strength,

“I feel independent.”

“We feel so good!”

“I’m free!”

19 Halima leads the team

They were not thoughtless rebels,

as each and every one wore her head scarf.

20 Fatima smiles

Their resistance was fortified in their smiles.

21 the male cyclists

22 the female cyclists

Both boys and girls didn’t care if they were un-noticed by the media –

they knew they were making small history.

23 the audience

15 year old Razia went before the crowd of about 300 celebrants,

25 a flower for you

after the volunteers had handed the women a rose each,

24 Razia sings

Razia released her tune,

another ‘unseen’ Afghan element,

the voice of a girl.

26 I have a voice

27 moved

Such were the sentiments that floated through the court,

28 helicopter overhead

while military helicopters flew overhead,

29 affirmation

that some of the listeners cried openly.

30 quiet rebels

Surely tears were not un-manly or un-womanly

on such an occasion.

31 Kabul traffic

Because it’s really rough on main street,

the drivers, literally all male,

are impatient,

angry,

desperate to feed their families,

thinking, “What on earth are these boys doing holding up the traffic?”

32 paving the way for Afsana

Weaving past car bumpers and through the shield of male cyclists,

Afsana sailed by, wearing a T shirt that declared in print,

33 Afsana with her planet minded T shirt

“Take care of…

PLANET Minded,

One-earth,

Green

One chance”.

34 our brothers and sisters

She, along with the 30 plus female cyclists,

was our sister,

our mother earth,

just as Halima and Mahtab were,

and Bahara and….

35 taking the streets of Kabul

Don’t you feel like cycling with this group of new, equal beings,

whatever your worries about Kabul?

36 the beautiful people

37 energy

Don’t you want to spring a surprise,

38 around the bend together

to turn a corner,

39 tandem

to be in tandem,

41 standing on bikes

40 taking a stand

and to take a stand, however inconvenient or uncertain?

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