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globe logo     Caravan: Newsletter of the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World
Number 8 June 2001

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 · Globalize peace!
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 · Ecole de la Paix
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 · Youth Actions
 · Struggle abandoned...
 · Afghanistan
 · Palestine
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"Untitled", Allan Githuka

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"Our Sisters", Allan Githuka


Towards a Culture of Peace

To try and break the isolation of afghans
Etienne Gille* (France)

What should we do so that peace is brought back to Afghanistan? Must one bang on the table, should one sanction or try to break the infernal circle of interventions and supply of arms? The second method is unrealistic and remote. As for sanctions, many good souls are against it saying they would be unproductive. And it is true that international sanctions have not always shown their efficiency.

Dictators dote on isolation

One should go further to improve the methodology of implementing sanctions because they often have perverse effects - dictators use them to turn the populace against the sanctioning authorities: "You are suffering because of sanctions slapped on us by our enemies". Sanctions also contribute to the isolation of a country, and isolation is something dictators dote on. Lesser contact with the outside means that the population has fewer possibilities of organizing itself or having access to information etc. One way of contributing to the advent of peace (a fair peace including respect for fundamental rights of each individual) in Afghanistan would probably be to try and break the isolation of Afghans. There are not many countries in the world that are more isolated than Afghanistan. External isolation of this mountain country, reinforced by a ban on international flights, rarity of post, impossibility of communication through telephone (at least from France), absence of television or any access to international press, difficulty in reaching Afghanistan if one is not a part of any NGO, Draconian limitations on movement of journalists etc. And of course isolation within the country with all the prohibitions decreed by the Taliban. All kinds of individual or collective initiatives can be taken to lessen this isolation: facilitating communications, travel for information, radio emissions, linkages between schools and villages.

To go a little further, I would like to underline how our international society is ill-equipped to deal with problems such as the one in Afghanistan. I would like to take two examples at different levels. The first is regarding international opinion. The opinion in France is very informed about the situation in Afghanistan, much more than we would have thought since it is a poor country that is 8000 kms away. The international opinion is quite indignant, at least for the moment. But towards what end? There are very effective international bodies that deal with pollution (Greenpeace), that protest against torture (Amnesty International), that react against diseases (Doctors Without Borders) or poverty. But to act internationally for peace? The San Egidio community? For a domain that is so vast, one would expect a lot of good will and especially competence that is ready to take the plunge.

To act internationally for peace

The second level that comes to my mind is that of the UN authorities. Nobody can understand that the United Nations can be so helpless to find a fair solution for a country like Afghanistan. The entire Afghan population would applaud if the UN had the means to impose any solution provided it is reasonable. But the UN takes very limited measures and certainly obsolete ones in an absurd manner. For instance, one is surprised that the embargo on arms issued by the UN should be restricted only to the arms supplied to the Taliban. We can feel that whatever be the inhuman nature of many measures taken by this regime, such a selective embargo can never be a factor of peace (unless is it is clearly temporary). But this half measure has a simple reason that is not very well known: sanctions are allowed according to the UN rules only if there is a threat to international peace through terrorism - Ben Laden and his network in this case. If Ben Laden disappears, UN's sanctions would disappear ipso facto. Even if it is important that there are limitations to UN interventions, certainly its means and possibilities of action must be widened. In the same way, it is strange that international courts hunt down masterminds of some war crimes, but no serious inquiry is led against authors of massacres, equally odious, that took place and continue to do so in Afghanistan; this contributes to the despair of Afghans who feel unequal in terms of international respect of human rights.

There are several paths for those who wish to work towards peace in Afghanistan. Unfortunately these paths are hardly taken. Can we hope that many will start exploring these paths in order to form the advance guard of an immense caravan.

* Etienne Gille is editor of Les nouvelles d'Afghanistan, quarterly newsletter published by AFRANE (Amitié Franco-Afghane)

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Giving back a voice to the afghan women
The Afghan woman, a disappearing species

That is what stands out from the latest campaign to date, the last lifeline thrown out by the Freedom Collective Afghanistan in the hope of finally mobilising public opinion. For, from discrimination to bedevilling, it is well and truly their humanity they are having amputated. The increasingly rigid prohibitions that the Taliban fatwas impose on them have been eating away their liberty, until reaching the threshold beyond which human dignity can no longer be spoken of.

100% of them will be declared missing, the slogan cries out. Gone from public places, disappeared from the streets where they have left only their shadows. By exhibiting these shadows over and over again, photographers have almost made us forget that behind them there was always a woman. Yet on the other side of the shadow, these women are well and truly alive. First victims of the Afghan rule, they are also one of the key elements of the resistance. In fact, certain women leaders continue to follow their professions from their own homes, they give out lessons to young girls, thus creating domestic classes. They therefore are opposing a double prohibition: that of women continuing to practise their profession, and that of the girls receiving an education. And if they obstinately carry on working, it is not of course for some kind of recognition, since the success of their action is tied to a total discretion. It really is for the love of their profession. Because they have the education of a whole generation of young girls in their hands. Carrying on teaching to continue feeling "alive". But for how long? The association AFRANE (Franco-Afghan Friendship) is in contact with teachers from Kaboul who have expressed the wish to establish links with women abroad. In collaboration with the Ecole de la Paix (School of Peace), a supporting project has been set up. It would involve French teachers supporting these Afghan women by exchanging pedagogic methods. The reflection, across the borders, would be directed towards the adaptation of teaching techniques in the particular context of domestic classes: few resources, traditionally little interaction between pupils and teachers, but with an indisputable motivation from both parties.

So that the setting up of the French teaching group does not, paradoxically, hold back the putting together of this project, get hold of your pens for the Afghan women!

Information: Olivier Tirard-Collet for AFRANE, 16 Passage de la Main d'Or, 75011 Paris, France) - Tel:
Marie-Eve Rialland for Ecole de la Paix, 7 rue Très Cloîtres, 38000 Grenoble, France
Tel.: +33 4-76-63-81-41 - Fax: +33 4-76-63-81-42 - Website:

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