Feb 26, 2008

The more I learn, the more I realize I know nothing

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This photostory was already published in NATO website and you can see this text alongside with the fowling text there.

When I was very young I used to write a bit about the world – my world and the world around me. Then, with access to new technology and the Internet, I started to learn about many new things.
Soon, I remember hearing the word ‘blog’ being used in my English class. I found the first Farsi blog service. And an old friend of mine showed me his blog. It made a big impression on me. By 2004, I was running my own satire and cartoon magazine. But it was shut down by fundamentalist Islamiists. I couldn't write using my real name anymore. For a few months, I was in trouble and had to keep moving around.
But I couldn’t stay silent. I started blogging again. During the first few weeks I received great feedback from people outside Afghanistan reading my blog. They liked it because it was difficult to find independent news from Afghanistan. I was writing in both Farsi and English, and soon many readers were visiting both my blogs. In 2005, I was the ‘Reporters Without Borders’ prize winner for the freedom of expression blog.

I started encouraging young Afghans to blog. I founded and organized the Afghan Association BlogWriters at www.afghanpenlog.com (Farsi) and http://afghanpenlog-en.blogspot.com (English) to promote blogging in Afghanistan. Afghan Penlog is now a network of Afghan bloggers. I am organizing a first teaching blog workshop in Kabul for students and journalists shortly. The aim is to develop the Afghan digital media through blogging. We don't have a completely free media; I think we can fill this gap through blogs. Through these, we can practice free speech and build the way to democracy.

I started not only blogging but writing in several newspapers and magazines, both in Afghanistan and abroad. I have written about discrimination, inequality and injustice suffered by me and millions of people here. The land where I was born was made a land of pain and injustice by warlords for decades.

Blogging hasn’t always been easy. First I took notes. Then, when there was power, I typed them up. After that I saved them to a memory disk. And finally, I went to an internet café in the city upload it on my blog. It was time consuming, but it was important to tell the world that Afghani youths have suffered from war, and how they need help. And it was important to publish news that had no connection to political groups and parties – something rare in my country.

I love blogging - I think I am addicted. When I have regular access to electricity I sometimes post three times a day. I have travelled all around Afghanistan, writing about and taking pictures of every corner of my country. Many of my readers ask what the benefit of blogging is, and why spend so much time and energy on it. I answer that I wanted to learn more about my country and show people what my country looks like and how different is life in each area. I want to show the real face of my people and homeland to the rest of the world.

I also want to document this for future generations, so they don’t experience what I have suffered. I want to picture the beauty, love, hate, smile, anger, interest and peace in the face of my people. I want to show yesterday, and how much it will differ from tomorrow. I tried to highlight some of the suffering of my people. For example, the Afghan women who suffer every day from domestic violence. I pictured children, the next generation, who wander the streets. I still watch them now, begging.

For me, to blog is not only about my daily diaries, but also a window to the world. Through writing and publishing articles about children and their rights on my blog I was able to raise funds for Afghan children. For example, in autumn 2007 I received lots of childrens shoes from the USA. I distributed them among those children who were terrified of the harsh coming winter.
In the meantime, I have tried to teach myself, and today I am very happy. I have found and met lots of great people through my blogs. I often imagine seeing all of them one day. I can't describe how much blogging changed my life. I always share this experience with my friends and encourage them to start blogging.

One of the main reasons I started blogging: to share knowledge and to learn from my readers. They have taught me many things. In the country which spent more than two decades fighting, which has lacked a competent media and started from scratch, the only way is self-education. And I believe blogging is one of the most effective ways of doing this. I have learned a lot of things from my readers during the past four years. But as I wrote on my Farsi blog: "The more I learn, the more I realize I know nothing".

Some online interviews of me:
1) Interview with Globale Voice Online here
2) Interview with Internationalist Magazine here
3) Interview with gair rhydd (Welsh for "free word") is the official student newspaper of Cardiff University, here on page 20th
4) A Dialogue with Roel Verniers Belgiumist writer at Theater of war here
5) My monolog here
6) With Okke Ornstien here

Feb 21, 2008

No Title

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Feb 15, 2008

Blogging for a freer Afghanistan

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This was published already in Global Voices Online

Nasim Fekrat in Kabul has been a very active blogger for years. He has an English blog, a Dari/Farsi one, and a photo blog. He has also contributed to several citizen media projects such as Afghan Press and Afghan Penlog. He talks with us about challenges and achievements in Afghanistan's media and new projects.

Q: Please tell us about Afghan Penlog. When did it start, and what are its objectives?

The Afghan Association of Blog Writers (Afghan Penlog) was established in April 2006. The main objective was to build a community to bring Afghan bloggers together from around the world and defend their rights.

We have also published several press releases about journalist detentions in the last few years.

Recently, I have been offering online workshops for new Afghan Bloggers. In 2008, Afghan Penlog plans to teach blogging more widely in Afghanistan. I personally ran several workshops with individuals, but we want to begin teaching bigger groups. The objective of our workshops is to teach students and young journalists to blog, so they can easily start writing on the web.

We don't have free media in Afghanistan, but through blogging, journalists and other people who can't (or don't want to) use their real names in Afghan media can share their ideas.

Q: How many Afghan Penlog bloggers are there? Are there any non-Afghan members?

In total, there are 128 members whose blogs are all listed on the Afghan Penlog website. Afghan Penlog has pages in both English and Farsi/Dari, and we welcome any Farsi bloggers to become members. There are already two bloggers from Iran. The rest of the members are Afghan bloggers throughout the world.

Media under pressure

Q: It seems in recent times that several Afghan journalists have come under a lot of pressure. Why?

Well, honestly we didn't use to have a media as powerful as we have today.

During the rule of the Taliban, all TV channels, radio and newspapers were shut down. There was only Radio Kabul, which used to broadcast religious songs without music, the Quran, and news from the Taliban. In the time of the Mujahideen it was worse.

After the Taliban fell, within a year several magazine and newspapers started publishing. It increased every day but was still non-professional. Many journalists faced problems, and went to jail. Many others had to leave the country. The reason is the Mujahideen warlords are still in power. When journalists want to say something freely, they may be forced and intimidated by a local governor who was previously a fighter and commander.

Meanwhile, the government in the capital is weak and doesn't have the ability to help journalists. The government also took serious steps towards pressuring and censoring those media which were acting independently. New media legislation is still pending.

The fanatic Islamic fundamentalist figures have also influenced. They do not care what the government says, and they do not care about human rights, freedom of speech, women's rights or democracy. They consider everything through Islamic Sharia law.

Q: How you evaluate the Afghan blogosphere?

Well, Afghan blogs are improving and in increasing day by day. As far as my own research shows, blogs are becoming more popular in Afghanistan. It is a new phenomenon for Afghan people, and they are very interested to go for it. I meet people every day that ask me for help making a blog. The fact that we lack free media also encourages people to blog.

Afghan Press, a new citizen media project

Q: You have been involved with Afghan Press too. What is this project about?

Afghan Press was built in order to give accurate local news to people abroad. I am the director.

As you know, we don’t have online media to provide news to the world independently. Every day we hear bad news of explosions, suicide attacks, road bombings, killings, robberies in Afghanistan, but there is no one to provide information on social issues, women's issues, education, music, literature, culture and Afghan traditions.

When I read the news, I feel sorry for myself and wonder why our country and our people are defined as violent and tough people. I want to explain through Afghan Press that we are no different from the rest of the world; that we are forgotten, and you need to remember us today.

A challenge named electricity

Q: Once you wrote that one of the big challenges for Afghan bloggers is the shortage of electricity. Can you explain the daily challenges that an Afghan blogger faces?

That is right. We Afghan bloggers face severe conditions. We always have power outages. That is normal here. Within 24 hours we have 5 hours electricity, but also periodical outages. We need to write our posts on paper and wait until the power comes back.

Whenever we type and save something to a memory stick, we must walk a distance to access the internet. Probably this will take one hour or less, but we have to deal with this every single day.

A second hand computer can help… a lot

Q: How can international organizations help promote blogging in Afghanistan?

Bloggers in Afghanistan are really poor, and I am sure international organizations could help us. I am asking anybody reading these lines, please help us to promote blogs and digital media in Afghanistan. I believe, if we don’t develop modern media, we will not be able to provide information out of Afghanistan. We need international help.

In order to build this country, we need to inform people, teach the people and guide them. We, the Afghan Association of Blog Writers, are asking people to help us promote blogging in Afghanistan. Second-hand computers, laptops, cameras and flash disks would be a big help.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with Global Voices audience?

I feel truly lucky to have been giving this chance by Global Voice Online to share my views with its readers. I am very interested in Global Voices and always read the stuff in there, so keep up the hard work. I would like also ask Global Voices to participate and help promote Afghan blogs.

Feb 14, 2008

The first Afghan Penlog blogging workshop in Kabul

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The Afghan Penlog will launch its first blogging workshop in Kabul very soon.
Cultural developments and increasing digital media are the goals of this workshop. The first blogging workshop will take place for students and bloggers in Kabul. Afghan Penlog also decided to launch its workshops to other provinces like Jalalabad, Kandahar, Heart, Ghazni and other parts of the country will be the next steps.

Afghan Pen Log is calling all cultural activists and friends for making donations to reach the goal of blogs development because this Afghan Penlog does not get any financial support from anywhere. We are calling our friends in abroad or in Afghanistan to join us for this important matter with making their donations.
Pen Blog will publish the donor's names on its website and will give them the whole details of its activities and costs.

Buying a generator and paying the cost of Internet is the most prominent need for us now.
We don't have money to pay the rent of computer lab for this purpose. But we probably will be able to run the workshop in Payam-e-Noor, a private educational center located in Karte-Chahar Kabul. We still need some money to pay to manager of this organization for this purpose.
We were planning to buy a computer and an Internet line from Afghan Telecom but we could not reach our goal because of not being able to get any donation and our voice broke in our Throat.
That's why we decided to leave the idea. Now we just want to run educational workshops.

Please open the attachment and fill out the form and return to us. You can also read the Dari version of this announcement here if you have problem in opening the attachment you can download the form from this link:
http://kabulsky. com/application- form.doc
For more information please contact us at:
info@afghanpenlog. com

Afghan Association Blog Writers
Kabul, Afghanistan
info@afghanpenlog. com
www.afghanpenlog. com
www.afghanpenlog- en.blogspot. com

Feb 7, 2008

Afghan Journalist Missing Found Safe

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I was informed by Reporters Without Border by e-mail that Basir Ahang is safe and he is in Italy right now. I have also contacted people who know Basir, through his friends I found his family who are living in the west part of Kabul. Today I called to his parents and asked them about their son Basir, they assured me that Basir is safe and living in Italy.

Basir Ahang was working as freelance correspondent for a local channel Radio "Farda" and at the same time he was working as freelance journalist with the weekly "Namah" and the La Repubblica.

“Basir was severely depressed and he was always feeling fears when he returned back to his country from Iran. My son was received several threats from unknown addresses” his father said.
"Before he come to work in media he was working with the US special forces in Kandahar in the southern region. He stopped working when his colleagues have been killed by Taliban and he came to continue his studying. In the mean time he started working with local media". His father added.

This a good news for journalists and Afghan Association Blog Writers which was already expressed its deep concerns towards his safety. There is also a good news about Mr. Parwiz Kambakhsh that he will be released soon.