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Conversing with Kathy Kelly

A Conversation with Kathy Kelly


Held at Cambridge Friends, February 10, 2014

Sponsored by United for Justice with Peace and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – Boston Chapter

In a wide-ranging conversation with local peace activists, the eminent Kathy Kelly, co founder of Voices for Creative Non Violence, told about the current situation in Afghanistan and work she is currently engaged in with a group called Afghan Peace Volunteers.

The group is composed of young Afghans from the three main ethnic groups in the country – Hazara, Pashtun and Tajik.  Their aim is to live together peacefully despite historical conflict between their ethnic groups.  Kelly told us, “They reject panic and revenge.”

The APV run a seamstress cooperative that sews heavy quilts and gives them out to those in need.  They have made 3,000 quilts this winter.  They also provide shelter and warm clothing to street youth and are able to give some oil and rice to their families.

Kelly vividly described life in Afghanistan, telling about a trip to the local dump with trash in a wheelbarrow taken by the youngest member of the Afghan Peace Volunteers during which he was approached by three children who wanted to pick through his trash for stale bread to eat and scraps of paper for fuel.

Women come to the house that the peace volunteers share, saying:  “I think I am losing my mind,” “I think I am emotionally disturbed,” “I think I am going insane.”  When asked “Why?” they all say, “I cannot feed my children.”  “We are eating stale bread and drinking tea without sugar.”

Kelly described Afghanistan as a “dystopia” in which people displaced by war (400/day) sleep in mud, under plastic sheets in refugee camps right across the street from the huge homes of people from the U.S. who are in Kabul as part of the ongoing occupation.

She showed a video about several young boys and their donkeys making a twelve-hour round-trip to the mountains to gather fuel for their families.  The fuel is a kind of plant that must be hacked out of the side of a mountain with a pickax and transported in great bags on the back of a donkey.

Boys gathering fuel have been targeted and killed by U.S. drones and helicopters.

Kelly recalled growing up in southwest Chicago and learning to ride her bicycle under the flight path to Midway Airport, counting airplanes.  She quoted from Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips, “…the planes always come, like planets on rotation, a timed blood letting with different excuses.”

“We know there is no excuse, children invariably pay the price, and we know that trying to turn it around is a lifetime vocation.”

Kelly touched briefly on other aspects of the war that include: melting of equipment and weaponry into scrap metal so as to not bring it back as the U.S. deadline looms for leaving Afghanistan; two billion dollars a week spent on this war; Kabul has electricity every other day; to truck supplies to military bases, the U.S. has paid untold amounts to the Taliban for safe passage; 6% of girls and 18% of boys in Afghanistan go to school, the illiteracy rate is endemic; 93% of the world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan, causing corruption and violence; an agricultural minister she knew, who wanted to provide means for farmers to grow other crops, was murdered a year or two ago; one million children suffer severe acute malnourishment and that 70% of children suffer from insufficient iodine – which might be solved at a cost of five cents per day per child for one year.

To provide adequate nutrition for four years for fifteen million people (half the population) would cost $6.4 billion.  The war has cost $695,572,402,520 since 2001.

“We need to translate the public sentiment that is tired of war (83%) into political will and real policies.”

“Fall in love with people, don’t give in to bitterness,” Kelly said to us.


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