Monday, 29 November 2010

Wikileaks leaked new cache of classified documents

  By Hanan Habibzai
Despite pressure from Swedish authority,Wikileaks founder Julian Assange released a huge cache of classified documents on American war around globe.
The Website  said it was under intense pressure over the imminent release -- a possible reference to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's legal problems in Sweden, where he is wanted for alleged sexual misconduct. 


It could also be a reference to the constant pressure which Assange says is being applied to the Web site's servers, security and finances.
According  Wikileaks, it has released 251,287 US embassy cables ,the largest set of confidential documents over to be released into the public domain. 

The documents will give people around the world an unprecedented insight into US Government foreign activities.


This is almost third time Wikileaks is disturbing American diplomacy  around the world by releasing secret US documents. This release was seven times the size of the Iraq war logs, almost the biggest leak in US history. 
Corruption in Afghanistan with concerns is a big concern highlighted in the document.This contains a significant message for Afghan people that their ex-vice president was a thief 
but in official dress. 52 million $US exported to the foreign countries by Ahmad Zia Masoud during his time in the office. 


On 27 December 2007 a local Afghan TV reported that Dubai police have arrested Afghan vice president Ahmad Zia Masoud and Younus Qanoni the parliament speaker with several  bags  full of $US in the airport. Both the high ranking Afghan officials were detained for few hours, they have been released when Dubai police got a call from Kabul.The Wikileaks new release offered unique reality that Americans in Afghanistan understand everything, but they are still supporting those who looting the country. 


According to  Chirstain Science Monitore's Ben Arnoldy the latest WikiLeaks revelations once again put the US ambassador to Afghanistan on record as a blunt critic of President Hamid Karzai’s government, highlighting the war’s corrupt and complicated dynamics.

Ambassador Karl Eikenberry's name sits as a signature at the end of an October 2009 cable marked “confidential” that concluded, “one of our major challenges in Afghanistan [is] how to fight corruption and connect the people to their government, when the key government officials are themselves corrupt.”The memo also repeats allegations that Mr. Karzai’s half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, “is widely understood to be corrupt and a narcotics trafficker.”Together with past leaked documents and Bob Woodward’s new book “Obama’s Wars,” the cables cement Ambassador Eikenberry as one of Karzai’s toughest critics and a skeptic of the war from inside the highest leadership circles.

The conflict forced Afghan children to work

By Hanan Habibzai


More then three decades of war has forced millions of children in Afghanistan to feed their families.The United Nation figures show that 8.5 million children are the main responsible members of the families working in the streets to earn money and brining food to the rest of households.


An Afghan child struggling to earn money for food

The Poverty, poor security and an influx of refugees returning to Afghanistan from neighbouring countries are the main factors that compel families to force their children to work.



The Poor security:an Afghan child walking to cross the troops
 

A United Nation survey released last year ,showed that children were employed in a range of heavy jobs from washing cars in the street to working in shops and restaurants as well as in mechanical factories and garages.

Afghan employment law specify that children can work from the age of 15 but their working hours must not exceed 35 hours a week. Afghanistan is one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world. Most Afghans live on an estimated 1,5 a day and unemployment is at 60 percent.




Friday, 26 November 2010

Prime Minister launches Big Society Awards

The British Prime Minister David Cameron has launched a new award that will recognise some of the excellent examples of the Big Society in action taking place all around the country.As well as celebrating the fantastic work already being carried out in neighbourhoods in every region, the Prime Minister hopes that the Big Society Awards will inspire many more people to get involved in their community.

The Prime Minister said:“There are some amazing projects and remarkable voluntary work going on in towns and cities up and down the country, by all kinds of organisations from large enterprises to tiny grassroots schemes and inspirational individuals.“

These awards are a chance to pay tribute to those making a valuable contribution to their community, the real champions of the Big Society, but perhaps more importantly, I hope they will motivate many others to take action, get involved and drive change in their area.”

Individuals, businesses, charities, community groups and other organisations are all eligible if they illustrate the Big Society in action.These might be:People or groups who are bringing their community together and helping to give people more power to take decisions and shape their area

People will be able to submit nominations via a form on the website. Nominees will then go through a selection process which will eventually involve a panel of previous winners and individuals from civil society organisations, Government and the private sector.

Award winners will receive a certificate from the Prime Minister and will be invited to a regular Big Society Award Winners Reception at Downing Street.

The Awards kick off this week with the first winner, Central Surrey Health, a social enterprise providing community nursing and therapy services on behalf of NHS Surrey and other partners.The Prime Minister said:“Congratulations to Central Surrey Health on becoming the very first Big Society Award winners.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Afghan cricketers battling to achieve the title favorite in 16Asian games

By Hanan Habibzai

Afghanistan is proud enough having heroes struggling to eminence reputation of their war waged country.Afghan cricketers had motivated performance in the last few days against the Asian nations including Pakistan.Afghan national team beat Pakistan to make its way toward gold medal. this will be first gold medal in Afghan History that a team brings to the war shattered country.


The victory against Pakistan celebrated all across the entire country which brought smile to the war torn Afghans for few hours and they forgotten the sorrows which are considered every day dealing in Afghanistan.Afghan Twenty20 captain Mohammad Nabi said his whole country was behind them..
“On TV last night in Afghanistan, they told people to pray that we would win. Tonight they will be celebrating all over the country. It’s a dream for us,” he said.
In the first meeting between the two sides, Afghanistan scored 125-8 in their 20 overs before limiting Pakistan’s flamboyant batsmen to just 103-7.
Afghanistan’s score did not look enough as Pakistan made a lightning reply, racing to 30 off just three overs, but tight Afghan bowling and disciplined fielding prompted a middle-order collapse.
According Pakistani news paper, the Dawn, Afghanistan coach Rashid Latif didn’t want his players to be overawed against Pakistan in the Asian Games cricket semi-finals, so he hand delivered a message containing a Quranic verse to inspire them.
“Do not be scared of your rivals in WAR. Understand that they are also humans and are scared as well,” Latif wrote in his note to every Afghani cricketer in the Athletes Village at Guangzhou on Wednesday night.
On Thursday morning, Afghanistan made history by eliminating title favorite Pakistan from the gold medal race with a clinical 22-run victory in the Asian Games Twenty20 tournament.“I kept reminding players about my last night’s message,” Latif, the former Pakistan test cricketer, told The Associated Press as he wrapped an Afghan flag around his shoulders.
With only one more win needed for an unlikely gold medal, the celebrations obviously are on hold.“I won’t be celebrating tonight because we won against my home country,” he said. “But definitely I will join celebrations with my players tomorrow after the final.”
Latif started coaching Afghanistan just a few months back and the dividends are already coming.He said a medal at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, where cricket made its debut on the sports program, had long been in his calculations.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Our Lesser-Known Allies in Afghanistan

The New York Times 

By MARK LARSO

KABUL — What do the Greek, Mongolian, Latvian and British Armies have in common? They’ve all been in Afghanistan before: the Greeks under Alexander; the Mongols under Genghis Khan:the Latvians as part of the Soviet Union; and the British more than a few times. They are also current members of the International Security Assistance Force, and contribute troops to the coalition mission in Afghanistan.

One need only look to the flag poles at Camp Eggers in Kabul to see a record of the contributing nations (47 to be exact).
Not every nation’s forces are substantial in number — in some cases they are no more than a handful — and of course very few are engaged in outright combat operations. Most are assigned to training, mentoring or other critical support operations.
The Georgian troops, for example, have been used to protect entry points into forward operating bases around Kabul. Their country’s dedication is such that they were kept here even after Georgia’s conflict with Russia back in 2008.
At Camp Alamo, just a short drive away from Camp Blackhorse, there are Greeks, Turks and Mongolians, in addition to the French, British and Australians.
The Mongolians, for certain, provide the most extraordinary example of international support. That Mongolia — a landlocked country of just three million people, nearly half of whom still lead a nomadic life — provides any aid at all to the international force is remarkable.
While there are only a few dozen Mongolian soldiers in the country helping to train the Afghan National Army, the country’s contribution is relatively substantial considering that its military only numbers around 7,000 (less than a single American division).
The Mongolian mission at Camp Alamo, which just moved to another location around Kabul, is to train the Afghans in the operation of indirect fire systems. Since the Mongolians use former Soviet weaponry, particularly mortar and artillery systems, they can train the Afghans in those systems with a familiarity that NATO members could not.
And although Mongolia’s military may not be as fearsome as it once was under Genghis Khan, having been the only country to quell Afghanistan has to count for something.
The Mongolians’ presence around camp also provides a novel experience for the many members of ISAF who are unfamiliar with their distinct culture. While some of the Mongolians struggle with English, their friendliness and dedication does not get lost in translation. Also their presence provides an excellent excuse for the DFAC (dining facility, that is) to have Mongolian BBQ night.
Having spent all my time in Afghanistan training the Afghan National Army, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to work with troops from numerous nations. At Camp Blackhorse we’ve seen Germans, Canadians, French, Croatians, Spanish, Italians, Romanians, Australians and Portuguese pass through to
help train the Afghans. While this can provide linguistic challenges, their differing backgrounds and perspectives offer fresh approaches to working with the national army.
Whereas we Americans tend to be very straightforward and results oriented, Arab allies like Jordan and the United Arab Emirates who are more process oriented provide a good example of relating to the Afghans through relationship building.
First Lt. Mark Larson is serving with the 10th Mountain Division in Kabul and has written blogs at www.handfulofdust.net. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the United States government. If you are an active-duty service member and would like to submit a post, please e-mail us at AtWar@nytimes.com.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Taliban Leader Says Insurgents Are Waging War of Attrition

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar said Monday that the insurgents' strategy aims to increase operations nationwide and battle the U.S.-led coalition in a war of attrition.

But in a sign that NATO's campaign against the Taliban may be hurting the militants far more than they have acknowledged, Mullah Omar also appealed for funding from Muslims around the world.

Mullah Omar, who has not been seen in public since being driven from power following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., said the Taliban wants to boost operations across Afghanistan to "compel the enemy to come out from their hideouts and then crush them through tactical raids."

In his message for Eid al-Adha, the most important holiday on the Islamic calendar, the Taliban leader also claimed that NATO forces were in Afghanistan for the "achievement of some colonialist objectives and goals, so it is the religious and humane obligation of the Afghans to stand up."

The U.S.-led coalition has ramped up its military campaign against the Taliban in their southern stronghold, capturing or killing hundreds of insurgent leaders. A senior coalition official has said the military has been averaging more than 200 special forces operations a month, with more than half resulting in the capture or killing of the targeted insurgents.

Mullah Omar appealed for funds in his holiday message, which suggests that NATO operations may be taking a toll on the insurgents.

"The people are grappling with hardship and poverty. But the Afghans have embraced all these sufferings out of commitment to the great cause of establishment of rules of the Holy Quran and the defense of the Islamic faith," he said, asking that Muslims "perform your obligation of fraternity in your material wealth."

He also reiterated Taliban denials that the insurgents were open to talks with the Afghan government. President Hamid Karzai has made reconciliation a top priority and recently formed a 70-member High Peace Council to find a political solution to the insurgency.

Mullah Omar accused Karzai's government of being full of people who are tools of the West and "not interested in the future and prosperity of the country."

"They are only hankering after filling their pockets with money and fleecing the masses," the Taliban leader said. He called on those in the government "to desist from supporting the invaders."

NATO said that Mullah Omar's message was not meant for Afghans but for the international community.

"We believe this message is targeted at the international audience more than Afghan audiences. The language is more nationalistic and anti-colonial; a departure from past messages," said Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a NATO spokesman.

He added that Mullah Omar's message includes more criticism against the international media than in the past.

"The Taliban cannot use facts to explain away their setbacks in and around Kandahar City, the civilian casualties they continue to cause deliberately and through indiscriminate methods like improvised explosive devices, and their intimidation of Afghan civilians wherever they are able."

A coalition intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mullah Omar pointed out in his message that some of his commanders had not been strictly following his guidance banning the kidnapping and killing of civilians. Insurgents killed 15 civilians last week, according to the coalition.

"Pay attention to the life and property of the civilians so that ... your jihad activities will not become a cause for destruction of property and loss of life of people," he said.

Friday, 12 November 2010

The struggle to eat on the streets of Afghanistan

By Hanan Habibzai

Zaher Jan is just 11 years old, yet he has the responsibilities of someone four times his age. "I wake up at six in the morning everyday to go to the city to clean cars," he says. "When someone stops his car alongside the road, I start cleaning. Many times I've had to listen to the abusing words of drivers; sometimes they even slap my face saying, 'why are you cleaning my car with out my permission?'
"But sometimes a driver is sympathetic, and gives me ten Afghanis. This kind of sympathy happens once or twice a day. But, mostly, I get harassment for these ten Afghanis. One Naan is sold for ten Afghani. If two people show their sympathy in a day, then I'm very happy, because I'd be able to bring two Naans for my family.''
Jan's Naan will feed his widowed mother and 9-year-old sister. They live together in a house, falling apart at the seams, in Kabul, where Jan's father was killed in gun battle two years ago. The day his father died, Jan became head of the family. School has been ruled out for Jan; instead he must spend the time earning enough to feed his family. Jan's plight is a familiar tale in war torn Afghanistan. A large number of Afghan children are forced to start earning a living from a young age to feed their families.
Gulalai Sapai, an Afghan MP, is one of a growing number of public figures in the country using her political platform to speak out against child labour. One in three children in Afghanistan is forced to work on the street, she says. "Children are taking on more responsibilities because of the ongoing war, which is destroying everything. And when they go to work on the streets they face sexual and physical abuse."
A recent survey by the Afghan Independent Human Right (AIHRC) group found that child labour is also placing mental and psychological strain on children between the ages of six and 16. The group's research, which included interviews with 18,443 children, found that a lot of kids were working the poppy fields, and seriously at risk of getting caught up in drug crimes.
Anar Kaley, a commissioner in AIHRC, said the biggest reason behind children seeking work is the families being too poor and destitute to care for them.
UNICEF figures puts the number of street children at as many as 100-150 million worldwide, most of whom are illiterate having been forced to give up on school. Often they have no identification document, which, again, gets in the way of them enrolling at schools. Afghan child labours are the significant part of UNICEF figures.
However, things could yet improve. Afghanistan recently signed an international treaty, which includes clauses for the prevention of child labour. The country has made it illegal for those under the age of 18 to work on the streets. But, Sapai says governments are not doing enough to properly enforce the law, with thousands still working regardless. Even if it were enforced, she says, it is part of the wider problem of poverty. "The families are compelled; these children are bringing home food, who else will give assurance to the families? If their children go to school, they will stop bringing home food.'' She said.
The problem isn't be helped by the dwindling numbers of NGOs and aid workers, in Afghanistan to help these children, but who are leaving because of the threat from militants and insurgency attacks.
However, Ashyana, an NGO based in Kabul with branches in the cities of Gardiz, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and Badkhshan, has so far been able to register 7,700 street children across the country and get them back into the classroom.
Mohammad Yousof, who chairs the charity, says: " Tens of thousands of children work on the streets of Kabul. They are should get back into the education system, but we can't stop them from working. If we do, their families will suffer more."
With poverty in Afghanistan soaring, it seems certain the child labour will continue to rise. Some reports identify another way Afghan families try to get their children out of poverty or earning a good wage: sending them to European countries as asylum seekers. They might then receive a sympathetic welcome from western governments who will let them stay.
This dangerously naive perception of the asylum process means that the suffering of Afghan children is often transported around the world.
In Britain, I met a 15-year-old Afghan boy working in an off license in the east London. His family spent a huge amount of money to get him to the UK, so now he is here, working to pay back the money and help his family back in Afghanistan.
Back home in Afghanistan, children also run the risk of being drafted into illegal armed groups or put to work for militants, where they face almost certain death.
The Afghan government, caught up in its own battles with war lords, the Taliban and coalition troops, is unwittingly raising a nation of children forced too soon into adulthood.
Ashyana's Mohammad Yousof thinks the international community should step in and spend aid money on addressing these issues to get children back to the education. Dr Ashraf Ghani, a presidential hopeful for presidential election in Afghanistan this year, has taken up the plight of children as part of his campaign. He fears increasing poverty will push more and more children into the insurgency. So then, the hopes of Afghanistan's child labour workforce lie in elections this summer, if the right candidate gets in, they might yet have hope for a better future.


I written  this  article for the Guardian's International Development Journalism Competition.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Bush's Memoir: A reminder of human rights abuses


By Hanan Habibzai

Former US President George W Bush appeared once again in news when he launched his memoir earlier last week.

In his book Mr Bush clearly mentioned direct orders for water boarding terror suspected prisoners.

This apparently becomes a reminder for human rights activist who already launched protests against Bush’s recent remarks.

According, Hoffingdon Post The American Civil Liberties Union joined a growing chorus in the human rights community calling for a special prosecutor to investigate whether former president George W. Bush violated federal statutes prohibiting torture.''

Former US president strongly defended the use of water boarding and denied it amounted to torture, as critics and some allies claim. It’s appeared very delighted for some critics of Mr Bush's policies when the British Government has long regarded it as a form of torture.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron Asked whether US use of water boarding had prevented attacks in the UK, he added:

"Look, I think torture is wrong and I think we ought to be very clear about that. And I think we should also be clear that if actually you're getting information from torture, it's very likely to be unreliable information."

The daily Mirror has reported Mr Cameron's reacted to the Bush's comment. The Prime Minister suggested that the use of torture - and the incarceration of suspects in Guantanamo Bay without trial - could be counter-productive, by encouraging support for terrorists.

Speaking during a round of broadcast interviews in Seoul, Mr Cameron said: "I think there is both a moral reason for being opposed to torture - and Britain doesn't sanction torture - but secondly I think there's also an effectiveness thing about what he said.

"Thirdly, I would say if you look at the effect of Guantanamo Bay and other things like that, long-term that has actually helped to radicalise people and make our country and our world less safe, so I don't agree."

Sydney Morning Herald writes, George Bush, who took America into two wars, backed ''water boarding'' of terrorism suspects, was labelled a racist by a black entertainer over his response to Hurricane Katrina and went against his belief in the free market to bail out Wall Street, says he hopes that his presidency will ultimately be judged a success but he does not expect to be around to learn the verdict.








Call for journalist release before Aid al-Udha


Reporters Without Borders deplores the continuing illegal detention of Radio Kapisa director Hojatullah Mujadadi and calls for a humane gesture from those in charge of the National Directorate of Security ahead of Aid al-Kabir, which begins on 17 November.
 A request for his release was refused on the grounds that he was being held in connection with terrorist activities but the NDS has produced no evidence of this.
Mujadadi’s detention, which is completely illegal, has been condemned by several senior Afghan officials including by a high level representative of the justice ministry, who recently wrote to the attorney general urging him to speed up the investigation. But, in the absence of any serious investigation on the part of the NDS, the case is blocked.
Despite former Kapisa governor Ghulam Ghawis Abubaker’s public denials following the revelations made by Reporters Without Borders, we are in a position to say that he played a role in Mujadadi’s arrest.
 We have been able to confirm that one of his son-in-laws, Khajeh Zafar, a high level NDS official in Kapisa province, ordered the arrest on 18 September.

Promote peace talks, Afghan war is not a success

By Hanan Habibzai
The attack on Kabul on January 17 this year, which took place only metres away from the Presidential Palace, was evidence that not only have the international community and the Afghan government failed to win the people’s hearts and minds, but also they have lost their trust. The military conflict has now reached even the heart of Kabul. It is hard to imagine anywhere safe in the whole country.
But at this time of intensification of conflict, a debate is taking place among Afghan parliamentarians questioning the presence of the US and NATO in Afghanistan. This is the anti-Western sentiment that the Taliban have for long been whispering into the ears of ordinary Afghans in the villages and valleys of the restive regions. Those Afghans who saw their children die, those who watched their women and elders in pools of blood, are increasingly becoming susceptible to this type of rhetoric. Many are in the process of changing their minds about the international troops.
The military commanders say that they have now made “protecting civilians” their priority, but just last month, 10 children were killed during a night-time raid carried out by US-special forces in eastern Kunar Province. As long as these incidents keep happening public anger against the US presence in Afghanistan will continue to grow.
Military attacks carried out by foreigners and that result in the killing of civilians are an insult to Afghans’ traditions and beliefs. In many instances, when the local population accuse international forces of killing civilians, the troops deny it and often dismiss evidence provided by Afghans. Also commonly heard is that troops were targeting terrorists in a raid, even when the victims are school children, or mothers with young children.

Sadly these tradgedies overshadow the killing of civilians in suicide attacks by the Taliban – preventing the public mourning of the innocents who lose their lives in such attacks. It has given cover to Taliban attacks that result in civilian killings across the country. Ordinary Afghans are now only talking against US military behaviour and forget attacks by Taliban which have killed hundreds of civilians.

In 2003 and 2004, I was reporting for international media agencies on clashes between two notorious warlords in the north, Rashid Dostom and Atta Mohammad. At the time I regarded the American presence in Afghanistan as crucial for protecting the country from war criminals and for helping to bring stability to the country. But now, I have begun to lose hope. The international security forces are creating such a terrifying atmosphere that it is hard for people to sleep at night.

These days, when I watch state-run Afghan TV, which is funded by American money, I am surprised by how openly Afghan experts criticize US military tactics in Afghanistan. This is new. A recent discussion program featured an influential historian and supporter of President Karzai, Habibullah Rafi. Rafi was talking about civilian casualties and warning American troops to end their animosity towards Afghan people. The other guest, parliamentarian Iqbal Safi, warned that if American troops continue to kill civilians, they will face the same fate as the Red Army, which left Afghanistan, defeated, and shamed.The MP’s anger was clearly visible. The tension between Afghans and Americans is just beginning to surface but both countries are yet to see the terrible consequences of the discrepancy.

Americans should stop their stubborn approach in Afghanistan and take a more diplomatic and talk oriented track.
Afghan Taliban should be brought to the political process and should be recognised as a political entity in Afghanistan.

Traditionally, mosques are run and controlled by Mullahs and historically they have enormous impact on peoples’ opinion in Afghanistan. One of the most effective ways to achieve stability in Afghanistan is to win the support of Mullahs and of influential religious leaders. I recommend that the international community negotiates with Taliban. War alone will never produce a brighter future for Afghans; it can only result in the loss of more and more lives.

Only when the violence ebbs will the torch of democracy be lit. As long as the fear and instability spreads, as long as each family is mourning a loss, so the enmities will deepen between families and tribes, and between the US and Afghanistan. Negotiation is always going to be more productive than violence.

Some will say that the Taliban are too cruel, and that if they become a part of the government, they may not allow women to go to work or school. Others will say that before negotiations there needs to be political reform to remove the warlords who massacred thousands, and some of whom were backed by the United States. There will be questions, and concerns. But in spite of these, there can be no doubt that what Afghans want more than anything is for the violence and killing to stop. The London conference is the perfect opportunity for a decisive move towards negotiations and peace talks.

Poets mirror feelings of Afghans caught in conflict

By Hanan Habibzai

Intellectuals and poets have a commanding presence in Afghan society. It is the poets who often mirror the feelings of ordinary people, revealing much about the mindset of Afghans in the face of occupation and civil war.
Now, it is the smell of fresh blood rather than the delights of Afghanistan’s mountains and fields that occupies the poets. As an Afghan, when I read their works, I am shocked by the state of my country, and see in that state the failures of my government and the international community.
When Barack Obama won the U.S. presidential election last year, many Afghans, intellectuals included, believed the end of the Bush era meant a let-up in their suffering.
But after the U.S. bombardments on the western province of Farah on May 4/5, the latest of many in which scores of civilians have been killed, most have lost faith.
Local elders say the strikes took 147 lives. If true, that makes the strikes the bloodiest since the war began in 2001, though the U.S. military accuse civilians of inflating the numbers.
But focusing on the numbers misses the point. The situation has devastated Afghans, and perhaps removed the last shred of faith they may have had in the coalition forces. Farah resident Hamidullah says: “We got it wrong. Americans came to kill us. We thought that they were here to make our future better. But no, they kill children, women, elders and any type of villager as if they are all Taliban.”
Another local, Khan Wali, who lost his sister-in-law and another female relative in the air strike, says: “The American military is trying to prove itself as a hero back in America by killing innocents.”
One Afghan poet, 28-year-old Samiullah Taroon, was born just after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and grew up between decades of war. Once famous for pretty verse about valleys in the Kunar region, he has now, like his fellow artists, turned to war and oppression, both foreign and domestic, for his subject matter:
We have heard these anecdotes
That control will be again in the hands of the killer
Some will be chanting the slogans of death
And some will be chanting the slogans of life
The white and sacred pages of the history
Remind one of some people
In white clothes, they are the snakes in the sleeves
They capture Kabul and they capture Baghdad.

Taroon says the government is a puppet of foreign powers, and in thrall to warlords and corruption:
A fraud with the name of reconstruction
Takes power and gold from me
As a popular poet, reciting his poetry at rallies where thousands gather, he is a threat to those in power, and those who want it. Taroon says he is being followed by an Afghan intelligence agency, which opened a file on him last year, and fears for his life.
So what does the government or the Taliban have to fear from a poet? In Afghanistan, poetry is often recited or sung, and is hugely accessible to ordinary people, despite high illiteracy. Poetry contests are attended by thousands.
Poetry has for centuries reflected traditions, history and the mood of the moment in Afghanistan.
At the Battle of Maiwand in 1880, legend has it that a young girl named Malalai inspired Afghan fighters to defeat the British army. When the soldiers grew disheartened and the British looked like winning, Malalai, tending wounded troops, recited poetry:
Young love, if you do not fall in the battle of Maiwand,
By God, someone is saving you as a symbol of shame!
The Afghans turned the tables and drove the British all the way back to Kandahar. True or not, many Afghans believe the tale.
Pashtun poets have a long history of protest. According to Afghan historian Habibullah Rafi, 19th-century editor Alama Mahmood Tarzi infuriated the British with protest poems that were read throughout the Pashtu speaking world.
When the Russians arrived in 1979, the poetry once again changed with the fortunes of the people. Ishaq Nangyal’s poems, written during the 80s and 90s, are a good example of the resilience shown by Afghans towards their oppressors, be they foreign invaders or religious extremists.
Even if my head is cut down from my body
If my heart is taken out of my cage with the hands
For the honour of the country I accept all these
I am an Afghan, I fulfil my intentions.

When international forces defeated the Taliban in 2001, many poets reflected hopes that they would finally bring peace and prosperity after years of suffering under the Soviet-backed communist government, the Mujahadeen and the Taliban.
But the suffering of ordinary Afghans continued: poverty grew, corruption grew and the government’s actions began to wear down its people. The poets became angry and directed their anger at the coalition forces.
Following a U.S. military air strike last summer in the Shindand district of the Herat province, 47-year-old Nader Jan lost his faith. “We voted for the kingdom of Hamid Karzai to have a peaceful life,” he says. “Instead we got death. I saw how Nawabad village came under American attack and more than 100 civilians died, 70 of them children and women. Are the children also fighting against America? No. I ask, what did they do wrong?”
A veteran Afghan poet, Pir Muhammad Karwan, mourns a bride and groom killed at a wedding party that was bombed.
Here the girls with the language of bangles
Brought the songs of wedding to the ceremony
With the rockets of America
The songs of the hearts were holed