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Devastated by Decades of War, Letterbox Campaign Helps Afghans Cope with Mental Health

“I live in grief but I smile. People think I am brave but I have no choice,” wrote one unidentified person

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Members of the ArtLords sort letters of Dard-e-Dil (a painful heart) project in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 6, 2019. VOA

Hundreds of Afghans, weary of war and unsure of the future, have joined a letter-writing campaign to share their feelings with the powerful few who will decide on peace with the Taliban and, with it, the fate of their country.

The letters from different parts of Afghanistan express a tangled mix of confusion, resignation and fear.

“I live in grief but I smile. People think I am brave but I have no choice,” wrote one unidentified person.

The letters, part of a project called Dard-e-Dil (a painful heart) are addressed to U.S. diplomats, the Taliban and government officials.

War, Letterbox, Campaign
Hundreds of Afghans, weary of war and unsure of the future, have joined a letter-writing campaign to share their feelings. PIxabay

They are being written as high-level talks are underway to find a political settlement to end a war that has raged on for 18 years.

“I am writing with a hope that we have a better life in Kabul, we live amidst so much tension, I can do nothing to change the situation but I am still writing,” wrote another person from the Afghan capital.

The Dard-e-Dil project aims to give ordinary people an outlet to express their feelings at a time when the peace talks among top officials dominate politics, even though the fighting has not subsided.

“The prevailing political uncertainty is clearly the most nerve-racking phase for Afghans, most of us are already battling depression and mental health issues,” said artist Omaid Sharifi, who organized the project.

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Sharifi’s interest in expressing the feelings aroused by the conflict goes back to his work with ArtLords, an art collective he co-founded that has become famous for the dramatic murals it has painted on grim concrete blast walls around Kabul.

His team has installed special letter boxes outside cafes, educational centers, hospitals and government offices, encouraging people to try to deal with their anxieties and voice their opinions about the peace talks in letters.

The letters are sorted at the ArtLords studio with the aim of sending them on to government authorities, diplomats and the leaders of the insurgency.

More important, though, is the need to help people tell their stories, a basic requirement for mental health, said Sharifi, who struggled with anxiety for years.

 

War, Letterbox, Campaign

The letters from different parts of Afghanistan express a tangled mix of confusion, resignation and fear. Pixabay

“Everyone has a right to narrate their story. Some of these stories will highlight and reveal human rights abuses and some will offer hope and solidarity,” he said.
‘SILENT WAR’

Afghanistan has been devastated by decades of war, stretching back to the conflict with the former Soviet Union from late 1979.

Violence, instability and poverty have touched virtually every family and many Afghans suffer from mental health problems. However, facilities for treating such illnesses are scarce.

Wahid Mayar, a spokesman for the public health ministry, estimated that about half of the population will experience mental stress during their lifetime, a consequence of war often overshadowed by daily struggles.

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“The suffering of mental illness in Afghanistan is a silent war. If peace comes then we will have to accept the new normal, but currently we are in a phase of tremendous uncertainty,” Mayar said.

“The prospect of peace brings hope and anxiety. We wonder can peace ever come to embrace us, to calm our minds,” he said.

Accurate data on mental health is not available in Afghanistan but the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates more than a million Afghans suffer from depressive disorders and more than 1.2 million from anxiety disorders.

The WHO says the actual numbers are likely much higher.

Nobody expects the letter-writing campaign to heal the wounds of more than four decades of conflict but it may allow at least some people to start working through their fears and prepare for an uncertain future.

“There are times when I want to run away from my country and then I think I should wait for peace and plan my life here,” wrote one person.

“Kabul is always the best place to be.” (VOA)

Next Story

11 mn Saplings Were Simultaneously Planted in Turkey During Mass Campaign

Despite the initial target of 11 million, nearly 14 million saplings were adopted for the campaign

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The planting started precisely at 11.11 a.m. lwith a view to carrying Turkey into the Guinness Book of Records by planting the highest number of Saplings in an hour and creating the largest digital photo album of the event. Pixabay

Eleven million Saplings were simultaneously planted on Monday across Turkey as part of a mass campaign aimed at contributing to the agriculture while establishing a greener landscape for future generations.

The campaign is dubbed “Breath Into the Future”, Xinhua news agency quoted Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Bekir Pakdemirli as saying.

“We ensured that 11 million saplings were planted in three hours at 2,023 different points in 81 provinces,” he said.

The planting started precisely at 11.11 a.m. lwith a view to carrying Turkey into the Guinness Book of Records by planting the highest number of saplings in an hour and creating the largest digital photo album of the event.

Saplings
Eleven million Saplings were simultaneously planted on Monday across Turkey as part of a mass campaign aimed at contributing to the agriculture while establishing a greener landscape for future generations. Pixabay

Despite the initial target of 11 million, nearly 14 million saplings were adopted for the campaign, with 212,000 in Istanbul, Turkey’s biggest city, and nearly 340,000 in the capital Ankara.

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Last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared November 11 as National Forestation Day. (IANS)