DSF Convention, Peshawar, April 29, 2012

Education is a right… Not privilege – DSF Pakhtunkhwa Students Convention, April 29, 2012, Peshawar

DSF Convention, Peshawar, April 29, 2012.

Pakistani women waging peace the world over

Pakistaniwomen rights

Amn-o-Nisa coordinator Mossarat Qadeem (left) hugs Rosalia Miller from Nicaragua, mid-career MPA at the Harvard Kennedy School, who flew to Washington especially for the Tuesday event.

My blogpost for Global Post, about a coalition of women affected by violence and war, on a mission to spread their message and highlight the unique roles of women in the struggle for peace. Also published in The News, Pakistan. 

WASHINGTON: It was when children began painting ambulances, hospitals and dead bodies in art class that Bushra Hyder decided it was time to actively work towards healing. Continue reading

Memories of an unassuming Marxist

Published in The News on Sunday, Feb 19, 2012

Memories of an unassuming Marxist 

The progressive movement of Pakistan has lost one of its best sons in the death of Dr. Manzoor Ahmed

By Shahid Husain

Memories of an unassuming Marxist

Picture this: World traveler takes photos that make us care

My interview for Latitude News, April 25, 2012 (Note: Latitude News is now defunct; some pix missing in this post)

Hunza 1994

In Pakistan’s Hunza Valley in 1994, Perrault says, “I was amazed at the ethnic diversity of the people in this region. These women look like they are from Eastern Europe – and they have family living in New York City.” Because of a lack of health care, the mother had an untreated toothache. (Don Perrault)

Beena Sarwar

Tourists take photographs, but Don Perrault is the rare traveler who uses photography to give something back. I met Don Perrault at an Amnesty International get-together at an art gallery in South Boston. He fit the type of the optical engineer he is, unassuming, conservatively dressed and soft-spoken. But he spends his free time traveling and taking photographs, primarily in Africa and Asia.

He’s begun selling these to raise money for nonprofits working on health, education and gender empowerment. His highest-grossing photos, sold at a silent auction, went for a cool $5,000. Continue reading

Trade winds for peace: In the air, a hope song

A political push and removal of barriers will see a rise in trade, and peace, between India and Pakistan...

This article was originally published in The News and The Times of India last week

Trade winds for peace

By Beena Sarwar

“Trade for peace” is the new catchphrase defining the emerging relationship between India and Pakistan – a relationship historically so troubled that, when not actually at war, they have been engaged in a virtual cold war. But the winds of change are now blowing in a more positive phase, heralded by recent breakthroughs on the trade front. Continue reading

Music: Touching the soul, defying the Taliban

Asfand Yaar Mohmand performing - photo: Shiraz Hasan

Asfand and his Rubab! This lovely, moving post by Shiraz Hasan reminded me of another moving documentary film I saw over a decade ago, Amir: An Afghan Refugee Musician’s Life in Peshawar by Dr. John Baily (1985). It is tragic how musicians have been pushed around, forced to flee the fighting during the Afghan war of the 1980s and now, persecuted and punished for their art by the ‘taliban’.

Asfand Yaar Mohmand, as Shiraz Hasan writes, comes from a family of labourers. They initially opposed his decision to become a musician but realising he would “not step back” have came around. “I love playing the Rubab, this is such a beautiful instrument. Its strings touch your soul, literally,” says the 19-year old Afsand.

The only international organisation in the world advocating freedom of expression for musicians and composers is Freemuse, which I came across some months ago when Salman Ahmad of Junoon introduced me to its founder Ole Reitov. In an subsequent email Ole wrote that his own “deep interest and dedication to this issue started in Lahore in 1980 when – invited by Raza Kazim – I recorded Iqbal Bano (in Kazim’s studio) and talked to her about the reasons why she stopped performing in public”.

Peace. Action. Karachi. Lessons from Liberian women

Liberian women demonstrate at the American Embassy in Monrovia at the height of the the civil war in July 2003. Photo: Pewee Flomoku

Poster: Pray the Devil Back to Hell. Original Artwork: Olaf Hajek

Originally published in The News blog,  What Karachi can learn from Liberian women, April 6, 2012

Beena Sarwar

Watching “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”, an hour-long documentary film about how a small band of women came together to bring an end to the bloody civil war in Liberia, it struck me that their approach may well work in Karachi.

Although Liberia, with a population of barely three million is just a fraction of Karachi’s over 16 million, both have been gripped by ongoing turf and gang wars. As in Liberia, the underlying motives are to gain power over resources and employment.

The intense scale of violence in Liberia brought on by violent warlords and the corrupt Charles Taylor regime claimed over 200,000 lives before the women won peace in 2003. Their sustained movement of about two-and-a-half years was built upon earlier struggles waged by women, journalists and political activists. Continue reading

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