Monthly Archives: March 2014

Fly Kites Not Drones for Nao Roz 2014

Afghan Peace Volunteers say: Fly Kites Not Drones

Afghan Peace Volunteers say: Fly Kites Not Drones

FKND was inspired by the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul:

Watch the APV fly kites in Kabul

FKND campaign video with the APV

FLY KITES NOT DRONES across the UK:

RAF Waddington:

Outside RAF Waddington

Outside drone base RAF Waddington

RAF WADDINGTON:

woman flying kiteRAF WADDINGTON: UK drone base 1-3pm Friday 21st March Nao Roz, 35 activists came on coaches from Norwich and Sheffield with others coming from: Oxford, Coventry, Croughton, London, St Leonards on Sea and Hull. They gathered outside RAF Waddington and flew kites in solidarity with Afghans who have to live with the threat of UK drone strikes which are remote controlled and fired from the UK base. The UK protestors crowded around an amplified laptop rigged up in the back of a car which allowed them to Skype the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul. The group of 35 spoke with Afghan youth from outside the base that bombs Afghanistan using drones, they talked aboutthe importance of international solidarity and how drones impact their lives:

One Afghan youth commented:”by your very stand, your witness, you give us strength” One of the youth who has lost FKNDfamily members to a drone strike said “As you make your stand, we will make our stand with you.”

They also discussed their thoughts on the upcoming Afghan elections, wished one another Happy Nao Roz and talked about what they were having for dinner!

The event attracted media coverage from the Lincolnshire Echo and local BBC. Drone Campaign Network and VCNV UK organized the event.

Bristol:

Bristol Fly Kites Not Drones Stall

Bristol Fly Kites Not Drones Stall

BRISTOL: a pre kite flying workshop took place the weekend before at the Kebele Social Centre where local activists mixed with concerned families to talk about: the legality of drones; the threat of surveillance drones in the UK and the situation for Afghans who have to live with the impact of looming remote controlled killer robots.  The kite flying event attracted many young people with a flood of messages to the APV. Fine and colourful kite flying conditions and fun had by all. The event was organized by Bristol Against the Arms Trade, Bristol Stop the War Coalition, Bristol Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Child Victims of War and VCNV UK

Littlehampton:

Littlehampton Young Quakers

Littlehampton Young Quakers

LITTLEHAMPTON: 22 Young Quakers (aged 11-16), and 8 Quaker adults, took part in a short interactive workshop on drones finding out: what they are; discussing concerns; plus reading the stories of a former US drone pilot who was traumatised by his experience; as well as about the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ critical stance on drones. They made around ten homemade kites and took them to the beach. They also made a banner with the message ‘Kites Not Drones’, and some them watched the “excellent short film” of the APVs talking about the Kite Not Drones action. Organized by the Young Quakers.

Hastings:

Hastings fly kites on West Hill overlooking the sea

Hastings fly kites on West Hill overlooking the South Coast

mayaHASTINGS: a pre kite making workshop was held at their local Friends Meeting House where exquisite peace doves and traditional handmade kites were crafted. A group of kite runners met on  Saturday and Sunday 10am on West Hill during which around 50 people took part in a weekend of kite flying Afghan solidarity. Genuine Afghan kites were flown on a sea breeze- borderfree. The event received local support from: Woodcraft Folk, Hastings Independent as well as a splash in the Hastings Observer. FKND Hastings was organized by Hastings Against War and VCNV UK.

London:

FKND Civil Disobedience in Hyde Park

Afghan kite commits Civil Disobedience in Hyde Park

LONDON: Saturday 22nd March saw 10 kite flyers and 4 professional photographers in Hyde Park Speakers Corner at 2pm. The group which included: The Activettes, Kingston Peace Council and Putney UNA did not comply with the legal process of seeking police permission to hold a kite flying anti drone protest in a Royal Park. The London Kite runners were adamant they would carry on despite police warnings. Leaflets were given out while banners and placards were visible to those passing-by. The event was organized by The Activettes and VCNV UK.

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Bright kites, banners and placards mark the event in London

Chicago:

Volunteers at the Voices office in Chicago

Volunteers at the Voices office in Chicago

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACHICAGO: Saturday afternoon, community members and students met at the Voices house to celebrate Now Roz, the Persian new year, and to participate in the APV call to “Fly Kites, Not Drones.” We crafted our own kites and marched to the lake to fly them.  It was a perfect, windy day for kites. On the shore, we spent a moment in silence, mindful of all those victimized by drone warfare: the deceased, their families, the soldiers ordered to kill, and the children who live under fear of surveillance and unexpected attack. Then, we lifted our kites to the wind. Full grown women and men were running around and laughing like children. It was mostly the store bought ones that actually flew. Even still, we giggled and teased trying to get our home-made kites to fly if only for a second. Earlier, my friend Samah showed me videos of the Now Roz OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcelebration in Iraq, where a thousand balloons lit up with candles are released into the air. In the video, the crowd cheered and waved. Samah told me that when people saw this, they cried. In times of surveillance, of fear, it is an act of bravery to gather in public and celebrate. The power of such communal creative acts is unquantifiable. Its threat to the stifling power of fear is undetectable, safely stored in the hearts of those who are uplifted by it. We would do well to learn from the people of the world, the people of Iraq and the Afghan peace volunteers, who refuse to stop celebrating even in times of great duress, and bravely let their kites soar. Organized by VNCV US, report by Sarah Stockdale.

HMP Wandsworth: 

Fr Martin Newell in HMP Wandsworth

Fr Martin Newell in HMP Wandsworth

Fr Martin Newell (part of the Waddington 6) sends messages of support from HMP Wandsworth, he’s current imprisoned for non payment for 29 days for unpaid fines relating to protests against the Iraq & Afghan wars as well as Trident.

 

West Wales

west wales

WEST WALES: On a very windy kite-flying day in West Wales, preceded by a hail storm while we put the kite together. Although we were close to habitation, we felt exposed and pretty much at the mercy of what the skies chose to thrown down on us, so we held in mind and in our prayers those people in Afghanistan and elsewhere who live with this sense as a daily reality.  Julia Lim, West Wales

Cardiff

CARDIFF: Around 40 people gathered in central Cardiff in solidarity of those who have to live under the constant threat of drones. The action was organized by Palestine Solidarity Coalition and they made an outstanding short video (above) about their action.

Taunton

taunton

St Michael’s Mount- near Penzance

st michaels mount

St Michael’s Mount: Banners and kites made by Wool not Weapons and a special Fly Kites Not Drones for Nao Roz art work was created. Over 30 people attended the event with fantastic Cornish flying conditions.

Oxford

Kite flying Bonn Square 22 March

 

OXFORD Bonn Street town centre, members of Fellowship for Reconciliation and CND Oxford

Edinburgh

edinburgh

EDINBURGH: ‘Fly Kites Not Drones’ event on Saturday 22nd March proved to be a massive success for raising awareness about those living under the threat of drones. It was a fun-filled day that included: crafting and flying kites, face painting, storytelling, a live samba band and a dazzling fire display.  About 150 people including many families and children gathered in the Meadows to take part in ‘The Day of Action’ that was called for by Afghan Peace Volunteers and Voices for Creative Nonviolence UK. Fifty kites were made on the day and many people brought their own kites. It was one of several events around the UK that was campaigning for the abolition of drones. Significantly, this included a demonstration at RAF Waddington – the UK base from which Drones in Afghanistan are operated. Organized by the Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre.

Leicester

leicester

 

leicester 3Leicester: flew kites on Saturday 22nd March as part of the Greenlight festival. We gathered at the CND stall with a variety of hand made and bought kites and then went to nearby Bede Park. Local children joined in and we all had a great time.

 

Photos of all the events have been posted on Facebook

OTHER EVENTS: Norwich,  TavistockEdinburghLeicesterCardiffCoventryOxford,  BrightonBlackheathBurlingtonSouthamptonRochester, Littlehampton, Taunton, Lewes, Bournemouth will be sending photos soon.

SUPPORTERS of the event included: Drone Campaign NetworkNetwork for PeaceSmash EDOSTWCNDFoRCAAT, plus the WikiLeaks Party and many more.

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Press Release: Fly Kites Not Drones

another boy with a kite

PRESS RELEASE

The biggest national UK anti drone action will be taking place this weekend when over 20 peace groups will be showing solidarity with Afghan peace makers who urge everyone to Fly Kites Not Drones for Nao Roz (Afghan New Year).

There will be a kite flying vigil at UK drone base RAF Waddington on Friday 1pm, and a London event at Speakers Corner Saturday 2pm, where activists will show solidarity with Afghans by joining in with the well loved Afghan  pastime of kite flying.

Maya Evans, anti drone activist, said: “I’ve just returned from living in Afghanistan for 3 months where I personally witnessed the destruction and havoc caused by drones, not only are they killing innocent civilians but they’re also degrading the fabric of Afghan society as they cause mistrust and enmity.”

The issue of drones has been heightened in the last few months when Pakistani drone witness Kareem Khan was kidnapped and tortured- he was set to give evidence in the European Court; in addition a Yemeni drones witness was also harassed. Meanwhile British courts threw out the case of Noor Khan with worries of causing bad relations with the US, while new drone bases are set to open if not in Afghanistan then elsewhere in Asia.

Britain has also been exposed for infringing rules of combat by co-operating directly with the US on launching drone strikes. Currently the cost of life caused by drone strikes is unknown as the MoD refuse to release names and numbers due to “national security”.

Evans added: “These robot killers are fuelling resentment towards foreign occupation as well as making security worse for the ordinary Afghan. The message I heard over and over again was that Afghans do not want drones, they want an end to foreign interference which has brought endless violence, moreover, they want peace.”

The action was inspired by the Afghan Peace Volunteers who want an end to war and the use of drones which currently plague their skies.

Contact: 07973 484 202

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‘After 3,000 Years of Pain’: Women’s Liberation at Barefoot College

cover pic

by Kathy Kelly

TILONIA, India — A few months ago, the Afghan Peace Volunteers began planning to send a small delegation of young women to India as guests of Barefoot College, a renowned initiative that uses village wisdom, local knowledge and practical skills available in the rural areas to improve villagers’ lives. After several suspenseful weeks wondering if families and governments would give permission for travel, we were finally able to tell hosts at the Barefoot College that we would soon be on our way. Now we are beginning the last day of our brief but rewarding visit to Tilonia, the small village in India’s Rajasthan State, where two Barefoot College campuses are thriving.

dentist

Ram Niwas, Kathy Kelly and dentist

One of the villagers, Ram Niwas, has helped us learn about Barefoot College by telling us parts of his own life story and introducing us to people who have become barefoot dentists, accountants, solar engineers, radio broadcasters, teachers, water treatment specialists and puppeteers. Over the past 27 years, Ram Niwas has taken on many of these roles himself. As a ‘Dalit’, an ‘untouchable,’ he is not allowed to enter the local Hindu temple. But in his long association with Bunker Roy, a founder of Barefoot College, he has entered many places and gained experiences he never thought possible.

“The caste system gave us 3,000 years of pain,” Ram Niwas told us. “But slowly, slowly, we are moving beyond it.” He then began to tell me about women who are still subjected to the manual labor of cleaning dry toilets. They load slop from the village latrines and toilets into jars which they then carry, on their heads, to a dumping ground outside the village. The job is as dangerous as it is demeaning. People who do this work suffer infections and other illnesses. From age 13 – 15, this was how Ram Niwas earned a living.

puppeteer

Bila, grandmother and puppeteer

Eventually, he heard about Barefoot College. Knowing that many Dalits worked there, he submitted an application. Bunker Roy asked if he could do accounting. Ram Niwas assured him he couldn’t but that he would be willing to work as a peon. “We have no peons here,” Bunker said. “Just be sure to keep yourself honest, and try to learn accounting.” Ram Niwas had never seen 10,000 Rupees. He had no idea how to do basic math. But after a six month training, he became a capable accountant and a volunteer, working for a living wage, at Barefoot College. At first his family was unhappy because they felt he could make more money elsewhere. Over time, however, they realized that he had gained many experiences that aren’t directly linked to gaining money. He has become an artist, specializing in Puppet Theater. He also developed the Barefoot College community radio station. He has traveled beyond India and has participated in “yatras” in India, the long walks that campaign for fulfillment of basic human rights. Now his work in communication includes many responsibilities, one of which is to help educate visitors like ourselves.

accountant

Jarina, grandmother and accountant

We were grateful for his translation as he introduced us to various women. Jarina does much of the accounting for Barefoot College, using a computerized excel program. Battacharya is a “barefoot dentist” who can do many procedures as long as full anesthesia isn’t required. Bila decided to learn puppetry even though the caste system despises theater work as an activity relegated to members of the untouchable class. Bila is now an accomplished puppeteer, bringing delight to many audiences and also facilitating theater workshops. Raju organizes a solar energy shop, and Magankowar teaches women to assemble solar circuit boards.

Yesterday, our delegation met with Bunker Roy. Zarghuna asked Bunker what motivated him to devote forty years of his life to creating the impressive campuses and projects that now constitute Barefoot College. Bunker Roy said that when he sees a grandmother who has lost all hope become, in six months, a gutsy and courageous woman who has learned how to be a solar engineer, he feels motivated to continue.

When we had arrived, the first college members we met were a team of people mixing, shoveling and carrying cement for a new construction project. Most of the workers were grandmothers.brick laying

Over the years, Barefoot College members have realized that young men who learn new skills often want a certificate which will enable them to take those skills elsewhere, giving them a chance to earn what Bunker calls a market wage. Grandmothers, on the other hand, have no intention of leaving their villages and families, yet they have enormous incentive to become skilled workers, improve their villages, and earn a living wage. Barefoot College welcomes them exuberantly. Now, village grandmothers are training women from other countries to follow similar paths.

Ram Niwas took us to a large workshop where 37 women, all over 35 years of age, from 11 different countries were learning to become solar engineers. Magankowar has been using sign language to teach the women, all of whom are illiterate. Seated at a long table covered with tools, circuit board components and colorful illustrated instruction manuals, the women worked with care and precision.

Kathy and solar panel engineers

Kathy and solar panel engineers

Many had covered their heads with wooly hats or elaborate scarves from their own countries; almost all wore glasses, and many were dressed in the bright clothing typically worn by Indian village women.

I joined several women as they took a brief break from assembling circuit boards. One of the women had begun to tell me that her two sons are working in Arizona, but that they are hoping that the U.S. government won’t deport them. We were interrupted when Ram Niwas clapped his hands, called everyone to attention and asked them to sing a song together. Suddenly, I realized that each woman was singing, in her own language, verses to “We Shall Overcome.”

z and women

APV Zarguna and solar panel engineers

The young members of our team flew to India on an airliner. Nearly every aspect of modern travel awed them. But the common sense messages taught at Barefoot College, delivered amid a campus dedicated to simplicity, service, sharing of resources and a firm declaration of equality among all people, transported our young friends into yet another realm.

“With simple resources available to all, the sun and the rain, we can create a world in which we free our potential,” said Zarghuna. “Or, we can artificially limit ourselves by fixing in our minds one way of doing things. It’s like locking our minds in a prison. If we open our minds, we can think of many possibilities.

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Mother Mariam and Habib

Habib

Watch Habib’s video

by Maya Evans

We are sitting on the floor in a simple outhouse room attached to the Afghan Peace Volunteer’s compound, the unheated space is normally used for teaching local children various classes. Habib and his mother Mariam sit in front of us motionless, Mariam wears the burqa so it is not possible to read her face and ascertain how she might be feeling, the tentative expression on Habib’s face tells us that their life is hard.

It was around 2 months ago when I first met 12 year old Habib, he arrived on the doorstep with some of his friends wanting to join the Street Kids Project being run by the APV- an effort to help some of the 60,000 street kids of Kabul. Habib’s face looked concerned as he clutched his weighing scales- the tool of his trade- 5 Afghanis a go, around 5p.

Habib arrives for the Street Kids Project

Habib (left) arrives for the Street Kids Project

Since then I have bumped into him a few times. Once outside our local bank- it was the first day of snow and he sat in the doorway shivering, his scales by his side, his ragged thread bare clothes offered small benefits to the freezing cold. I then saw him a few weeks later with his friends, who also work the streets, they were playing tag by the river, their faces beamed with exhilaration as they ran up and down a small unpaved road.

Habib is the oldest of 5 children, he’s around 12 years old and in 6th grade, he has 3 brothers and one sister, one of the younger brothers also works the streets.

As the breadwinner of the family he starts work with his scales at 8am and finishes around 12 noon, on average he earns around 100 Afghanis a day, though sometimes it’s less.  After work he returns home to help with household chores, sometimes he helps his neighbours and whenever he gets the chance, he studies.

Habib’s Mother bought the scales for him, initially they borrowed a set from a friend who suggested that line of work for Habib, when it proved to be a good income she bought him his own scales for 350 Afghanis.

Habib sits next to his mother Mariam, his face combines sorrow and concern, understandable for a 12 year old who is the main provider for the family.

His mother Mariam is 26, a widow of 3 years after a bombing at the local Shia Mosque killed her husband. He was pushing a cart of oranges when he momentarily stopped outside the Abdul Fazal Mosque and a suicide bomber detonated deadly explosives, over a hundred people were killed. He was rushed to hospital but died after 3 days.

The outline of Mariam under a burqa is barely recognisable as a person, the all covering indigo cloth makes her human figure almost alien, the only visual human characteristic are her eyelashes which i can faintly see blinking rapidly behind the gauze. It is just her sorrowful voice which allows us to connect as humans.

She explains that her brother has a bad temper and doesn’t allow her to work as to do so would be indecent for a young woman, however he himself does not provide for the family, 12 year old Habib does. Thankfully her mother also lives with them, she helps out financially by washing clothes.

Mariam was also at the Mosque on that fateful day, she endured injuries which have yet to heal- she requests the men in the room turn away as she lifts up her burqa to show a scar on the left side of her chest. It’s strange to suddenly see a flash of intimate human flesh when I haven’t even seen her face. She doesn’t go into detail but her health is bad and she lives with daily pain.

Habib with his scales

Habib with his scales

I ask Habib if he had one wish in the world what would it be? With his scales resting on his lap and a thoughtful gaze he replies that when he grows up he wants to become a doctor.

We ask Mariam the same question; she wishes for peace and security to come to Afghanistan so her children can be educated and nurtured. She says that living in Kabul the current main dangers are suicide bombings.

She then explained how she lost 2 brothers, one during fighting at the time of Naji Bula and the other, who was a casual labourer, mysteriously went missing- he was out walking the streets of Kabul one night when he suddenly disappeared. The family looked for him, they even searched the prisons but he had vanished, they never received word or news of him again.

Mariam’s mother lives with the daily sorrow of her two lost sons, there isn’t a day that passes where she doesn’t feel distressed. She would like to locate her son’s body and lay his soul to rest.

I hear more about the lives of 26 year old mother Mariam and her 5 children who exist under a piece of tarp attached to the side of a building, their homestead is amongst the most humble of any in Afghanistan, no running water, no heating, the most basic of cooking facilities.

Mariam ends by saying she is grateful that Habib is on the APV Street kids project- a scheme which is helping 21 local street children by providing each family with a 25kg sack of rice and a tin of oil every month for a year. The children also attend a weekly class which provide basic literacy and numeracy skills, all led by teenage members of the APV.

Mariam says she feels frustrated that she can not offer her son more opportunities in life so is thankful that this project gives him the chance to learn.

habib 2

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