Hindrance to My Progress

Oct 22, 2011   //   by Hameed   //   Uncategorized  //  1 Comment

After spend­ing a week and a half in Bamyan city and train­ing Bamyan Uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents, the pro­fes­sors and a few work­ers from Shuha­da aid and relief orga­ni­za­tion in tech tools and map­ping and Crowdmap­ping pro­grams and appli­ca­tions, it’s time to go back and par­tic­i­pate in the Islam­abad Inno­va­tion Lab ini­ti­at­ed by Internews in Islam­abad, Pak­istan. I was invit­ed to the inno­va­tion lab by the Internews, Afghanistan. We have pur­chased tick­ets and our flight is on Octo­ber 24th, 2011. The actu­al inno­va­tion lab will be held from Octo­ber 25–27 where dif­fer­ent experts and devel­op­ers will present pre­sen­ta­tions and train­ings on dif­fer­ent social media tools. I am also going to give a pre­sen­ta­tion on the open source data col­lec­tion and map visu­al­iz­ing tool Crowdmap. I have been look­ing for­ward to the Islam­abad Inno­va­tion lab for a long time. The prob­lem is that there are no flights from my cur­rent city of Bamyan to the cap­i­tal city of Kab­ul we are fly­ing out of Kab­ul air­port to Islam­abad on Mon­day, Octo­ber 24 before the inno­va­tion lab in Islam­abad begins. I know that the weath­er will get bet­ter and we’ll have flights again but there is a big­ger and more entrenched prob­lem- the fear of being killed by the Tal­iban if we take the road.
Most of the peo­ple that I have talked to here are very intim­i­dat­ed and fear­ful of trav­el­ing on the road from Bamyan to Kab­ul. They think it’s crazy to trav­el on this road since it’s a noto­ri­ous­ly dan­ger­ous road because of sev­er­al rea­sons: Impro­vised Explo­sive Devices (IEDs), Tal­iban check­ing cars to iden­ti­fy those whom they don’t like and to cut their heads off, and rob­beries on the way. A few months ago a mem­ber of the Bamyan provin­cial assem­bly was trav­el­ing from Bamyan to Kab­ul when he got caught by the Tal­iban and they cut off his head right away. These acts of ter­ror­ists have increased people’s fear. It’s a shame that not func­tion­ing roads that have in Afghanistan but we can’t use them.
Yes­ter­day morn­ing, I was ask­ing some­one who works with a NGO here in Bamyan for advice on how to dress and what type of vehi­cle and what route to take. Shams told me his sto­ry like how one time he was trav­el­ing on that road and the dri­ver was inter­ro­gat­ing him about what he was doing and why he had been to Bamyan. He was afraid that the dri­ver might be one of “them” and would harm him. He passed him­self off for a pota­to busi­ness man. Bamyan’s pota­toes are very pop­u­lar in Afghanistan and that’s how he got away with the poten­tial threat. Some peo­ple also think that there are spot­ters in the main city cen­ter and they fol­low peo­ple and report back when they start their trip from this city.
How­ev­er, my par­tic­i­pa­tion in this inno­va­tion lab in Pak­istan will add a lot to my skills and exper­tise in social media and oth­er open source tools and pro­grams and how they can be used for social change. There is going to be experts and devel­op­ers from dif­fer­ent coun­tries and it’ll be a great oppor­tu­ni­ty for me to share my ideas and expe­ri­ences with oth­er inter­na­tion­al col­leagues of how tech­nol­o­gy in Afghanistan is used for social change and also to hear their sto­ries about it. When I return from this inno­va­tion lab, I will share what I have learned with oth­er fel­low Afghans and my team, Jalala­good Geek Squad.
Is it worth tak­ing the risk and trav­el­ling on the Bamyan-Kab­ul road for this?
I think those of us who have cho­sen to work and live in Afghanistan, we’ve accept­ed this as part of the chal­lenge to some­times trav­el on roads and to places that are dan­ger­ous. Dan­ger­ous because there are ene­mies of human­i­ty. Dan­ger­ous because there are ter­ror­ists who cre­ate fear their vio­lent acts and there­by tar­get­ing and dis­re­gard­ing the safe­ty of human beings.
To con­clude, I feel accom­plished at the end of my work and the train­ings that I helped with with Baman Uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents, staff and sev­er­al aid work­ers here. And noth­ing will change my com­mit­ment to serv­ing those who are in need of what I can offer.