FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Weeding Roses in Kabul

Kabul.

Outside the windows of the room where I sleep here in Kabul, the Afghan Peace Volunteer (APV) women’s community maintains a small walled garden filled with roses.  The community planted tomatoes, cilantro, and greens. An apricot tree grows in one corner, a mulberry tree in another. The prayer call, chanted from a nearby mosque, awakens me just before dawn. Light appears in the sky around four, and soon after, the doves and neighborhood children begin to stir. Normal activities and routines persist here in Afghanistan, despite the decades of war and impoverishment.  Military helicopters roar through the skies as sounds generated by ordinary workaday tasks fill the air: the whine of a machine cutting sheet metal mixes with a jingle played by an ice cream cart rolling down the street.

Zarguna, Khamed, and Zahidi host Kathy and me in this house of peace. Because of intensified security concerns, we step outside only occasionally, generally once a day to visit the APVs Borderfree Center. During my last visit here in 2013, we were much more relaxed about walking through the neighborhood for errands.

The youth, now studying in secondary schools and universities, run several thriving projects and teach at the Borderfree Center for street children.

The circumstances are dire for these children. Of the estimated two million child laborers in Afghanistan, 60,000 work in Kabul, competing for meager wages. They sell bread and shine shoes on the streets to support their families so that they may eat. The June 2015 CIA World Fact Book reports that it is impossible to estimate the numbers of children out of school; however, in Afghanistan’s teen and adult population the literacy rate is 38.2 percent. Among females over age 14, only 24.2 percent can read and write.  How can the street children achieve a better life if they remain illiterate?

On the second day of our arrival, we spent time observing the classrooms at the APV School. The children could not stop smiling. Young teachers, who warmly welcomed their students (and us), enjoyed orderly classrooms filled with students who were eager to learn. They sat on the floor, facing a whiteboard, and listened carefully to their teacher.  She gently encouraged individual students while calmly managing the lesson plan.

The school’s atmosphere, cultivated over the past nine months, has a magical effect on the 80 attending students. In a surprisingly short time, the commitment to creating a nonviolent learning environment has enabled at least 30 students to become literate.

The students attend school here one-half day each week, on Friday, their holiday from government schools. When not in school they work on the streets to earn income for their destitute families.  To compensate for their time the child laborers now spend in school, the APVs supply the children’s families with a monthly donation of rice and oil.

The APVs and their students face numerous challenges to their future security and survival. Yet bleak conditions don’t deter their resolve to move forward.  I myself felt quite hopeful, especially while sitting in on a class about nonviolence.

Ali, whom I have known since 2011, gave an inspirational presentation regarding prevalent forms of violence in our world. The discussion that followed revealed the children’s spontaneous understanding that violence, whether local or global, directly threatens their lives. Ali’s class suggested that by working together and learning to cooperate with one another, they would create a better future for themselves and their families.

Afghanistan’s future could be determined by exploitative corporations eager to profit from trillions of dollars’ worth of resources estimated to lie under its ground.  Geopolitical rivalries afflict the country as wealthy transnational elites compete for access to abundant resources. China intends to create high-speed rail from Beijing to Moscow and has already built significant portions of the “New Silk Routes” which will enable China to access and move materials and products. The rush to continually increase corporate profits lays the groundwork for an intensified cold war between the U.S. and China. What’s more, several recently concluded trade agreements in the region excluded the U.S.

Speaking at Arizona State University’s McCain Institute, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter complained that the U.S. wouldn’t be sidelined.  “We already see countries in the region trying to carve up these markets… We must all decide if we are going to let that happen…if we’re going to help boost our exports and our economy…and cement our influence and leadership in the fastest growing region in the world; or if, instead, we’re going to take ourselves out of the game.”

Robert Berke, an energy financial analyst, recently reported that China and the U.S. have opened a hotline to avoid accidental nuclear launches. This particular threat undermines and underlines the desperate need for nuclear abolition.

Meanwhile, dust and rubble fill Kabul’s streets. For most residents, the struggle to obtain work and food steadily increases. The Afghan government faces a severe lack of funding and fails to meet basic human needs for clean water and solid waste management.  Security has deteriorated as violence spreads unchecked in most provinces.

Despite uncertainties over the future, the APV community pursues small but significant efforts at the Borderfree Center.  They give a fine example of how a community can cooperate toward reaching shared goals, rather than compete. Roses keep blooming in Kabul amid the chaos and dust, and a tiny light of joyful collaboration remains graciously alive.

Martha Hennessy is in Kabul representing Voices for Creative Nonviolence and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

More articles by:

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Craig Collins
Why Did Socialism Fail?
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposal Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail