'Dear Afghanistan': A Global Listening Project for Peace

At four in the morning on New Year's Day, 2011, a group of young Afghan
peace makers and their much-older U.S. colleagues huddled around a laptop
computer in this city, to begin a 24-hour conversation with people from all
over the world. They called their project
"Dear Afghanistan" and as phone-a-thons go, it, and a similar one they did
December 19, 2010, may well be the first of a kind.

At four in the morning on New Year's Day, 2011, a group of young Afghan
peace makers and their much-older U.S. colleagues huddled around a laptop
computer in this city, to begin a 24-hour conversation with people from all
over the world. They called their project
"Dear Afghanistan" and as phone-a-thons go, it, and a similar one they did
December 19, 2010, may well be the first of a kind.

The effort
consisted of an entire day of Skyped-in phone calls, emails, Facebook and
Twitter posts, with the goals of providing an opportunity for world citizens to
learn about Afghanistan first-hand from experts - people trying to live their
lives in a war zone; provide moral support for the members of Afghan Youth
Peace Volunteers (AYPV); and begin linking conversations among a global,
below-the-radar network of veteran peace activists, determined that the war in
this country can and must be ended absent military force.

Mackey, technical producer for the project that was promoted entirely via
independent media and the international peace movement, explained, "The
teleconference team was centered in Olympia, with two crew members in Oakland, CA, one in Saratoga Fl, and a few around the
world keeping an eye on production issues like teleconference connection,
livestreaming and corrections."

wanting to participate sent an email to producers and were placed on a call-in
schedule that was ultimately impossible to keep because of the highly animated

A sampling
of callers and conversations included:

from California, told the five AYPV young men, that on December 16, two dozen
people were arrested in San Francisco in conjunction with 131 people arrested
that same day at the White House in a peaceful war protest. She also related the case of Father Louie
Vitale, serving a 6 month jail sentence for crossing the boundary line of Ft.
Benning, in Georgia, as part of the annual demonstration demanding closure of
the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, formerly known as
the School of the Americas.

"Please tell Fr. Louie, 'You are not alone.
The government that arrested you, arrested you for peace, so you are not

"All of us who were arrested had smiles on our faces. It gave us a chance to communicate with more people about what is
happening in your country."

In another conversation, about barriers to their work in Bamyan Province, he
admitted the reality is that there is little trust among ordinary Afghans or
between Afghans and their national neighbors.
"We distrust people in Pakistan and India and this has to be overcome by

Ali: "The
people of Afghanistan want to build relationships with people in other
countries as well as people here.
People in other countries don't trust their governments and so the same
with the people. We have to end that!"

The next
caller requested a news report from Kabul.

After few
moments of silence, Abdulai, always ready with a wisecrack, announced, "Fresh
news from Kabul...the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers had eggs, tea and warm bread
for breakfast."

Khamat, a
young potato farmer from Bamyan, added, "The news from Kabul is, for someone
coming from the farms and clear air of Bamyan, Kabul is very polluted and has
lots of trash. All the money going to
Kabul looks like it has been spent for security guards and concrete barriers
and the drains are just as clogged as before."

Bellingham, WA, a member of Veterans For Peace, Richard Wilson, rang in with
this cheerful greeting, "It's important to reach out and shake hands across the

"Where did you serve your time in the military?"

"In several places, including in Vietnam."

Ali: "How
did you feel about being in Vietnam when you were there?"

"I was there as a young man and don't remember feeling either positive or
negative about it at the time...now I know we were told bad information and I
think it was all was a tragedy...It is why I joined Veterans For Peace."

Ali: "What was the turning point for you in deciding to leave the military?"

It came slowly to me. I got married,
had children, got involved in my church...I thought a lot about it. I came to the conclusion it was not the
right thing to do or the right way to live.

Ali: "My
brother is in the Afghan National Army and it has my mother really worried. She has periods of depression. My brother tries to comfort her by buying
her meat to eat for strength."

Abduli: "I have a request. Will you stay in touch and remain friends, tell others about us
and the people of Afghanistan?"

Richard: "Yes!"

Next up was a group of
young people gathered around a speakerphone in Olympia, WA.

AYPV in unison: "Salinao Khush" (Happy New Year)

Craig from
Olympia: "Even though I've never met you, it is a great honor to say hello and
I send you my love."

Edward: "I'm here with 8 wonderful workers for peace
and justice, all here to wish you a good year."

woman: We want you to know we love you; we praise you for the work you're
doing. We have to bring all our people
home...When I think of the war, I cry and cry and I know you do, too. No wars.
No hatred. No evil. Happy New Year to you!

calling from an internet cafe in Vietnam:
I came here to visit and help teach English. My class said to wish all of you peace.

Please tell your students to study hard, become engineers and be of service to
people. And don't be subservient to
people like Obama.

"Do young people in Vietnam have feelings about the war or are they too distant
from it?"

Maggie: The country has recovered through the initiative
and ambition of its people.

"The Vietnamese are
very proud of how they've overcome many invaders...they've put the (American) war behind them and are
focused on the future only."

The people of Afghanistan are undergoing the same thing as the people of
Vietnam and we want to gain our independence and self-determination.

Gail, from
Sidney, Australia, sent New Year's greetings and words of support.

Jan: "Here in Afghanistan, we are becoming more familiar with Wikileaks and
Julian Assange. Do the people of
Australia support them?"

Gail: "The
people of Australia do...We are so proud of him.

Please stay in touch and help link us to other groups in Australia.

A student
from Evergreen State College, in Olympia, did a Japanese peace chant and
received a round of applause from Kabul.

from Germany, Elsa named several of the antiwar activities happening in her

People in Afghanistan are still, at this point, mostly unaware of the
international support they have to stop this war.

surprised at this, noted a number of activities, some within the Bundestag,
most from citizen groups, including a recent demonstration of over 30,000,
French and Germans.

David: The latest poll I've seen says that in the U.S.,
support for the war in Afghanistan is down to 35%.
If we can have a situation where 1/3 of the population supports a war
and 2/3 do not support it, you can see we don't have any more control of our
government than you do in Afghanistan.

Hakim mentioned David Swanson's new book, "War Is A Lie."

David: "It's a book that takes apart the reasons governments
all over the world give for going to war...It puts war in the same category as
rape and slavery - we don't talk of a good form of slavery or a 'just' rape. We talk of them always as a crime."

Addressing the youth, David inquired, "What should we say to
the people in government and the 1/3 of the population who support the war when
they say it's humanitarian, for the good of Afghans, or to protect women's rights?"

Jan quoted figures re: the claim to protect women's rights, from "Afghanistan
- The People's December Review,"
which used U.N. studies and other reports
to show Afghanistan has the third-highest infant mortality rate in the world,
the second-highest maternal mortality rate and that last year, 2300 women
and girls who killed themselves

Regarding humanitarian reasons, "After $9 billion in aid,
42% of our people still live in poverty.
The International Red Cross said it's the worst shape Afghanistan has
been in for the last 30 years...A report named, "Nowhere to Turn," compiled by 29
NGOs working in Afghanistan details the terrible problems caused particularly
by night raids and the arming of militias."

Regarding whether it's a war to fend off a Taliban resurgence,
he said that most Afghans were glad at first when coalition forces toppled the
Taliban, but, after 9 years of war and occupation, it's time for the U.S. and
NATO to leave.

More and more people who call themselves "Taliban" are
fighting the presence of foreigners in their country. "We have to tackle roots of terrorism: poverty, hate, lack of
meaningful relations between people and nations," Mohammed Jan explained.

the all-day event ended, some callers were moved to express themselves in more
artistic ways. Some read poems or
favorite quotes and one woman, a violinist from the Sarasota Orchestra, played
the third movement of J.S. Bach's Sonata No. 1.

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