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- NDE Supports Afghan Peace Volunteers -

Kathy Kelly with Afghan children in video clip ‘Be One of 2 Million Friends’

Caravan for Peace with Justice & Dignity: Hakim has deferred his visit to the United States until Ali and Abdulai, or other members of the Afghan Peace Volunteers are able to come too. We all still affirm and encourage support for the Caravan.
Stand together as friends of 30 million Afghans

Mary Lou and Jim continue to speak to groups and friends about their March 2011 trip to Afghanistan for the Afghan New Year which they celebrate on the spring equinox with events like tree plantings. Contact them through the NDE office to make arrangements or ask questions about their presentations. They include showing brief videos made by the APV that are very powerful and evocative sparking outstanding discussions. Sometimes, a call can be arranged using a computer during the meeting so the people can hear and ask questions of the young people in Afghanistan.

They also remain in contact with our organizing partners there, the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APV) (formerly Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers-AYPV) and others. Please take a few moments to read two messages from Hakim, the mentor of the APV. One includes a letter sent by the APV to a representative of the United Nations about their situation as a community of peacemakers in a country continuing to be ravaged by war-makers from abroad as well as from within. The APV want to connect their struggle to end the violence in Afghanistan with other activists everywhere as the following video message demonstrates in solidarity with peace walkers in Mexico.

We are including links to videos that the APV make and post on their website/blog to spread word about their courageous work and show that they aren't just out for themselves in any way, and that they truly care about other victims of war like themselves. In 2011 Voices for Creative Nonviolence organized a summer delegation of internationals to meet with APV. In August, 2012, Kathy Kelly and Hakim wrote: Stand together as friends of 30 million Afghans.

August 12 - September 12, 2012 : Caravan for Peace with Justice & Dignity <mexico@globalexchange.org>. Special congratulations to Hakim, Afghan Peace Volunteer mentor and friend of NDE’s for receiving his US visa to join this caravan and also receive an award from FOR. Unfortunately neither Ali or Abdulai were granted visas. There is a petition asking the US State Department to review this decision. Read Kathy Kelly and Hakim's account in Why Afghanistan Can't Wait.

21st of every month: Global Days of Listening, Afghan Peace Volunteers reconnecting with Afghans, Iraqis, and others.

December 10, 2012: “2 Million Friends” for a better world. The Afghan Peace Volunteers (APV) call on the world community to join the people of Afghanistan in sending 2 million messages and letters of friendship, symbolizing our collective grief for the 2 million victims of war in Afghanistan and our determination to work together for peace in Afghanistan and a life without wars. 2 million Afghans have lost their lives to war since the Soviet invasion in the late 1970s. We can’t bring back the dead, but we can heed this call from important friends. Who says you have to join the military to risk your life for justice and freedom? From Kabul, the APV ask, “Is it possible to find 2 Million Friends? War is constantly closing in on us and our open mountains. There is a global awakening though….We ask to be friends, to meet every human being’s basic needs, and we ask for no more killing!

We'll remember the 2 million killed on the 10th of December 2012, the International Day of Human Rights.We’ll also remember the 95 million souls lost in two World Wars, and the countless souls in Iraq, Palestine, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and other forgotten lands. War, politics, money and power can jail, destroy and kill the people, but it can’t jail, destroy or kill love. We ask to be friends, to meet every human being’s basic needs, and we ask for no more killing! Surely, every hand of friendship will be an act for freedom.

2 Million Friends is supported by Dr Sima Simar, Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, and will be attended by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire and former US Army Colonel, Ann Wright. We will request the United Nations and all armed groups involved in the conflict to negotiate for a multilateral ceasefire, and to redirect their war funds to reconstructing the socio-economic, humanitarian and educational services in Afghanistan.

Afghan Peace Volunteer sites
globaldaysoflistening.org and especially until Dec. 10,
and be sure to read their collected “Love Letters from Kabul.”
And support their Duvet Project!

Broken Afghan dove asks, Y not Converse?


Sometimes we may hurt, like the Afghan dove

From Afghans to Gazans, ‘Why can’t we touch your face?’
In the New Year of 2010, the AYPV had also expressed solidarity with Gaza Freedom March

Love is how kites in Gaza, Afghanistan and the world will fly

Our Jouney to Smile Youtube Channel

From Jim Haber, 12 April 2011:

From Afghanistan, all the delegates brought back some of the same material as that used by the Afghan Peace Volunteers at the New Years Peace March they held on 17 March, as part of their series of events leading into the 21 March holiday. The scarves figure prominently in this video from their website <ourjourneytosmile.com> as do their powerfully worded banners, rendered in Dari, Pashto and English. All the links in the right of their site are worth a look. Note this one in particular, as something of a manifesto to be shared widely. You can see several of us from the delegation in the following video just above that one: Afghanistan and the world needs a different tree. It is an amazing poem that deserves to be shared along with the manifesto.

I want to say briefly a little bit more of what I found inspiring in Afghanistan in an attempt to tie some thoughts together. Finding time to reflect is one thing. Composing thoughts is another. Adding captions to photos and videos has been helpful, but an interrupted process due to other organizing on the homefront.

In addition to the tree planting and Afghan march for peace (sans internationals), another important New Years peace event in Kabul was the candle light vigil. It was in memory of the nine children killed in March in Kunar Province in one of the drone attacks, but even more, was for the 1.5 million Afghans killed in the wars of the last 30+ years. Delegates have returned with candles, intending to use them as torches with which to ignite other flames of justice and peace, sharing the light of the candles, inspiration and hope of the ordinary people of Afghanistan and the peacemaking activists we met.

There is indeed an indigenous, progressive element of Afghan society, and it doesn't only exist in Kabul. Yes, the people are very scared of the Taliban and other violent actors, the War Lords, the Governement, the ISAF/US forces. Many of the people we met suffered mightily at the hands of the Soviets as well as the war lords and Taliban. People are very afraid of a return of the Taliban, but they feel that the foreign forces of US and NATO need to get out of the way for any movement forward, despite the influence of Pakistan (supporting the Taliban) and Iran (supporting Karzai) which also need to stop. The groups are small and organizing isn't easy, but they deserve our support which doesn't mean armed support or huge development grants. They need us to see them, to bring their existence to the attention of people outside of Afghanistan. In war torn countries all over the world, the War Resisters League supports the people standing against all the armed actors: Palestinians and Columbians, the people of East Timor, north Africa and other places where the power of the people is emerging, small movements have existed, been dismissed as too little, and attacked as too outside of the norm. These are the people I want to raise up at every turn, for our visit to Afghanistan, short and limited as it was, gave great hope to the activists we met there, just as their existence gave us inspiration, to have actually met the partners for peace we all know exist everywhere, but who are ignored by the rich and powerful.

Finally for now, had an amazing but brief meeting with Malalai Joya in San Francisco. There are a couple of other pics of her up there on Flickr, and I have others too. Looking over our set of photos, I realize that I could put all the images of powerful women together to share with the world that they exist. Women in burqas walk with women in simple scarves covering different degrees of their faces. In Kabul at least (and I have no doubt that in some of the more Pashtun provinces of the south and east the situation is more severe), and more northern provinces, society respects women's rights more, and as recently as the 1960s and 1970s, there was more widespread freedom for women. Oppression of women isn't universal and longstanding to the degree it is now (or seen to be now). Clearly, even the western women on the trips with Voices to Creative Nonviolence also felt the sting of being less free to be, to wear what they normally wear, to smoke in public casually. That said, the women associated with the Open Society Organization (not affiliated with Soros' similarly named institute) and the Afghan Peace Volunteers know that they are doing risky organizing. They also know that most Afghans agree with them but are scared.

So I want people to read the words of the Afghan Peace Volunteers. I want people to see images of their creative and powerful actions (only some of which were done when we were with them, but which I would love to describe more) and to know they exist. I want people to know that they and much of Afghan civil society are truly afraid of the Taliban rising again to power across the country, but they feel that the status quo is sapping what hope they have for peace and the situation can't go on much more. All of the people we met, casually and in meetings, feel that NATO and US forces must stop killing Afghans at least, and most said that they must leave for any progress to be made on the home front. Unfortunately, they also feel that the corruption within Afghan society concurrently needs to be remedied for any justice to ensue, but a solution to that cannot be imposed from outside, only from within their country. What it means to bring violent actors to justice varied among the different people we met. In a certain sense justice cries out for serious repercussions against the opportunists, rapists and murderers, but what will bring about the most change the soonest? What will alleviate immediate suffering of the Afghan people? Some people who have lost loved ones to the Taliban have no hope  for speaking with the Taliban, to try to forge a future for Afghanistan that includes the this largely Pashtun movement. Other people who have suffered at their hands want to take Mullah Omar at his word, to call his bluff, and to see if once the ISAF and US forces leave (as well as Pakistani and Iranian outsiders), whether they would make good on their pledge to work with the rest of the ethnic groups of Afghanistan to create a peaceful way forward. These questions present hard choices for the Afghan people.

It also raises something broader, beyond Afghanistan, that i have been mulling over. I think of it as the sin of capitulating to presumed "facts on the ground." Everyone wants to deal with the facts on the ground and not get caught up in some academic exercises disconnected from reality. I fear that this pragmatic framework is serving to undermine progressive pushes. Israel is creating "facts on the ground" with settlement construction that will make it harder to ever create a Palestinian state (not making a judgment call on the 1-state, 2-state question); 95% of old growth redwood forests were destroyed in the Pacific northwest, and the facts on the ground forced environmentalists to negotiate to save some portion of the remaining 5%. The same scenario is repeated along shorelines, rainforests, and coral reefs.

The torturing of people to the point of insanity so that their insanity is a fact on the ground making repatriation or release impossible or unthinkable to most people.

The destruction of hope of peace in a people's mind by relentless war by incessant propping up of the greediest and most brutal leaders and factions in a society an turning them loose on their people creates a fact on the ground whereby security by those same murderous forces seem like the only hope left turns the idea of catering to the facts on the ground into a cruel, cynical hoax, like "we had to destroy the village to save it."

March 25, 2011
- Jim and Mary Lou have returned from Afghanistan, safe and sound.

A Message from Jim:
We are still processing all we have done and seen. We were incredibly inspired by the Afghan Peace Volunteers as well as people associated with the 3rd Eye Photojournalism Center and the Open Society Organization (not affiliated with the George Soros institute by the same name).

Commentary and reflections by Jim and Mary Lou will appear soon on this NDE page. I am very pleased by the short video clips from many of the activities we were engaged in that are viewable now on Jim's youtube channel (jim4wrljvpnde), and the images and descriptions on Jim's flickr page will be filled in over the coming days.

Thanks for looking these over and acting in solidarity with our Afghan alllies. Their hope hangs on by a thread. We have given each other great encouragement. We must carry on, as do they.

Jim Haber, NDE Coordinator


International Activists Assemble in Kabul, March 17 – 24
to Join Afghan Youth in Solidarity Delegation

Jim Haber and Mary Lou Anderson of Las Vegas will be among the international peace activists meeting with members of Afghan Peace Volunteers (APV, www.ourjourneytosmile.com) in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 16-24. Traveling as “citizen diplomats,” they hope to learn about Afghan experiences and to support an APV campaign called “I Wish to Live Without Wars,” www.livewithoutwars.org.

Haber and Anderson are coordinator and a volunteer, respectively, with Nevada Desert Experience (NDE). Founded to resist nuclear weapons work at the Nevada National Security Site, NDE has recently been in the forefront of the movement against the increasingly deadly use of Predator pilotless aircraft in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Many Predator “drones” are controlled from Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, NV.NDE also facilitates personal renewal in the desert tradition, honoring the land, as people of the Earth.

“I look forward to meeting the brave citizens and youth groups of Afghanistan, listening to their dreams, their strife; sharing some joy, knowledge and hope for a violence-free future,” Anderson said about her reasons for going on this journey. Haber added, “One doesn't have to go there to have solidarity with average Afghans, beset by violence from so many quarters, both foreign and domestic. However, I feel called to see for myself, to meet peacemakers there who I have been supporting in my long-standing work against US war-making and other brutalizing forces in Afghanistan.”

The APVs have asked the international delegation to help promote their second “Live Without Wars, Global Day of Listening” and to support their other anti-violence activities in Kabul in celebration of the Afghan New Year which is March 21, the first day of Spring. Afghans of many ethnicities will walk for peace together, followed by a tree planting take on Saturday, March 19, the Global Day of Listening on Sunday, March 20 (starting on 3/19 in Las Vegas), and the candle lighting is on Monday, March 21.

Like the group Afghans for Peace, APV calls for an end to war. Determined not to exacerbate spiraling violence based on desires for revenge, members encourage wide-scale friendships of love and truth that will cross all borders towards nonviolent and conciliatory relations. They ask, “Why not love?”

During 2010, Voices for Creative Nonviolence members spent three weeks in October and again in December as guests of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, first in Bamiyan and then in Kabul. As in those trips, Anderson, Haber and the other 22 delegation members will meet with representatives of various NGOs and with leaders of civil society. They will also meet with Afghans who have been displaced by the war and now endure wretched conditions in a Kabul refugee camp.

Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org) has deep, long-standing roots in active nonviolent resistance to U.S. war-making. Begun in the summer of 2005, Voices draws upon the experiences of those who challenged the brutal economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and U.N. against the Iraqi people between 1990 and 2003.

Nevada Desert Experience (NevadaDesertExperience.org) has been organizing interfaith resistance to nuclear weapons and war since the mid-1980s. Through campaigns of education, dialogue and nonviolent direct action, NDE works against development and use of nuclear and other new weapons systems.

Press Release (PDF)

Please join with your heart and spirit “I wish to live without wars,” which asks for your solidarity on the Day of the People’s Peace on March 21, 2011, which is also the Afghan New Year’s Day. We call everyone, anywhere, individually or in groups, to walk, plant trees or light candles in loving support of Abdulai, the mothers, youth and people of Afghanistan, as they walk, plant trees, and light candles to declare the peaceful wish of the People of Afghanistan to live without wars.

Abdulai’s mother and all Afghan mothers have been grieving and praying for their children to have a chance to live without wars. Your individual or group support for this peaceful wish of the people of Afghanistan becomes the indispensable and direct answer to every Afghan mother’s prayer.

The walks we take, the trees we plant, and the candles we light are founded in humanity’s Love which declares, “I live and love, so I shall not kill.” This Love is the deep wish and yearning of all human beings to live together in freedom and peace, with decent livelihoods, and without wars. It is an indomitable love.

For centuries, the Powers of the world have jointly organized for wealth and war. Now, the People of the world need to jointly organize for Peace.

Walk freely, for spring is here!

livewithoutwars.org for more information on the sponsoring organization
- Trip Updates -

Photos & Video available on Flickr and Youtube

March 21, 2011
Jim Haber via email from Kabul, Afghanistan:

Today's discussions with the young Afghans was so powerful, hearing their individual stories. Also, they have specific ideas for us to share with our friends at home. We're looking forward to sharing with you the images of their actions, the powerful slogans that we can share and amplify. The candle light of hope that we hope to ignite with you, sparked from candles we return with from the vigil here the other night. Their commitment to ending the killing in their country is strong. The clarity with which they call on all the warring factions to stop killing is so powerful. The risks for peace they take are so real. The 25 members of this delegation are inspired by this small group to redouble our work to get their message out, to combat the ignorant perspectives of the people of Afghanistan.

People were warned about threats of violence today, the Afghan New Year, the first day of Spring. 50,000 people gathered, and throughout the city there was a bit of an earthquake in the afternoon, but no bombs or attacks. It was a day of celebration. Tomorrow, Mary Lou and I will visit a internally displaced person's camp on the edge of town. I'm sure it will be sobering, but we'll also have more to share when we return.

Finding Hope in Afghanistan
By Jake Olzen
March 20, 2011

In a country torn by thirty years of war where the promise of peace is continually broken, despair and resignation seem to be the norm for Afghan society.  War – and its corollaries of social decay, poverty, corruption, and trauma – does not discriminate.  Not a family in Afghanistan has been left unaffected by the death or disappearance of a loved one and the daily, traumatizing stress of living in an occupied war zone.  Billions of aid intended for reconstruction has been siphoned off leaving little left over for meaningful, local development.  Afghanistan is an unstable society wracked by corruption at nearly every level of government and a pervasive distrust of strangers and neighbors alike is the expectant result of such disintegration of social ties.  But as the late Studs Terkel reminds us, “hope dies last.”  And this is certainly true for the Afghan Peace Volunteers, a small but growing group of young Afghans committed to a life of peace in the midst of so much violence.  While cynicism and disbelief  run deep across generations, the APVs have an alternative vision for their country embedded deep in their hearts – and they believe this hope for peace is already in the heart of every Afghan.

Hope in the Afghan Spring

Fifty-five young saplings mark the beginning of a new year in Afghanistan.   The various apple, apricot, and almond trees were planted in a Kabul elementary and high school as a sign of hope and promise of peace.  Organized by the APVs, twenty-five international partners joined together with over fifty ordinary Afghans to declare a commitment to an Afghanistan without war.  The previous day, the APVS along with members of the Open Society organized and participated in an inter-ethnic walk for an end to the war.  As far as anyone can tell, this is the first public gathering calling for peace in Afghanistan that is not politically aligned or sponsored.  The bright blue scarves of the APVs, their smiles and words of gratitude to the accompanying riot police, and banners denouncing warmongering is a considerable different message that most Kabulis are not used to seeing or hearing.  The steadfast commitment to nonviolence of the APVs and their deep desire for peace offers a kind of hope that is unheard of in Afghanistan but it also offers a breath of fresh air.  Slowly but surely the APVs and their partners – both Afghan and international – are growing into a sizable community with a peace-filled vision for Afghanistan.  The planting of trees is a small gesture indeed and the challenges for ending the foreign occupation of Afghanistan, confronting corruption and human rights abuses (particularly of women), and promoting a culture of peace are many.  But the planting of trees is a beginning and it may very well be the birth of a movement that transforms Afghanistan.     

Jake Olzen is a member of the White Rose Community in Chicago, Il.  He writes from Kabul, Afghanistan.  He can be reached at jake.olzen@gmail.com.

Malalai, Mary Lou, and Jim

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