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Freedom Is Like Oxygen: A Story to Honor International Women’s Day

Today – International Women’s Day – Principle Pictures honors Margaret Marsahll,
a woman we met this year who inspires us greatly.

Growing up in the small coal-and-steel town of Newcastle, South Africa, Margaret Marshall doesn’t remember having any dreams for her future.

“It sounds strange, but I just didn’t,” she says.

The truth was the women in her life were not the kind of role models who inspired her to dream.

“So few white South African women had careers,” Marshall remembers, that she could not envision herself ever having one either.

She was 4-years-old when apartheid became the rule of law in her country, and she remembers her father, an industrial chemist, and her mother, a homemaker, staying clear of politics, and accepting the status quo.

“In South Africa I knew something was wrong, I didn’t like how black people were treated, but I didn’t have the context in which to put it.”

That changed when Marshall, a gifted student, had the opportunity to study in the U.S. It was 1962 — a turbulent time in American history when the Civil Rights movement was beginning to make progress. The same month she began her studies in Wilmington, Delaware as a high school exchange student, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the University of Mississippi — “Ole Miss” — must admit James Meredith, its very first black student.

Watching Walter Cronkite’s evening news broadcasts, Marshall was shocked to see how Americans could question the government, but not — as would happen in her own country — be locked away for it. She absorbed what was happening with not only her eyes and ears, but with her heart and soul: The governor of Mississippi ordered state troopers to block Meredith from the Ole Miss campus, and race riots broke out leaving two people dead. Within days, President Kennedy ensured Meredith a place in the classroom, U.S. marshals by his side for safety.

“This had an enormous impact on me,” says Marshall. “There were two fundamental building blocks for me. Religion — ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’ — and education. If you let people read, think and discuss, their minds will open. It is not accidental that repressive regimes move against intellectuals.”

In South Africa so many books were banned, Marshall says, “I had to come to the U.S. to read.” And she read like never before — consuming books that were illegal back home; most notably, Cry, The Beloved Country, Alan Paton’s searing look at the anguish humans experience in the face of injustice.

“Sorrow is better than fear,” Paton wrote. “Fear is a journey, a terrible journey, but sorrow is at least an arrival. When the storm threatens, a man is afraid for his house. But when the house is destroyed, there is something to do. About a storm he can do nothing, but he can rebuild a house.”

After her year in America, Marshall returned to South Africa in 1963, seemingly determined to stop the storm.

“Freedom is like oxygen,” she says. “You don’t notice it until you can’t breathe.”

Marshall joined the anti-apartheid National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) — the only female member at the time. Soon, she was President.

“Once you realize that what you’ve been taught is not reality, it influences the way you look at the rest of the world.”

She argued for freedom, organized marches, protested banned books and torture, wrote letters to the press, raised money for black families whose loved ones had been arrested, and boldly asked Robert F. Kennedy to visit. He said, yes.

On June 5, 1966 she met Kennedy at Johanesburg’s Jan Smuts Airport and escorted him to Cape Town. The next day, he delivered the NUSAS’s annual Day of Affirmation Speech, a speech that is widely considered to be the greatest of his life.

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice,” Kennedy told the crowd, “he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

These were among the darkest days of apartheid, and Kennedy provided a light.

“Robert Kennedy was the first person who made me feel that what I was feeling, and what I was critical of, was part of a great human movement toward equality for all people,” Marshall remembers.

As she continued to stand up to South Africa’s repressive regime, Marshall knew she was in increasing danger. Government officials tapped her phone and police followed her. Other white anti-apartheid activists — her friends — were under house arrest. Still, the fact that she was white worked to her advantage. As did being a woman.

“It was unusual for a woman to do what I was doing. The combination of being white and a woman made it more difficult for the South African government to move against me more quickly than it did. Certainly, remaining in South Africa would not have been safe.”

With the help of political activists and others who wanted her to be safe, Marshall returned to the U.S. at the age of twenty-two.

Soon her moral outrage toward injustice was combined with a passion for the rule of law and degrees from Harvard and Yale. She blazed a trail as a young female attorney — simply for being a young female attorney when everyone else in a courtroom was male. Then in 1999 she became Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts — the first woman to hold that position in the Court’s more than three hundred year history.

Although she is most well known for her landmark decision in 2003 in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health which made Massachusetts the first state to legalize gay marriage, there were so many other ways Marshall’s groundbreaking work championed access to justice for all. She fought for gender equality in judicial proceedings, broke down language barriers in the courthouse and established procedures to help litigants forced to represent themselves because they cannot afford attorneys.

The little girl who dared not dream as a child has spent her life fulfilling the dreams of others.

Now, in her own words:

This article appears in HuffPost.


National Journal Profiles DC Capitol Screening

National Journal is regarded as the most credible and influential publication in Washington, providing more than 3 million influentials in public policy and business with the insights they need to make government work.

An Iraqi Schindler’s List
By Christopher Snow Hopkins

What has happened to the tens of thousands of Iraqis who assisted U.S. military forces during the Iraq War? Some have been ostracized, some have been harassed, and some have been beheaded. In The List, documentarian Beth Murphy traverses the Middle East in search of displaced Iraqis who have applied for a special visa to enter the U.S. and have either been ignored or rebuffed. As the State Department faces a mounting backlog of applications, these Iraqi nationals find themselves in a state of purgatory: hounded by extremists, driven from their homes, and forced into an illicit smuggling network.

Click here to read whole article.


Capitol Hill film screening to highlight 18,000 Iraqi allies in danger

This report by Rebecca Lee Sanchez first appeared on Global Post on November 20th, 2013 as part of the GroundTruth blog.

Congressman Alcee L. Hastings aims to remind the US that more than two-thirds of Iraqis who aided in US military operations related to the Iraq War have not been resettled as promised.

WASHINGTON — A 2008 program to provide 25,000 Special Immigrant Visas to Iraqis who “played critical roles in assisting American forces” since the 2003 invasion of Iraq is nearing its expiration, set for the end of December. Of 25,000 visas alotted, only 7,000 have been awarded.

Those Iraqi citizens, and their loved ones, who have been left behind live in danger of kidnapping, torture and murder by extremist groups that call them “traitors.” As of August 2008, according to the Congressional Budget Office, approximately 70,000 Iraqis had worked as translators, engineers, civil society experts and advisors for the US armed forces.

In an effort to show the importance of issuing the remaining 18,000 visas to Iraqis and preventing a similar problem as American forces withdraw from Afghanistan, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.), will be screening documentery filmmaker Beth Murphy’s film The List. The film follows Kirk Johnson, who founded The List Project to Resettle Iraqi Allies to help US-affiliated Iraqis in need of special visas navigate challenges with the US refugee resettlement program.

“This is an important time to remember the failures in Iraq as we are now seeing the problem repeat itself in Afghanistan,” Murphy said. “This screening is an opportunity to have conversations with lawmakers and advocates who can work together to do what’s right for those who risked their lives to help the United States.”

Johnson, a former USAID worker, began documenting the names of Iraqis in need of Special Immigrant Visas in 2007.

When in 2008 Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act, Johnson “helped ensure the inclusion of provisions to create 25,000 additional SIVs specifically for US-affiliated Iraqis through 2013.”

“Congressman Hastings has been working with Kirk to bring attention to this issue since 2008,” the congressman’s press secretary said in an email, adding that the congressman has “remained focused on the implementation of the Special Immigrant Visa program and addressing the current backlog.”

Almost two years since the completion of the US military withdrawal, however, less than a quarter of those visas have been awarded, and the remaining Iraqis are “constantly in danger of kidnapping, torture, and even murder by extremist groups that remain in the region.”

Despite legislation passed in October, which extended the Special Immigrant Visas Program for three months, Beth Murphy said, “the sad reality is that this program—one that was designed specifically to help them—has been a failure.”

“Many of our Iraqi allies have waited more than three years to receive their SIVs,” Congressman Hastings said in a statement on October 4. “This three month extension gives the State Department the time it needs to finish processing the thousands of pending applications to the SIV program many of which have been pending for more than two years. This backlog must be addressed quickly, and our endangered allies in Iraq given the chance to seek safety in the United States.”

The screening will take place at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 20, in Washington DC’s Capitol Hill Gold Room (2168 Rayburn), and will be followed by a discussion with Beth Murphy and Kirk Johnson.


Girls’ Schools In Afghanistan Wonder “What Tomorrow Brings”

Director Beth Murphy is in Afghanistan filming the documentary “What Tomorrow Brings,” and as part of a year-long reporting project to document the drawdown of US troops. This ‘Special Report’ was first published by GlobalPost, NBC and Huffington Post, and is funded in part by The Ford Foundation.

KABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan — On the outskirts of Kabul, the mountainous land is rocky and dry, haunted by decades of war. Although the people here are fortunate to have avoided the violence that has pervaded other parts of the country during this fighting season—a time that stretches across the spring, summer and early fall—it is still a tense time in villages here.

This year marks the last full fighting season before the scheduled drawdown of US troops begins in earnest in 2014. People are not sure what to expect as the Americans prepare to leave, particularly in places that have seen enormous gains in rights for women and girls.
Of the 10 million children going to school in the country today, 40 percent are girls—compared to virtually zero girls in classrooms under Taliban rule.

As a documentarian I have gotten to know students, teachers and administrators at girls’ schools in Kabul Province, and returning now at such a tense time is a powerful experience. I find myself full of hope for the girls—many of whom are the first generation of educated Afghan women in their communities—delighted when I see how voracious their appetites for learning are; and also aware of how tenuous their futures may be.

Twelve years after the US kicked the Taliban out of power in Afghanistan—making it possible for girls to go back to school—there is a difficult question being asked here: Can the hard-won gains be sustained at a time when Taliban power is growing?

Since I was last here this spring, there have been six brutal attacks against schoolgirls – assaults ranging from a remote-controlled bomb explosion to mass poisonings through gas attacks and drinking water contamination. One school was burned to the ground.

Other challenges face girls’ education. According to the Deputy Minister for Education, rural villages—even those nearest the country’s capital—have trouble finding qualified female teachers. Of the 416 districts in Afghanistan, 166 have no women to teach the girls.

There are also social, cultural and family pressures that girls face—especially as they enter high school.

Despite the challenges, I also see the incredible progress that has happened here. The girls I meet are smiling and skipping as they arrive each morning, eager to enter the classroom, and in many cases become the first in their families—male or female—to read and write.

Their desire for education is palpable. The support from parents—mothers and fathers—to educate their daughters is real. And the learning that is happening? That is the greatest hope for the future of all.

In one seventh grade class I visited Saturday, several girls are vying for the number one ranking. On the playground they tease each other about the upcoming exams, and each playfully explains why she will come out on top.

7th Graders celebrate after doing well on a test.

At one school, students and teachers start a day of lessons that include Dari, English, religion, science, math, and life skills. The girls smile and wave at me; many stop and hug me as they pass, and some even tell me they love me. In the beginning, students didn’t know what to think of me, an American woman, traveling to a foreign country without her husband, questioning everyone and everything. But they approached me the same way they approach their lessons—eager and open and kind.

I’ve particularly felt a special connection with the teens, and with the teachers committed to giving them hope, knowledge, and a small measure of power in a culture so patriarchal that their fates are almost never only in their own control. Each child is a poignant reminder of the possibilities that exist in Afghanistan that could not have been imagined a decade ago.

As one student told me, “I have some education now. I know how a woman should live. I have learned what is right and what is wrong.”


A Daughter’s Poem

Shakira shares her poem “Mother” with her class.

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – Being held by her mother when she was sick is what inspired Shakira, a 9th grader at the Zabuli School in Afghanistan, to write her first poem. Shakira was lying down and shaking with fever when her mother knelt down on the floor beside her, and delicately embraced her.

“It was a feeling I had never known, and I didn’t want it to end,” she says. “This was the first time I ever felt physical comfort like this from my mother.”

When her fever subsided, she was anxious to put pen to paper – to both capture and preserve the moment.

    Mother

Oh my Mother
Nurturing me
I am your child
And you are my greatest love
Oh my Mother
You are my love
You are love’s seal
You are the light at dawn
No life exists for me without you
No sadness departs without you
I cannot live without you
Without someone to guide me
You hold all my secrets
You hold all my agony
Raise your hands and pray for me
Until I achieve my goals
Don’t leave me, don’t be separate
I am always with
I learn from you the ways of life
Don’t leave me, mother
Without you, I am nothing
I worship you to reach my goals
Don’t forget me
Always hold me close
Be with me throughout my life
Until I become an example to my homeland
Until this world and my judgment day are done.
So long as my name is on my mother’s lips, I will be happy.

I think we can all understand why her mother cried when Shakira shared the poem with her.


Good To Be Back, Kabul. I Missed You.

On our first day back filming WHAT TOMORROW BRINGS, some sure signs I’m not in Massachusetts anymore:

1. This morning’s rush hour experience: watching a truck plow into a motorbike and speed away (as fast as is possible in the chaotic, unrelenting stop-and-go traffic that defines Kabul). A traffic cop gave chase – first on foot and then by jumping into the back of a passing SUV – waving his traffic paddle all the while. No one seemed too concerned about the motorcyclist limping to the side of the road.

2. Having a perfectly normal conversation about slaughtering a $2,000 camel for a holiday meal.

3. Listening to an Italian financial consultant explain why taking on a second wife is “better,” “more civilized,” and “more moral” than having an affair. He began his argument with, “I don’t know how to say this and be politically correct.” Yeah, that’s because it’s impossible.


Dad’s Litmus Test

My 12-hour layover in London is coming to an end, and I’m about to board for Istanbul with a final leg on to Kabul. Here, I’d like to share “Dad’s Litmus Test” that was first published by Huffington Post earlier this month.

Before my father passed away, he asked me the same question before each of my trips to Afghanistan. “Afghanistan,” he’d repeat back to me, mulling it over like any father might and then after a pause he’d say, “Do you really think that’s necessary?”

My answer was always yes, along with a quick synopsis of the film I was working on and the footage I hoped to bring home. It was never a question of how necessary the trip was to me, but rather the simpler matter of following each story where it led.

As I prepare to return to Kabul in a couple weeks, my dad isn’t here to ask me about it, and yet I find myself posing his old question, seriously weighing it, perhaps for the first time. Do I really think this is necessary?

In the weeks leading up to this trip, my feelings swing from eager to anxious, and sometimes even to fearful. Why be afraid now, when I’ve been there before and worked safely? Maybe in some small part because I lost my father, who always represented safety and security in my life. Maybe because his passing makes me more acutely aware of my responsibility to provide that same stability for my own daughter. And more practically, maybe because Afghanistan in October 2013 is in countless ways not the same place I traveled to in 2001, 2002, 2006, 2009, and this even this past spring. It is at the far end of yet another decade of war. Its citizens face a terrifyingly uncertain future. The outlook has changed for many Afghans from one of cautious hope for a better future to one of grim acceptance that this last painful, protracted period of violence and political upheaval may still not yield freedom from oppression. They are tired and scared and in all too many cases, more desperate than ever.

The risks feel greater to me than they have before. With just about a month left in the fighting season, U.S. commanders are planning for the worst — expecting enemies to try to achieve the objectives that have eluded them thus far. I’m not there to cover the fighting, but to document a ray of hope — my film is a documentary about a private girls’ school that is challenging centuries-old social traditions and taking a small step toward women’s equality in a traditional, paternalistic village. In many ways, the school represents bold aspirations for the country: a community coming together to support a shared goal; a cooperative spirit between citizens of differing backgrounds and genders; and a tentative consensus that education extended to girls might ultimately benefit the children, their families and their village.

As the mother of a six-year-old girl who was born entitled to a quality education, I have a profound respect for the people who are making the cause of educating these Afghan girls their own. In my previous filming, I’ve had the privilege of documenting students learning to read and to write, studying languages and math and religion and also learning that they could speak freely, ask questions and expect to be treated with kindness and respect. I was able to capture the dedication of the teachers at the school — some of them almost as young as their students — as they tread the fine line of trying to both empower the girls in their care and prepare them for the realities of their world. I was in the unique position of being admitted to discussions and meetings that would typically be off-limits to a journalist. As each filming opportunity arose, I felt the need to capture as much of the story as possible while such generous access was available. With the political climate shifting constantly, I knew it could be rescinded at any time. Our circumstances had, in fact, already changed. On a previous trip, Principle Pictures director of photography Kevin Belli had done the filming while I conducted interviews and coordinated. On this trip, Kevin isn’t allowed inside the school walls because he is a man, and I will have to take over the camera.

The worries of having a man within the school’s walls are, sadly, founded in a grim reality. Attacks on girls’ schools have been on the rise for months. Just since May, there have been six brutal attacks against schoolgirls — assaults ranging from a remote-controlled bomb explosion to mass poisonings through gas attacks and drinking water contamination. One school was burned to the ground. Recently a local news agency reported an incident as a “new anti-girl education incident” — the chilling wording a reminder that these events are becoming regular headlines.

In addition to targeting schools, extremists are also waging war on foreigners — especially Westerners. Not long after our arrival in April, the Taliban perpetrated the year’s deadliest day for foreigners in two separate incidents that left six Americans dead — including a young diplomat delivering books to a school. The Afghans I work with were visibly shaken by what such attacks say about the strength of the Taliban movement. “This is exactly how it started last time,” our translator told us, referring to the lead-up to the 1996 Taliban takeover of Kabul.

Already knowing the American troops are leaving steadily between now and the close of the combat mission at the end of 2014, people are closing ranks. Sources who helped me in the past are unreachable. Some have fled the country on student visas, then jumped the program to seek asylum — frantic bids for freedom that ultimately halted the program for others who might have used it to escape. But these are desperate times and far too many Afghans are finding that any collaboration with an American is coming back to haunt them.

Seeing their fear and holding my breath every time there was unusual activity in the street outside or a helicopter in the sky above the school, I have had to ask myself again: “Is this necessary?”

Despite the real changes in the political and security climate in Afghanistan, I think part of my heightened sense of foreboding has to do with recent events that have touched my life in more personal ways: A colleague was kidnapped while working in Syria this past November, and every passing day brings greater concern — and pessimism — about his wellbeing. A young family friend suffered a heart attack and is suddenly gone, leaving four children without a father and his wife alone to raise them. A friend from my teens — one who was never anything but kind and fun-loving — suffered a breakdown and snapped, committing an unspeakable, irreparable crime. My father is gone. All around me, the evidence speaks of lives more fragile than I’ve wanted to believe, even close to home. And I can’t help but worry about my own risk.

Ultimately it is my daughter, Isabelle, who inspires both my greatest fears and my commitment to the story of the Afghan girls’ school. My awareness of how vulnerable we all are seems to grow steadily stronger as my little girl grows and begins to venture further out into the world. And the weight of my responsibility to be here for her — to raise her with my own hands and provide the security she needs and deserves — hangs heavy over my decision to travel to a war zone. That said, the world I want to raise my child in is a world where every girl can go to school or get a job or book a flight to Kabul if she wants to. And I think my very small role in ensuring that world one day comes to pass is in telling the story of a girls’ school that is an anomaly — that has to fight to keep its pupils safe, that faces great uncertainty, but that nevertheless is full of a hope and promise.

Not long before he died, my father told me that his one regret in life was that he hadn’t taken more risks. It may be that one day I will regret taking too many. But in the case of my decision to go to Afghanistan now, I know my choice passes my father’s litmus test: It is necessary.


Indiewire Announces Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund Recipients

The Tribeca Film Institute and Gucci announced today the nine recipients of their Documentary Fund. Now in its sixth year, the Fund provides production and finishing finances to documentary filmmakers from around the world with feature-length films that tackle critical social issues. Nine films have been selected out of the 500 submissions from 60 countries, receiving a total of $150,000 in funds.

The films this year come from a group of filmmakers that reflect an expansive range of experience. Established directors such as Marshall Curry (“Run and Gun”) and DA Pennebaker & Chris Hagedus (“Unlocking The Cage”) are a few of this year’s recipients. Others include the emerging talents of Jeremy Williams (“On a Knife Edge”), Johan Grimonprez (“The Shadow World”), James Spione (“Silenced”), and Ryan White & Ben Cotner (“Perry v. Schwarzenegger”). The range of subject matter presented in these projects is just as varied, covering issues such as the libyan revolution, gay marriage, the international arms trade, and animal rights.

For the third year, The Kering Foundation has joined with the Fund to present the Spotlighting Women Documentary Award. The three winning projects are by Pamela Yates (“Disruption”), Beth Murphy (“What Tomorrow Brings”), and Andreas Dalsgaard, Nicolas Servide & Viviana Gomez (“Democrazy”). The award highlights films that illustrate the contributions of women from around the world.

http://www.indiewire.com/article/gucci-tribeca-documentary-fund-announces-2013-recipients-including-da-pennebaker-chris-hagedus-and-marshall-curry


Reflections from Sahera

Sahera’s husband was killed by a land mine during Taliban rule.

I first met Sahera in 2006 while filming BEYOND BELIEF, and it was comforting to be with her again just hours after learning about the Boston attack. This image of her is not part of the original photo series “To Boston. From Kabul. With Love.” because I wanted to share in a more substantive way her moving reflections about the tragedy and the experience of being able to send a message of sympathy to America.

This is what she said:

We are all creatures of God. It is my feeling as a human being. My feeling for humanity. Because we also suffer a lot in Afghanistan. We see these things happening all the time. And this was my personal feeling – I became very sad when I heard the news on the TV. Also, my kids – my whole family became very sad. These people just went to see the running and this is what happened. As we’ve passed more than three decades of war, I understand this feeling very well. I know the pain of this… I don’t want this to happen to any human being.

Most Afghans don’t want people killed anywhere in the world. And we are very sad that this happened. Those who have done this, we want them to be brought to justice and to have the harshest sentences for the crimes they’ve committed. This is totally unacceptable and not tolerable for any human being. Whoever does things like this, he can never be considered a human. He is worse than a wild animal because these are actions without mercy. It is inhumane, unethical. We witness this in Afghanistan. There is no mercy for our children, our women, or our elderly. They have no mercy for anyone.

Now in Afghanistan it’s a normal, every day thing. We’ve experienced this for so long. For as long as I can remember we’ve had fighting in Afghanistan. Such incidents happen and happen a lot – on a daily basis.

We are very sad for them because they are not used to this. They’re living somewhere where it’s very peaceful, and this event will really shake them… I don’t want any human being to suffer such sadness.

I pray to God that all those who are committing crimes like this that God will give them His justice, and give them the harshest punishment… I am very sad about what’s happened, and feel a lot of regret. We want to express our condolences and our sympathy to the people of Boston and the United States.

Click here to see the entire “To Boston. From Kabul. With Love.” photo series.

Click here to read The Story Behind The Pictures.


The Story Behind the Pictures

This is the story behind my photo series – To Boston. From Kabul. With Love.

When I left Boston for Afghanistan nearly 6 weeks ago, it was with some trepidation – the first I’ve felt after several filming trips here. Why now? Perhaps because the Afghanistan I’m visiting this Spring is not the same as the country I traveled to in 2001/2002, 2006 and 2009. It has experienced a decade of war, and I’ve seen firsthand how the outlook has changed among so many — from one of cautious hope for a better future to one of grim acceptance that this last painful, protracted period of violence and political upheaval may still not yield freedom from oppression in this country.

Just last week I woke up to frantic emails and texts from home after the worst insurgent attack in the country in over a decade. “Yes, I’m fine. Safe.” I wrote to family and friends, assuring them that I was far from the violence. Yesterday, when I grabbed my phone off the bedside table, I thought I was re-reading one of my own texts: “We’re ok. And everyone we know is safe.” But instead it was a message from my husband, Dennis, assuring me that he and our 5-year-old daughter were fine. Boston. Attacked. It was – still is – hard to comprehend. Like countless others, I have experienced the pure joy – and pain – of crossing the Boston Marathon finish line, and I felt heartbroken for the victims and for our little city. I also felt a deep sense of longing to be home.

I decided I wanted to send some love from 6500 miles away. Before leaving the house, I made the sign, “To Boston. From Kabul. With Love.” and planned to take one picture of me holding it. But my intent changed as I talked to people here about what had happened – many had heard the news – and I saw the pain in their faces, and reminders of their own hardships. They said, “I’m so sorry,” with that defining head shake that doesn’t need another word of explanation; it says, “I understand.”

My day was different than others here. I’m in Afghanistan filming WHAT TOMORROW BRINGS, a new documentary focused on the very first girls’ school in a very conservative village. But instead of going to the school, I was going to spend the day with CARE International to help evaluate a savings and loan program for a friend who helps to fund it. It was at CARE’s Kabul Headquarters that my deepest conversations about our common humanity began as I listened to good and innocent people express the heartache that all us feel when other good and innocent people are suffering.

Frozan Rahmani, a program officer for CARE International, was especially emotional. “Every time I hear about attacks happening,” she said, “whether it’s in the United States, Pakistan, England or here, I became too sad. All those people had hopes and dreams for their futures. Their parents had hopes and dreams for their futures. It doesn’t matter that we experience this more often here. No one should experience any of it ever. It’s always the innocent who suffer.”

She paused. “I wish there was something I could do.”

“There is,” I said. “Would you be willing to hold this sign to send a little love from Kabul?”

CARE International’s Frozan Rahmani in her Kabul office.

Click here to see the entire photo series.