The Taliban, and their fellow fundamentalists, are not feared of guns, bombs or foreign armies. This is a fact, proven over decades by various countries and governments.
The prospect of education and particularly the education of girls is, however, fundamentalist kryptonite.
Considering the cost, suffering and destruction generated by war, could there be another way?
It is clearly shown through long, hard experience that retaliating against numb nuts, especially aggressive ones, is always doubly detrimental and costly to all.
The air-dropping of books across Afghanistan and the tribal areas, huge quantities of wonderful educational books, along with educational material and simple educational technology, would, based on all we have seen and heard, completely flummox the crazies. The Afghan people would undoubtedly have more respect for foreign forces and thus show more support. If the country is saturated with hope and education, the bad eggs will rise to the top for culling.
This may seem a whimsical, idealistic approach but now take a minute to consider it properly – all countries that wish to participate just start sending shipments, keep sending shipments, send childrens books and adult education books. Let the army patrols deliver books wherever they go. Then we could look at the satellite broadcasting – many people see tv in Afghanistan – why not start filling slots with educational programmes and factual broadcasts.
Empowerment is the only weapon against subjugation and poverty.
Kiva.org is a wonderful website that demonstrates just that – anyone can give cash to a random charity box and hope that it does some good – Kiva enables the loaning of money to people who need it all over the ‘developing’ world, empowering them to help themselves and restoring pride that is often stripped by simple handouts.
Plantforpeace.org is also an inspiring organisation, led by an old neighbour of mine they have held Jirga’s with the Tribal Elders and agreed a switch from farming poppies to planting pomegranates. Over a million trees and cuttings have been planted to date. The aim is to help post-conflict countries to achieve food security and sustainable economic development. Again, through empowerment.
Afghan Schools.org is another fantastic charity which has been bringing education, healthcare and opportunities to children in Northern Afghanistan with great success. They have opened co-ed schools and empowered several thousand local children to date, particularly girls, to finish their education and in hundreds of cases, go on to further education in Afghanistan and abroad. Another old neighbour of mine founded this organisation and it has always struck me that in amongst the maelstrom of war and the deterrent news reports, these dedicated people have continued unabated to bring hope and empowerment to this very special part of the world.
The Afghan people are proud and strong. To enable their education system to thrive and their girls to have access to an equal education, we must empower them not subdue them. We cannot judge the indecision of desperate people thrust between a rock (the Taliban) and a hard place (invading armies). We should respect the Afghan people and learn from Malala Yousafzai and the fear she inspires in the foe.
Maybe we could leave Afghanistan a true legacy rather than a repeat performance of heavy-handed combat and widespread destruction followed by a quick exit.
BOOKS not bombs, POMEGRANATES not poppies, EMPOWERMENT not subjugation
NB. Obviously this idea is not acknowledging the ‘own agenda’ of invading forces and governments, who thrive on war and the economic prosperity it brings whilst aiming to wrestle any local resources from the local people. The idiots in power would do well to heed the words of the old Indian proverb: Only when the last tree has been cut down; only when the last river has been poisoned; only when the last fish has been caught, will we realise we cannnot eat money (or oil!).
All opinion in this blog is mine and is based upon 5yrs experience (1998-2003) in the Tribal Areas doing business with Afghan refugees alongside NGO work building and stocking fish farms in remote areas. I was in the very north of Afghanistan on September 11th 2001. I have watched both the Afghan Schools Trust and Plant for Peace each grow from an idea in an unusual and exceptional person’s mind into a successful reality. Both these organisations work on respect and empowerment.
If you feel the urge to learn more, donate, or get involved:
To anyone still unconvinced I say simply: How would you feel about a supposedly supporting army that invaded your country to eg. rid it of a minority of islamic terrorists, (yes we harbour them too – Abu Hamza et al) with drones and rocket launchers and grenades, and accidentally bombed half your family? Would this be a fair payoff for potential peace? Would you really feel supportive and confident?
Sledgehammers and hazelnuts spring to mind.