What next for Afghanistan

IssueNovember 2013
News by Adrian Hopkins

On 12 October, Friends Meeting House on Euston Road, London, played host to a conference which aimed to examine the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and explore practical ways to support the emergence of a nonviolent peace movement in the country.

Participants, including more than 80 peace activists and members of the Afghan diaspora, began by hearing from an Afghan woman who had recently won her asylum claim to stay in the UK. She underlined the importance of education for women and by women in Afghanistan and argued for the more general involvement of women in all sectors of Afghan society. This was followed by a talk from Jonathan Steele, journalist and author of Ghosts of Afghanistan (see review in PN 2552-3). He provided an in-depth analysis of the current situation and related it to the turbulent history of the area, much of it based upon information gathered in his visits to Afghanistan over the last 20 years. Via Skype and a real-time translation, the room then heard from a group of women in Kabul who are running a sewing cooperative, making duvets for refugees in the city.

Breakaway workshops took place in the afternoon, focussing on themes such as building unity between Afghans living in the UK and the wider peace movement; raising awareness about Afghanistan’s role as a processing centre for ‘extraordinary rendition’; and the expansion of the use of drones in remote warfare and the growing resistance to them in both the UK and elsewhere.

The plenary then turned again to the distance-shrinking technology of Skype to talk to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, a group of mostly young people from diverse ethnic communities living in Kabul who are striving to build a nonviolent peace movement and develop alternative visions for the future of Afghanistan that can truly break from the cycle of violence in which they live.

Participant and workshop leader Aisha Maniar described the conference as a first step in an initiative to ensure that, when foreign troops leave, ‘the plight of the Afghan people does not fall under the radar’. She added that: ‘contrary to media reports, none of the Afghan speakers in London or Kabul mentioned the Taliban as a concern, or at all. Instead, the predominant issues raised by Afghans were the difficult security situation in the country, inter-tribal, inter-ethnic and religious disunity among Afghans and the failure of Afghan rulers to consider the concerns and needs of the Afghan people’.

Topics: Afghanistan