See also this related link. Thanks so much, Dr. Hakim for sending this thoughtful and beautiful letter!
To our dear friends on Jeju Island who have involved in your noble struggle at South Korea’s Gangjeong Village,
For seven years I lived in a gorgeous agricultural village in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Province and like yourselves on Jeju Island, I woke every morning to a window scene of ‘heaven’.
No one with eyes to see such a view would believe that the hell of wars has been occupying this land.
My friends, I imagine you walking the simple yet unpolluted pathways of Gangjeong Village and, should you take a moment’s rest, being caressed and cared for by the tree shadows dappled with sunlight, the chatty play of the neighbourhood children, and the wafts of floral perfume dancing by.
I cannot believe that you, any more than the villagers I lived among in Bamiyan Province, would want to lose such a beautiful and sky-kissed aviary home to the ravages of hatred and greed.
The Afghan Peace Volunteers and I celebrate the love and dedication which has compelled so many of you to stop the construction trucks with your young and old bodies, trucks used to build the military base on your island – we thank you for demonstrating once again that the human spirit can speak to heavy, metallic machines.
Those ‘doing their jobs’ to establish the U.S./South Korea naval base have forgotten their duty to their fellow human beings. Hopefully, they are amenable to the persuasion of your love.
How else can we strengthen ourselves against what seems so massive a force, against the largest and most powerful military in history, except by love?
My 74 year old mother advises, “Don’t be naive or idealistic.”
But I ask myself, “Isn’t it naive or idealistic to think that the peace of Jeju can be promoted by a U.S. /South Korea naval base?”
Naive, idealistic presumptions have to be made in order to support a naval base on Jeju Island. That the U.S. and South Korean governments are ‘good and noble’. That the people of Jeju Island are so ignorant and troublesome they need heavily armed forces to civilize them. That China and North Korea are so ‘evil’ that a base at Jeju is needed to ‘contain’ them.
How wonderful to find these presumptions being dismissed upon examination, to hear the people of Gangjeong Village say, “We don’t want a base in our heavenly home!“
We are confident that if ordinary Chinese or North Koreans ever gave you trouble, you would have tea with them, using your imagination and citizen diplomacy to calm the troubles, non-violent paths which are far more effective and kind, and a far better use of tax-payer money (it takes no tax-payer money to drink tea!) than the multi-million premises, personnel and war equipment.
Such is the priceless power of humane relationships!
In 2003, I lived in Quetta, Pakistan and did medical humanitarian work among Afghan refugees. There were many suspicious characters in alleyways using satellite phones to arrange their smuggling operations, and there were those said to be the ‘Taliban’.
One day, I was invited by a student whose brother was a Talib. Yes, presumptions did flash through my mind, about the Talib brother ‘finishing the infidel off’. The opposite was true. I was hosted to a sumptuous meal, “shlombe” which is a milk-yoghurt drink, and a warm conversation. Would this human-to-human interaction have been possible over a machine-gun, under the visor of an army helmet.
This everyday truth, reaffirmed daily by Afghan friends who have loved me through their hospitality and protection, has convinced me that if the 99% of every country would befriend the 99% of every other country, we would be well on the way to discarding all weapons, including nuclear weapons. How’s that for a Global Disarmament Treaty?
On a small but significant scale, this happens among those of the North and South Korean 99% who cross the U.S.-drawn 38th parallel to reunite with one another in tears. It has happened between ordinary Iranians and Israelis during the Love and Peace Campaign.
Osama Bin Laden cited opposition to U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia as a main motive behind his group’s attacks on September 11th. So,another thought, for thoughts are merely dreams yet unfulfilled. If those people staying around the U.S.’ 750 overseas military bases said, peacefully, “No!” and compelled the Pentagon to close the bases, how many future tragedies might be averted?
We look at the 9 existing military bases in Afghanistan, intended to be kept for ‘exclusive’ U.S. military use through 2024 and beyond if the U.S./Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement is successfully pushed through under U.S. threats. You look at the naval base being constructed on Jeju Island which is named the World island of Peace, and what our senses and our understanding show us is a global 1% in government and corporations attempting to ‘comfort’ the 99% with claims that they care about our homes, our livelihoods, and our desire to live without wars, when in practice, they pursue profit and power at our expense.
You see the Jeju shoreline being cordoned off as if to imprison the island, and one of you, Dr Park, used to swim along the shore every day to free it, until they put him behind bars, where he can’t swim. We see the bare, deforested land and hills of Afghanistan beneath its mountains, destroyed and neglected by nations insistent on waging wars.
You see the 16.5% poor of the ‘Dragon’ South Korean population, and a test-obsessed, economic-geared education system that has contributed to South Korea having the highest suicide rate among 31 OECD countries. We see labourers standing jobless in the streets of Kabul, some going back to makeshift houses to shiver in the autumn cold, and some resorting to drugs under the smelly, trash-packed river bridges.
You see soldiers, police, batons, shields. We see them everywhere too, even militarizing ‘humanitarian’ aid.
All of these sights make it so socially essential for us to remain friends, to stand and struggle together for a while or for a lifetime, free in our minds and hearts from borders, and free from the scourge of fear. That’s why the Afghan Peace Volunteers are petitioning for 2 Million Voices.
Beyond the U.S. military’s hopes of completing Jeju’s one naval base and Afghanistan’s nine are struggles by people in Okinawa, in Diego Garcia and on and on, people we commit to befriending across borders, persisting in building those person-to-person and community-to-community relationships so necessary to saving our world from militarism, from life as machines, from fear.
Thank you for your work of love, and for speaking with me and Abdulhai, Ali, Raz Mohammad, Ghulamai, Faiz, Zekerullah and Baraththis past October.
We’ll have to keep in touch.
With human solidarity from Afghanistan,
Dr Hakim with the Afghan Peace Volunteers