Reprinted from the Black Agenda Report
In this season of stale appeals to support the supposed lesser of two evils, Kathy Kelly reminds us of the actual cost Afghan women and children and their families are paying for Barack Obama's decision to continue the war in Afghanistan at least till 2014. It's a set of facts that ought to be constantly before us --- how will our votes and our actions after this election impact their struggles for dignity and survival?
Survival and Dignity in an Afghan Winter
by Kathy Kelly
October 30, 2012
" Mirwais, son of Hayatullah Haideri. He was 1 - years old and had just started to learn how to walk, holding unsteadily to the poles of the family tent before flopping onto the frozen razorbacks of the muddy floor.
" Abdul Hadi, son of Abdul Ghani. He was not even a year old and was already trying to stand, although his father said that during those last few days he seemed more shaky than normal.
" Naghma and Nazia, the twin daughters of Musa Jan. They were only 3 months old and just starting to roll over.
" Ismail, the son of Juma Gul. 'He was never warm in his entire life,' Mr. Gul said. 'Not once.'
" It was a short life, 30 days long."
There were many such casualties, the New York Times reports, in the deadly January of 2012, Afghanistan's coldest January in 20 years. The United Nations notes that, in camps around Kabul, as many as 35,000 refugees from the fighting had only tents and mud huts to protect them from the cold. In those camps alone, 26 Afghan children froze to death this past winter, with nationwide casualties in triple digits.
Among Afghanistan's ongoing burdens of destitution and war, of course temperatures are now dropping again.
Two weeks ago, I was with the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul, listening to Afghan seamstresses pour out their thoughts about the impending winter and what they and their families will require in order to cope with it. Blankets to cover doorways; warm clothing; large, heavy coverlets called duvets.
" Every woman in Afghanistan knows how to make these items," one woman, Faribah, assured me. "But it's expensive."
It was a meeting of the seamstress' collective that the Afghan Peace Volunteers are working to set up in Kabul, helping struggling women earn a living outside the control of exploitative middlemen. The Volunteers' Dr. Hakim and I suggested that the seamstresses could sidestep the markets and instead invite donors from abroad to help put a desperately needed warm coverlet, a duvet, into an impoverished family's dwelling. Together we estimated that it would cost $20 to make each coverlet and also afford the seamstresses a modest income, $2 per duvet, $4 per day in return for their labor.
The process would also afford greater vibrancy to the Volunteers in their work to foster an inter-ethnic, internationally recognized Afghan peace movement, while allowing the women a much needed, if meager, degree of independence and dignity.
The women's responses were both eager and practical. Over the next several days, a steady buzz of voices accompanied the whirr of hand-operated sewing machines: "The Duvet Project" was taking shape.