Our Journey to Smile

BBC Afghan voices Election hopes and fears : Our Journey to Smile’s Afghan Election Hopes on BBC Talking Point
August 21, 2009, 7:56 am
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Dear friends of peace,

Our Journey to Smile’s ‘election videos’ are broadcast ‘live’ on BBC Internet News Talking Point ( link below )

Title : Afghan Voices, Election hopes and fears

Broadcast date : 20/8/2009

Link : http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/8210541.stm

Thanks to Qadam Ali, Nazuko. Mohammad Hussein, Mohammad Jan and Zerghuna!

Please see our previous post for all the videos.

On behalf of Our Journey to Smile in Afghanistan,


elections II

Nazuko, filmed while making rice for the evening meal




BBC Talking Point 20/8/09

Afghan voices: Election hopes and fears


In the wake of Afghanistan’s presidential elections, the BBC has asked people across the country for their expectations and hopes for their country.


Amateur film maker Teck Young Wee interviewed people across Bamiyan, central Afghanistan and sent his videos to the BBC.


They show student Zerghuna describe her hopes for ‘a compassionate peace loving and honest President’ and Mohammad Jan wants to see ‘peace and security in Afghanistan’.


Nazuko, filmed while making rice for the evening meal, hopes for a ‘peaceful, comfortable and trouble-free life’.


People in the streets of Kabul share their hopes for their country

Afghans across the world filmed themselves imagining what they would do if they were the next president.

Student Bismillah Momand from Kabul would like to eradicate corruption, Wakil Halimi – now a taxi driver and medical student in London – would increase wages for workers and Ehsan Ullah from Kandahar would draw up an extensive constitution.

The BBC also interviewed people in the streets of Kabul to find out whether they’d be casting their vote and what they hoped the elections could achieve.



A desperate Afghan election of war and the Meocracy of Me


Afghans and internationals are desperate.


Children, troops, truth, kindness and things that make the destitute life tolerable are desperately dying.


Efforts to build this country are desperately failing.


I heard a young Afghan friend say, as I have heard many times before, “Since I was born, I’ve known nothing but war. We are sick and tired of war.”


How can life survive in this desperation?


How does a person cope with such desperation, besides handling neglect, grief, anger and disappointment?


How does a person cope with the glaring disparity between words and actions, between actions and conscience?


I’m afraid that neither my friend nor the world is coping.


Our spirit-killing, stubborn selves answer war with war, bloodshed with bloodshed and fear with fear. This conventional approach from self-assumed ‘better’ humans or civilizations does not encourage or give any alternatives to my Afghan friend.


Do you hear the desperation? Do you understand?


How can we understand when all we hear is either the shout or silence of self-aggrandizement?


The self-absorbed domination of money and power in the hands of a few is so globally pervasive that we can no longer hear, see or think humanely.


We only hear, see and think what the dominant few want us to and this makes the ordinary Afghan person desperate, as they fatefully accept that because the rich and powerful are set on war and fear-mongering, there is no other choice.


Whereas almost all human beings understand that killing an ‘enemy’ creates more ‘enemies’ and therefore makes us less secure, sadly, this has now been the globally sanctioned way for more than a century.


There is now no space at all to address the more basic human causes of extreme violence worldwide: hate, pride, discontentment.


We are desperately staring, in US Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ own words, at an Afghan ‘mystery’, but still acting as if we know what’s good and moral for the Afghan home.


What led Afghanistan and the world to this desperation?


One significant regression is the growth of a system of life and governance that is motivated by the self-focused fear of losing our lives, our money and our power : the Meocracy of me. It says primitively, “ Me fear I won’t be safe! Me fear I won’t be rich! Me fear I won’t have control!”


9/11 or terrorism


As a culmination and ongoing expression of complex, historical, cultural, religious and multinational self-interests which has estranged or disconnected all meaningful relationships of human trust, and unbeknown to the illiterate Afghan populace who are mostly farmers and shepherds, 19 angry persons ( and behind them many more angry persons ) successfully frightened the world on 9/11.


NONE of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were Afghan.


NONE of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were Afghan?!


Some Afghans thought, “Could even our most fearsome, turban-clad countrymen have been such competent pilots and engineers, able to bring down the Twin Towers?” Such tall buildings were way beyond any tribal Afghan’s reasonable mud-hut imagination anyway, far less precision flying into them!


But what good chance and fortune that fiery American bombs came to ‘save’ Afghans in revenge for a  9/11 terror enacted by non-Afghans!


8 years later, the Americans and other Great Gamers with various names like NATO ( you should drop this acronym to Afghan village folk to see if it makes any sense to them ), are refashioning their enterprise to clear, hold and build what?


Build by clearing and occupying all semblance of a meaningful life?


Army General David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, had already said that Al-Qaeda is no longer operating in Afghanistan. So, what’s this gross escalating violence all about? What is all this dying about?


If the Obama administration is intent on dismantling ‘safe havens’, they have to deal with hate, and any human can tell you that hate, once lodged in the human heart against anyone, is not country-bound. It is certainly not assuaged by killing.


The Meocracy of Me


But it seems that war simply has to carry on, like life. The Meocracy of Me, the self-absorbed protection and perpetuation of fears, through and for the dominance of money and power, drives life and death today.


I am not anti-American. I am anti-violence, violence being any action that puts down another human being. So, despising another person or thinking that the other person is absolutely wrong is violent. Violence robs dignity and dehumanizes and is proud and rude. It feeds fear and leaves no room for love. It is all about Me. In its extreme expression, it deliberately takes away the most basic human right to life, by inflicting death.


In late June 2009, sometime near the 30th of Jaoza 1388 according to the Afghan calendar, the US Senate overwhelmingly approved a US$106 billion emergency spending bill to expand the war in Afghanistan and to continue the war in Iraq.


So the money and power keeps pouring in, to the delight of every powerful, corrupt and already rich one.


More troops.


More bombs.


More money.


More power.


More fear.


More Me.


More desperation.


Just before the elections, Panther’s Claw was waged and declared a ‘success’. COIN? The Afghan women and children and international troopers suffering and dying through COIN say, “What? Why?” We need to be reminded that the dead, of course, can never ask again.


This is like setting a horrid, gory, all brawn and brawn, Hollywood movie-style war scenario and then embedding a ‘democratic election’ smack in the midst of it.


And every other human sitting in their comfortable first-world couch elsewhere is supposed to say of this election, “Hooray to democracy and freedom and human rights in Afghanistan!”


Cast the bombs and IEDs! Cast your votes!


Milestone for democracy in war! Fair elections in the midst of war! How desperate can we get?


So, in this un-stoppable tide of the ‘good’ and ‘winnable’ war arising from the superpower ‘democracy’ of our day, an appropriate presidential client-ally will somehow be ‘democratically’ elected.


Ask the ordinary Afghan and most of them will tell you with a help-less sigh that though the current Karzai government is incorruptibly corrupt and self-serving, Karzai will probably win again, mysteriously, against any common sense of justice.


Ordinary Afghans pragmatically live and understand the oppressed life, that it’s not the upright but the powerful and rich who win, because they can coerce or buy conformity from the fearful and poor masses.


A lost humanity and creativity : the desperate election


Please imagine standing beside a mother or a child or a young soldier dying from a bomb or a bullet. Try saying, “We’re doing this for our revenge and your protection, our security and your freedom. We have no alternatives. It really isn’t about you. It’s about Me.”


What desperate words when we should really be saying, “We’re sorry, we love you and we’ll miss you and it hurts like mad.”


In the midst of all these comes the elections.


A small illustration of creativity lost to Meocracy. In 2007, through a well-intentioned Youth Empowerment Program funded by USAID and implemented by UN Habitat, a village in the valley of Sumara in Bamiyan was approached to set up a village youth council. This was done through the process of ‘democratic elections’ taught to the youth.


But, it was contextually overlooked that these are the youth who casually say, “Since I was born, I’ve known nothing but war.”


Wow! The potential money and power ‘Me’ will get being the Youth Council President, to survive in this war, I mean, in this life.


So, when the youth of Sumara gathered to ‘elect’ their Youth Council for the first time in their till recently self-sufficient village, the elections took on power-hungry tones, which brought out the deep-seated racial prejudices, with their elders stepping in to back their own sons and daughters.


So, the Sumara youth never got a chance to have their ‘capacity-building’ workshops on ‘how to write a proposal ( for dollar-funded projects )’, in English! In the other youth councils I work with, the only, exasperating non-creative solution to any issue or problem is not “ What can we do?” but “ Write a Proposal!”, a crippling dependence on foreign money and power.


That was 2 years ago. I recently visited the Sumara youth over a peace-building program. They still haven’t resolved the fall-out from that ‘democratic election’.


Foreigners and foreign ways cannot build an Afghan village, far less the Afghan nation. Afghans can and need to resolve this on their own, which includes resolving their own wars.


So, we get the desperation that we plant, besides the thousands of graves everywhere.


We suddenly get a country of 17 million plus registered ‘democratic’ voters, never mind the fraud, who would desperately emulate their American Senate patrons in ‘democratically’ voting for more money and power even if it means war, to address the same human fears.


What we get is the desperate, dramatic, electoral trap of rigging power for the dominant Me-s.


We get the desperate election of everything a human does not want.


We get a desperate Afghan election of war and the Meocracy of Me.




On behalf of Our Journey to Smile


US regrets civilian deaths : Our Great Deception
April 21, 2009, 7:44 am
Filed under: Uncategorized


Human civilization in this Age of Technological Terror has perfected a deep-rooted Culture of War, founded on pride, hate and finances, so another ONE death means relatively and absolutely NOTHING, in the midst of a Great Deception that believes naively that our children can find safe zones in shelling, creativity in cluster ammunition, humanity in human shields, mercy in manipulative politics, reliability in rhetoric, help in hurling even more money and sigh..a Great Sigh, dignity in the destruction of fellow human beings.

Our Journey to Smile

US regrets civilian deaths

Al Jazeera 210409

The senior US and Nato commander in Afghanistan has apologised for civilian casualties caused by international forces, saying there is not enough money in the world to replace the loss of an Afghan life.

General David McKiernan made the remarks on Sunday, following repeated calls from Hamed Karzai, the Afghan president, for explanations of civilian deaths.

Afghan college students appeal to UN Racism Conference for peace and humanity ‎
April 19, 2009, 12:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

US boycotts racism conference

Al Jazeera and BBC 19/04/09

The United States has said it will not attend an United Nations conference on racism because the text of the draft final statement contains language it is “unable to support”, the state department says.

Australia and Canada have also chosen not to attend.

Multiethnic Afghan college students appeal to UN Racism Conference members for peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, humanity, friendship, brotherhood and love.


Below is a text of their appeal in the video.

Afghan college students appeal to UN Racism Conference for peace and humanity


I am Mohammad Salim, a student of Bamiyan University and a Tajik. The ruined city you see behind is a historical city of Afghanistan where Ghenghis Khan once ruled.We request the UN Conference members that they’ll bring about a world civilization of honour and peace, of close, warm friendships and brotherhood.

I am Mariam. I’m Hazara, a citizen of Afghanistan and a citizen of the world. We understand that every human has a mother who wishes for her children goodness, happiness and peace. We request the UN Conference for reconciliation, peace and brotherhood because being humane brings true civilization to Mankind.

I’m Amin and I’m Pushtoon. Through history, Mankind has been hurting each other. We should now forgive one another. We wish from the UN members for compassion and forgiveness, that’s all.

I’m Abdul Wahab, I’m Uzbek and I’m a student at Bamiyan University. Discrimination is destroying the world. We ask the UN Conference, for the whole world, to bring peace, security, friendship and love. Thank you!

Thanks and Peace! سلامت باشین!


US silent on Guantanamo abuse claim : Aren’t we all opaquely silent about the lack of transparency in global affairs?‎
April 16, 2009, 8:36 am
Filed under: Uncategorized


Aren’t we all hurting, prisoner or free?

Don’t we all distrust anything anyone says in public, especially our elected politicians?

Aren’t we all blinded already by global violence, hate and revenge?

Aren’t we all opaquely silent?

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. “

Martin Luther King Jr

US silent on Guantanamo abuse claim

Al Jazeera 16/4/2009

The US state department has refused to comment on a claim that guards at Guantanamo Bay prison camp abused a Chadian prisoner held there.

Al Jazeera reported on Tuesday that Mohammad al-Qurani had been beaten and tear-gassed by guards after Barack Obama, the US president, pledged to end abuse at the camp in January.

Cory Crider, a member of al-Qurani’s legal team, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday it was hard to ascertain how al-Qurani had been treated in recent months as the situation varied from camp to camp within the facility and also there had been  “ramping up” of secrecy in the new administration.

On his second day in office, Obama ordered the closure of the prison, which has been heavily criticised by rights groups over reports of ill-treatment of detainees.

He also ordered that prisoners held there be treated in line with the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit the abuse of detainees.

Ramzi Kassem, a lawyer for some detainees at Guantanamo Bay, said his clients had been subjected to similar abuses at Guantanamo Bay over the past two years and that the situation had remained the same despite the Obama administration coming to power.

“However, he ( Obama ) tasked the department of defence with conducting that review, so the same people… who had been running the operation for years were charged with being critical of their own operation. So, when the report came out, it said that everything was all right. It really wasn’t critical and independent in the ways we would have wanted.”

Afghan and global refugee boat people : Isn’t there enough evidence for Mankind’s desperation from war?‎
April 16, 2009, 8:33 am
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How long more will Mankind wait while fellow human beings suffocate and drown in their bodies and souls, through our decisions to wage war on ourselves?

Blast on refugee boat off Australia

Al Jazeera 16/4/2009

At least three people have been killed and two others are missing after an explosion on a boat carrying asylum seekers off Australia‘s northwestern coast.

Police said the boat carrying 49 refugees from Afghanistan was being towed to a refugee processing centre on Australia‘s Christmas Island when the explosion occurred.

Kite Runner Author Khaled Hosseini responds to OJTS Youth Letter to UN Hague ‎Conference
April 15, 2009, 5:21 am
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Kite Runner is a bestseller book and film written by Khaled Hosseini. It tells a poignant story of the friendship between Amir, a Pushtoon boy, and Hassan, a Hazara boy through the tumultuous periods of the Soviet occupation and the Taliban in Afghanistan.



Dear Our Journey to Smile:

Thank you for sharing your Letter of Humanity’s Love from Afghan youth to the UN Hague Conference.  It was very moving and I am grateful you have included me in your distribution of it. I wish your organization the best of luck with its goals.

Khaled Hosseini


Dear Khaled,

آز شما هم تشکر ( Thanks to you too! )

Thanks so much for your personal reply; it encouraged us deeply, particularly Abdulai and Raziq who have watched The Kite Runner 5 times!

Do stay in touch and join us on the 21st of September 2009 at the Bamiyan Buddhas if your schedule allows you.

Every human heart wonders about the 1000-times-over sort of friendship. Thanks for increasing our hope and our imagination!

سلامت باشید! ( Be at peace! )

Our Journey to Smile

Laith Mushtaq of Al Jazeera writes a note of encouragement to Our Journey to Smile ‎
April 14, 2009, 9:51 am
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Laith filmed this family attempting to flee Fallujah – ten minutes later they were dead

Our Journey to Smile’s 10/3/2009 post Will humanity forget, constantly, constantly? ( see below, after letters ) featured Laith Mushstaq’s article on Al Jazeera titled ‘Fallujah never leaves my mind’.

Below is Laith’s letter to Our Journey to Smile and others who gave feedback to his article, as well as Our Journey to Smile’s thanks to Laith.

Dear all ( including Our Journey to Smile )

Thank you very much for your reactions to the article about Fallujah.

Al Jazeera’s website team has forwarded your feedback to me and it is amazing to see how many people from all over the world have written, from Afghanistan over Switzerland to America. Some of you even took the time to translate the article into their languages and published it on other websites. Feel free to use it in whatever way you think is good, so that it may reach as many readers as possible.

Your words mean a lot to me – especially the reactions from those of you who come from the United States. Thank you. Your letters prove that our shared humanity goes much deeper than culture or religion. In the end, we all feel what it right or wrong, no matter where we grew up.

Many of you have suggested that a film should be done out of all the footage that I shot in Fallujah. I have thought about this for a long time and maybe it will work out. The story you read is also just a tiny part of a very long interview about the Iraq war – hopefully we will be able to share the rest of it on day.

Kind regards to all of you


Humanity’s barriers of sights and sound

Dear Laith and friends,

Thanks for using your skills to WIDEN the shared humanity that may be sitting anxiously un-nurtured in Mankind’s day-to-day efforts!

We in Afghanistan often move around wondering deeply in our conscience:

What is truth? Where is compassion? Is peace possible? ( We had a 3 month Peace Workshop last year at Bamiyan University through which some students concluded that peace is NOT possible… )

Perhaps these questions are meant NOT to be answered, in order to keep us humble and give us empathy.

Laith, go for your Fallujah film!

Do stay in touch and join us on the 21st of September 2009 at the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan if your schedule allows you.

Please take 2 minutes and 11 seconds J to see some Afghan youth ask questions about Obama’s US$83 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We don’t expect many to see and hear our ordinary Afghan voices and views, but you probably know too well already such barriers of sight and sound.

Afghans ask ”Where is humanity in Obama’s 83 billion+ American war?‎”


Many,many thanks and much peace!

Our Journey to Smile

Our Journey to Smile’s Post on 10/3/2009

Will we forget, constantly, constantly?

Or will we forever brush the discomfort aside because that corpse was not our mother’s or our child’s?

Or will we join Laith Mushtaq in saying, “Fallujah ( in-humane, senseless death ) never leaves my mind.”

Don’t we realize what ANY ‘army does on the ground’ and if we do, what do we choose to do or say about such a realization?

Dear Laith,

Thanks for your work and your article, because media, like everything else, should help us understand ourselves.

We, Afghan youth, understand those images that never leave your mind. We have to learn to cope somehow and we need to be strong.

And to hope that human civilization can change. If it doesn’t چه کنیم؟” What can we do? “


Our Journey to Smile