band annie's Weblog

I have a parallel blog in French at


December 16, 2010

We Want You Out

an open letter from the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers and Afghans for Peace

As the Obama administration releases its December review of the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan, the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, along with Afghans for Peace, have issued a review of their experiences.  To express support for their letter, click here.

To all the leaders of our world, the leaders of the US-led coalition, the Afghan government, the ‘Taliban/Al-Qaeda’ and regional countries,

We are intolerably angry.

All our senses are hurting.

Our women, our men and yes shame on you, our children are grieving.

Your Afghan civilian-military strategy is a murderous stench we smell, see, hear and breathe.

President Obama, and all the elite players and people of the world, why?

America’s 250-million-dollar annual communications budget just to scream propaganda on this war of perceptions, with its nauseating rhetoric mimicked by Osama and other warlords, is powerless before the silent wailing of every anaemic mother.

We will no longer be passive prey to your disrespectful systems of oligarchic, plutocratic war against the people.

Your systems feed the rich and powerful. They are glaringly un-equal, they do not listen, do not think and worst, they do not care.

We choose not to gluttonize with you. We choose not to be trained by you. We choose not to be pawned by you.

We henceforth refuse every weapon you kill us with, every dollar you bait us with and every lie you manipulate us with.

We are not beasts.

We are Afghans, Americans, Europeans, Asians and global citizens.

Yes, you have the false, self-appointed power to arrest us over expressing the public opinion of ordinary folk, students, farmers, shepherds, labourers, teachers, doctors….., people who now have nowhere to turn and nowhere to hide. (See Open Letter to our World Leaders)

This world public opinion against the Afghan war has been clearly expressed and is larger than any number of Wikileaks you seek to suppress. So, come arrest us all as we civilly disobey you. Come arrest us all. (See excerpt below from Wikipedia’s ‘International public opinion on the war in Afghanistan’ )

Yes, you have the army, police and apparatchik to smother us and to bribe those who are Pavlov-reflexed to money, but you cannot stop us from restoring our voice.

We refuse to prostitute our hearts and minds.

We refuse you.

Not you the human person, but you the greedy system of self-interested power.

Again and again here in Afghanistan, we have seen a hope for non-violence light up; every day we see a yearning for humane relationships, and because of this, love is how we now firmly take our stand.

We will listen to the People on December 19th, on the Global Day of Listening to Afghans and we invite every one of you to pick up your phone to call us, to share one another’s pain, and to call our world to urgent reconciliation. We invite the world public opinion to overwhelm us! (Email to arrange a call.)

We wish to invite all the people of the world because when the powers are not listening to the people, listening becomes an act of love, it becomes a solidarity of non-violent resistance.

How can we do any less?

14-year-old Abdulai’s father was killed by the ‘Taliban’ and so, like every other human being, he copes with sorrow, hate, fear and anger.

But, he wakes up to the chronic war days in his land sensing that ‘something is very wrong with the world I’m caught up in’, ‘these elders of the world are not getting it…..’.

How does trillion-deficit killing, followed by the strategy of escalated killing and yet another review for more killing, work?

How does it make anyone safer?

How does it solve the incorruptible corruption, unequalled inequality and inviolate violence we face daily?

Your policies, skewed-ly ‘diagnosed’ and ‘reviewed’ in a cold clinical manner divorced from reality, have been deaf to the concerns and needs of the people, thus we endeavour to have a People’s Afghanistan December Review, because that’s what ordinary people can do.

We would try not to ‘throw’ our shoes at you. We would try to recognize the better side of all human beings and thus continue to serve our commoner’s tea and bread to one and all. But we do ask, plead and demand that you stop your unsustainable, superpower militarism.

We want peace.

We want you out.

With singular sincerity,

Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers
Afghans for Peace


My people, the suppressed millions, are my heroes. They are the real source of any positive change in Afghanistan and their power is stronger than anything else. And anti-war protesters around the world, those who are standing against the destructive policies of world powers. There is a superpower in the world besides the US government — world public opinion.”–Malalai Joya

Notes from Wikipedia:

International public opinion is largely opposed to the war in Afghanistan.

The 25-nation Pew Global Attitudes survey in June 2009 reported that majorities or pluralities in 18 out of 25 countries want U.S. and NATO to remove their military troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible.

Despite American calls for NATO allies to send more troops to Afghanistan, there was majority or plurality opposition to such action in every one of the NATO countries surveyed: Germany (63% opposition), France (62%), Poland (57%), Canada (55%), Britain (51%), Spain (50%), and Turkey (49%).

In Europe, poll after poll in France, Germany and even Britain show that the European public want their troops to be pulled out and less money spent on the war in Afghanistan.

According to the ABC News/BBC/ARD/Washington Post poll of 1,691 Afghan adults from Oct. 29-Nov. 13, 2010:

Afghans indicated they were more pessimistic about the direction of their country, less confident about U.S.-led coalition troops providing security and more willing to negotiate with the Taliban than a year ago.

More than half of Afghans interviewed said U.S. and NATO forces should begin withdrawing from the country in mid-2011 or sooner.

There are the occupation forces from the sky, dropping cluster bombs and depleted uranium, and on the ground there are the fundamentalist warlords and the Taliban, with their own guns.

If I should die, and you should choose to carry on my work, you are welcome to visit my grave. Pour some water on it and shout three times. I want to hear your voice.”–Malalai Joya


Ibrahim al-Koni Wins Arabic Novel Award, Donates 100,000LE Prize to Touareg in Mali and Niger

Leading Libyan author Ibrahim al-Koni yesterday received the 100,000LE “Arabic Novel Award” at the closing ceremony of the Cairo Novel Conference.

The prize, awarded by Egypt’s Ministry of Culture, is handed out every two years.

Al-Koni announced, after receiving the award from Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, that he would donate the prize money to the Mali- and Niger-dwelling children of the Touareg tribe. Al-Koni himself hails from the Touareg of Libya.

The selection process apparently considered 23 competing works, although there was no indication, at least that I could find, as to how those 23 were selected.

The first Arab Novel Award went to Saudi author Abel-Rahman Munif. The second round in 2003 went to Egyptian author Sonallah Ibrahim, who took the stage to refuse the award, ending his brief speech by saying he would not accept a literary prize from “a government that, in my opinion, does not possess the credibility to grant it.” He then left the prize and walked out.

The third award in 2005 went to Sudanese author Tayyeb Saleh, and, in 2008, the prize went to Egyptian author Edward Kharrat.

Reading Al-Koni in English

A number of Al-Koni’s books have been translated into English: the beautiful Bleeding of the Stone, translated by May Jayyusi and Christopher Tingley; Gold Dust, which earned Elliott Colla a runner-up citatoin from the 2009 Saif Ghobash Prize for Arabic Literary Translation; Anubis: A Desert Novel and The Seven Veils of Seth, both translated by William Hutchins; and The Puppet, released this fall, also translated by Hutchins.

The Puppet was one of my ten favorite Arabic books (in English translation) of 2010. Of it, I said:

Libya’s leading contemporary author, Ibrahim al-Koni is attracted to ancient struggles, the desert landscape of his childhood, and the power of commerce. The Puppet, first published in Arabic in 1998, is populated by a number of folklore-like characters. Among them are: Aghulli, the “sage and leader”; Ahallum, the “warrior hero,” and Chief Merchant, “the man with two veils.” Aghulli is compelled by oasis residents to take over leadership of the tribe. When he tries to enforce the old laws, there are disastrous effects. Al-Koni, who has published more than forty novels, is one of world literature’s truly original writers.

Also: In June of 2011, al-Koni’s sweeping novel The Animists, should be out from AUC Press, translated by Elliott Colla. From the AUC Press promotional blurb:

Renowned as Ibrahim al-Koni’s masterpiece, The Animists is an epic story of the many winds sweeping north and south across the Sahara—of the struggles between devils and humankind, worldly traders and Sufi ascetics, monotheists and animists, nomads and city dwellers, life and death. Al-Koni’s depiction of the Saharan crossroads is at its richest in this novel—nowhere else is his portrayal of humanity’s spiritual and existential battles so complex and compelling, nowhere else are his unique storytelling skills so evidently displayed.

Yes, Controversies at the Conference!

Al Arabiya notes, in its coverage of the prize and conference, that a number of writers boycotted this year, and that there was almost a complete absence of young authors.

Alaa al-Aswany went further, and dismissed the event—according to Al Masry Al Youm–as “a waste of public money.”

In a statement with which I really can’t agree, al-Aswany announced:

This is a farce? Has the forum ever improved the Arab novel? Novels would  improve only when individual novelists can write good novels in their houses… We do not have to spend millions that come from Egyptian taxpayers.

Prominent Egyptian author Gamal al-Ghitani defended the forum:

Forums are a good opportunity for Arab writers to meet and exchange ideas. Spending money on cultural events where respectable Arab writers are invited–isn’t that better than wasting public money on other stuff?

Bahaa Taher added:

The state spends on culture one tenth of what it spends on football and TV.

(And we shan’t go into what-all else the state spends its money on.)

Other Lit-Prize Controversies: Yes, That’s Me, Ms. ‘Rose-Tinted Glasses’

Lastly, in a Reuters piece about the beleaguered and controversy-sieged Arabic Booker, I stand up for the blessed thing. Sigh.


Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑