‘Good. You’re doing the obvious thing,’ said Zuhra Bahman, one of the contributors to this month’s New Internationalist.
The ‘obvious thing’ in question was getting the main theme – on Afghanistan – written and illustrated by Afghans. I was pleased that she was pleased – but still a little worried by the logistics. Thirty years of armed conflict – yes, Afghanistan’s turmoil began two decades before the Twin Towers fell – has not fostered a rich and vibrant tradition of journalism in the country. Grinding poverty, warlord violence and Taliban strictures denied even the most basic education to large swathes of the population – especially women and girls. Today, press freedom supposedly prevails but the case of young reporter Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh, who is appealing against a death sentence for downloading material relating to women’s rights, suggests otherwise.
The writers featured here are not to be silenced or intimidated, however. They have provided perspectives that are immediate and insightful; subtle, complex and brave. So have the photographers. Nearly all the pictures were taken by people trained in the remarkable home-grown Aina Photojournalism Institute in Kabul. Some had never held a camera before the institute was established eight years ago. Today they are producing first-rate imagery which is being sold around the world through the Kabul-based AINA Photo Agency/Afghanistan.
Harder to sell these days is the disastrous model of capitalism that flourished under the watch of Alan Greenspan, head of the US Federal Reserve Board between 1987 and 2006. No single person is responsible for the current global crisis but Greenspan was the neocons’ economic guru and he could have read the writing on the wall had he chosen to. All of which makes him an appropriate target for this month’s Worldbeater. Meanwhile, for any nouveau pauvre city banker thinking of trading in the Porsche or the 4x4, we recommend our Special Feature – it’s all about the humble bicycle. Perhaps the ‘bamboo bike’ would suit?
Special thanks to Abdul Basir of the British and Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group for his editorial advice, patience and readiness to make his contacts network buzz for this month’s main theme.
Vanessa Baird for the New Internationalist co-operative.
Fardin Waezi / Aina Photo Agency / Afghanistan
Bamboo is so tough and so plentiful it’s used for construction scaffolding all aver Asia. So why not use it to build bikes? It seemed like a good idea to design maestro Craig Calfee and to the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York City. The two have teamed up to build better bikes for poor Africans in rural areas and stimulate the local bicycle industry in a number of African countries. The NI talked to Bamboo Bike Project co-ordinator and Columbia scientist David Ho.