Afghan-Canadians Condemn the Taliban and Celebrate their Nation’s Election

7571Leila, a Langara College student, attended the anti-Taliban rally in Vancouver.

More than 75 Afghan-Canadians gathered in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery on April 6 to condemn Taliban terrorists who—despite threats of violence—were unable to derail Afghanistan’s historic national election, held April 5. “I felt like a kid on Christmas day,” said 22-year-old Hamid, one of Afghanistan’s diaspora who watched the elections on television with his mother. “It’s very, very cool.”
Small children sat on the grey, stone steps of the Vancouver gallery, holding signs directed at the Taliban such as, “Enough! Stop Killing!” while their mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers listened to members of Vancouver’s Afghan community condemn Taliban insurgencies.
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In the run-up to the election, the Taliban stepped up its attacks in Afghanistan, targeting such landmarks as La Taverna du Liban, a famous Lebanese restaurant in the capital of Kabul. Two Canadians died in the attack that killed more than 20 people. Days before the April 5 election, another attack wounded Canadian AP journalist Kathy Gannon and left Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus dead. North Vancouver optometrist Roshan Thomas, who created the Sparks Academy in Afghanistan for girls and boys, was also killed, along with Calgary nurse Zeenab Kassam, in an earlier Taliban attack at Kubul’s luxury Serena Hotel.
“The recent killings were a shock to the world,” Afghan-Canadian Mustafa Delsoz told the Vancouver crowd. “We show solidarity with those who have passed away.”
Lauryn Oates, the projects director for Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, which has established schools, teacher-training and gender equality programs in the Central Asian nation, also spoke at the rally. The Taliban’s sole “goal is the surplus of violence. They are against modernity, civilization and human rights,” Oates said.
Oates declared the April 5 election “a triumph that is unparalleled.” Twelve million Afghans were eligible to vote, and the turn out was estimated at about 60 percent—double the number who voted in the last national election. Many millions of women cast their ballot, a momentous step forward in a nation where fundamentalist Islamic edicts set forth by the Taliban during their 1996-2001 reign stripped women of any rights. Mr. Parwani, who organized the anti-Taliban protest, added that the increase in women voters communicated a definitive “ ‘no’ to terrorism.”
Leila, a 26-year-old Afghan-Canadian nursing student, was thrilled by the elections. “It’s so exciting, I wish I was there to be a part of it.”
Pundits are saying that a clear winner will be unlikely to emerge from the April 5 elections, thus requiring a runoff election in the near future.
DSC_7584Children in Afghanistan are often the victims of Taliban violence, a tragic legacy that Afghan-Canadian youngsters are acutely aware of.
27634Lauryn Oates, projects director of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, says that, for the Taliban, violence is an end in itself.
7619The Taliban are especially brutal towards Afghan women.
DSC_7563Afghan-Canadian children participated in the April 6 rally to protest widespread Taliban violence.
7603Sabit Mirzad (left) and Wali Sarwari are Afghan-Candadian students who have high hopes for Afghanistan’s future following the success of the democratic national elections April 5.

The Dog Days of Kabul

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J2E – Afghanistan – In Afghanistan, there is a breed of dog called the Kuchi, or Anatolian shepherd. Dog fighting in Afghanistan is an unofficial national sport, and Kuchis are the ideal competitor. Fearless and massive, the animal has crushing jaws, a heavy skull, muscular shoulders and chest and long limbs and hindquarters.

For millennia, Kuchi dogs protected flocks of sheep and goats from predators like jackals. Today, the animal’s fighting prowess is exploited every Friday on the Muslim weekly holy day. Following prayers, the men of Afghanistan retire to a dusty dog-fighting ring where Kuchis—tails and ears docked— are pitted against one another. Thousands of dollars are bet on the outcome. Former British Royal Marine Pen Farthing rescued a Kuchi while on a tour of duty in war-torn Helmand province, an act of kindness that snowballed into a national rescue centre for stray cats and dogs called Nowzad Dogs. Adopting strays as pets was common among troops stationed in Afghanistan while fighting Taliban insurgents. Having a dog by your side, says Farthing, allowed the soldiers to “pretend for five minutes that you were back home instead of being bombed by the Taliban.”

The huge fellow pictured here, rescued from the dog-fighting ring, is called Sherak, which means ‘little lion.’ He lives with Farthing at the Nowzad Dogs shelter in Kabul. Sherak will not die of starvation, rabies, being shot at, poisoned, run over or torn apart in a dog-fighting ring, making him one of the lucky few. (Dogs are poisoned in Afghanistan because they carry rabies: 1,000 people in Kabul died after being bitten by rapid dogs last year, according to Farthing.)

Pregnant or with litters, abandoned, injured or feral—all are brought to the shelter to be vaccinated, spayed or neutered, socialized and adopted out. Some feral dogs cannot be socialized and bite if approached. Nonetheless, Farthing says, homes are found for them, too.

Nowzad Dogs is a charity, and depends upon donations to sustain operations, says Farthing, who retired from the marines three years ago to lead mountain climbing charity treks to raise money. Check out the centre’s video at http://www.nowzad.com.