Tag Archives: Afghan Peace Volunteers

Afghanistan: The Forgotten War & Britain’s Legacy

vcnvuk_afghan_conf_11oct2014_webposter

A day conference to support peace and justice for Afghans 

11th October 2014, Friends House 10am-4pm

Hosted and facilitated by Maya and Farzana

SPEAKERS

Andy Garrity – The Toxic Ramifications of War Project

On the 30th of September 2104 the Afghan Government signed a bilateral security agreement with ISAF and the Status of Forces Agreement with NATO, which dictate the role of ISAF in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

The Toxic Remnants of War Project was launched to consider and quantify the detrimental impact of military activities and materials on the environment and human health. As part of this process, the project is also reviewing gaps in existing state obligations for reducing the humanitarian and environmental harm from military-origin toxics, and examining parallel systems of protection based on environmental and human rights law and peacetime regulatory frameworks.

Andy Garrity will describe the environmental footprints of ISAF and NATO including what they are leaving behind through the closure of bases and firing ranges, as well as the waste disposal practises that pose a serious threat to civilian health.

Chris Cole- Drone Wars UK

Chris Cole is a tireless investigative campaigner, he will be outlining the case against drones from his research into the use of British military drones in Afghanistan and the environment of official secrecy and obfuscation. Over the past couple of months we have witnessed drone strikes in at least seven countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Palestine, Yemen, Egypt and Iraq – and its likely that Syria and Libya may soon join that list. Whether such strikes are being undertaken under the umbrella of a UN resolution or carefully-crafted secret memos, it’s becoming clearer that drones are indeed making it easier for our political leaders to opt to use lethal force rather than diplomatic or political solutions.

Afghanistan has been the testing ground for Britain’s growing drone arsenal bought from US and Israel. We will hear about the co-operation between these countries and the global significance of the use of drones by focusing on Afghanistan, the “drone capital” of the world.

Frank Ledwidge author of Investment in Blood: The True Cost of Britain’s Afghan War

Frank is a barrister and former British military officer, his book sent tidal waves as he pieces together the colossal human and financial cost of the war in Afghanistan for Afghans and British, and weighs up what it was all for. His devastating indictment of the utter, unanswerable folly of Britain’s military intervention in southern Afghanistan includes calculations such as: by 2020 the Afghan war will have cost British tax payers £40bn – enough to run 1,000 primary schools for 40 years or to recruit 1,000 nurses and pay for their entire careers.

Like many in Afghanistan, he wonders how successful we will be have been in leaving behind a better country than the one we entered in 2001.

With regard to the cost in lives, more British soldiers have died in Afghanistan than in any other counter-insurgency campaign overseas since the Boer war. Moreover there are hundreds of thousands of unnamed Afghan civilians caught up in the conflict. As Ledwidge points out, Britain makes no serious effort to count, let alone identify, the thousands of Pashtun people killed, maimed or displaced by the fighting.

Investment in Blood: The True Cost of Britain’s Afghan War has been described as “a masterpiece in miniature” by New Statesman.

Women from the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul

The conference has been inspired by the Afghan Peace Volunteers who have a clear and independent analysis of what Afghans need and want for their country. Since forming in 2012 Voices for Creative Non-Violence UK has focused it work on supporting the Afghan Peace Volunteers grassroots activists who are based in Kabul. Our peace delegations involve staying with and learning from the group and their friends in the community. With the APV we have produced articles to reflecting the lives and perspectives of ordinary Afghans. This Skype connection will enable us to hear the inspiring women Afghan peace activists who have chosen to reject the status quo of violence and look for alternative solutions for their war torn country.

There will be an opportunity to address questions to the women who will speak about the impacts of war and what is needed for Afghan women to secure better rights.

Focused Sessions 

Building Afghan Peace

A workshop facilitated by Afghan community organiser Sabir Zazai who works with asylum seekers in Coventry. It is likely that Dari will be the main language spoken as the workshop will talk live with men and women in from the Afghan Peace Volunteers. They will make a case for the importance and value of international Afghan solidarity.

Sabir will also speak about his experiences and insights as an Afghan community organiser in the UK, the problems Afghans face here, the recent fallout following the Afghan elections and how we can work as a united movement to support the non-violence campaign in Afghanistan. The session will provide a foundation for future campaigning and perhaps start a coalition of activists wanting to work  on what can be done in the future.

Perspectives of Kabul Street Children

Photojournalist Guy Smallman will talk about the Street Angels Project which he worked on with Azim Fakri, a Kabul based artist who has long viewed the children working on the streets on his home city with a heavy heart. Doing menial and often dangerous work, the children are robbed of their childhoods and dignity by crushing poverty. Guy and Azim are working together to raise awareness about the plight of the children, not by telling their stories for them, but by empowering them to tell us themselves. Guy will talk about the pilot project they ran in Spring when they worked with five street children to teach them the basics of photography and issue them with disposable cameras. The result is an exhibition showing the underbelly of Kabul through the eyes of its street children. Their photography shines a light on the people living on the margins as well as showing off their own skill and ability to learn. The project has proved that street children possess just as much talent and potential as any other child regardless of their circumstances.

The Challenges for Afghan Women

When Britain backed war with Afghanistan in 2001 we heard from our politicians that the international community would not turn its back on the plight of Afghan women. Thirteen long and bloody years later we will hear from Afghan women about their lives today and the challenges they face. The workshop will include testimonies from Farzana and Yagana, two Afghan women who have recently made their way to the UK after fleeing for their lives from Afghanistan.

Participants will see the premier showing of “Afghanistan: A Difficult Birth”, a short documentary by Janey Moffatt who made the film while visiting Kabul last year on a VCNV delegation.  Her unique footage records the difficulties Afghan women face from childbirth, to equality.

Joining the Dots – Drones, Gaza and the War on Terror

With investigative journalist and campaigner Ewa Jasiewicz and VCNVUK’s Maya Evans, both of whom visited Kabul and the APV earlier this year.

Ewa and Maya aim to make the connections between all the factors which are making these wars possible, linking the common causes and drivers, and attempt to join the dots to link peace campaigners together in a combined effort.

They will explore how the arms industry is enriched by lucrative government contracts which is fuelling the wars on terror; how Britain’s drone arsenal was purchased from the Americans, how Britain uses Israeli drone technology and tests it on Afghanistan and how British drones will likely be used against Iraq and across the wider Middle East.

Ewa Jasiewicz spent 9 nine months in Iraq during 2003 and has visited Gaza and the West Bank several times. Both Ewa and Maya are very active in the anti-arms campaigners. In August this year they participated in a rooftop occupation the of UAV Engines Ltd which shut down the Israeli owned factory in the Midlands for 2 days.

WHAT NEXT?

At last year’s conference we launched the campaign action Fly Kites Not Drones, inspired from the testimonies of Afghan children who are too frightened to participate in kite flying because of the fear of drones which also favour the conditions of clear blue skies. The Fly Kites Not Drones actions at Afghan New Year on the 21st March this year saw international participation from the US to Australia, Kabul to Cerdigion and across the UK with over 30 peace groups getting together to make and fly kites in solidarity with Afghan peace makers. The concept is now being made into an education resource pack to be used in British schools.

We encourage everyone to Fly Kites Not Drones again in 2015 and make it an even more widespread event as we reclaim our skies for fun and not war.

This conference will also help form campaigning ideas and strategies for the future.

2015 is the year to unite with Afghanistan and reclaim the power.

Register now: vcnvuk@gmail.com

FOOD

Friends House has a marvellous cafe with soup, sandwiches, hot drinks and snacks available. There is also the yummy possibilities of Drummond Street (near Euston Train station) which has loads of Indian cafes and tasty snack shops.

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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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A Day in Kabul

commemoration of Hashim and Zukoom

commemoration of Hashim and Zukoom

by Beth Tichborne

For the first time in my life I heard a bomb today. It was a long way away, and it turned out to be a ‘controlled explosion’ by the Afghan National Army, so nothing to worry about, although a lot of people must have been scared, and a lot of windows must have been shattered. I was working on the ‘2 Million Voices’ campaign with Hakim, mentor of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, in one of the upstairs rooms in the APV compound. There was a sudden rumble and a gust of wind swept up the side of the house and shook the windows. It was nothing scary from as far away as we were, just an eerie, window-rattling blast of wind out of a calm blue-skied day. I wondered if it was a bomb, but it seemed like a silly thing to say somehow. So we got back to work. Ten minutes later someone came upstairs and said it might have been a suicide bomb near us, so we went on facebook and looked up the news, and discovered it was the just the army, apparently blowing things up on purpose. I can’t see how that’s a good idea in a city full of worried people and heightened political turmoil, but at least no one was killed in Kabul today.

It’s the third explosion since we’ve been here: the first was a suicide attack on a NATO convoy at the airport, that failed to kill anyone but the teenage bomber, the second was some strange kind of accident near the embassies, and then this one. I still can’t imagine what it’s like to be close to a bomb, I’m one of the many people in the world lucky enough not to know. I’ve only seen the video of the aftermath of a bomb near the APV’s previous compound. Just watching the video tears at my heart, to see my friends, pale and laughing shakily in a room full of broken glass. The failed suicide bomb, the accident and the controlled explosion are a reminder that explosions are common here, a constant possibility, barely news when no one has been killed.

Friends of Hashim and Zukoom.

Friends of Hashim and Zukoom.

And barely news even when people are killed. Today the APV held a commemoration for two of the ‘civilians’ killed in the attack outside the Polytechnic. Hashim and Zukoom were at the scene because they work in the streets after school, polishing boots. Three of their classmates are supported by the APV, with some necessities each month, and help with stationery and study materials. This support means that their families can afford to let them go to school, as it frees them up from having to work on the streets full time.

These little classmates came to the compound today and told us about their friends who had died. We held candles, and a dictaphone was passed around for everyone present to record their thoughts and feelings about the 2 million lives lost in Afghanistan. The first man to talk was Basir, a friend from our last trip, one of the people I’d been most looking forward to seeing again in Kabul. He’s a writer and a poet, blogs about women’s rights, a non-violence activist, and always has something interesting (and often provocative) to say. He spoke about his family members that had been lost to war. I didn’t even know before today that he had such a personal reason for his activism.

Other friends’ stories I had heard before, the childhood memory of seeing a brother shot, growing up orphaned… each loss unbearable and momentous, as every death is. There have been more than 2 million of these unbearable, terrible, undeserved deaths. The 2 million voices campaign isn’t about lobbying a politician to fix it, people have lost hope in that approach. It’s about connecting human beings around the world to share their pain at the world as it is, at the losses of innocent life in Afghanistan, and to share their friendship and hope for the future. Bombs shouldn’t be normal, children’s deaths shouldn’t be statistics, entire nations of people shouldn’t be written off as less deserving of life and safety. Through connecting, person to person, we can start to dismantle the systems telling us not to care, not to notice, not to remember. The APV are asking people around the world to sign the petition, and then to contact the group, through Skype or social media to say ‘we remember them too’.

Nassim, street kid who is being sponsored by the APV which means he can attend school rather than work the streets

Nassim, street kid who is being sponsored by the APV which means he can attend school rather than work on the streets

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Fly Kites Not Drones 2014

Afghan Peace Volunteers fly kites of a Kabul hillside

Afghan Peace Volunteers fly kites of a Kabul hillside

INTERNATIONAL Weekend of Action 21st- 23rd March 2014

Watch the Fly Kites Not Drones video recently made in Kabul

APV Ghulamai fixes string to the kite

APV Ghulamai fixes string to the kite

Afghans celebrate New Year on the 21st March, Voices for Creative Non-Violence is holding a weekend of solidarity with Afghans who will be facing uncertainty and the probable escalation in conflict during the renegotiation of the international presence within Afghanistan.

Kite flying has become synonymous with Afghanistan as a well loved pursuit which was banned under the Taliban, now Afghans are more used to the presence of UK and US armed and surveillance drones flying overhead. In the last 5 years there have been 547 UK drone strikes on Afghanistan, which is now the “drone capital” of the world.

We are encouraging concerned citizens, peace groups and those from the Muslim and Afghan community to fly kites in solidarity with Afghans who now have to live under the mental pressure and physical destruction which British and American drones now inflict upon Afghanistan.

The issue of drones has heightened in the last few weeks as Pakistani drone witness Kareem Khan was kidnapped and tortured -he was set to give evidence in the European Court, in addition a Yemani drones witness has also been harassed. Meanwhile British Courts threw out the case of Noor Khan due to fear of causing bad relations with the US, while new drone bases are set to open if not in Afghanistan then elsewhere in Asia and Britain co-operates directly with the US on launching drone strikes . Currently the cost of life by drones is unknown as the MoD refuse to release names and numbers due to “national security”.

Drone warfare is set to continue, we must resist now and make our voices heard.group 2

Make your own kites (especially suitable for kids) see a basic template here

See a short Afghan Peace Volunteers video on drones

THINGS YOU CAN TAKE PART IN

Kites and Horses1) FLY A KITE in your area Friday 21st- Sunday 23rd March

Take a photo and send us a mini report of your action. Make signs saying “In solidarity with peace for Afghans”, “Fly Kites Not Drones” etc and give out leaflets. VCNV UK will be returning from it’s third peace delegation to Kabul with a number of Afghan kites which you can order from us.

boy and kites2) DRONE WATCH WADDINGTON  1 to 3pm, 21st March

Bring a kite, banners and another other resources. The watch will be at the main gate on the A607- down a track off to the left before you reach the village of Waddington, coming from Bracebridge Heath. The  no. I bus to Grantham via Waddington leaves from near Lincoln train station at 12.35 and returns again at 14.58 –There will also be a live Skype link up with the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul

group 33) FLY KITES NOT DRONES Saturday 22nd March 2pm LONDON

Join a mass kite flying theatrical event in central London led by the feminist protest group ‘The Activettes’ who will be making props and costumes for a flamboyant daring and never forgotten action!

another boy with a kite4) GLOBAL DAYS OF LISTENING Skype the Afghan Peace Volunteers on the 21st March, share messages of solidarity and peace, an activity especially suited for young people and groups. Global Days of Listening <GlobalDaysOfListening@gmail.com> http://www.globaldaysoflistening.org

ORDER leaflets & your genuine Afghan Kite or for further info CONTACT: kitesnotdrones@gmail.com

kites not drones

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