With all good wishes for Christmas and the New Year
Turkey and Iran
This blog has been seriously neglected for many months. The main reason has been travel to Eastern Turkey in July and to Iran in September. Trying to digest this visual, cultural and political material since we returned has been a major task. Months and millennia have passed by in a fine confusion. A major reflection on these travels must wait until a later blog. Here it is enough to say that the two countries display very different ways in which Islamic cultures are responding to the modern world. This experience extends the observations we made last year in Tajikistan on the Afghan border and my earlier experiences of Baltistan in Pakistan.
Greg Mortenson / Journey of Hope
A major concern of my last blog was the catastrophic attack on Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute by CBS 60 Minutes. Although many of the derogatory items on that program were effectively challenged, the program was rerun without any changes a few months ago. The most important message at present is that the work of the CAI goes on and that a new edition of the annual report Journey of Hope V is being distributed. It is available On Line.
Greg has been recovering from heart surgery and was well enough in November to visit the Badakhshan region that overlaps Tajikistan and Afghanistan. He has written a report of this visit in Journey of Hope V. There is an enormous advantage in concentrating CAI efforts in this are because of its relative accessibility. It is also the one area where outside observers, even tourists, can see the results and if necessary criticize. Given the political situations in Pakistan only a few dedicated mountaineers are likely to visit new CAI developments in Baltistan. As to much of Afghanistan, there are few adventurous travelers to act as observers. However the CAI has at last recognized the need for a public data base recording its efforts and has provided a list of all the places it has provided assistance-Link.http://www.ikat.org/projects/ The need extends beyond schools. As Greg notes, Badakhshan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world (6% of live births lead to the death of the mother.) Most importantly, the need for monitored continuity has been recognized. So many NGO project start off with an expensive flourish and then plans change and the school or clinic becomes an abandoned relic used to store fodder. Money easily gets diverted from its intended destination. Local forces try to extract protection money.
Greg has been advised by his legal advisors not to give promotional talks until various legal matters have been sorted out. I think this is very wise. It is very sad that Greg proved to be so naive in handling money matters; however, the general structure of the CAI had to change. The original concept of a few projects with personal involvement by Greg had been long outgrown. The new structure needs to find a role for Greg other than super fund raiser. The one clear negative in the present situation is that there are still only two others beside Greg on the Board of Directors. It is planned to expand this number.