Hayward Chair Visits Afghanistan Sister-City Amidst Violence

Hayward Chair Visits Afghanistan Sister-City Amidst Violence

Yousuf Fahimuddin,
Politics Editor

One of Hayward’s two sister cities, Ghazni, Afghanistan, is set to be recognized by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as a center of Islamic culture and history later this year.

However, whether Ghazni will actually be able to receive the award is unknown, due to ongoing security concerns.

Bruce Green, chair of the Hayward-Ghazni Sister City Committee, is visiting Ghazni to celebrate the city’s recognition.

Green explained that since the committee’s inception in 2009, they have convened trips to Ghazni about once every other year. According to Green, this year is different because of the celebration.

“We’ve been gearing up for this year because this is the year designated to honor Ghazni as the center of history and culture,” said Green.

“The whole security thing though has kind of put a damper on it. We’re not real sure if Ghazni is going to be able to receive this,” said Green. “I’m not even real sure at this point of the timing of my visiting, when the celebrations will take place.” He’s confident, however, that organization will not revoke the award.

Ashraf Ghairat, a journalist in Afghanistan, said in an interview with Radio Free Europe that out of the 19 provinces in the greater Ghazni Province, the Taliban was in control of 16.

Originally the festival was to be held on Jan. 6. However due to concerns of the city not being ready, it was postponed to April 11 to 13.

Ghazni, which means “treasure” in Sanskrit, is best known as the site where in 2001 the Taliban destroyed precious ancient Buddha statues, carved into the hillside thousands of years ago, as they were thought of as “idolatrous.”

In preparation for the festival many humanitarian aid groups, funded by the UN, started efforts to rid the city of mines before the end of 2012, in line with requirements for the entire country placed by the international community.

“2013 is the deadline for Afghanistan as a whole being mine-free according to the Mine Ban Treaty or Ottawa Treaty,” stated the report from the Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan. The deadline was missed, and the country was given an extension to 2023 in December of last year.

“To date 355 local people have already been killed or injured in the city area,” said the report. The report further details that over six square kilometers are covered in mines within the city.

Green expressed concern that the mine situation would not be resolved by the time he reaches Ghazni. Though he added “areas cleared of mines are known.”

Green will be staying in Afghanistan for six months, and will be accompanied by other members of the committee closer to the time of the celebration. He left early because he plans on building other sister city relationships in Afghanistan with cities in the Bay Area.

Plans include building the sister city relationship with Herat and San Jose, which has been in the works for some time now but has yet to be finalized, according to Green.

He is also trying to develop a relationship with the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, though he said, “we don’t know which city, but hopefully one in the Bay Area.”

“We’re trying to stimulate this as a way to recognize that the ties between our countries are not going to go away because the troops leave,” Green said. “We’re still hoping for friendly relations, and the sister-city relationship is part of that. It’s a citizen to citizen kind of approach, rather than an official government approach.”

Green hopes that with the seeds being laid here in the Bay Area by members of the Afghan community there can be a means provided for them to stay connected to their roots.

“I think there are so many Afghans living here; it could be a vehicle for just having good ties for the future and moving good relationships,” said Green