Speak Without Interruption (2013): Give Afghanistan back to the Afghans October 20, 2013 Ubud encounters: Give Afghanistan back to the Afghans Posted by Muhammad Cohen in: Art, Asia, Books, China, Faith, Foreign Affairs, Immigration, Islam, Journalism, Military, Religion, Sociology, Terrorism, Travel, War, Women’s Rights, World Issues Australian painter Ben Quilty and Indonesian writer Agustinus Wibowo told the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali how they each reached Afghanistan by different routes for different reasons. But following their stays, they both also reached the same conclusion: after a dozen years and thousands of casualties, it’s time for Afghanistan to solve its problems without foreign help. Wibowo came to Afghanistan for the first time as a curious and footloose traveler. In Afghanistan as well as Pakistan, Wibowo said that since he came from Indonesia, people assumed he was Muslim. Telling them he was an ethic Chinese [read more]

October 20, 2013 // 1 Comment

Gender Corridor Afghanistan (2008): A New Beginning

Gender Corridor Afghanistan, November 2008 “Gender Corridor Afghanistan” is the publication of Gender Equality Project of UNDP Afghanistan. A NEW BEGINNING Armed men loyal to brutal Afghan warlords set up checkpoints and take what they want – including helpless young girls. Women are often raped before being given or sold to whoever desires a bride. Some who survive and escape can no longer live with their ordeal. They douse themselves in gasoline and set themselves ablaze. “Who can say ‘no’ to a war commander?” asks Naseera Shafi, 26, the Regional Office Coordinator for UNDP’s Afghanistan New Beginnings Programme (ANBP) in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif. “They have guns and power. They do whatever they want. When they see a beautiful girl, they may kidnap her and force her to marry …. It’s not uncommon for a young girl to marry an old man under these conditions,” Naseera says. The ANBP aims to create new opportunities for peace and security in the [read more]

November 5, 2008 // 1 Comment

UNDP Gender Equality Posters (2008)

Photos I took in Badakhshan and some other parts of Afghanistan are used for publication posters of Gender Equality Project of UNDP Afghanistan, October 2008. WOMEN, PEACE AND SECURITY IN AFGHANISTAN   AFGHANS WORKING TOGETHER FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT   COMMUNITIES CAN TAKE ACTION TO STOP VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN   Posters are designed by Inis Thailand.   [read more]

October 25, 2008 // 5 Comments

Kabul – Women Carpenters from Afghanistan

Woman carpenters from Dasht Barchi. Most if not all of them are Hazaras. Most people believe that carpentry is a man’s trade, but for the 60 carpentresses of Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi district, it simply isn’t true. “Women are able to do all kinds of work that men do,” they proclaim proudly. Hidden among mud houses which sit idly off of the main road, the center for carpentry is a local shura (council) where women learn about basic carpentry and build various items from cupboards, tables, computer desks, chairs to sandalis (heaters). A middle-aged woman is too happy to take me to the production center, where everything seems to happen all at once, located inside a small hut. “See, we are now able to handle heavy machinery,” she points out to several woodworking equipments that are modern-looking, where two or three women work in tandem to produce wood chops or create nail punctures and screw holes. Nails, chisels, hammers, sawing machines, screwdrivers are as familiar to [read more]

April 3, 2008 // 3 Comments

Kabul – Give Us Women

For every victim, they want seven women as compensation. A journalist friend of mine just returned back from Taliban stronghold southeastern province of Paktika. He recounted to me his amazing experience in the surreal region. Mud-houses disappear in the capital, Sharana, because of the constructions of new modern buildings. Mud houses in the districts also disappeared, due to another reason. In this area security is just an empty talk. For security reason in Taliban controlled district, one at least should be Pashtun, bearded, and dress in turbans. But that’s not everything. Being non-local anyhow is dangerous. And my friend was just lucky to be able to drag a local to rent a car and bring him to the districts near Pakistan border. It was a near-to-death journey. The police were surprised to see this Kabuli Pashtun came to this off-limit region. He was so anxious because Taliban was still everywhere. Anybody here can be Taliban, because everybody looks the same – bearded, [read more]

December 9, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Women Call for Justice

Blue Demonstration Under the scorching sun they yelled, they cried, they screamed. Many of them were completely wrapped by blue burqas. Many of them were invisible. But grieves and cries were heard and tears were felt. The message was clear: call for justice. A group of more than 100 protesters, mostly women, held a demonstration in front of a UN mission office in Kabul today. They brought photos of men. The photos, seen from the fading black and white, are presumed old portraits. Who are the women? Who are the men? Before we go further, let me introduced you to a happening in Kabul some weeks ago. A discovery of mass graves located in Dasht-e-Chamtala, a desert some kilometers away from Central Kabul, in early and mid-July, shocked the country. The last mass grave contained at least 1000 bodies. The human remains reminded all to the two and half decades of wars in the war-torn republic. Bones, skeletons, even scraps of clothes of various colors, each has their own history and [read more]

August 5, 2007 // 0 Comments

Krat – The Wakhi People of Krat

Wakhan Corridor is always far and mysterious “Zdravstvui tovarech” – a villager from Krat Freedom is what the Wakhi people are longing for. I never expected my visit to Chapursan, the Wakhi Tajik valley in northern Pakistan, brought me to learn deeper about the life of the same ethnic in Afghanistan side of the valley. In Chapursan, 7 months ago, I stayed in house of Noorkhan, a Wakhi Tajiki from Kil village, where sun doesn’t come at all in winter for 3 months. Who expected, deep in restricted area of Wakhan Corridor, I met friends and relatives of Noorkhan. Faizal-u-Rahman, 29 years old, is a cousin of Alam Jan Dario, a famous man from Zod Khon village in Chapursan, who pioneered tourism in the valley. I met Faizal in in Khandud. He was offering me a hitch on tractor to the village of Krat in Wakhan Valley of Afghanistan. He, together with other people from Chapursan are working for an American NGO, Central Asian Institute, and this moment they are building a school in the [read more]

August 3, 2006 // 2 Comments

Faizabad – The Journey to Badakhshan

On a painful journey through mountains to Badakhshan “Taliban never came here” The vehicles taking the passengers from Taloqan to Badakhshan were already busy in the bus depot as early as 5 a.m. in the morning. There were many different types of cars, from the cheapest Falancoach until the costly Volvo. I chose the Falancoach coaster. But I didn’t come quite early, as passengers started to be scarce after 5:30. It was not until 7 the driver successfully collected the passengers to fill up his car and started to depart. I sat on the third line of the seats in a coaster which was supposed to carry 14 passengers, but was overloaded by 18. In front of me, there were two women under burqas. Apparently the younger, slimmer one was the daughter of the older one. When I came to my seat, they were already there, busy with three young kids. There was also another boy sitting next to them, obviously, their relative, as it’s forbidden in Afghanistan for non related male to sit next to [read more]

July 25, 2006 // 0 Comments

Taloqan – The Colorful Mondays

Welcome to Taloqan “First it was the culture, then it mixed with the religion” – Sa’dat The city of Taloqan is the capital of the Takhar province, one of Afghanistan northern provinces. Takhar was part of the Qataghan province which once comprised the nowadays provinces of Kunduz, Takhar and Baghlan. Taloqan is hot in summer although compared to Kunduz, it’s much cooler. The city is dusty, but the smoothly paved road which connected the sleepy provincial capital to Kabul promised its brighter future. The city has somehow a strong link with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Unlike other cities in Afghanistan, the roads in Taloqan has clear name and road signs, and many of the main road signs in the town center are backgrounded with Iranian flag, and signed “Afghanistan and Iran”. Some of the roads have quite Iranian smell, like the “Ayatollah Khomeini” St. Some other main roads are Hafez St., and as in all other cities in Afghanistan, the “Ahmad Shah Massoud” St. [read more]

July 23, 2006 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Understanding Islam from the Eyes of a Pashtun

With enveloping burqa, a woman sees the world through the little holes in front of her eyes “In Islam there is a circle. And we cannot get out the circle” — Amin It was not easy to meet and interview people who praised a lot the Taliban regime in recent day Kabul, at least in my one month here, it was the first time I got the chance. The discussion was not political, instead it was more cultural and religious. Amin, a man of 33 years old from Pashtun ethnic, had spent his 29 years of life in Pakistan. He was a refugee. He speaks very good English, and he expressed his idea very well in the language. He used to live in a tribal area in the NWFP (North West Frontier Province) of Pakistan, the area that the Afghans preferred to refer as Pashtunistan. The tribal areas are the areas of the Pashtuns which are not under the Pakistani law. The tribal area where he lived was Mohmand Agency. His ancestors came from a village called Kandari, both existed in Pakistan and [read more]

July 18, 2006 // 2 Comments

Rawalpindi – Do Nambar

Women are rare on Pakistan streets. But when they are, mostly they are totally covered February 21, 2006 I have written many stories of examples of male to male sexual harrassments in Pakistan (personal experiences) and it’s unfair if I dont write the sexual harassments that happen to women, which are far more common. I was in a crowded bus today, heading to Islamabad. When I entered the bus, the seats next to the drivers (supposed to be seats for ladies, and it is really pronounced as LADIES instead of ‘aurat’ in Urdu) was occupied by some men also. The ticket men allowed me to sit in front seat also, maybe because I was foreigner. Then there were about five seats left for the ‘ladies’. But as there was only one woman passengers, the seats were again occupied by male passengers. Then everytime coming a female passenger, those male passengers have to move away and give the seats to the women so that no women will sit next to unrelative males. Something [read more]

February 21, 2006 // 0 Comments

Islamabad – The Capital of Pakistan

The modern Faisal Mosque, named after the king of Saudi Arabia February 3, 2006 The capital of Pakistan, Islamabad- the name means the city of Islam, is a new city created just few decades ago. The designer of the city was a European, and it was designated to be a modern city. The roads are long, straight, with blocks of commercial regions, residential regions, and government offices. The names of the blocks and the roads are even in number, like F-7 for ths Jinnah Supermarket, or G-7 for the block opossite F-7 separated by the main road called ‘blue area’. The using of letter and number is not quite user-friendly. But it seems how it also goes in the West. Nevertheless Islamabad is a new city, the roads are wide, but the population is not that much. The buildings looks more modern and clean than the nearby Rawalpindi, with obvious reason that the strata and level status of the inhabitants are higher, but the feeling of the city is totally empty. Not so much live, [read more]

February 3, 2006 // 0 Comments