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Tami Alpert and Masuda Sultan Speak from Pakistan (En Route from Chaman to Quetta)

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Before we turn to Edward Said talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we’ve just made contact with a TV journalist crew that is on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. They are Jon Alpert, the founder of DCTV, where we’re based, at the firehouse, just blocks from the first ground zero, Afghanistan being the second; his daughter Tami Alpert; as well as Masuda Sultan, who is an Afghan woman. They are tracing Sultan’s roots in Afghanistan.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we turn to Edward Said talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we’ve just made contact with a TV journalist crew that is on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. They are the founder of DCTV, where we’re based, at the firehouse, just blocks from the first ground zero, Afghanistan being the second. Jon Albert, his daughter Tami Alpert, as well as Masuda Sultan, who is an Afghan woman, who are — they are traveling with to trace her roots back in Afghanistan. Tami Alpert now joins us on the phone. I understand it’s not a great one, but we thought it was worth the risk.

Welcome to The War and Peace Report, Tami.

TAMI ALPERT: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Where are you right now?

TAMI ALPERT: Right now we’re on the road. We’re driving back. We were just in Chaman, which is a border town, and we’re headed back to Quetta. We were there in Chaman visiting a refugee area. And Masuda’s organization purchased supplies that we were distributing through the U.N. to the refugees.

AMY GOODMAN: And what is the situation like in the refugee camp?

TAMI ALPERT: Sorry, I didn’t hear you.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the situation like in the refugee camp?

TAMI ALPERT: Well, unfortunately, we didn’t spend too long at the camp. We’re returning again tomorrow. The U.N. has actually provided them with tents and with food. And when we asked them what else they really needed, they said the largest thing we could provide for them is peace. And that’s the same thing that all of the refugees that we spoke with echoed.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to be following you on your trip into Afghanistan every day, speaking to one of you on the crew, as well as Masuda Sultan. But today, can you lay out why you are there? What is your plan for this two weeks?

TAMI ALPERT: Well, we are following Masuda. We followed her from New York City. She is an Afghan who has lived in New York ever since she was 5 years old. And I’m actually going to put her on the phone with you right now so that you can speak with her. And tomorrow is our first day that we’re actually going into Afghanistan. So, here she is. Hold on, please.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking with Masuda Sultan.

MASUDA SULTAN: Good evening, and good morning to you.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. So, what has your experience been like so far? When was the last time you were in Afghanistan?

MASUDA SULTAN: I’m sorry. It’s difficult to hear you. Can you repeat please?

AMY GOODMAN: When were you last in Afghanistan?

MASUDA SULTAN: The last time I was in Afghanistan was in August. I went back to visit my family. I had left at the age of 5 and hadn’t seen them since.

AMY GOODMAN: So, can you tell us about your trip to the refugee camp and what your organization is, what you were giving out?

MASUDA SULTAN: We wanted to see what the situation was like for the new influx of refugees that’s resulted in the U.S. bombing. And we went to a camp just here in Chaman, as you heard before. It was run by UNHCR. And we found out that they were providing them with tents and food, etc. We wanted to assess the situation, see what was needed. My organization brought them some rice and some [inaudible] and sugar. And we found out that these people are doing OK, although, by the looks of it, it seems like they’re just barely surviving.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re going to be traveling to Kandahar, where you come from. What are your thoughts right now? Do you feel anxiety after the very serious bombing of your city?

MASUDA SULTAN: I absolutely feel anxiety. I am worried at what I may find there. Just after I get off the phone with you and we drive back into Quetta, I’m going to visit some family that was directly affected by the bombing. They lost about 19 members. It’s part of my mother’s cousin’s family. And I am very worried about what I’m going to find there and the looks on their faces. And I don’t know what I’m going to find in Kandahar. A lot of my family has left, and I’d be curious to see what has happened to our old house, which was completely intact in August.

AMY GOODMAN: What was it like for you to meet the Afghan refugees, people from your own country? You can speak to them directly, and you are also a U.S. citizen. And it’s because of the bombs of the United States that they’ve been driven out.

MASUDA SULTAN: Yes. In many ways, I could understand. I felt like I was in the same boat with these Afghans, because we really have little control over what these large powers do, although, as an American, I think I have more of a capability to effect change in terms of lobbying the government, etc., than they do. These people are really helpless, and they’re just victims of what’s going on. It hurt me a lot to see that the people that came from the very same town that I grew — that I was born in and that my parents grew up in were suffering like this. I felt some sort of responsibility for this. Yeah, I could not convey that to them.

AMY GOODMAN: I understand that Pakistan is not giving Afghans political refugee status, often forcing them to go back into Afghanistan, although they say they’re doing so voluntarily.

MASUDA SULTAN: I’m sorry. I heard the part about Pakistan not granting refugee status to some of these people. I will address that by saying that Pakistan probably — it’s very obvious that Pakistan doesn’t have the capability to deal with these people, and a lot of them are being forced behind the border to stay in Afghanistan. We have not visited the camps or the people on the other side of the border just over in Afghanistan, but we hear the situation is very grave there. UNHCR does not currently have a presence in Afghanistan. And the people living just on the other side of the border are not getting the aid that they need.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us, Masuda Sultan, and we will continue with your Afghan journey tomorrow, as you make your way into Afghanistan.

MASUDA SULTAN: Thank you. And we’ll report in to you what we find on the other side of the border and in Kandahar.

AMY GOODMAN: Good luck, and be safe.

MASUDA SULTAN: Take care.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ll speak to you in 24 hours. Thank you. That report from Masuda Sultan and Tami Alpert on the border, the Pakistan side of the Afghan-Pakistan border, as they make their way into Afghanistan, the crew with DCTV, where we are based, Downtown Community Television, led by Jon Alpert, the founder of Downtown Community Television. And we will continue with the Afghan journey each day that they are there, so do stay tuned, as they make their way from the first ground zero, here in New York, to the second, in Afghanistan.

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