In the article “The peace hope is gone – now IS is getting stronger ” DN’s Erik Ohlsson writes on 27 August that “the weak peace hope that the war-weary Afghan population could discern just a few months ago has now definitely been extinguished”.
We are on our way home after leading seminars in Kabul with young adult Afghans and want to convey that hope has not been extinguished at all. The situation is very difficult and Afghans are undoubtedly war-weary – but they are also tired of the one-sided negative reporting from their country.
We have done this at the invitation of the Shuhada Organization, an association that builds schools and care facilities around the country and then hands them over to the authorities. The 35 participants in our workshops have been students and teachers at Shuhada University as well as representatives of non-profit organizations in Kabul. What they have in common is that they want to work for women’s and children’s rights and for peace.
There is a lot of hope for peace In the
midst of all the difficulties, the participants succeed in preserving their hope for a better society and a better life. Even though they understand how difficult it is to have peace, they are willing to do what they can to achieve it.
During one of our sessions, the participants first had to tell about their own experiences of war. The stories were about everything from not seeming to have any such experiences despite the fact that 10 died in a car bomb in Kabul just a few days earlier (!), To having sat in a bus in the middle of the crossfire between the Taliban and government forces.
Then they talked about their vision of peace in Afghanistan. Mahdi Mohammadi, a young man who works at the university, said:
– I get a good feeling from thinking about peace. I imagine that the river Kabul is full of clean water. Peace makes people happy. There will be a lot of work, so that everyone can work. Many foreigners have come here to help us during the war. When there is peace, they can return but without feeling threatened, without weapons and without fear.
A young female student said:
– It is very interesting to imagine and talk about peace. All students can focus on their subjects and homework, not on security issues and war. And they can think about how they can take their university and themselves forward and contribute new ideas to the world’s knowledge. Families send their children to schools and universities without worry. So everyone can plan for their long-term goals.
There is an unwavering desire to work for peace
We have met several other organizations, all of which work for a peaceful and equal Afghanistan. Voice of Afghan Women Journalists makes it easier for women to practice their profession and make their and other women’s voices heard. The Women & Life Organization works with education and crafts to strengthen women with knowledge of rights and to create understanding from men. The Swedish Afghanistan Committee has a very good reputation in the country. For 35 years, they have run schools, rural development, midwifery education and are a strong force for the rights and well-being of the disabled. They have more than 5,000 employees in the country. All but 20 are Afghans.
Life as usual and the garden Bagh-e Babur
One of the managers we met wondered if there was something wrong with him and other Afghans:
– The bomb yesterday exploded 200 m from my house. 40 injured and 10 dead. And today I’m in the office, laughing and working as if nothing had happened. That’s how we handle it.
For most people, life goes on as usual here in Kabul, even though it is the worst month in a long time. We see people walking at Kabul Zoo, and riding carousels at the amusement park in the middle of the city. In the 500-year-old Bagh-e Babur Park, young boys and girls look out for each other and families have picnics.
People in Afghanistan have been suffering from war for too long. Their situation is not improved by our indulgence in hopelessness. They need a world that continues to believe in and work for peace. If we stop doing that, we will leave the way open for even more destructive forces.
Amelie Andersson, social worker, author, Listener Without Borders
Fredrik Eklöf, leadership consultant, social entrepreneur, Listener Without Borders
Afghan students talk for peace and human rights.
Dr Salehi (Gawharshad Institute of Higher Education, a university with gender and peace talks on the schedule), Amelie Andersson (Listener Without Borders), Sadaf Ashrafi, (Gawharshad), Fredrik Eklöf (Listener Without Borders), Jawad Wafa, ( Shuhada Organization which runs Gawharshad, and a large number of schools and care facilities).
Babur’s Garden in Kabul, laid out in the 16th century and rebuilt many times.
Kabul amusement park.
Love graffiti in Kabul.
Daoud, a young man playing traditional Hazara music for his friends high up on one of Kabul’s mountains.