Jul 31, 2008

Back to Kabul

I am in Kabul now. Over the last few weeks I was in Hamburg, Germany, for a Summer school on freedom and responsibilities in media. What a wonderful occasion and what wonderful people from 18 countries who I’ve met there. I miss all of them now and the only thing that remains with me are memories and pictures.

If this course was held in Kabul, it might not have been so successful and interesting. In Germany I had to learn every step, I had to learn about the people, cities and culture. I came back with lots of information and memories that I am now sharing with my friends who are coming to meet me.

One of the topics we had to work on was ‘dealing with the past’. Working with 8 people from different countries in one group on how we can deal with the past is not such an easy job. In most of the cases it is taboo to write about the past or it might not be so secure, or even dangerous. In a situation like Afghanistan it is very difficult to write about criminals and the warlords who are in power right now. But alas, in our class we never thought about the hows, and which methods we could use to write about our past. But now, I don't know what to do with these criminals who are in power and still threatening.
We only overviewed the history of Germany and the time when the Nazis committed genocide.

For several days, my heart was wounded. I couldn't imagine what happened to Jewish people there. But some times it was also very irritating when some of my colleagues were making funny pictures with the commemoration statue of a Jew who died from the severe conditions of living in one of the concentration camps. Maybe they had only eyes to look at the statue and the pictures around them. Maybe they only have eyes to look but have no heart to feel. May be most of us are like this, without doubt. Who feels our pains here? No one.

The Neuengamme concentration camp, close to Hamburg in northern Germany brings tears into your heart. You cannot believe how brutal and savagely those innocent people were killed. May be, this is an example of savageness of a period in history that reminds us to look back, to what has happened in the past. “We can not forget, but we can forgive always”, is a fine quote from Nelson Mandela.

Anyway, the workshop gave me the idea to build a group of researchers, to research about the massacre and genocide of the Hazara people of Afghanistan. In the 1880s in Afghanistan, King Amir Abul Rahman Khan committed a first Hazara genocide. Later in 2000, when the Taliban captured Mazar-e Sharif they massacred a number of 10,000 of the Hazara people, and when they captured Bamyian again they killed more than 10,000 of people. Today talking about the massacres and the civil war that took place in the 1990s has become a big taboo. If you talk about what happened during these times, you are labelled as an enemy of unity.

I hope to make a research-centre to research our past. This can also help Internationals because they can learn how many problems we had in our past. Unfortunately today, foreign politicians and those people who intend to favour Afghanistan and who are theorizing the construction of an Afghani nation-state don’t see that this will be a completely impossible mission. They have the wrong approach.

Jul 23, 2008

When bloggers talk to bloggers

I wrote this here already

It seems that bloggers always looking for bloggers. It happened for me when I heard about Stefen Niggermeier, a famous media journalist and blogger. I was very interested to meet a successful German blogger. His blog is called BILDblog, it observes and takes the role of a watchdog in regard to the largest newspaper in Germany, the tabloid “BILD”, as it regularly points to errors in the paper. His blog received several prizes.

Having dinner and chatting with him and asking him about why he became a blogger was an interesting moment. Stefan believes the best way to practice free speech and to write is blog. “In your blog you don’t have to be worried about the text length, you don’t have to consider the editorial advice and those principals which are asked normally from the editor of the newspaper”, he said.

Mr. Niggermeier also shared his experience in blogging: “Blogging is easy, just start, if you have word, just put it together and work in a specific way, you will be a famous blogger”.
In this way he became a blogger, as he said, playing with buttons for bloggers, but finally he had a blog and today he is one of the most famous bloggers in Germany.

Jul 4, 2008

Meet Afghanistan's Most Fearless Blogger

Minutes into Afghan President Hamid Karzai's speech before the Afghanistan Donor Conference in Paris, he congratulated his country on its "independent media," which, having "grown exponentially" since the ouster of the Taliban, is a harbinger of Afghanistan's imminent rise to respectable statehood. With a fresh infusion of development dollars, no doubt, Karzai could build on the thriving infrastructure, cultivate a legitimate civil society, educate girls, smoke out the extremists, and generally rid the world of its turbaned bogeymen.

Not everyone buys that. Though the telecom infrastructure in Afghanistan is growing at a pace that exposes confounding contrasts—kids download videos on mobile phones while their houses lack electricity for much of the day—the mainstream press hasn't grown up as fast. Given expanding access to eyes and minds, the national press isn't as sophisticated as it could be.

"Fekrat's facial features are distinctly Mongoloid, in accordance with his Hazara heritage. His skin is rough and his look rugged, powerful in a primitive way; a rack of oversize teeth is arranged in what might best be described as a rebellious manner. He's fiercely independent, even irreverent, but then he's never had a reason to believe in the benevolence of a higher authority. Fekrat's father wanted him dead by the time he was 12 because Nasim didn't care for Allah and couldn't remember to pray, so he spent his adolescence fending for himself. He taught himself English, photography, journalism, the anatomy of the Internet, and he put it all together by posting his thoughts and photographs online. Then he started encouraging others to do the same and raising money on his Web sites so he could go into the provinces and spread the gospel".

Click the complete article here

or open this link http://www.slate.com/id/2194806/

Jul 1, 2008

The Second Round Blogging of Workshop in Bamyian

Already published here

Under the auspices of Association of Afghan Blog Writers, the second round on blogging workshop was held for tens of Afghan journalists and writers in ancient city of Bamian. This workshop was underway from June, 12 to June, 15. First workshop of this series was previously held by the Association of Afghan Blog Writers in Kabul for journalists, university faculties, students and teachers.

Two western and three Afghan teachers participated in the latest round of blogging workshops. Mr. Martin (German journalist) who was supposed to teach in the first day of workshop, unfortunately failed to do so due to an illness. In the second day, first hours were dedicated to theoretical issues, in which Mr. Jeffrey Estern (young American journalist) approached weblog phenomenon from a western and modern-world perspective. Mr. Jeffrey compared visual and print media with blogging and evaluated the influence of blogging on public opinions, politics and other media, and said: “In our country, i.e. United States, along with three constitutional powers, Media is the fourth power which monitors activities of government. However, there was no body to supervise the media. After years and with the introduction of technology and internet, Weblog came into existence. Today, weblogs supervise the media, so that there have been several cases in which bloggers revealed misinformation of some prominent journalists who were consequently fired from their positions.”

After some theoretical discussions, the rest of the second day was dedicated to practical issues. According to directors, main goal of such workshops is to turn this new phenomenon into a public one so as to ensure that everybody practices the right of free speech with no censorship. Since increasing pressures of Information and Culture Ministry has led to more censorship by e-media and private TV channels, weblog may be a better choice to experience free speech as well as institutionalizing this principle in the Afghan society.

This was the second blogging workshop held in Afghanistan, and Association of Afghan Blog Writers is supposed to run similar workshops in other cities such as Herat, Mazar- Sharif, Jalalabad, Kandehar, Bamyian and Daikundi.

Blogging is an absolutely new phenomenon in Afghanistan and most of the people do not take it professionally. Therefore, such workshops directed by Association of Afghan Blog Writers may speed up the process of professionalization and facilitate it for Afghan bloggers. Today most of the youth and students have turned to this phenomenon. Though having access to internet is very problematic, the Afghan youth increasingly turn to weblog and blogging, and the number of Afghan weblogs is increasing. Up to now, more than 20,000 Afghan weblogs have been registered by Afghan people in various countries and through various blog service providers, such as Blogger, wordpress, Blogfa, Persianblog.

Barriers to the Way of Afghan Bloggers

Afghan bloggers have to deal with a wide range of problems. Due to recent controversies over Dari (Farsi) and after two correspondents in Mazar-e Sharif were sacked just for using Dari equivalents of ‘University’ and ‘Student’, Afghan Telecom has blocked two popular Persian blogger sites: Persianblog and Blogfa. Some believe that such acts are the continuation of fight of Abdul Karim Khoram(minister of Information and Culture) against Dari Persian.

On the other hand, there is the problem of power shortage. In spite of Hamid Karzai ruling for several years and presence of International Community in Afghanistan, Kabul inhabitants still do not have access to power. Power is available only 6 hours per day, and suffers fluctuations. This problem may be a big barrier to the way of Afghan bloggers and prevent them from updating their blogs.

Help Promote Free Speech

Directors of the project believe that turning this new phenomenon (i.e. Weblog) into a public issue between Afghan youth and writers can help the free speech and institutionalize democracy in Afghanistan. Today many emerging journals claim ‘independence and being free’, but they are unfortunately so associated with political trends and parties that practically come to experience self-censorship. Very often it happens that they fail to publish critical papers. On the other hand, Afghan journals and media have taken an opposition stance and the only thing they may criticize is the government, while there is a myriad of hot and sensitive issues happening all around Afghanistan neglected by such journals and media. Weblog enables the writer to publish his thoughts and criticisms freely and independently, using either real name or nom de plume.