Jul 26, 2018

Peacebuilding in the Peshawar

Credit: Dania Ali
Credit: Dania Ali

When the Taliban overtook her village and began brainwashing her friends and family with hate speech; Jan, a young Peshwari woman, felt compelled to stop the them. Later that year, she attended training with our local partner in North East Pakistan, Aware Girls, where she learned about how to effectively combat the Taliban’s Islamist agenda. She now lectures upon countering violent-extremism to children in her community. This is her story:

‘When [the] Taliban started taking over our area, I didn’t know what to do. I knew how to write, so I started writing against them. They used to collect funds for constructing mosques and started conducting three-day trainings [where] they would preach hatred against [the] army and other people. I was never very religious, so I was not attracted to them.’ 

‘Writing against [the] Taliban did not seem enough. I felt the need to somehow stop [them], so I, along with a few of my friends, started to educate youth about peace and conflict resolution. I advised them to keep away from such groups.’

‘In 2013, I came across Aware Girls, and [began to attend] their training [sessions]. The most beneficial part of their training for me was the clarity they gave on the Taliban and their agenda. I sent some of the youth I work with to their trainings as well. I [then] started giving lectures on peace, conflict resolution and women’s history in the trainings organized by Aware Girls. I would educate [attendees] about what Islam actually says; citing references from Quran and Hadith in order to show them how they were being miss led from religion. Then I would tell them about the importance of education, take them to Peshawar for exposure visits to show them how educated people in developed cities are living peaceful lives.’

‘Gradually, I started conducting sessions with the youth who were being trained by Taliban. One of my students, Imran, who is very dear to me, had started attending [Taliban training] when he was in the 4th grade. Fortunately, because he is so close to me, I was able to revert him and sent him back to regular school. Now he is in the 8th grade. He writes very good poetry and looks after my library, which I have opened for youth to expand their horizons on the world, peace and pluralism.’  

‘Things have changed considerably since the operation started. I hope that all this militancy ends soon.’

By donating to this project, you are enabling women like Jan to develop their skillset, and ultimately contribute to the health, safety, and peacefulness of their communities. With your support, we can provide training to more women like Jan, and in doing so help more young people to find alternatives to violent extremism. Thank you.

Jun 27, 2018

Jan's Story

Dania Ali/Stars Foundation/Aware Girls
Dania Ali/Stars Foundation/Aware Girls

When Jan saw the Taliban overtake her village in northern Pakistan and begin to brainwash her friends and family with hate speech, she felt compelled to stop the them, and begin to teach her community about peace and conflict resolution instead. In 2013, she attended training with Peace Direct's local partner in Pakistan, Aware Girls, during which she learned about how to effectively combat the Taliban’s Islamist agenda.  She now gives lectures about countering violent-extremism to children in her community. This is her story:

‘I always liked reading and from early childhood, I would read anything I could get my hands on. I read books on Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Indo-Pak Partition, which had a strong impact on me as a person.’

When [the] Taliban started taking over our area, I didn’t know what to do. I knew how to write, so I started writing against them. They used to collect funds for constructing mosques and started conducting three-day trainings [where] they would preach hatred against [the] army and other people.’

 ‘I was never very religious, so I was not attracted to them. They slowly took the best students of my class, brainwashed them and used them for their own gains. I lost most of my friends, one-by-one to these Taliban who were used to carry out suicide attacks in Afghanistan and Waziristan. Some of the students who went to college were also trapped when they returned to Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in their summer holidays. Mullahs inducted them in their trainings and sent them to Afghanistan where they carried out suicide attacks and lost their lives.

‘Writing against [the] Taliban did not seem enough. I felt the need to somehow stop [them], so I, along with a few of my friends, started to educate youth about peace and conflict resolution. I advised them to keep away from such groups.’

‘In 2013, I came across Aware Girls,  and [began to attend] their training [sessions]. The most beneficial part of their training for me was the clarity they gave on the Taliban and their agenda. I sent some of the youth I work with to their trainings as well. I started giving lectures on peace, conflict resolution and women’s history in the trainings organized by Aware Girls.

At the same time, I continued conducting sessions for youth in the FATA, trying to save them from being taken over by the Taliban. I would educate them about what Islam actually says; citing references from Quran and Hadith in order to show them how they were being miss led from religion. Then I would tell them about the importance of education, take them to Peshawar for exposure visits to show them how educated people in developed cities are living peaceful lives.’

Gradually, I started conducting sessions with the youth who were being trained by Taliban. The first two sessions would be the most dangerous, because I would either convince them of what I was saying, in which case I could save them, but in the cases where I failed to convince them, they snitched to Taliban about my activities. Their threats turned into attacks, from which I escaped, fortunately.’

‘One of my students, Imran, who is very dear to me, had started attending trainings of Taliban when he was in the 4th grade. Fortunately, because he is so close to me, I was able to revert him and sent him back to regular school. Now he is in the 8th grade. He writes very good poetry and looks after my library, which I have opened for youth to expand their horizons on the world, peace and pluralism.’ 

‘Things have changed considerably since the operation started. I hope that all this militancy ends soon.’

Your support creates opportunities for people like Jan to develop their skills and contribute to health, safety, and peace in their communities. With your support, we can provide training to more young women like Jan, and help them practice peace and enable others to embrace peace within their communities. Like Jan, every individual who benefits from this project can have an exponential impact and inspire others to find alternatives to conflict.


Jun 5, 2018

Blaise's Story

Blaise - Claire May
Blaise - Claire May

Once they've been lured into militia life by the prospect of peace and security, vulnerable children from DRC can witness things that no child ever should. But thanks to your support, we are able to work with our local Congolese partner, Centre for Resolution Conflict (CRC), to rescue exploited children from armed groups, before helping them build the peaceful futures they dream of. This is the story of Blaise - a former child soldier turned caseworker for CRC:  

'During my childhood, my uncle was a commander in the Mai Mai Rwuenzei and when I was thirteen he initiated me into militia life. My mother and father were not happy about my involvement in the militia, but they could do little about this given the context we lived [in].'

I led a battalion within the militia of 800 men and children because of my uncle’s high position. I was also a commander, [and] I lead my battalion to do whatever my uncle and the other commanders asked (taking livestock, stealing, fighting other militias etc).'

‘I left when my militia fought another militia (the Katangai’s) and 30 of the men in my militia were killed. I realised how dangerous it was and that fighting is not the way to have a peaceful community. I also was still young and knew my future was not in the militia. I put myself in the shoes of the people I hurt and stole from as part of the militia and knew it was not right.' 

‘Because of [my] uncles high position, it was easy for me to leave. I was 15 when I left [the Mai Mai]. Once I left I understood that I had a calling inside me to help combatants out of the bush. After I left, I worked on DDR for the government and local NGOs, before joining CRC when I was 21.'

‘My role in CRC is to deal with the militia leaders. The first thing I do is meet them in the bush and build confidence with them. Most of them know who I am and my former position in the militia which means CRC can get to areas even MONUSCO and the government cannot as the militia leaders trust me because of my connections. I develop friendships with these leaders so that I can negotiate for the release of children and adult combatants.

‘Both child and adult negotiations are difficult. The challenge is that in the bush, the child is on the frontlines. [As such,] negotiations can last just a week or a couple of months. Often when you return to a militia leader after a conversation he will say "no discount the previous and go back to the start".'  

‘The ease of negotiations depends on the degree of motivation the militia leaders have. I am not scared because I have a good relationship with the militia leaders. I am passionate about fighting for peace.'

 ‘When I worked with the government I helped rescue 3,000 people from the bush. With CRC I have rescued 5,700 of which 1,500 have been children. 

With your support, we can continue to support peacebuilders like Blaise as they rescue child soldiers from the Congolese bush, and subsequently provide them with the basis for a peaceful and secure future.

 

 

 

 
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