By Anonymous (not verified) on September 03, 2012

“Stop fighting,” suggests Farzana, a brave 22-year-old Afghan stage actress.

Significantly, her statement is in sharp contrast to what seems to be the democratic world’s unquestioned modus operandi of today, exemplified by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s pet-phrase for Afghanistan, ‘Fight, talk and build.’

What Farzana and the Afghan Peace Volunteers are sensibly suggesting is a ceasefire.

A ceasefire, like the ceasefire called for in Kofi Annan’s Six Point Peace Plan for Syria, which Farzana and the Afghan Peace Volunteers also supported, is a first step towards ending the equally sectarian war and incendiary global politicking in Afghanistan.

It is crucially needed to stop the color-code chaos of ‘green-on-blue’ attacks in which 45 coalition security forces, mainly Americans, have been killed by “allies,” Afghan security forces or insurgents posing as soldiers or police.

It is what is needed to end the four Afghan decades of using mutual killing as a method of conflict resolution. The U.N. is uniquely well-positioned to do this, empowered by their original Charter to ‘remove the scourge of war from future generations,’

Farzana suggests to Hillary Clinton and to us that we take the ‘fighting’ out of our desire to ‘talk and build.’ “To fight is to resort to convenient and rather primal instincts. To fight is to lose our human imagination,” states Farzana.

And imagination is what Farzana employs in the artistic world she thrives in, to communicate to the world that Afghans are human beings who prefer to laugh and cry than to live with wars.

Recently, Farzana was part of a group of Afghan stage actors and actresses who toured India, London, and Germany to perform Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” in Dari, one of two official Afghan languages.

Farzana, in Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors
Farzana, in Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors

“When I express the whole range of emotions on stage, I enter awareness, and a thrilling consciousness of human reality. Acting to me is my life and existence; I can never give up this sweet, sweet world. This world is similar to my everyday life; life in Afghanistan today is like a constant limp on a hurting leg. There’s definite pain, but this other world I express on stage is sweet. This better world is possible.”

Farzana’s pain was evident recently when criticisms from some conservative and religious Afghans were leveled at her costumes and her portrayals in the Shakespearean play. But Farzana has a quiet courage to transform the status quo, to introduce creativity into conventional norms.

As an Afghan woman, she also protests the conventional understanding of women’s rights in Afghanistan. People speak against women. They say it’s a sin to hear a woman’s voice or for a woman to go on the road, or to hear her steps. Women are considered ‘faulty.’ Their heads are ‘beaten.’ It’s a sin to see the hair on their heads. They’re seen as sinful. What is left for a woman that she should still participate in building society?”

Farzana speaks clearly against the U.S./NATO military strategy, “Why do the women of the world believe that guns and bombs which kill can promote women’s rights in Afghanistan?”

The fear that the gains in women’s rights in Afghanistan over the past 11 years will be reversed when U.S./NATO troops withdraw is not based on facts.

The limited and cosmetic gains in women’s rights in Afghanistan have not been introduced by bullets from U.S./NATO’s guns, so the reduction of U.S./NATO troops will not compromise these initial gains.

Moreover, as many as 20,000 U.S./NATO troops will be authorized to stay for another 10 years beyond 2014 when a U.S. Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement is agreed upon within the next year. The Obama administration has already ensured the continued presence of U.S. forces in Afghanistan in Article number 6 of the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement which states that ‘Afghanistan shall provide U.S. forces continued access to and use of Afghan facilities through 2014, and beyond as may be agreed in The Bilateral Security Agreement, for the purposes of combating al-Qaeda and its affiliates, training the Afghan National Security Forces ( who are shooting back at them! ), and other mutually determined missions to advance shared security interests.’

Where are Afghan women’s rights in this strategy?

On March 14, 2011, the Washington Post featured Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s article, ‘In Afghanistan, U.S. shifts strategy on women's rights as it eyes wider priorities’. Chandrasekaran recently made waves with his description of ‘the war within the Afghan war’ in his new book Little America. In his 2011 article, he quoted a senior U.S. official who said, “Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities. There's no way we can be successful if we maintain every special interest and pet project. All those pet rocks in our rucksack were taking us down."

What the senior U.S. official was saying was, “Women’s rights? We have higher, ‘front-seat’ priorities. Women’s rights are ‘pet rocks’ that are ‘taking us down.”

Farzana sees through this charade. “If you want to talk and build, it is impossible to start by fighting,” she says. “When you kill a human being, what is there to build?”

She denounces war, which Afghans have seen way too much of.

“I have a pain and my husband and fellow Afghan citizens, men and women, share the pain with me,” she says. “It is the pain of being treated as less than humans. We are human beings. We have wishes. War has brought this pain on us. War kills our joy and hides our tears. I dream that war will end in Afghanistan someday, so Afghans will exercise their right to live.”

http://2millionfriends.org
http://2millionfriends.org

Part of Farzana’s dream for the war to end will be enthusiastically pursued through the ‘2 Million Friends’ campaign for peace in Afghanistan, a campaign of Farzana and the Afghan Peace Volunteers to find ‘2 Million Friends’ around the world to organize activities on December 10 calling for a ceasefire in Afghanistan and in remembrance of the 2 million Afghan victims of war they have lost over the past four decades. You could ‘Be One of 2 Million Friends’ in signing a Petition to the U.N. to negotiate for a multilateral ceasefire in Afghanistan. No more killing!

Farzana calls out to our compassionate imagination, “Instead of fight, talk and build, I suggest, ‘Be friends, talk and build!’ ”

And she has a wish: “I wish that the Shakespearean play could be performed in Afghanistan someday.”

Dr. Hakim ( weeteckyoung@gmail.com) mentors the Afghan Peace Volunteers (www.ourjourneytosmile.com)

Kathy Kelly ( kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org).

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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