Showing posts from 2009

The Face of Afghanistan (6) - Helping Them, Helping Us

Afghanistan needs help to move on, more help than was promised, and surely much more than has been given. Afghanistan became a hotbed of insecu-rity not only for Afghans but also for the rest of the world; today Afghanistan is the largest producer of poppies used for narcotics and used to be a haven for terrorists. Afghans, especially children, have been exposed to atrocious living conditions for years. They are going to wear the scars of brutality outside and inside. Like an Afghan poet said, they may become trees grown out of bitter seeds. Even those who are not moved by the utter injustice Afghanistan lives in should help out of enlightened self-interest.

Irrespective of what some claim, devel-opment experts affirm that sufficient quantities of aid can still reach the communities and individuals it is aimed to despite the mayhem of power strug-gles and insecurity. In 2002 the rich countries promised the country's gov-ernment 4.5 billion dollars over five years to fund rebuild…

The Face of Afghanistan (5) - A Failed State

Afghanistan is what economists and political scientists call a “failed state,” a nation that spiraled into poverty and violence and a society that collapsed and regressed into a dark medieval nightmare. Here poverty contributes to civil strife and ultimately protracted war. Among over 110 countries surveyed that followed a trajectory of economic freefall after 1953, Afghanistan’s fate is one of the most cruel and - due to Al-Qaeda - the one with arguably the largest influence on world politics. Afghanistan fell into, and still is in, a “poverty trap,” an economic state from which it is nearly impossible to exit without external help. It is superficial and wrong to say it is just Afghanistan’s fault. Famous economists like Jeffrey Sachs indicate why Afghanistan has always been a country prone to poverty: landlocked away from international trade with very high internal cost of transportation; ravaged by disease; poor in good soil to grow crops on; scarce readily accessible natural reso…

The Face of Afghanistan (4) - First Day in Afghanistan

The first sight of Kabul is the road from the airport. Armored anti-aircraft guns bask in the reddish light of the dusty highland on a background of bullet-sprayed walls. There you also see the first Afghans.

Boys of all ages swarm the streets, like in any other Middle Eastern town. Here, however, their clothes are more ragged and their shoes made of rubber. They look lonelier, and they seem very busy. That is, they are looking for something to do, anything that can bring some money into their families. They sell plastic bags and look for used ones. They repair tires and push carts. They beg and clean the pavements. They pull their legless relatives and carry goods to the market.

The girls are more conservatively dressed and less conspicuous. You can catch a glimpse of them while they tend to their younger brothers in the alleys bordered by rubble or when they accompany their mothers to the main bazaar, of course, before they disappear under the burka - a die-hard practice that no …

The Face of Aftghanistan (3) - A History, and a Chronicle

If Afghanistan was a person, its history would be a clinical case.
At the beginning of the 20th century, protracted hostilities between the British Empire, Russia, and Afghanistan for the control of the Afghan territory lead to failed treaties, conventions, and open war. In 1921 the third Anglo-Afghan war ensues with both parties suffering heavy losses and results in England abandoning its plans of control. In 1929 king Kalakani is deposed and assassinated by Nadir Kahn, whose tribal forces loot the country. In 1933 Nadir is killed and Zahir Shah, age 19, takes the throne. He will rule until 1973 and will keep Afghanistan neutral during the Second World War.
In 1973 Daoud Khan overthrows him, abolishes monarchy, and declares him-self president of the Republic of Afghanistan. In 1978 he is killed in a communist coup, where Taraki takes power, backed by the USSR. Taraki will be killed the following year.

In June, 1978, the Mujahiddeen guerrilla was born, backed by the CIA in an effo…

The Face of Afghanistan (2) - Foreword

In 2003, just after the allied forces had routed the Taliban from Afghanistan, I joined a group of volunteers from Right To Play to establish a program in Kabul. Their mission was to restore a modicum of decency through sport and play for those children who had been deprived of almost everything. It was, with great foresight, an attempt to stop the re-growth of violence without using the conventional military or humanitarian aid means.

Some of the "cliff notes" of that trip, as well as some of the photos, are here. Ultimately, this was an attempt to share the story of Afghanistan told by those who live it every day. More than a decade later, they still feel contemporary.

..."Their portraits are perhaps a good way to narrate what it means to be Afghan in the early twenty-first century, to be living in one of most atrociously poor and dangerous places on earth, in the richest world society on record.

In Afghanistan, misery creeps out of every line in the old man’s frown…

What YOU Can Do

Everyone counts. Here is a list of things that fit your interests and schedule

Donate to the organization of your choice
Fair Buying: Buy fair-traded products from developing countries and from manufacturers that donate
Fairgifts: make presents of a charitable donation to your friends and family
Fair holiday: make your holidays "socially conscious"
Fair internet: surf and shop - Change slightly your buying and internet habits and make “free donations”
Give in-kind and recycle: Collect unused goods from family friends and colleagues and donate them
Donate your brain - and its creations - to nonprofit sites and projects, to teachers and school kids; publish valuable content on a website, a blog, a wiki
Raise funds for charities: more than your own money...
Volunteer and work: volunteer your skills and your time on the field or remotely, or start a career in the nonprofit

Keep yourself informed and talk about it with your family, friends and…

The Face of Afghanistan - Portraits and Life of a Wounded Land - 1

This is the first chapter of a series of articles dedicated to Afghanistan, originally written in 2004, edited in 2007 and still poignantly current.

This is the story of Afghanistan told by those who live it every day.
Their portraits narrate what it means to be Afghan in the early twenty-first century, to be living in one of the most atrociously poor and dangerous places on earth, in the richest world society on record. Afghanistan, years after the Taliban were overturned, is still a country with a ravaged past and an uncertain future.
It is not all Afghanistan’s fault. Beside many other factors that make it naturally prone to poverty, Afghanistan has long been sitting on one of the main fault lines between eastern and western blocks. US-backed Mujahiddeen guerrilla and the rule of the USSR finally set the stage for civil war and the Taliban. In many respects, Afghanistan's present is a living legacy of the Cold War, of our own past.
Afghanistan is not only a humanitarian disa…