President Obama, This is my personal message to you. (See video message at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYJjwul--5Q&feature=player_embedded#)
My name is Liz Grover. I’m a world traveler, a writer, a cultural researcher and a grassroots organizer. At the age of 22, I wanted to experience Muslim culture beyond the lens of the Western media so I went to Afghanistan where I lived for two years. There I worked with small nonprofits and even for the UN election efforts. I spent a lot of time experiencing the hospitality in the homes of Afghans. I lived in a neighborhood in Kabul with the same conditions as many—no central heating, unreliable access to electricity and running water, which was especially hard on Kabul’s cold winter nights or those sticky summer days when I needed a shower more than usual. Although challenging, it was well worth the journey. I don’t know everything about this diverse and complex ancient culture. I will say that being there shifted my perspective, and I’m here to share my experience with you.
Back in 2004, I learned from many Afghans that they were happy to see the US kick the Taliban out of Kabul, but as time has passed, the same people have become distraught and exhausted of the international military presence. Many of my Afghan friends have experienced great loss because of the war; some had to abandon their homes and leave their country as refugees because they were afraid of getting caught in the battlefield that took over their neighborhoods. Some have lost family and friends to the cross fire, loved ones who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. One friend in particular sticks out in my mind. His hand was blown off as a child because he picked up a landmine on the street that he thought was just a toy.
This is very personal for me. Not only do I think about my Afghan friends, but I worry about my international friends. When I turned to the BBC to find that UN employees were brutally killed back in October, the video coverage included a scene of people hopping the wall of what used to be my back yard. The guesthouse was two doors down from where I used to live. This made me wonder if my former Afghan neighbors were ok and if my UN friends who still lived there were alive.
Dialogue is the answer. We have to listen to what the Afghans want. This situation is not about what any American wants, including myself, because Afghanistan is not our country. I constantly keep in touch with my dear Afghan friends on a regular basis, and they have expressed to me that they don’t want more US troops. They want international help in the form of funding the basics such as job training, and the improvement and building of schools and hospitals. Of course this doesn’t reflect the opinion of every Afghan, because it is a diverse land of many tribes and various ecosystems.
The real question isn’t if we send more troops or not. As a Nobel Laureate and someone who has seen the world, I think you understand that the question is what do the Afghans want. I call upon you to listen to them, and I’m talking about the Afghan citizens who have never stepped foot in the Presidential Mansion in Kabul or the Parliament that many believe to be full of warlords. Peace can only happen when the voices of the Afghan people are genuinely included in the process. President Obama, please reconsider Afghanistan and use peaceful means to help end this insane war.