Our Journey to Smile

An Afghan message of peace to Obama the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, about our savage ‘Afghan’ instincts; and timeless advice from the ‎wall behind him

Please watch a young, Afghan friend talk about our savage ‘Afghan’ instincts


the 'savage' Afghan

“They are like ‘animals’ because they are unethical & get furious.”

From my peaceful mud-house in the Afghan Hindu Kush hills, I imagine a White House morning when Malia and Shasha are sincerely worried and fearful about some dangerous rumours, that inhuman extremists in Hamburg, Yemen, Somalia, Afg/Pak and closer to home, in New York, may be plotting to hurt them and their friends.

I can’t imagine their kind, loving father Obama storming into their room and shouting, “Don’t worry, I will send 40,000 more troops to every one of those places, I’ll escalate the number of Nevada-based computer-drone pilots who would remotely extinguish your distant fears, and if you have any strong suspicions about any fishy characters near you, I will activate our modified renditions, trace down and destroy all their safe havens or simply, I’ll kill them all.”

I can’t imagine it because behind Obama’s desk in his Senate office, there are 2 iconic pictures on the wall, of heroes close to Obama’s heart : Ghandi and Martin Luther King. They would speak to Obama in their deaths if they could. What they would have said today they had said years ago; and I’ve reproduced their clear strategy below for Obama’s convenience.

I can’t imagine this of a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. We congratulate him for being conferred this title.

Obama's heroes behind his Senate desk

If hate is the root of the ‘terror’ around and within us, we clearly need a civil response of courageous love.

We need to bravely re-define what is of ‘necessity’; our conscience and even our fears recognize that what is of ‘necessity’ now is not war.

We cannot make ourselves more secure with more violence. We cannot gain trust with more mutual killing. We never win by imposing death on others or on our own soldiers.

Even if we, somehow, ‘win’, we ourselves, eventually, die. We all do, not just Afghans.

President Obama, ordinary Afghans and international soldiers who are dying in what is now your Afghan war, ask that you do not inadvertently re-define peace as war, for in so doing, you would have taken away all of our hope.

Though I can’t think this mad-ness of America’s First Family, the world is staring at the angry, arrogant illogic of our 21st century’s insecure, First World elite policy makers.

With them, there are no longer any creative, non-violent, civilian alternatives. Very few thinkers think. Hardly any empathize and philosophy is derisively dead.

So, when Gore Vidal said that there’ll be a ‘dictatorship’ in the US soon, or when Jimmy Carter suggested a deep racist undercurrent to health care reform or when the Pope had called the kettle black in blaming greed for the financial crisis, they are partly referring to the complete dominance of the haughty, savage instinct of SELF-preservation over all else. And this isn’t a uniquely savage ‘Afghan’ instinct. It’s in all of us.

No questions.

No alternatives.

Questions and alternatives are deemed treason.

The only ‘winnable’ military strategy becomes sacred and ‘holier-than-thou’, because we believe that we must have ‘victory’ at all cost. We fear ‘losing’, even if we lose everything ‘essential about ourselves’.

Afghans know this strategy very well. They have been dying from the dictatorship of their ancient, violent greed for power and money. Now, we are sealing their greed and our deaths with Man’s hollow appearances and foggy wars. We are declaring:

Fraud is free.

Lies are truths.

Military might is right.

And money is everything.

Afghanistan’s tribal warlordism used to be confined to villages and valleys but now, with international assistance, it has been sanctioned and propagated country-wide. So, Afghans who have lived all their lives surviving and mastering this primitive warlordism are waiting, hungrily waiting.

“Train us! Send us those dollars! We’ll help you through our endlessly vengeful, constantly traitorous shifting allegiances. Don’t worry about us; on the average, we live for only 43 years anyway,” the Afghan elite shout.

Living here in a tribal village in Afghanistan, I’ve come to understand our common human condition. I’m not talking about the breakout of the ‘Lord of the Flies’ style savagery on William Golding’s island or at Kabul’s US fortress or in the desperate, fraudulent Afghan elections.

I’m talking about something much, much cruder.

This madness needs to stop. We need to find love and truth again.

Afghans have not seen compassion or justice in the inhumanity of constant war. They need hope that the abusive money and power of the corporate 1% do not always triumph. Every human needs such hope.

Maybe, they and the world can discover these human values if Obama remains engaged in Afghanistan, but through a 90% civilian effort. We can all be more imaginative in our commitment.

Those who reason that the military strategy must precede the civilian surge should consider the view of Amrullah Saleh, the head of the Afghan intelligence agency, when he said that the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, could play a vital role in ending the Afghan war. “To arrest the Taliban leadership in Quetta, you don’t need a military operation … just soft-knock their house and arrest them,” Saleh told Al Jazeera. Or I ask myself how some international humanitarian civilians and I could live in Quetta post-September 11, without hired security.

We wish for a 90% civilian approach because we envision that robust international relations are fostered through sincere diplomacy, not armed threats and we expect that Obama’s government is ultimately a civilian government, not a military one.

The authority of the Commander-in-Chief was not intended to approve militarism as a way of good governance but as a check, lest we forget that we are firstly humans, and that our naked humanity needs to be our primary resort, way before partisan politics and uniformed plans.

And since weighing the financial cost-benefit of waging war would remorselessly favor fighting for an illusory national security and recycling the tangible military-industrial profit, we’re unlikely to find sanity that way. It’s time, instead, to humanely deliberate over the priceless human cost behind every soldier, veteran and civilian dying, for what?

Obama is heading towards real Change in re-considering the Afghan strategy anew, for the sake of ourselves and our fellow human beings, because re-considering is a key to humanity’s innovation, if not a way to recover our kindness. We are trusting in the kindred spirit overcoming man-made institutions and temporal decorum when we keep hope that the debate would truly be diverse and not merely cosmetic.

No human likes abandonment, as is natural in normal friendships, so while some rightly fear that creating all the civilian options we can muster to assist Afghanistan may be misconstrued as leaving Afghanistan, those fears are unfounded and unfriendly.

Einstein’s pacifist intellect is sorely needed but his common sense intellect is sufficiently important at this moment: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”

Obama’s penchant for history knows that war certainly isn’t new. War is the same old, tragic story. It will never be the ‘substantially new manner of thinking’ required for our survival, for our freedom from fear and our search for meaning.

President Obama, please reason with the civil hearts among the masses, whose majority want peace, through a referendum if necessary. You will then witness the very virtue you want your iconic heroes to remind you of, that ‘real results will not just come from Washington, they will come from the people’, that a truer ‘governance of the people by the people’ built upon the moral compass of ordinary people is possible in the States, and with great patience, in Afghanistan too. After all, whether we live life with a conferred title, rank or uniform, or as name-less souls, we all perish as ordinary people.

And please heed the civil voices, even if they come from the dead, silent wall behind you.

For then, the escalating anger and madness, our shared savage instincts, would begin to abate. And our world would find genuine safety in decency and in the conciliatory civilizations of this age, the momentous change we’ve all been longing for.

the 'civil' Afghanthe bright, civil Afghan

Ghandi and Martin Luther King to Obama today

Below are the 2 icons speaking to Obama. I have not bothered to change the names of the countries mentioned because the love and truth spoken in their views don’t change, not for the well-known Presidents that pass through the White House, or for the unknown Afghans that live in the hills.

And enough similarities have been drawn about the Afghan and Vietnam war scenarios, though such analyses can never bring back those who have been killed in the past, nor clarify the doubts of those who choose to kill today, nor alleviate the terror of those who may be killed.

Ghandi to Obama today

Gandhi spinning wheel Obama's office


I may not carry my argument any further. Language at best is but a poor vehicle for expressing one’s thoughts in full. For me nonviolence is not a mere philosophical principle. It is the rule and the breath of my life. I know I fail often, sometimes consciously, more often unconsciously. It is a matter not of the intellect but of the heart. True guidance comes by constant waiting upon God, by utmost humility, Self-abnegation, by being ever ready to sacrifice one’s self. Its practice requires fearlessness and courage of the highest order. I am painfully aware of my failings.

But the Light within me is steady and clear. There is no escape for any of us save through truth and non-violence. I know that war is wrong, is an unmitigated evil. I know too that it has got to go. I firmly believe that freedom won through bloodshed or fraud is no freedom.

The end and aim of the movement for British withdrawal is to prepare India, by making her free for resisting all militarist and imperialist ambition, whether it is called British Imperialism, German Nazism, or your pattern. If we do not, we shall have been ignoble spectators of the militarization of the world in spite of our belief that in non-violence we have the only solvent of the militarist spirit and ambition. Personally I fear that without declaring the Independence of India the Allied powers would still not be able to beat the Axis combination which has raised violence to the dignity of a religion. The allies cannot beat you and your partners unless they beat you in your ruthless and skilled warfare. If they copy it, their declaration that they will save the world for democracy and individual freedom must come to naught. I feel that they can only gain strength to avoid copying your ruthlessness by declaring and recognizing now the freedom of India, and turning sullen India’s forced co-operation into freed India’s voluntary co-operation.
To Britain and the Allies we have appealed in the name of justice, in proof of their professions, and in their own self-interest. To you I appeal in the name of humanity. It is a marvel to me that you do not see that ruthless warfare is nobody’s monopoly. If not the Allies, some other Power will certainly improve upon your method and beat you with your own weapon. Even if you win you will leave no legacy to your people of which they would feel proud. They cannot take pride in a recital of cruel deeds however skillfully achieved.
Even if you win, it will not prove that you were in the right; it will only prove that your power of destruction was greater. This applies obviously to the Allies too, unless they perform now the just and righteous act of freeing India as an earnest and promise of similarly freeing all other subject peoples in Asia and Africa.

I address this appeal to you in the hope that our movement may even influence you and your partners in the right direction and deflect you and them from the course which is bound to end in your moral ruin and the reduction of human beings to robots.
The hope of your response to my appeal is much fainter than that of response from Britain. I know that the British are not devoid of a sense of justice and they know me. I do not know you enough to be able to judge. All I have read tells me that you listen to no appeal but to the sword. How I wish that you are cruelly misrepresented and that I shall touch the right chord in your heart! Anyway I have an undying faith in the responsiveness of human nature.

Martin Luther King to Obama today

Martin Luther King at rally Obama's office

Martin Luther King

Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements, and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not ready for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long.

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops.

Surely we must understand their feelings, even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called “enemy,” I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.

Somehow this madness must cease.

Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the hearts of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.
This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I’m not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another, for love is God. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.” “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.” Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.

We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood. It ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.”

We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.


Sometimes, ‘no’ is better for Afghan toilet development; building a Peace Park in Afghanistan

Please watch a short video clip of Bamiyan Peace Park’s opening


Bamiyan Peace Park Opening

Bamiyan Governor Dr Sarobi with volunteer youth at Peace Park opening

Play that Afghan flute with your own breath of truth

Sound that Afghan tune with your own heart of love

Transform that Afghan poverty with your own hand of labour

“No, in that case, don’t apply for those foreign funds!”

In 2007, City Mayor Zahir proposed to the Bamiyan Peace Committee ( a UN-facilitated government and non-governmental peace building committee headed by the Bamiyan Provincial Governor Dr Sarobi ) to build a 1134 square meter Peace Park within Bamiyan City.

From the Peace Park site, you can see the Bamiyan Buddhas which were destroyed by the Taliban. These Buddhist structures were built more than 1800 years ago and though Bamiyan locals are all Muslims, they were dismayed at the loss of this heritage.

Also seen in another direction is the City of Gholghola. ‘Gholghola’ means ‘noise’, said to be the noise made by the screams of the ancient city’s inhabitants as they were being slaughtered by the raiding hordes of Genghis Khan. Genghis was taking revenge for Metiken, his favorite grandson who was killed earlier in a Bamiyan battle.

Bamiyan City is a fascinating, historical crossroads whose atmosphere holds both hurt and hope.

Can Afghans develop a single-street city and its environs? No? Size-wise, it’s merely a ­­­2 km-long street lined on both sides by mud-brick haggling shops and chair-less tea-houses.

The main Buddha statue, though ‘artilleried’ beyond recognition, tells the stone-silent Central Asian story that humans in every age build their culture with their own hands, and build it well. Surrounding the original 53 meter tall statue are other smaller statues and a natural system of caves where monks and pilgrims stayed and came to worship.

Human civilizations do not lose their ancient skill of community building, unless the skill is deliberately quenched or subdued.

Ahmed Rashid talked about Afghanistan being a ‘rentier’ state in the book Taliban, ‘rentier’ alluding to a state almost totally dependant on foreign help. This un-natural dependence has become so ingrained and extreme that Afghans joke about it. You can hear the regretful damage done to their proud Afghan spirit. “Nowadays, to construct our own latrines, we also have to submit project proposals to foreigners.”

Suddenly, after centuries of resilient survival under rather harsh conditions, Afghans can’t make latrines in which to relief themselves! Yes, Afghans are poor but latrines have always been hand-built at practically no cost, constructed out of free bricks made from the ample, free indigenous soil, the same earth-bound way the caves were hewn out of rock!

This self-effacing laugh at themselves is an unwilling protest that something important within them has been taken away.

Many of the Afghan youth I work with, emulating their adults, genuinely believe that ‘without foreign money and help, we cannot do anything. We just can’t!”

So, as ‘conventional wisdom’ would dictate, there were NO questions asked about how the proposed Peace Park would be built. Like for every other public Afghan development, proposals written in English (rather than in their equally beautiful Dari) would be handed to foreign donors and if ‘successfully’ approved, there would be funds for the Park’s construction and perhaps ‘extra dollars’ for a few personal pockets too.

Basically, if there’s no foreign money, there’ll be no local park.

So, the government-allocated Peace Park site remained its un-cultivable rocky, neglected self, for more than a year.


Bamiyan Peace Park in August 2008

Then, in July 2008, college youth involved in a peace workshop took an interest in the yet ‘un-seen and un-funded’ Park. On their behalf, I suggested to the Peace Committee that as this was just a small park, it should be a Park built entirely by the people of Bamiyan.

“Please, we have to be realistic!”

“Aren’t you aware that there’s not a single public structure in Bamiyan that is not foreign-stamped?”

“Er…we don’t have the capacity to be self-sufficient.”

“We can’t do it!”

I felt that a different kind of proposal needed to be heard by local and foreign committee members alike, that the dignity of Afghans whom I love needed space, needed room.

So, in Dari, I persuaded, “Please understand that I’m not antagonistic towards foreigners. I can’t be. I’m a foreigner myself. But we should try to make this Park a Park built by the people! How about mobilizing village councils to contribute in various ways? How about the private or civil sectors? ”

Thankfully, Dr Sarobi, the only female Governor in Afghanistan, despite her doubts, was willing to try. “Let’s invite the private sector to consider funding the building of this Park.”

In September 2008, Dr Sarobi officiated at the Park’s ground-breaking ceremony. Agricultural soil was donated by the naturalized Afghan-Japanese boss of a local hotel. 2 of the bigger local construction companies sent their graders for leveling the soil. Bamiyan volunteer youth came, wielding shovels to help with the leveling.

Winter set in.

I heard from City Mayor Zahir about a hopeful proposal submitted by a government directorate. Otherwise, there was no movement.

I gave in.

You see, the result-orientated foreigner in me hurried to seize an opportunity to get funds from the German Embassy. After all, the intention of assistance is usually good and benign. Why say ‘no’ to good-will?

But, what I did when I submitted a proposal to the German Embassy through the UN office in Bamiyan was this : I was nipping the budding resolve of my Afghan friends and of myself, to do this patiently, on our own.

My ‘pragmatism’ became the betrayer of our nascent hope.

‘Fortunately’, through providence or the lack of it, the German Embassy rejected the proposal.

Time slipped by and we all had our own individual challenges as the harsh winter deepened, and the thin topsoil that had been leveled at the Park grounds froze over.

But time also nurtured thoughts of a new spring and independence in our minds. A few youth gathered again in the spring of 2009 to prepare the soil for planting. The volunteer turnout was meager and on one occasion, was only a pathetic pair.

But there was a remnant of effort and a trace of determination.

The City Mayor’s municipality workers tilled the land and landscaped it.

We reminded the Environment Directorate to source for and plant grass seed. We took an official government letter requesting for tree saplings to the Agricultural Directorate, only to face a bureaucratic hold-up, “I can’t give you any saplings as the number of saplings needed is not specified in this letter.’

In short, reform demands patience and persistence.

And patience, perhaps especially when it is NOT rewarded, grows.

The grass and trees were planted and began to grow. And our courage grew with the greening of the Park.

Bamiyan Peace Park after

Bamiyan Peace Park October 2009

It was then that the youth’s appreciation of independence was ‘tested’. This time,I merely explained to the youth that an international NGO ( Non-Governmental Organization ) was willing to fund a part of the Park’s further development, including the possibility of building toilets for the Park, but that the NGO had an understandable regulation of placing a signboard to acknowledge their contribution. If the NGO helped, it might eventually appear like a foreign-built local Park after all.

After surprisingly quick discussions, all except one of the youth decided that they would submit a proposal on condition that the NGO waivered the ‘signboard regulation’.

I got back to the NGO’s project manager, a foreigner, who said, “No, sorry. We have our regulations. I’m very busy. We have the money. Just submit the proposal.”

Here’s another strange and humanly-disturbing irony about well-meaning help, rendered a crippling crutch by the assumed ‘right’ and ‘power’ of money, which inflates the helper with a semblance of philanthropy and deflates the helped with the embarrassment of inferiority.

So, the youth politely said ‘no’! “No, in that case, don’t apply for those foreign funds!” I myself was pleasantly surprised. No, I was overjoyed.

Sometimes, ‘no’ is better. Sometimes, ‘no’ gives room to play our flutes and give sound to our hearts.

The youth participated in the sale of a book and from the proceeds of the book sales, Bamiyan University students had an engraved marble plaque crafted and placed in the Park.

On the 1st of October 2009, Dr Sarobi inaugurated the opening of Bamiyan Peace Park as part of the International Peace Day celebrations. In her short speech, she said, “Firstly, I want to appreciate & thank all the volunteer youth who, with their own hands, have turned a place of stone into a park of beauty. Unfortunately, through years of war & conflict, we’ve lost some values. We’ve lost self-sufficiency and self-belief. Everyone waits for a foreign NGO to place a stone or brick before doing anything. If we work together, we can do a lot. Building this Peace Park is an example that if we set our own goals & not wait on others, we can build our own country and not be dependant on others.”

At the quiet opening ceremony, the predatory forces within the hearts of all men were seeking their rude expression; some of those who had hardly participated in the Park’s development claimed credit, some belittled the beautiful tune of the village flutist and others ridiculed the quivering voice of the young master of ceremony.

But there were those of us who held the grace of those who truly laboured for the Peace Park close to our hearts, workers who say ‘no’ to external appearances and empty rhetoric, and who, though often ignored or despised, would stand steady on their own two feet.

The Dari script on the plaque says, “Bamiyan Peace Park. Established 1388”

Bamiyan Peace Park 1388Bamiyan Peace Park Established 1388

Calling international peacemakers to unite for the Peace Trek in the Great Afghan Outdoors on the 25th ‎of Sept 2009‎

Calling international peacemakers to unite for the Peace Trek in the Great Afghan Outdoors on the 25th of Sept 2009

Peace Trek in the Great Afghan Outdoors

Come for the Peace Trek in the Great Afghan Outdoors on the 25th of Sept 2009!

Why should peacemakers from NATO and other countries come together for a Peace Trek in the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan?

The world needs to find trust and hope again.

The world needs a concrete, visible solidarity for peace.

Troopers with guns (now more than 100,000 and ‘surging’ ) from NATO and other countries have come together for the Afg/Pak War in the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan.

Peacemakers from NATO and other countries should come together for Peace in the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan.

The world needs to witness humanity’s unity with respect to non-violence and peace, in contrast to witnessing humanity’s coalition with respect to violence and war.

Recent polls in Europe ( Germany, France, Europe ) and the US show waning public support for the war in Afghanistan. Peacemakers have an opportune moment to make a stand together in the Afghan arena itself, to galvanize the world’s majority opinion.

If the military forces can work together for ‘foggy’ causes, can’t peacemakers journey together for peace through humane relationships. Can’t peacemakers put aside their ‘peace pride’, ‘peace partisan agendas’ and ‘peace names’ for the sake of peace itself?

Why do so this September, and why in 2009?

21st September is the UN-designated, annual International Peace Day.

We should take a stand in Afghanistan this year because the world’s socio-political and military focus in 2009 is on Afghanistan.

The world is watching!

Why Afghanistan?

Because Afghanistan is home to struggling but dignified fellow humans who desperately need creative alternatives to constant wars.

Why Bamiyan?

Bamiyan can be the seed and catalyst of peace in Afghanistan, being one of the most secure provinces.

Read BBC’s recent article “Putting Bamiyan back on the Map”, in which UN envoy Kai Eide says “if we ignore places that are stable, we will pay a price for it”.


The restoration of the Bamiyan Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban forms a symbolic background of the restoration of peace in the world, regardless of differences in culture and faith.

The Band-e-Amir lake in Bamiyan is the first National Park of Afghanistan.

Please watch Afghan youth invite the world to come to Afghanistan’s first National Park, Band-e-Amir, for friendship and peace.


Why take the personal risk and expense?

Why not?

Why the Shah Fuladi mountain lakes of the Hindu Kush range?

Because like Afghans, the Great Afghan Outdoors is beautiful.

Peace Trek to the Shah Fuladi Lakes

Peace Trek to the Shah Fuladi lakes

When is the Peace Trek in the Great Afghan Outdoors?

25th of September 2009

Who is organizing the Peace Trek?

Our Journey to Smile, a peace building effort among Afghan youth in Bamiyan http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog

Letter of invitations will be sent from the Bamiyan Journalist Association

Our Journey to Smile is partnering with UN Environment Protection Bamiyan and UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan Bamiyan in this International Peace Day event.

Who pays for all the trip expenses?

As we are an entirely volunteer set-up with no funding, the peacemaker volunteer has to take all responsibility over his/her own personal safety and finances for the entire trip.

Bamiyan is one of the safest provinces in Afghanistan.

How to join the Peace Trek in the Great Afghan Outdoors?

  1. Read more about the Peace Trek ( updates will be posted in the next few days ) and Our Journey to Smile at http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog
  1. Write to us at contact@ourjourneytosmile.com

Name :




Nationality :
Peace Group affiliated to ( if any ) :

Email address :

Please state clearly that you are not representing any religious or political group.

We’ll send you the letter of invitation

and your journey of peace begins!

Peace Trek in the Afghan Hindu Kush Mountains

Peace Trek in the Afghan Hindu Kush mountains

Afghan peace needs a human face VI : Zahra an Afghan girl speaks, rather nervously‎

zahra speaks

You can write to Zahra at journeytosmile@gmail.com

Do you commonly hear and see a young Afghan girl speaking?

We have been trying to give voice to the ordinary Afghan girl. We are grateful to Zahra for her humble and dignified words.

Zahra an Afghan girl speaks, rather nervously


In the Name of God the Forgiver

Peace to all friends in all corners of the world

Peace. Without peace, there won’t be any kind of happiness on earth.

Peace is a desired condition that makes possible an inner life of rest.

In your opinion, is peace possible in Afghanistan?


Who can bring peace to Afghanistan?

The youth and people of Afghanistan.

What message of peace do you have for youth in other parts of the world?

My message is: everyone in the world should be peace-loving & be committed to work for peace and a world that’s peaceful.

Zahra the Afghan girl speaks for peace!

Note : Afghanistan has the second highest rate of maternal mortality in the world, after Niger. 1,600 out of every 100,000 pregnant women die in Afghanistan each year because of poor health facilities.

Afghan peace needs a human face I toV : Thanks from Afghan faces of peace Abdulai, Raziq, ‎Aziz and Shir Ali

thanks from Abdulaithanks from Abdulai

On behalf of our Afghan friends, thank you so much for encouraging them with your emails.

Please watch them say their heartfelt thanks.


Abdulai : Thank you for sending the letters

Raziq : Thank you for your emails.

Aziz : Thanks for the emails you sent.

Shir Ali : Thank you for sending me letters. Made me happy!

تشکر!  Thanks!

What you’ve done for them is invaluable.

Because though these ‘forgotten’ friends don’t expect anyone to think about them, they yearn to be remembered.

Because though peace is ‘an elusive exasperation’ when war is all around, Afghans long for those quiet and warm connections that make us human.

I’ve posted some of these wonderful ‘connections’ below.

We ask for your understanding as we always need time to get replies from our Afghan friends; they do not have internet access or computers and no easy access to electricity.

abdulai and seedlings

Abdulai growing some seedlings in used tyres

Dear Abdulai,

I really enjoyed your video and all the videos from Our Journey To Smile. I am 14 years old from the United States and on our news channels they never show any of Afghanistan’s children speaking. This is the first time I have heard voices of the Afghan people and seen the beauty of Afghanistan. Someday, I wish I can travel to Bamiyan to see the beautiful place in these videos. Please keep smiling and never give up your hope, because all youth are the future of the world.

Peace be with you.


Dear Elisa,

I was very happy to receive your letter.

Thank you for enjoying the video.

I am about 13 years old. Afghan children, like myself, don’t know their dates of birth.

I hope that you will come to visit me in Bamiyan. I will serve you some black tea. J

Take care and God bless you.


raziq his brother and flowers

Raziq with his brother and beloved flowers

Dear Raziq,

Oh that everyone in the world were friends. War is bad and we hate to hear of people in Afghanistan suffering because of war. Flowers make me happy. When I look at a flower I thank God for the beauty of creation. I love growing flowers and vegetables.

Your friend,

John Broadbent

Dear John,

Thank you for your email.

Where are you from? I am very happy to have a new friend!

I planted cauliflowers, onions, turnips, radish, cabbages and flowers this year.

God bless and take care.

Hope to see you someday.


Aziz through the trees

Aziz through the trees

Afghans are undefeatable because they are very special

Rashida B Syed

Hello Rashida,

Thank you very much.


Aziz in Afghanistan

Shir Ali in the cold

Shir Ali in the cold

I find responses like these from everyday Afghani’s to inspirational and uplifint :] It feels my soul with happiness and hope.

Tali Sakamoto

Dear Tali Sakamoto,

Thank you. I am happy that you saw my video. I wish you peace.

Shir Ali in Afghanistan