The DJs versus the gunmen
Their voices carry out over the whole of the Arghandab District, an area that once was a bastion of Taliban control. Years have passed since the insurgency was defeated in this region north of Kandahar City, but, like a wound needing time to heal, the district is still living with the legacy of repression.
With the simple flick of a switch two men are helping to bring about that healing. The men are Aziz and Qudratullah, and they are radio hosts working from the District Police Center- Arghandab.
In a country where illiteracy and poverty are still rampant, the voices of Aziz and Qudratullah provide the citizens of the Arghandab with the easiest and cheapest means of news and information. The two men drive daily from their homes in Kandahar to broadcast their voices to the people and take part in helping to change this corner of Afghanistan for the better.
“When we took this job, the goal was not to get a higher salary,” said Aziz. “The goal was to help fight against the gunmen and to try to help the people and government.”
While they may not be on the ground with the Afghan National Security Forces defending the streets, Aziz and Qudratullah, have played just as an important a role in fighting the remaining insurgents through the weapon of public opinion.
With every attack the two men take to the air to talk about the crimes being committed against Afghan citizens by the Taliban. This has unfortunately led to threats on their lives.
“We are always facing the challenges of working with the threats from the Taliban,” said Qudratullah. “Our jobs require interviewing people, and, because of that, the insurgents know who we are.”
While this threat is always in their mind, they have not let the fear tone down their messages of anger and disgust with the actions of terrorists.
Yet there is more to their job than simply talking about the Taliban attacks. Aziz and Qudratullah involve themselves with a radio program that also provides readings from the Quran, music, government messaging, and political and man-on-the-street interviews.
They also host the health and education programs that are proving to be immensely important to the largely poor and illiterate radio listeners.
Aziz and Qudratullah discuss basic medical information and often help in promoting government health initiatives such as vaccination drives throughout the district during the health program of their radio broadcast.
During the education program, the hosts will often read books over the radio that the government has distributed throughout the district for literacy programs. Qudratullah tells his listeners to follow along with their own copies of a book.
He explained that he has had listeners call the station saying they can now read because of tuning-in daily to these reading sessions.
He adds that some can now even write their own names, something that would have traditionally required them to attend schools.
Though they may not have all the equipment and space of a typical radio station back in the US, Aziz and Qudratullah have proven the radio is still an effective means of communication that can help change lives. The fact that they are willing to risk themselves daily for low pay shows that they truly do care about the change they are making, a change that will transform this once-Taliban stronghold into a bastion of peace and prosperity.
Article by Sgt. Matt Kuzara, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division