Challenge! Peace Action in Tora Bora (2)

[Original by Maki KATO, Afghanistan Project (November 6, 2019); Translated by M. Goto/K. Takemura/A. Taguchi]

(continued from Part 1)

The JVC staff and the residents of Kuz Kunar district finally arrived at the Tora Bora area in the Pachir Wa Agam district. The exchange program about peace talks started here between the residents of Kuz Kunar and Pachir Wa Agam districts. We had a preliminary meeting at the house of Mr. Mahir, who brought JVC into contact with Tora Bora. He is the leader of the Spin GharYouth Association and once visited Kuz Kunar as a participant of the previous Peace Action.

A map of Nangarhar province. Our project area, Kuz Kunar district, is circled by red. The red star shows the location of Tora Bora.

We gathered in Mahir’s house

His friends explained the security situation of this area. Tora Bora has been the base of various armed forces including “IS” and the Taliban. It was also the base of Mujahidin (spiritual Muslim warriors) during the period of the invasion of the former Soviet Union (1979-1989) since steep mountain ranges and many caves form an ideal strategic terrain.

When Mujahidin came to the village, we welcomed them as fighters who beat the Soviet Union. But after that, we were forced to give them money, products, and livestock. Some people were even killed… Such barbarity is obviously against the Islamic faith, even though they claim themselves to be Muslim fighters. They didn’t know about Islamic laws and even the fact that Allah preached mercy. People were fed up with them but could not find a solution.

Residents talk about the Mujahidin Age.

Hospitality to visitors is an important culture in Afghanistan. The sweets and snacks look so nice.

We were served lunch there and then moved to the meeting place. Surprisingly, when we got to the place, more than 100 villagers were gathered there! Everyone was curious about the visitors from another village.

For how many people are these carpets prepared for?

Mahir gave an opening speech to welcome the visitors from Kuz Kunar. He talked about his experience when he visited Kuz Kunar and said, “It is possible to take action led by villagers.”

Mr. Mahir gave a welcome speech.

He was very much impressed by seeing library check-out cards at a school in Kuz Kunar. “Many young students including girls are reading a lot of books! There is development where there is a reading culture. People in Kuz Kunar love books and hate fighting. Let’s also build such a peace model in our village!”

Next, Sher Muhammad, a principal of a school in Kuz Kunar, gave a speech.

Sher Muhammad also gave a passionate speech.

“We have been working on educational and medical issues with JVC. As one of the elders in our village, I am responsible for mediating villagers and families. We should start with small things. There are a number of things we can do such as helping resolve conflicts among family members, fighting for lands, irrigation, water, and so on… If we change our way of thinking at the personal level, it can create a positive impact at the community.”

Sher Muhammad is also confident that making efforts to solve small issues in a family and community will bring peace on a higher level even in politics.

“Peaceful families can contribute to peace in a village, district, and country. So, we should begin with simple things by solving the problem in a community.”

Sher Muhammad talked to the people of Tora Bora and continued.

“Our village was like your village before. More than 70 people were killed or injured only in one day…. it was the time when the Soviet Union invaded. At that time, we fought to protect our country. After that, we’ve been working on many projects with JVC in order to make a peaceful village. We have a traditional system to solve issues called shura (which means discussion). Believe in the power of dialogue without resorting to violence.”

It was a persuasive speech to the Afghan peopleby an Afghan who overcame wars. Some participants read out a peace poem as well. At the end of the meeting, we distributed peace booklets that a police officer got interested in.

Pachir Wa Agam district has been an insecure place, where the Afghan government force could not take control. In such a situation that even the transfer of people is difficult, it was a big outcome that the JVC staff and seven residents of Kuz Kunar could visit this place. Moreover, so many people attended the meeting and it was a greater success than we had expected. The residents may also start independent activities in this area after this meeting.

A list of tasks raised in this meeting.

However, while expanding expectations for Peace Action, we got bad news. Mahir, the person who played a central role in this meeting, was killed by someone. We pray for Mahir and think it is one of our important missions to pursue his will and expand the Peace Action following the suggestions he made just before his death.

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