Aug 2, 2009

Learning Online Journalism and Writing Blogs in Helmand Province

Note that this article was first published in the (direct link of this interview)and if you reproduce this article you must retain this notice.

Introduction: A surprising number of Afghans blog on the Internet and even more want to learn how. Nasim Fekrat has been at the forefront of helping Afghans use modern technology to communicate with each other and the rest of the world – but it can be a dangerous business.’s Jane Morse talked with him earlier this year while he was in United States on a fellowship (see: Eager to Learn About the World, Tech Savy Afghans Turn to Blogs.) In a new guest post, Nasim talks about his latest efforts to teach blogging in Helmand province, the largest in Afghanistan and the world’s top opium-producing region. The province is the site of ongoing deadly fighting between the Taliban and American, British and other NATO troops.

This is the sixth day that I am in the war-torn province of Helmand. My friends in other provinces do not know what I am here for, and before I explain it to them, they ask me, “What the heck are you doing there?”

I am in Helmand province to conduct a training session on online journalism and blog writing. We had planned for owners of 20 media outlets to participate in this two-day training session, but we received more applications than we expected. We were unaware that we would get 28 people for the training session, including reporters, poets and writers.

You may think that we had everything we needed for the training class, but we did not have everything. We had just two computers that connected to the Internet and we had 28 journalists. Every one of them required the Internet during the training. It may be unbelievable for readers or funny to them, but we did it. Every one of the participants had a blog entry by the end of the training session and had posted two subjects on their blogs. Almost all of the blogs were written in Pashto (one of the official and most common languages in Afghanistan) and discussed subjects such as culture, literature, community, politics and agriculture in Helmand province.

When I asked the participants what made them participate in the training, our discussion taught me something new. One of them, who was familiar with Wikipedia, told me: “I want to inform people about Helmand province.”

He said that whenever he goes to the Internet site to search Lashkargah (the capital city of Helmand province) and Helmand province, he only finds results that center on drugs, war and violence.

Therefore, he is learning to utilize blogging in order to inform the world that Helmand is not a place of drugs and war but has agriculture, culture and literary works which have not been widely publicized.

One of the participants told me that he wants to discuss the security challenges in Helmand province using blogging, and he wants to hear opinions from other bloggers concerning the operation in Helmand province and find solutions for the conflict in this province.

The enthusiasm for the training was more than expected and the reason for that is clear: This is a war-torn province and nobody is willing to put himself in danger in order to conduct training for journalists. But for me, as a young Afghan from the generation of war victims and refugees, I love to serve my country and my fellow citizens. I want to teach them the things that I have learned. I like to spread the culture of blogs and online journalism in Afghanistan among the younger generations.

This was the third workshop on blogging and online journalism which was conducted with the support of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and the blogging Institution of Afghanistan in Helmand province. This program has been scheduled in other provinces and the next workshop will be in Bamyan province.

Read more about Nasim’s efforts at his English language blog, Afghan Lord at

You can see his photo gallery The World Through My Eyes at

Additional photo galleries by Nasim can be found on NATO’s website, as well as at


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