Land Grabs, Reuters News, and Rock Music – Kabul Update

This visit to Kabul has been short and sweet, if not full of its usual challenges.

Following the spate of recent attacks that have marked an significant increase in violence over the past months since I was last here (Intercontinental Hotel, US Embassy, Rabbani’s assassination) I arrived on the 2nd day of national mourning to quiet and often barricaded streets.   Add in some cross border rocket attacks by Pakistan into Afghanistan and the shift in talk to ISI and Haqqani’s as the real threat behind terrorism, and you can say tensions are more than a little stretch.  Consequently, two public street marches within a few days in the central Shar e nau district, with chants of “death to Pakistan” “death to the Taliban” show that the Afghans are not going to continue to take attacks quietly.

Its not just politics that are making Afghan get loud.  Sound Central pulled off the first rock festival in over 35 years yesterday in Kabul at the Babur Gardens.  Around 350 young afghans, boys and girls alike, turned up for the outdoor concert.  Eight bands rocked the crowd from 12-6, and kept a respectful adherence to Afghan customs by not serving alcohol and the bands leaving the stage to make sure the call to prayer was heard.

Those unable to hear the ring of musical freedom?  ANAD.  The Afghan National Association for the Deaf.  Our work with the deaf community in Afghanistan continues forward with completion of the perimeter security wall surrounding the 5 acre land donation from President Karzai in March 2010.  Now we are moving forward with the construction for the first ever K-12 school for the deaf in Afghanistan.  But as its Afghanistan, even a land donation from the President himself is not without challengers and representatives from the Ministry of Education had been asking questions why the school hasn’t been constructed yet and if they weren’t going to build then they were going to use the land for another’s school.  This despite the obvious work over the past year building the wall.  After meeting with ANAD and a deputy minister we made it clear that we were planning on breaking ground on the school itself in the spring and had our architectural renderings and construction partner in place, and he called off the dogs.

Now its time to raise that money, and quickly, so that construction can start and ANAD can have a permanent home for the association, for the school, and for future teacher trainings, interpreter trainings, and vocational programs that can benefit the deaf not just in Kabul, but sow the seeds to spread around the country.  We first met ANAD and got involved in 2008, but this one project is 8 times our entire annual budget – no small challenge for an organization with no staff.

In comes Reuters News to lead the charge.  Yesterday they interviewed ANAD founder, Ghaffar, and Parween, a woman who without whom, ANAD would not be where it is today.  They will film at the school next week and when finished, ANAD’s story will be heard much more broadly in the hopes that we can raise support and funding from those that see it and get inspired.  That ANAD is creating their own sign language over the past decade, that without ANAD Afghanistan’s deaf population would have no hope of ever communicating with anyone outside their immediate family.  They are combating isolation and creating a community and that is worth the enormous challenge to support and create a permanent home for them.

Lastly, speaking of challenges – let’s not forget the young female fighters!  The boxing girls of Kabul.  They swagger, they punch, they jab, and they do it within the confines of conservative culture in long pants, long sleeves, and headscarves.  These girls rock, and they are amplifying the sound of freedom almost as much as the 10 rock bands did in Barbur Gardens.

Challenging or not, Afghanistan is where we are, where we can make a difference, and where we need your help!!

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