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Anti-war activists aim to raise discussion about Afghanistan

BY MATT STARNS | SEPTEMBER 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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Antiwar activists hope to increase awareness among locals about the effect of U.S. presence in South Asia this month, and they say students can play an important role in furthering dialogue about the war in Afghanistan.

Kathy Kelly, a founder and co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a Chicago-based antiwar group, spoke Wednesday evening about her experience working with Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul, as well as many problems facing the Afghani people that have been, she said, a result of the United States’ involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

In an interview with The Daily Iowan, Kelly emphasized the importance of campus communities such as the University of Iowa in fostering a dialogue about the United States’ involvement in the war.

“Democracy is based on education,” she said. “We’re very fortunate to have universities where students can have time-out from being caught up in a lot of other activities to study the issues that will affect their futures.”

Kelly spoke in conjunction with a traveling exhibit featured this month at the Coralville Public Library, Windows and Mirrors: Reflections on the War in Afghanistan. The exhibit, a collection of murals and drawings depicting civilian life in Afghanistan, aims to bring attention to the ongoing turmoil in the country. She commended the library for hosting the exhibition.

Kelly also said learning about conditions on the ground in Afghanistan is an important step in understanding today’s global political climate.

“It’s essential to try to understand why it is that so many countries around the world are populated with people with increasingly angry sentiments toward the United States,” she said. “And [also] what that does to future security for U.S. citizens and for students.

Maureen McCue, UI adjunct assistant of international programs and coordinator of the Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility, said the UI is a prime location to foster such a dialogue.

“We’re at the crossroads for a lot of activity that’s going on,” she said, referring to the state of Iowa. “We have Iowa soldiers [in Afghanistan], we spend our tax money there, we are teaching a lot of students in a lot of different ways how to engage cooperatively, actively, in the world.”

McCue said the crossroads idea is furthered through the UI’s standing as a major research university.

“We’re also a location for the study of how to create the virtual soldier and all that,” she said. “So I think we have these two tendencies going and I think it’s important for us to be able to bring in the people who represent that.”

Ed Flaherty of Veterans for Peace said he hopes the exhibit will help to dispel some misconceptions about the Afghan people.

“These people on the ground in Afghanistan look and feel and care like we do,” he said. “They are not animals, they are not crazy, they are not any type of stereotype.”

Flaherty also said the exhibit’s temporary home in Coralville is an effective location for public exposure.

“In terms of it being close, for anyone to see it and to be affected by it, it’s easy,” he said. 

Kelly said the library is helping to encourage a discussion about the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan through hosting the exhibit.

“They set an example for other parts of the community and other libraries all around the country,” she said. “It’s a very good thing when an exhibit that has been so carefully curated can be brought to the Coralville Public Library by Veterans for Peace, and then there is more of an alliance and people are able to pique their imagination a little bit.”


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