Myself and photographer, Tony Di Zinno, are heading to Kabul in a little less than a month. The trip is whirlwind two week trip of discovery to keep the momentum of Mountain to Mountain moving forward while discovering how individuals, communities, and NGO’s are working with the war torn region of Afghanistan…one of the countries that I want to focus on with Mountain to Mountain .
The biggest obstacle to any of this is money. Ironic that I envisioned that the hard part would be getting the work done, the stories told, and empowering communities to create sustainable change from within….and yet really, its raising the money. The stories are there, waiting to be told. The people have creative and direct solutions. The communities are ready to work together. Cold hard cash is the missing link. The old adage, “you have to spend money to make money”, is never truer than in the non profit world. A lesson best early discovered.
Yet, despite the lack of cash, immunizations are injected and swallowed, visas requested, ‘conservative’ clothes bought, translators booked (and vetted) and plane tickets purchased with a deep breath.
AINA is a key part of the decision to go to Kabul now, rather than waiting. Founded in 2002 by Reza Deghati, AINA struggles for developing a civil society in Afghanistan by empowering media and communication. Through filmmaking, photography, radio, journalism, and design, AINA trains, produces, and empowers individuals and communities to speak out and make sustainable changes within Afghanistan.
For decades, the people of Afghanistan have endured war and chaos. In 1996, the Taliban gained complete control and placed the Afghani people under Sharia Law. Citizens were forbidden to participate in a free press, and it was considered a crime to take or even possess photographs. Truth and communication were suppressed.
After the Taliban were pushed out of power in 2002, AINA, Afghanistan’s Independent Media and Culture Center was established. This foundation was born out of the desire to develop photojournalism from within Afghanistan and to find outlets to allow the truth to be heard.
It is our desire with Mountain to Mountain to tie AINA into the Views of the Afghanistan photography exhibit next year by not only including images of local photojournalists, but having the travelling exhibit directly benefit AINA to move forward.
While in Kabul, we will also be meeting with Turquoise Mountain. Founded by author and ‘crazy Scotsman’, Rory Stewart (Places In Between, Prince of Marshes), Turquoise Mountain focuses on the preservation of Afghan culture, architecture, and heritage. Rory Stewart is an extremely knowledgeable source of Afghanistan culture and politics. His view of the current situation politically, militarily, and culturally has been touted in Time Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, New York Times, and others as a voice of reason and in depth understanding of this complicated region.
Other interviews and meetings are scheduled, feelers extended to all contact and friends with Afghan experience, and debates over whether to focus on Dari, Farsi, or Urdu in the upcoming weeks have gone back and forth with final word being – Dari.
Our plan is to leave in early November and our goal will be to blog daily so as to illuminate the country and its people, and share our stories and discoveries, as we lay the groundwork for Mountain to Mountain’s, and Afghanistan’s, next steps.