By Dr Hakim

22nd August 2017

I used to think that, to help children suffering in war zones, governments should combine their military might to rid that zone of ‘the bad guys’ or ‘the terrorists’.

I used to think, even after medical training, that those affected by ‘trauma’ are not strong enough, until I met Afghan children, and until trauma and anger possessed me.

But I don’t want to dwell on my proxy war experience. I want to present you two video clips of Afghan children talking about war, as a way of inviting all of us to look deep into the lives and psyche of these hardworking, resilient Afghan street kids and teenagers.

To let them speak to us without our judgment or pity.

Hopefully, these children can guide us towards abolishing war, because if we listen actively enough, we can see and hear in their young faces and voices our guns, our bombs, and our fatal habits of using armed force.

Defending ourselves and others is necessary, but for Habib’s sake, Sakina, Ismayil, Bey-Nazir and Mahdi’s sake, we ought to say ‘no’ to war as a means of ‘defense’.

How can war be ‘defensive’ or ‘necessary’ when it generates more war?

NB: According to a study in the Journal of Traumatic Stress reported by Dr. Claudia Catani of the University of Bielefeld in 2010, half of the Afghan children had post-traumatic stress.

Afghan Teenager Habib says, ‘Crying softens my heart a little’

Narration: Since Habib’s father was killed in a suicide bombing attack in 2011, Habib has had various jobs in Kabul’s streets: taking the weight of pedestrians, selling apricot juice, socks or pre-paid mobile phone cards…

Habib: For example, we’re sitting at home having a meal and a family member is out working in the bazaar. Suddenly, there’s a suicide bombing attack. We get frantic that perhaps our family member was in the bomb area. We don’t know what to do. We make phone calls, “Where are you? Are you there or not?” I get very worried….my heart thumps fast…’duk, duk, duk’….my breathing gets tighter and tighter like it’s being cut off.  I have a very bad feeling. I get little sleep and lose my appetite. I’m afflicted by a thousand other illnesses.

Habib: War has a very bad effect on my mother. When she sees that her children are in such a bad situation, she cannot endure it. She cries, and if it gets worse, she faints and gets depressed.

Habib: If one gets angry, one may faint or cry.

Interviewer: You cry?

Habib: Yes, the tears come, don’t they? Every human being cries. Crying ‘softens’ my heart a little.

Interviewer: Makes the heart lighter?

Habib: Yes.

Interviewer: Do you cry often or only sometimes?

Habib: What should I say? I cry whenever the tears come.

Interviewer: Do you cry alone or in the presence of others?

Habib: I sit alone in some place and cry….I don’t cry aloud. I just cry in my heart.

Interviewer: Does crying empty your heart?

Habib: It empties my heart but not completely, not 100%, perhaps 50% or 60%. 40% remains…and later, when I remember the bitter past, my heart becomes…….but with time, the memories fade….

Interviewer: Did you have a difficult past?

Habib: Yes.

Interviewer: Could you describe one of the difficult past experiences?

Habib: I had so many difficult experiences that I can’t finish telling them in 2 or 5 minutes.

Interviewer: Just tell a one minute story, or just one difficult past experience.

Habib: I didn’t have money in my pocket to run away from the oppressive situation.

Interviewer: So, you cried more then?

Habib: Yes.

Habib: We say, “Let the past be well and say ‘salam’ to the future!’ I try my best not to keep the past in my heart. The past is past. Let it be.

Narration: Habib says his volunteer permaculture work at Kabul University helps him. Habib’s grandma said that, once, Habib had ‘lost his mind’…walking in his yard and talking to himself.

Afghan children can’t sleep in peace at night

Interviewer: Did you see the firing?

Sakina: Yes..six fiery bullets went up into the sky.

Interviewer: Weren’t you frightened?

Sakina: No.

Ismayil: How can we be afraid when night and day in this country, there is war? If it was war only on one or two days…but no, it’s every day.

Interviewer: War every day?

Ismayil: Yes.

Interviewer: Aren’t you afraid?

Ismayil: No.

Interviewer: When you hear the sound of bombs, aren’t you frightened?

Ismayil: So many people are killed ( martyred ).

Mahdi: We may not be frightened but we’re sad. So close to Eid, many families are grieving.

Mahdi: There’s so much ‘peace’ in Afghanistan that there can be 10 suicide bombings! This kind of ‘peace’ kills so many people…We always have anger and fear. We’re always thinking, “Maybe, there’ll be another suicide bombing.”

Bey-Nazir: We should advise others not be suicide bombers.

Interviewer: Should other countries send their armies to fight in Afghanistan?

Mahdi: No, when they fight, there’ll be more war, and the situation in Afghanistan will get worse.

Mahdi: Governments should give attention to progress through peaceful means. There are areas in Afghanistan where there’s always war such that people cannot sleep in peace at night.

Mahdi: No one can sleep in peace at night. Governments should take note of this.

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