FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

No One Hears the Poor

Kabul.

Here in Kabul, Voices co-coordinator Buddy Bell and I are guests at the home of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, (APV), where we’ve gotten to know four young boys who are being tutored by the Volunteers in the afternoons, having “retired” from their former work as street vendors in exchange for a chance to enter a public school.  Five afternoons a week, Murtaza, Rahim, Hamid and Sajad wheel their antiquated bicycles into the APV “yard.” They quickly shake the hand of each person present and then wash their feet outside the back door before settling into a classroom to study language, math and art, tutored in each subject by a different Volunteer. They’ve cycled here from school through heavy traffic, which worries their mothers, but the families cannot afford for the boys to take a public bus.

Today, their mothers were here to observe the class, quietly sipping tea as they watched the two youngest boys practice writing the Dari alphabet, (Dari is an official Afghan language), while the older boys, age 12 and 13, took turns reading, in Dari, a chapter about the respiratory system from an elementary school science book. The APVs hope to help the mothers learn tailoring, so they can become tailors  in the community  and earn a modest income.

Later, the boys played volleyball, and when the ball went over the wall as it often does, the three of them switched to a makeshift game of ping-pong using their plastic sandals as paddles, while Rahim climbed to the top of a tree, walked confidently on the ledge of the wall and then jumped about fifteen feet to the ground below to retrieve the volleyball.

The mothers, Fatima, Nuria and Nekbat, are overjoyed to see their children getting an education, and smiled as they expressed their thanks for a few hours of quiet, in their homes each morning, with the young and sometimes mischievous boys away at school.

Nuria, the youngest, is mother of Rahim and Hamid.  She hopes they can escape the
tragedy that has befallen her husband who has become addicted to opium. By washing clothes, she earns a small income to support the family.

Murtaza’s mother, Fatima, takes care of Murtaza’s father at home – an earlier illness left her husband paralyzed from the waist down. Most of her right hand is scarred from where she scalded it while baking bread in a tandoor oven.

Sajad’s mother, Nekbat, appears to be in her late forties.  Recalling her own years growing up in Kabul during earlier Afghan wars, she spoke about family members being without work.  There was little food and children couldn’t go to school.  Eventually, her parents, displaced by war, would take the family and seek refuge in Iran. Nuria remembers fleeing as a child from one area of Kabul to another, running from killings and attacks waged by Massoud, Gulbuddin and others

The women still hear stories of people who are fleeing attacks in the Hazarajat area, where Kuchi and Hazara groups are fighting, and they know many people who have recently arrived in Kabul as refugees from areas gripped by war. The fighting has increased in the past few years.  Previously, borders were more porous and people could flee.  Now the borders appear to be closing down.

The mothers teach their children that war is always wrong, that it brings sorrow, and that the children should find productive work rather than enlist, as so many do on all sides of this conflict, often because they want to help feed their families.

In Afghanistan, “women have a bad situation,” said Fatima.  “We are illiterate, and we can’t find work that will help us meet expenses.”

They pay one- to two-thousand Afghanis a month for rent.  Their homes are compounds where several families share one kitchen. Bread, potatoes, and tea without sugar constitute their normal daily meals.

Fatima recalls the past winter which was particularly harsh.  They couldn’t afford fuel and had to find other ways to keep warm.  But Nuria adds that all the seasons present constant problems, and it is always difficult for the family to make ends meet. Asked whether they could recall ever getting a day off from work, the women answered in unison, – “No.”

Asked about the notion that the U.S. is protecting Afghan women, Nekbat said that whatever officials claim in this regard, they are bringing no help.  These women have seen no improvement in Afghanistan, and neither, they claim, has anyone they know.  They don’t travel in the circles of those most likely to meet and speak with Western journalists, and poverty and the uncertainties of war seem to dictate their lives more surely than any government. They tell me all foreign money is lost to corruption – no one in their communities sees it going to the people.

Although no government official or journalist ever asks them about the conditions they are facing, they know the West is curious;  the mothers are aware of the drone aircraft – planes without pilots, some of them armed with missiles, with cameras trained on their neighborhoods.

The drone cameras miss a lot.   Nekbat adds that even when people come through to witness firsthand the suffering of common Afghans, she is sure this news never reaches the ears of Karzai and his government.  “They don’t care,” she said. “You may perish from lack of food, and still they don’t care. No one hears the poor.”

One hospital in Kabul, the Emergency Surgical Center for Civilian War Victims, serves people free of charge. Emanuele Nannini, the chief logistician for the hospital, reminded us, the previous day, that the U.S. spends one million dollars, per year, for each soldier it deploys in Afghanistan. “Just let six of them go home,” he said, “and with that six million we could meet our total annual operating budget for the 33 existing clinics and hospitals we have in Afghanistan.  With 60 less soldiers, the money saved could mean running 330 clinics.”

Just before leaving Chicago, while the NATO summit was convening, Amnesty International announced its intention to campaign for NATO to protect the rights of Afghan women and children.  Amnesty International should talk with the Afghan Peace Volunteers and the Emergency hospital network about caring, practically and wisely, for women and children in Afghanistan.

Surrounded by fierce warlords, cunning war profiteers, and foreign armies with menacing arsenals and wild spending habits, it’s hard for the mothers who visited us today to imagine that the situation can ever change.  And yet, before leaving us, they smiled broadly. “For us,” said Nuria, “the possibility of a bright future is over, but at least for our children there is a chance.”

Kathy Kelly  co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She’s a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press), now available in Kindle format.

More articles by:

KATHY KELLY co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has worked closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. She is the author of Other Lands Have Dreams published by CounterPunch / AK Press. She can be reached at: Kathy@vcnv.org 

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail