Through Afghan eyes

A note from the editor

Vanessa Baird

The war that won't end

‘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.
www.newint.org

The big story

Increasingly insurgents are using Iraq-style tactics such as suicide and roadside bombings.

Increasingly insurgents are using Iraq-style tactics such as suicide and roadside bombings.

Fardin Waezi / Aina Photo Agency / Afghanistan

Afghanistan on the edge

And the West acting like it knows best... again. Isn’t it time we listened to Afghans, asks Vanessa Baird?

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Living on the edge is nothing new to Afghanistan. The country and its people are familiar with extremes of most kinds – geographic, political, religious. But today they are well and truly on the brink.

During 2008 the conflict in Afghanistan has escalated dramatically, claiming some 3,000 lives, almost half of them civilians. This is worse than at any time since the US-led invasion seven years ago. The monthly death toll of international servicemen and -women in Afghanistan has topped...




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A brief history of Afghanistan

The fighting, the pain and the hunger for change

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Elaborate trade-offs: women may agree to lose one basic freedom in order to gain another.

Beyond the burqa

Sex, dating and the struggle for modernity, by Zuhra Bahman.

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Afghanistan - The Facts

The basics, conflict, aid & social equality in Afghanistan.

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The blight of impunity

Human rights activist Horia Mosadiq takes her Government to task.

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A scene from AH5787, which is touring the country in pursuit of justice.

Theatre of justice

Drama is helping victims, writes Hadi Ogal.

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Hearts and minds

Afghan views on WHAM – a key strategy of the coalition forces’ war against the Taliban. Pictures from AINA’s gallery.

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Agriculture – on which most Afghans depend – has been neglected.

Where has the money gone?

Abdul Basir on the missing aid billions.

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The Opium Bank

A canny village woman talks to Zuhra Bahman.

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Pedal power

When it comes to the future, the car simply can't compete. Chris Webb charts the comeback of the people's best friend – the humble bicycle. And you can even make one out of bamboo.

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Sturdy enough for two: bamboo bikes may be just the ticket in Africa.

Bamboo bikes

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.

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Opinion

Waiting in line

The special Cuban art of queuing dissected by Leonardo Padura Fuentes.

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Currents

Bags of initiative: women’s co-operative coordinator Nadia, on North Ambae island.

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Women profit from new ways of doing business

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Votes for women

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For the first time ever women will outnumber men in a national parliament.

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Promises, promises – but who is really benefiting?

Money talks

China uses free trade to dominate Tibetans

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Death camps

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Regulars

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Alan Greenspan

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Big Bad World - Goodbye Dubyameister

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A meltdown primer

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Hunger

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A Certain Woman

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Good Dick

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