Throughout Afghanistan people are gathering to celebrate the Afghan new year, Nauroz (March 21, 2011). It is a chance for Afghans to celebrate the rebirth of nature after the long winter. In Kabul, today thousands of gathered in the cemetery and spent the day picnicking. Before heading home to share a meal that included seven items to symbolize their hope for the coming year: wheat for rebirth, a sweet pudding for affluence, garlic for health, apples for beauty, berries representing the sunrise, vinegar for patience, coins for prosperity. After 13 days the wheat will be collected and tossed into flowing water, by which time it will have collected the family’s bad luck for the year.
While some Afghan’s describe the situation in their country as bad luck, the majority of Afghans realize that there is a direct correlation with the increased number of American and foreign fighters entering the country. Currently, there are more foreign troops in Afghanistan than at any time since the American led invasion and the security situation is at the worst point since the beginning of the war. While nearly all Afghan’s do not want to see the return of the Taliban, they do not want the status quo of violence caused by the International Security Assistance Force and the armed opposition groups to continue. Instead Afghans are realizing that the underlying problems of their country are the problems of poverty, hate, and violence. They are also realizing that these are problems that cannot be solved by war.
In Kabul, a group of young people are adopting strategies that would help solve Afghanistan’s problems and allow them to see their wishes from Nauroz come to fruition. They have consciously chosen methods that are exemplary in applying theoretical nonviolence to actively resist the indignity of violence and seek out life sustaining alternatives. For example, under the tutelage of professional journalist a group of young men and women in their twenties launched a campaign of public speeches, declarations, and photography by young journalist to manifest Afghan’s desire for peace.
On another occasion the group gathered nearly one hundred people, primarily school children and elders, to plant fruit and nut trees at a school in Kabul. The trees will help clean the air of Kabul that is polluted from decades of war. The trees will produce nutritious food. The tree planting was preceded by a forum on the importance of creating educational opportunities. The action demonstrates the point of Gandhian nonviolence that from the seed grows the fruit or in other words that nonviolence has to begin with education and be integrated into daily living.
While these feats are exceptional considering the situation in Afghanistan, if Afghans are going to get their Nauroz wish the international community will need to begin following these Afghans example and integrate nonviolent strategies into their lives and foreign policy. This will begin by working to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan.
Patrick Kennelly is the Associate Director of the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking and is participating in the peacemaking efforts organized by the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers and Voices for Creative Nonviolence. He writes from Kabul, Afghanistan and can be contacted at email@example.com.
Photos courtesy of Patrick Kennelly