Issues & Analysis

The Foreign Troops Through the Afghan Eyes

Opinions, perceptions and rumors in Herat, Farah and Badghis

Presentation of the research conducted in the western Afghan provinces Placed under the Italian Isaf-Nato Command

Source: INTERSOS, February 14, 2012

Disillusion, mistrust and suspicion: these are the dominant feelings towards the foreign troops that emerge from the research “The Foreign Troops Through the Afghan Eyes: Opinions, Perceptions and Rumors in Herat, Farah and Badghis”, promoted by the Ngo Intersos and led by freelance journalist and researcher Giuliano Battiston. The interviews gathered in the summer of 2011 with different interlocutors – from religious men to governmental officials, from businessmen to activists – report a radical split between the opinions officially expressed by the representatives of western governments, claiming they have succeeded in the stabilization of the country, and the ones of the Afghan people, who declare that the International Community has failed to guarantee security for the population, and at the same time have expressed anxiety for the consequences of the foreign armies withdrawal. Read More


UNDP steps up Afghan capacity ahead of major transitions

UN Development Programme:

New York — The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is strengthening its ability to support Afghanistan ahead of the expected withdrawal of international forces.

We recognize that we are entering a totally new phase and we need to be prepared for what’s coming,” UNDP Associate Administrator Rebeca Grynspan told envoys from international donor governments Tuesday.

She stressed an ongoing need to focus on gender equality, anti-corruption, and governance, continuing to build capacity of Afghan institutions—at national, provincial and local levels—to effectively deliver quality services to the population.

Following a strategic review of all activities in Afghanistan that began in 2011, UNDP will enhance programme convergence and coordination and set up a dedicated unit to boost UNDP’s role as a policy adviser and enhance programme coordination.

“Despite the risks and challenges of working there, we need to find the most qualified staff to work hand-in-hand with the Afghan institutions and we need to recruit proactively,” Grynspan said.

UNDP’s major activities in Afghanistan are linked under three clusters—crisis prevention and recovery, poverty reduction and democratic governance—with gender imbalances being addressed across them. Programme delivery to Afghanistan totaled $752 million in 2011.


Vermont’s Green Mountain Global Forum hosts TFOL screening 2/23

The Green Mountain Global Forum
Thursday, February 23rd, 7-9pm
Big Picture Theater, 48 Carroll Road, Waitsfield, Vermont
FREE and open to the public
For more information call 496-2111

The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film with Michael Sheridan
Filmmaker Michael Sheridan will present and discuss excerpts from the collection of ten remarkable short films presented under the title The Fruit of Our Labor: Afghan Perspectives in Film, a series of short documentaries. The films focus on issues of social and economic development, as documented and told by Afghans themselves, and present intimate glimpses into routine struggles of employment, education and health and of accomplishments and failings at the level of community and infrastructure.

The Green Mountain Global Forum promotes greater awareness and understanding of global issues by bringing knowledgeable and thought provoking speakers to the Mad River Valley; thereby, encouraging community connections and involvement while inspiring change and action.

Thank you to Nancy Turner and Tara Hamilton for making this event happen!


Clark University hosts TFOL screening in Worcester, MA – 2/22

Clark University





Screening & Discussion: Wednesday February 22, 2012  – 6:30 pm
Clark University, 950 Main Street, Worcester –  Jefferson 218
Free and open to the public

Presented by Goddard Library and the IDCE Social Change Fellows, Clark University will host Community Supported Film and Director Michael Sheridan for a screening and discussion of “The Fruit of Our Labor”.  For more information, contact info[at]csfilm[dot]org or 617-834-7206.


Two New Films to be Broadcast in Afghanistan 2/3 and 2/10

We are thrilled to let you know that two new films made by Community Supported Film members in Afghanistan will be aired on Afghan Television, TV1, this and next Friday, 2/3 and 2/10, at 6:30 pm.  If you are in Afghanistan we hope you will tune in.  If not, we hope you will support CSFilm’s work to train local storytellers, raise important social and economic issues, and engage the public.  We cannot continue to do this work without your generous financial support. Thank you!

These films were made through CSFilm’s mentorship program.  The filmmakers were assisted through their first experience of developing story ideas that met the commissioning organization’s criteria, and writing proposals and budgets.  Once this massive challenge was met (and they won the contracts!) they had to learn project and financial management, and then produce a high quality, engaging 30 minute documentary.

We are so proud of their accompl
ishments.  Hamed Alizadeh did an incredible job of coordinating the projects for CSFilm and produced Women’s Business, airing Friday, February 3rd.  Women’s Business is Ms. Fatima Jafaria’s story of succeeding as an Afghan business woman in the furniture manufacturing industry.  As she describes:

  • Most of the time when I went to meetings clients thought I was a marketer for the company, not the President.  When they learned that I was the owner, they couldn’t trust the quality of our products.  Most of them said they would call me but never did.  A few of them overcame their doubt and gave us orders.  After it was delivered, they couldn’t believe our company produced it.

In terms of the future of her community, Mrs. Jafaria says:

  • A miracle is needed, but I can only hope that our society is transformed.  All of our problems are rooted in the lack of education and literacy.  If people are educated, most misperceptions won’t exist and we will develop a civilized society.

Wahid Zahman, expanded on the short “Knocking on Time’s Door” that he made during the CSFilm training, to create Disarm and Develop, to be aired February 10th.  The viewer experiences a former Mujahedeen’s transformation from warrior to teacher and leader of his Community Development Council (CDC).  The story also profiles the exceptional economic and community development work of the Afghan Government’s National Solidarity Program, the creator of the CDCs.  As Abdul Basir Siddiqi explains in the film, when fighters agreed to disarm they were given opportunities to put their energy to work on the development of their villages:

  • In 2003 when the disarmament program began, I put down my weapon and chose to live a civilian life.  I was really fed up with war.  We’d been fighting for 30 years.  A year later we started building the school. …  Now, installing the windows marks the completion of the school. … It makes me very happy.  It’s a fact that when people share a common goal, solidarity is created.  Before the CDC was created, people were busy with their own business.  But the CDC obliged villagers to meet at least once a week.  CDC meetings encouraged friendship among people.

These two films are part of the 13-part series called Windows into Reality: Documentary Films by Afhan Filmmakers, and was executive produced by the Cetena Group.  They explain:

  • the series covers stories of hardships overcome, old hopes renewed, and touches on the lives of the people taking Afghanistan forward to the next decade.

With your support, we look forward to being right there with our Afghan friends and collaborators into the next decade.

Michael Sheridan
Michael Sheridan, Director
Community Supported Film

Please donate to Community Supported Film

Please support our training and education work.  Audience members have stated repeatedly that watching The Fruit of Our Labor, even after 10 years of media coverage, was the first time they heard Afghan voices and saw more than fleeting views into Afghan life.  We depend on your donations to continue this work.


Digital Storytelling from Afghanistan – Presentation and Screening at Harvard’s KSG 2/3

“Digital Storytelling from Afghanistan.” Michael Sheridan, Catherine Rielly

Friday February 3, 2012, 2:10PM – 4:00PM, Carr Center Conference Room, HKS, One Eliot St.

Filmmaker Michael Sheridan presents his remarkable story of assisting ten Afghan filmmakers to craft insightful community stories and how these stories have been brought to wide audiences through the work of Community Supported Film.   This session will use The Fruit of Our Labor films to illustrate basic principles of filmmaking and report on the social networking now in progress.

Michael Sheridan, DevCom Mentor since 2001, is an independent producer of film and video with a special interest in international issues of social and economic development in Africa and Asia.

Catherine Rielly, a DevCom Executive Producer, is the President of Rubia, a non-profit organization whose mission is to develop economic opportunities through craft heritage, to support education, and to promote health and well-being for Afghan women and their families.


Peace process can only be successful if it is led by Afghans, says new UN envoy

Afghanistan’s peace process can only be successful if it is Afghan-led and inclusive, the new United Nations envoy to the country stated today.

Ján Kubiš, who arrived in Kabul last week to take up his post as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), told his first press conference that the Afghan people are tired of war and want to move on.

“They would like to live normal lives as everywhere else,” he said, adding that there is support for steps that would bring more stability and eventually establish overall peace in the country.

What is important, he stressed, is that the peace process be an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process. Read More…


Snow may end Afghan drought, but bitter winter looms

Snow may end Afghan drought, but bitter winter looms
Source: Reuters – AlertNet
18 Jan 2012 12:24 By Rob Taylor KABUL, Jan 18 (Reuters) – Heavy snow that has blanketed large parts of Afghanistan, killing at least 20 people, could end a long-running drought that last summer threatened millions of people with severe food shortages, government and aid officials said on Wednesday. But the weekend snowfall and avalanches across the mountainous north and centre could bring a bitter winter and short-term hardship to many people, with many roads still cut off, hampering food delivery in several hard-hit provinces. … Read more

Additional Screeing added by Belmont World Film,’s “Editor’s Pick!”

Additional Screeing added by Belmont World Film –’s “Editor’s Pick!”

Tickets are free but must be reserved either at the Benton or online at

The Fruit of Our Labor – Afghan Perspectives in Film, Screening and Presentation

Friday, February 3rd, 7:30-9:30
Benton Library
75 Oakley Road
Belmont, MA

The response was so positive to the films we showed on Monday that we have decided to show the rest (and repeat a few of the favorites) at a screening next Friday, February 3rd, at 7:30pm at the Benton Library in Belmont.  Please spread the word.  Admission is free with a suggested donation of $10 to help continue CSFilm’s work.

Many thanks to Belmont World Film and Ellen Gitelman for organizing this screening!

Please forward this information to your community of family, friends, and colleagues.Like on Facebook Follow CSFilm on Facebook!

Please donate to Community Supported Film

Please support our training and education work.  Audience members have stated repeatedly that watching The Fruit of Our Labor, even after 10 years of media coverage, was the first time they heard Afghans voices and saw more than fleeting views into Afghan life.  We depend on your donations to continue this work.



Artists and Activists International Panel Presentation with CSFilm founder Michael Sheridan 1/27

Artist & Activist Conference:
Public Spaces, Forbidden Places

Friday, January 27, 2012
9:00am-4:00pm (6 LMHC CEUs)
Marran Theater, Doble Campus, Lesley University 
(36 Mellen Street, Cambridge)
$125 for the general public, $95 for Lesley alumni/faculty, 
$65 for Lesley students

Michael Sheridan, founder of Community Supported film will be present for:

1. International Presentations and Panel, 10am-11:30, Friday, January 27 @ Marran Theater (Doble Campus)

2. KICKOFF EVENT: Film Screening of The Fruit of Our Labor and Q&A with Michael Sheridan, Thursday, January 26 @ University Hall Amphitheater (Porter Campus) FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC


Screening: Belmont World Film with Afghan dinner

Many thanks to Belmont World Film and Ellen Gitelman for organizing this screening!

Monday, January 23
Dinner: 5:30 Ariana Restaurant, 129 Brighton Avenue, Brighton
Screening: 7:30, Studio Cinema, 376 Trapelo Road in Belmont
See details below

The Fruit of Our Labor is comprised of 10 short films made by native Afghans as part of Community Supported Film’s (CSF) intensive 5-week documentary production training program in Afghanistan in late 2010, each documentary offering a personal and first-hand point of view rarely seen or heard in the US, even after 10 years of intense media coverage. Together the films bring to life Afghans’ efforts to address their challenging social and economic conditions and provide a fresh perspective on the needs and issues of Afghans beyond the relentless battlefront coverage of Western media. The goal of these films is to promote discussion about the lives of individuals in Afghanistan and our role there, as well as more generally, about war, peace, effective aid, gender issues, and cross-cultural understanding.

Optional Afghan dinner: The screening is preceded by an Afghan dinner with CSF Founder Michael Sheridan at 5:30 PM at Ariana Restaurant (129 Brighton Avenue, Brighton) for a separate cost of $29. Ariana will also provide a traditional Afghan snack at the screening.

Speakers: Community Supported Film Founder Michael Sheridan and several native Afghans. Michael is a filmmaker, educator and activist whose films address issues of social and economic development who was the co-founder of Oxfam America’s documentary production unit in the mid-90s. For nearly 20 years he has engaged the public in stories from Asia, Africa and the Americas about people in poor and developing communities challenging the status quo and struggling to improve their lives. His films have aired on PBS, ABC, TLC, and the Discovery Channel.

Purchase advance dinner & film screening tickets online here or to reserve your spot for the dinner and pay by check, send an email with the number of people to  Space at the dinner is limited, so please reserve early.

Tickets to the screening may also be purchased on day of show at the Studio Cinema box office, 376 Trapelo Road in Belmont, Massachusetts.


This program is supported in part by a grant from the Belmont Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

Screening: AIB Conference on Artists and Activism, 1/26

Thanks very much to Nathan Felde and the staff and students at Art Institute Boston for organizing this conference and including a screening of The Fruit of Our Labor

Presentation and screening of The Fruit of Our Labor  

Thursday, January 26, 2012 from 7:00-9:00pm
University Hall Amphitheater (Room 2-150), Porter Campus,
Lesley University (1815 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge)


Michael Sheridan, founder of Community Supported Films, will be present to talk about and show this film, a collection of ten remarkable short films made in Afghanistan about ordinary Afghans’ efforts to address their challenging social and economic conditions. 




This screening is the Kick Off for the
Artist & Activist Conference: Public Spaces, Forbidden Places
Friday, January 27, 2012, 9:00am-4:00pm
Please visit for more information.

1 Afghan woman in 11 will die during childbirth

FACTBOX-Why are maternal deaths so high in Afghanistan?

12 Dec 2011 10:01, Source: Reuters // Reuters

An Afghan midwife puts a newborn baby next to its mother at the Razai Foundation Maternity Hospital in Herat province November 30, 2011. Mohammad Shoib

KABUL, Dec 12 (Reuters) – Afghanistan has the worst rate of maternal mortality in the world, the latest World Health Organization data shows, with a toxic mix of inaccessibility, poverty and cultural barriers to women’s healthcare conspiring against expectant mothers.

One Afghan woman in 11 will die of causes related to pregnancy and birth during her childbearing years, the WHO says. In neighbouring Tajikistan, that figure is one in 430, while in Austria, it is one in 14,300.



The silent illness stalking Afghanistan – Mental Health

11/24/11 Report— Tearfund
No one knows the true impact that years of war and instability have had on the mental health of people in Afghanistan.

Research suggests the psychological consequences of insecurity, trauma, migration, poverty and poor education are far-reaching.

A study of 300 children in Kabul showed that 90 per cent believed they would die in war, 67 per cent had seen dead body parts and 80 per cent said they felt frightened, sad and unable to cope with life.

Another report showed that large parts of the population in one Afghan province were suffering the symptoms of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Help lacking

Help for those with mental illness is desperately lacking, with psychotherapy and counselling almost unknown to most of the population.

Against such a background, Tearfund has this year been working with an Afghan partner to improve the lives of thousands of people.

Our partner’s Primary Mental Health Project in Western Afghanistan provides psychiatric training to doctors, nurses and community health workers so at least basic mental healthcare will be available even in remote places.

The idea is to integrate mental healthcare into the existing local health clinic structure as it offers accessibility and, because it is already accepted, less stigmatisation.

The project also works with community members who are non-medical specialists yet have an influential role, such as traditional healers.

Family conflicts

Educating traditional healers, mullahs and sheikhs, is particularly important as historically they have been seen by Afghans as the only people capable of providing mental health care.

They are being given basic knowledge of priority mental health disorders and are learning how to educate community members on mental health issues.

Partner staff are also working with community health supervisors who are receiving basic knowledge of common and severe mental disorders and how to refer patients for treatment. They’ll also understand more about family conflicts and counselling. In turn, they will train community health workers.

Suicide bids

The project is also building awareness and understanding across wider areas of Afghan society, such as government officials, teachers and the legal system, for example by producing quarterly magazines and promoting participation in World Mental Health Day.

Our partner’s community-based work started in 1995 as a response to seeing many women suffering extensive burns after setting light to themselves in suicide bids.

Bruce Clark, Tearfund’s Country Representative for Afghanistan, said, ‘Our partner over time has built up a mental health support programme that has developed into a national leader in the field.

‘Clinical diagnosis and treatment, psychiatric doctor and nurse training, mental health resource development and an extensive community awareness and training programme have followed.’

Bruce said partner events to mark World Mental Health Day recently attracted key local government officials, the Pakistan and Iranian consuls as well as six TV crews.

‘It was fantastic to see mental health, a largely hidden and misunderstood illness, get national coverage and for our partner to be recognised for their excellent work,’ he said.


Go hungry, or sell my daughter for food?

November 23, 2011
Report— ActionAid
I met Khadicha, a woman with four children and a disabled husband, in the village Khan Arigh of Murdian district, Jawzjan Province, Northern Afghanistan. We sat down together in her modest one-room traditional mud-brick house, joined by the elected chief of the Community Development Council (CDC).

Afghanistan is currently experiencing a severe drought, affecting over 14 provinces and over 2.6 million people. Murdian is one of the most severely affected districts in Jawzjan province. Farmers have been unable to harvest 80% of crops and livestock have died in their thousands.

Khadicha became her family’s sole breadwinner four years ago when her husband suffered paralysis in both legs. She makes a living from weaving carpets – she’s able to complete two per year, which gives her an annual income of around 10,000 Afghani (approximately $200). But her husband’s medical needs mean the money doesn’t stretch far. To make ends meet she also works in other people’s houses and farms her neighbours’ land. But even then, what she earns lasts barely three months at a time.

“I thought 2011 would be a good year for me,” says Khadicha. “I became a member of the women group formed by ActionAid, my husband started walking slowly, though cannot do any hard work. I received a goat and some food grain as a part of ActionAid’s support to the women group. I learned a few things about back-yard farming and also received some vegetable seed. But the drought of this year has taken away all my smiles. I have lost my wheat production, and I could not cultivate the vegetable seed as there has been no water for the last six months. We are surviving with almost no-drinking water though we received supplies from ActionAid which helped us a lot. My husband went to Murdian center to take care of livestock for a big family, even though he can walk only with a stick. The price of my carpets has gone down and the dealer will not give me a similar price to last year.

“I have bought some wheat with the advance from the carpet-dealer and spend most of 1000 Afghani [approximately $20] for my husband’s medicine,” Khadicha continued.

We have food for another 25-30 days. I don’t know how I will survive with all my children and husband after that.

“Due to the drought there is no work on other people’s farms and many people have gone to towns and cities in search of work. In the last four years we have only eaten roti (from wheat), potato and sometimes a little rice. We cannot afford tomatoes or any other vegetables. We can have meat only during Eid e Kurbani [a religious festival] when people share their meat with us.”

Now I am seriously thinking about selling my younger daughter to someone, I don’t know who, to get some money to survive this drought and save my other daughters, my son and my husband.

The CDC chief, one of the most senior people in the village, explained that at least 70 more families out of three hundred in the community are facing a similar situation and planning to migrate to at any time. Other families are surviving by selling their livestock and sending their sons or husbands to other places in search of work.

It’s clear that these people need immediate support to survive this drought. The government of Afghanistan recently declared a drought-assistance package for 10,000 families in Jawzjan province, but many people seem unaware of this. ActionAid is responding to the drought, providing food and water for thousands of families who’ve been pushed to the brink of survival. But as long as media attention and the eyes of governments across the world, continue to focus on the ongoing conflict and war on terror, the suffering of those affected by this disaster will continue.


Afghan families hit by severe drought could be cut off by extreme winter weather within weeks, aid agencies warn

Save the Children and Oxfam Report
18 Nov 2011

More than 2 million Afghans are at risk of hunger and many are bracing to be stranded for months without help as the country prepares for a harsh winter, Save the Children and Oxfam warned today.

The agencies called for a redoubling of the aid effort to reach people in need before the onset of heavy snows cut off huge swathes of the country.

Poor rains earlier this year mean families in the 14 drought-affected provinces have not been able to grow enough wheat to feed themselves over the winter.

According to a UN assessment, in some provinces almost 100 per cent of the harvest has been destroyed, and food prices have soared, with the price of wheat in some areas doubling on average since this time last year.

Typical Afghan weather patterns mean that those living in mountainous areas- up to half of the affected population –will almost certainly soon be cut off from help as winter closes in.  Read Full Story


“There is one thing missing in Afghanistan, which is the people’s voice”

Afghans tentatively seek a voice after 30 years of conflict

15 Nov 2011 00:40

Source: Reuters // Reuters

An Afghan woman and her children walk past a destroyed building at the old part of Kabul August 3, 2011.REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

By Christine Kearney

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Nov 15 (Reuters) – After three decades of occupation, civil war, Taliban rule and a NATO-led military campaign, ordinary Afghans remain powerless and without a unified voice.

Many are too afraid to talk. The few that do speak out are barely able to share ideas with each other, much less address authorities.

“There is one thing missing in Afghanistan, which is the people’s voice,” said Saeed Niazi, an activist based in Kabul who aims to get ordinary Afghans much more involved in nation building as the country prepares for the exit of foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.  Read full article.


79% decline in the harvest of irrigated wheat and an 80% decline in the harvest of rain-fed wheat

Drought Response: Cash for Work Programmes
The World Food Programme’s August 2011 Drought Emergency Food Security Assessment for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan found that in 2011, there was a “high percentage [of] wheat losses compared to 2010”. The report stated that Badakshan province had experienced a 79% decline in the harvest of irrigated wheat and an 80% decline in the harvest of rain-fed wheat in comparison to 2010 figures. These statistics are consistent with Concern-Afghanistan’s findings from the field, with farmers from Yawan, Badakshan reporting serious decreases in wheat harvests.  Read full report.

Muslim Media Watch: “Films by Afghan Women Tell Real Stories of Struggle, Patience, and Hope”



November 15th, 2011

Women in Afghanistan tend to be depicted as enigmatic objects that defy human comprehension. Media sensationalism and selective reporting bear some of the blame. But thanks to projects like an Afghanistan-based Community Supported Film workshop that trained men and women on how to tell the stories on film, Afghan women are now also using media to represent themselves. Read the full article.


Death to the Camera wins Best Doc award

…Death to the Camera, directed by Sayed Qasem Hossaini, received the award for the Best Afghan Documentary. The film simultaneously weaves together various issues – labour, gender, ethnicity and aid – and also questions the medium of documentary itself. An employer accuses a woman of being a prostitute for appearing before the camera. An argument ensues off-camera; the woman returns to a group of co-workers to vent her grievances. A spirited exchange follows with accusations of ethnic discrimination against the bosses and cynicism about the current political situation. The camera crew eventually pulls away, taking us with them. Said Hossaini, “This retreat makes explicit the distance between the audience and the documentary subject. It also raises the question of mediation, central to this whole project: are we watching actuality or simply seeing something shaped and framed by those behind the lens?” Read full article

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