Kabul River and Standing Rock Sioux


Government officials and business people today routinely negotiate: “We’d like to extract the oil.” Or gas, or such and such a mineral.  Water? “Oh don’t worry, we’ll see to that too….”

But they’re not angels, and their bottom line is profit, so Nature and human beings have a problem having enough to drink, and to survive, not just along Kabul River, but also along the Missouri and Mississippi of the Standing Rock Sioux.

They craft the ‘legal’ rules of the industry, and embellish their plans with ‘democracy, or development, or rights’.

They enjoy impunity, unless, together, we speak up, and ‘vandalize’ the ‘norms’, beginning with the habits of our minds.

01-our-27-metre-deep-well-dried-upOur 27-meter-deep well dried up recently

With the groundwater level across the world dropping, we had expected the well of our rented house in Kabul to dry up. Yet, or despite this, or worse, because of this, government-corporations are ever ready to wage well-funded wars, and to extract from the earth’s bosoms to feed their machines. Their bank accounts and cars are more important than babies and rivers.

02-heaving-pilingThe machines

The elite invest our tax money in reaching new depths of weapons and technologies, rather than in addressing root causes. The scandal is that they probably understand: installing CCTVs, blimps and nuclear power apparatchik cannot heal hunger, anger, or death. They even approve their ‘civ-mil’ plans in Parliaments and Congresses, and take their bonuses and extras from the tax coffers which they and the super-rich are exempt from. They call this the economy.

03-through-our-kitchen-windowDriving the huge piling rods into Mother Earth

Bang! Clank! Bang! For about 10 days, outside our kitchen window, the hired ‘well-diggers’ rammed huge rods through the soil and rocks to a depth of 50 metres.  Meanwhile, in containers on a wheelbarrow, we fetched water from another yard, for the garden, and for ourselves. We supplemented with bottled water, which made us feel like ‘privileged’ betrayers, asking, “Should we tolerate drinking contaminated water? Tolerate for whom?”

04-water-from-the-new-well-1024x576Water from the new well after repairing the electrical water pump. Ghulam (behind) and Ali helped the repairman (right ).

As if protesting the strain and trapped sediments, the water pump stopped working. Our neighbours, Ali, Ghulam, really, all of us were relieved when the water gushed out again.

05-ali-and-street-kids-campaign-to-save-water-1024x684Ali teaching the street kids about saving water

Ali felt that the street kids shouldn’t be kept ignorant of the water crisis. Over a few lessons, with games and activities, the ‘best’ drawing was selected, and the kids went knocking  enthusiastically on the neighbours’ doors, saying, “Our message is save water!” Besides human beings, our water is being disappeared.

06-mohammad-jan-and-asma-in-save-water-campaignMohammad Jan, Asma and Sumaya before speaking to neighbours about saving water

07-polluted-kabul-riverA picture of the militarized democracy, aid and development in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan

There is no strategy to halt such pollution. Officially, the U.S.-sponsored government of Afghanistan is an ally, receiving Resolute Support for their infighting, squabbles, suits, ties, turbans, corruption, and the worsening war! Saying anything else makes us ‘insurgents’. Whenever Zekerullah walks by the Kabul river tributary just next to our house, and sees the sheer systemic destructiveness, the smells, the sewerage and the sight makes him profoundly nauseated.

08-at-salangWading in the river on a recent outing to Salang. Zekerullah is third from the left.

Water, food, shelter, genuine security, healthcare, education, friendship are basic needs that are not merely poorly met, their deficiencies tax our bodies and minds daily. So the Afghan Peace Volunteers sought to de-stress by spending a day by the Salang River. The water was alive and therapeutic. Feeling the river’s strong flow against our legs, and shivering from the cold of Hindu Kush origins, we were eased into healing.

10-we-connected-with-olympia-and-standing-rock-siouxWe need to relate, relate, relate! It’s a re-mergency!

Knowing we’re made mostly of water, breathing, evaporating, metabolizing the same precious element, it is no wonder that when Zekerullah heard about the sacred Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, he grabbed the digital waves in solidarity. Relating in these times is an emergency!  It’s not that people don’t have voices. It’s that our voices are relatively isolated, and if registered at all, callously ‘dismissed’ or ‘filed away’. But some of those voices came together during the Zoom conference, vocal chords from Olympia, Chicago, Taiwan and Kabul: “Our home is on fire! It’s the only planet we have.”  “Water is incarcerated.”  Dogs and mace, arrests, LAW!  Zekerullah, Ghulam and Khamad said to the Standing Rock Sioux Communities, “Thank you!”

11-olympia-washingtons-solidarity-group-1024x639The Olympia Washington Standing Rock Sioux Solidarity Group

12-our-solidarity-for-clean-river-clean-waterZekerullah showing solidarity on behalf of the Afghan Peace Volunteers

“I hope your river will not become like our river,” Zekerullah stated his concern. He said what all of us should say in diverse unison, “Our government is ignoring the water crisis.”  We must overcome their neglect. #NoDAPL “We are with you!”.

• For additional photo essays from Dr. Hakim see here and here

Dr Hakim, (Dr. Teck Young, Wee) is a medical doctor from Singapore who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for more than 10 years, including being a mentor to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building non-violent alternatives to war. He is the 2012 recipient of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize and the 2017 recipient of the Singapore Medical Association Merit Award for contributions in social service to communities. Read other articles by Dr. Hakim.