December 15, 2011


 Afghan Women want Peace but not at the cost of loosing all they have gained in the last 10 years.  Yes, they believe in Peace but their rights are non-negotiable. During this Transition Process, Afghan Women want to emphasise security issues for the military and police, but, primarily for civil society. 

                                        Burkah Sellers                                                      Kabul, Afghanisgtan       2005                              As Executive Director of a non-profit my trip to Afghanistan in 2005 was to coordinate the Ministry of Education's mandate to locate and select schools in the Waras region,  an area with the greatest need. I had no idea what to expect only that Waras was a day's drive south west from Kabul in the opposite direction from the historical Bamiyan city district, where there is a proliferation of NGO's giving aid. Little did I know that this would turn into six days and the majority of that time spent on horseback traversing a dozen shale covered passes of the Surb Koh the mountains that surrounds these villages.

The Second International Conference on Afghanistan held in Bonn, Germany last week, marked 10 years from the first conference, in 2001, when Hamid Karzai was chosen the leader of an Afghan Interim Authority. In the 10 years that have transpired, Afghanistan women have worked diligently to enact changes for the better - including a law giving them protection against violence. “But then, as today, the law is rarely enforced with 80% of women and children experiencing some type of violence on a daily basis, occurring in both the cities and the rural areas.”

The Afghan women delegates spoke openly about their lack of protection, at the press conference hosted by CARE International the day following the Bonn Conference. The women delegates were not invited to participate directly and this CARE press conference gave them the international platform to emphasis the need to be on equal terms with the men of Afghanistan.  “Since women make up 51% of the Afghan population, they stressed their right to be actively involved in the discussions, decisions and negotiations during the Transition Process.”

                                Mother and child                                                                                                             Worzang,     Afghanistan 2005                             The women of the villages have special needs, and spoke to me privately in hushed tones. There are few doctors in the area, and no one was specializing in women’s health issues. There is no midwife system in Afghanistan and since most women are shy and modest by nature they often give birth alone. This is one reason that Afghanistan has the worlds highest maternal mortality rates, at 1600 for every 100,000 births. The infant mortality rate has similar statistics, at 166 per 1,000 live births.  One in four children die before they reach the age of five.

There are striking similarities between the Afghan women, as they look to secure their future, and their American sisters, who surprisingly are facing a backlash to their own rights. The recent Initiative 26; “a Mississippi state constitutional personhood amendment that would have given full rights to fertilized eggs, would have banned emergency contraception, birth control pills, and IUDs as well as all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman or girl. The Personhood Amendment would have even gone so far as to eliminate medical choices for women, including some cancer treatments, in vitro fertilization, and could allow the state to investigate and even prosecute a woman for a miscarriage.”
The Personhood Amendment aims to reverse the gains made by Roe vs Wade. “While women’s rights supporters successfully defeated the dangerous Initiative 26. Anti-abortion and anti-birth control extremists have indicated that they intend to put a similar measure on six state ballots in 2012”.  As of December 14 , 2011, “Personhood USA Petitions claims that GOP Candidates Lead on Personhood; Bachmann, Santorum, Gingrich Sign First-of-its-kind Personhood Pledge”

This past October, women in Topeka, Kansas, where shocked when the district attorney’s office announced that they would stop investigating domestic abuse cases. Prosecutor’s say they're overwhelmed with so many felonies, and the need to incur budget cuts, that they can't afford to pursue these and other misdemeanor cases. This move by the district attorney’s office has outraged civil rights advocates and who say, “Austerity has gone to far”

Carrying greens for evening meal              Jark, Afghanistan, 2005
The peaceful landscape is an oasis of calm with the emerald fields of grain, apricots and raisins contrasting with the soft brown mountain backdrop. Village life is simple but for the women the work is hard; women worked the sparsely fertile land, threshed the wheat, tended to the cattle, carried crops back to the home and cooked the meals.

These examples crystallize the regressive policies that threaten the essential core rights of the individual - particularly women and children. I have observed, as I travel across the many Silk Road countries for my Peace Caravan project, that this need for an “inclusive voice” remains an ongoing global struggle for women. In this 21 Century, I believe that the time is eminent.  Raise the rights of women and with an equal determination in the future of their lives; their families, village and nations prosper.  For without women, there is no country.

With respect, and to honor the courage of the women delegates at Bonn, The Afghan Women’s Network-AWN, and all those who have focused their energies over the past two years to give Afghan women a voice. I present:                                                                                                                                                                             

FACES of the WOMEN of AFGHANISTAN – photographs from my journey through Afghanistan in 2005.

Women Begging outside of Mosque      Herat, Afghanistan 2005 

Young Girl in White                                        Warzang, Afghanistan 2005

                                                           Washing up                                                                       Jark, Afghanistan, 2005                                                                            Washing up, cleaning clothes and showers all take place in a stone room off the main house. The water flows from a hollow bamboo stick protruding from the rock wall falling directly into a trough cut through the stone floor. Clothes are rubbed clean against the floor, scrubbed till the soap runs clear then left to float in the water filled trough to rinse. It is an amazing piece of engineering and even though the water was ice cold, exacerbated by the stone floor, it was a luxury and a refreshing pleasure.

December 5, 2011

TRI Tashkent Conference -Tashkent, Uzbekestan

Marla Mossman seen on the monitor during her presentation at the Tashkent Conference
I was delighted to be invited to give a virtual presentation at the The Region Initiative (TRI) REGIONAL TOURISM PARTNERSHIP AMONG SOUTH ASIA, CENTRAL ASIA AND EASTERN EUROPE CONFERENCE in Tashkent, Uzbekistan - November 22, 2011.

The conference was organized by TRI Honorary President, Mr. Agha Iqrar Haroon, and attended by partners from Central and South Asia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Pakistan - all tourism experts and professionals in tourism NGOs and practitioners.

The audience had the opportunity to view the Peace Caravan: Journey Along the Silk Road video before I participated in an interactive discussion, answering questions via Skype. I stressed the view that Central Asia, which has wonderful cultural and environmental opportunities in eco-tourism, handicrafts, and traditional arts needs to impart a new global awareness campaign. I and my Peace Caravan Project’s mission is to be a positive role in telling the world how peaceful the people and beautiful the landscapes are in Central Asia and all along the Silk Road.

I was especially moved by the Conferences recognition that "tourism is an effective tool for peace and should be considered a harmony generator.  It was decided that all countries will work together for the revival of the historic and traditional route of the Great Silk Road."

For more information on TRI and the Tashkent Conference

September 30, 2011

Social Good Summit Summary

First Tweet by the First Ladies of Africa at the Social Goods Summit

Last week I attended The Social Good Summit, held in New York to coincide with the United Nations General Assembly. It was jointly hosted by Mashable, the UN Foundation, and 92nd Street Y, and was sponsored by Ericsson. Many media notables, world leaders, Nobel Prize Laureates, activists, U.S. government officials, movie stars, business leaders, bloggers, and journalists joined in on conversations on the most important and crucial, global issues.

Noticeably, the conversations lead to Africa and ultimately the focus was on the needs of Women and Girls. From Dr. Muhammad Yunus, Founder of the Grameen Bank to Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson of the Elders each spoke of the need to appeal to religious and political leaders - for better education, to raise the status of Women, to save lives during pregnancy and childbirth - just a few of the issues facing women.

While it was promising to hear that Women were finally at the forefront of global discussions,  I was  disappointed to  not hear any mention of Uyghur Women and Children living in far western Xinjiang Province, China. Their traditions and customs are on the brink of extinction., since, Kashgar, ,the historic Silk Road city on the main trade route linking China and Europe, has been designated as “a special economic zone”

September 15, 2011

Second Annual Social Good Summit

I’m happy to pass along that I will be a guest blogger at the Mashable/92Y and the UN Foundation’s Second Annual Social Good Summit beginning on September 19.

A brief description by Mark Leon Goldberg the managing editor of UN Dispatch
“Between the United Nations General Assembly meeting and the Clinton Global Initiative, UN week in New York is always a fascinating, hectic and exhilarating week. Last year, a new event was thrown into the mix: The Social Good Summit.  About 1,000 people hung around the 92Y in Manhattan for three days of inspiring meetings, lectures, presentations and interviews about how social media and emerging communication technologies are being harnessed for the global good.

Confirmed Speakers:
Check in with the Peace Caravan blog for current updates!

June 20, 2011

The Highs and Lows on the Karakorum Highway

Mustagh Ata Xinjiang Province, China

Animals grazing in the pastures below the gently sloping west ridge of Muztagh Ata- Father of Ice Mountain in Uyghur.

It only really hit me when I arrived at Lake Karakul, after the long drive up the Karakorum Highway – the notion that I was actually here! It had taken another year, and a return trip to China, to finally be at the lake to see the magnificent Muztagh Ata’s snow capped peaks reflecting in Karakul’s cool waters. I too was all water as I shrank onto the wooden bench, head down hunched over, crying my eyes out.  I couldn’t stop crying looking at the incredible natural beauty. And then – the dismal, so called yurts that I was supposed to sleep in for the next two days. I had envisioned a view on the lake, in a felt covered yurt. Instead these were concrete yurts, badly cracked from the yearly earth tremors caused by the growing “young” mountains; some of which were the tallest peaks in the world. To make matters worse, the yurts were tucked behind the massive government-run concrete Guest House. With a High Voltage Radio tower looming right overhead, like a giant steel predator. It was dreadful. I let all my tired sadness run out of me in a crying jag that even the gentle Allahbardi, my guide and translator, could not stop.  The only consolation was to push on to Tashkurgan, another 2 hours drive deeper into the Pamirs.  We were all exhausted especially Amdulla the driver who had been going all day and wanted to arrive before dark. I needed to gather my emotions and get back in the car.

Camels are pack animals, perfectly suited for the high altitude treks. This herd was grazing at the sparse green thicket by the side of the highway, when I jumped out of the car and scrambled down the gully, landing about 100 yards in front of them. Very curious, they gracefully wandered over to me, stopping inches from my face. I dare not move, as they soon became bored, realizing I had no food and silently strode pass me without a second glance.  

Red  Tashkurgan, Tajik Autonomous County, China

 A Tajik woman with traditional head covering walks through the high alpine meadow, tending to her sheep. The majority of the population of Tashkurgan are ethnic Tajiks living in the region for generations.

Yaks  Lake Karakul Xinjiang Province, China

The town of Tashkurgan is at an average altitude above 4,000 metres (13,000 ft). The Muztagh Ata, at 7,546 metres (24,757 ft), and the Kongur Tagh, at 7,719 metres (25,325 ft), are the main peaks in the Kunlun and Pamir Mountain Ranges. The Karakoram Highway is the highest paved international road in the world, but at its peak at the China-Pakistan border it is only paved on the Chinese side. An engineering marvel started in 1959 completed in 1986 connecting Kashgar, in the Xinjiang region of China, to Abbottabad, of Pakistan. A suburb of Islamabad made recently famous as the safe haven for Osama Bin Laden. 

June 2, 2011

Ayalim - Apa - Aela -Yeza /Wife – Mother – Family - Village

Neighbors Beshkeiram Village, Kashgar Xinjiang Province, China

Shadebeth; seen here in the blue dress, lives in an old style mud house, traditional for centuries in Xinjiang. Her home is in Beshkeiram, a quaint village 11km from Kashgar. Its rare to see a mud home that is occupied as almost all the houses are quickly being converted to brick walls - on Government orders.  

As I travel around Xinjiang I have observed that culture survives with the women. It is because the women’ role as the central pillar, her family flourishes. In a traditional Uyghur household the marriages are arranged with the bride and groom’s consent to their parent’s choice. The just married young Bride moves into her husband’s home to begin the process of learning how to be an Ayalim – wife in Uyghur language. She will develop the style of cooking of her mother-in-law, learning the foods her husband likes to eat. After a few years of living with the man’s family the young couple may move into their own home, built on a portion of the family’s ancestral property.

I met Shadebeth when I visited her mud style home and was saddened by her tragic story of loneliness. She tells me with tears flowing, that she has no children. That her life is very difficult since her husband has left her, to live with his son from his first wife. Shadebeth has no one to turn to besides her close friend and neighbors. This extended family is common to the Uyghur villagers.

Today we wear Yellow and Orange Beshkeiram Village, Kashgar Xinjiang Province, China

The family gathers outside their home on the Poplar lined street. The traditional carved wooden doors mark the walled entrance to the inner courtyard of the typical brick house. As is fashionable, the entire family is color co-coordinated to the mother’s clothing.

Making Chuchuro Kashgar, Xinjiang Province, Chin

Nsagul and her two daughters- Aisha and Maryama make the famous tiny “Ear-shaped”- Chuchuro. Lamb filled dumplings served  in a light vegetable and lamb soup. “Tamlick” - Delicious in Uyghur.

Red Baby Cradle Old City, Kashgar, Xinjiang Province, China

6 million Uyghurs live in Xinjiang Province today comprising 47% of the population. Unlike the city dwelling Han Chinese who are restricted to one child, it’s common for Uyghur’s, to have five to six children. Primarily farmers, the children will eventually help with the multitude of chores in the home and on the farm.

May 25, 2011

The Jade Rush

Jade Prospector  Hotan, Xinjiang Province, China

Hotan played an important role as the major market on the oldest Silk Road route. Situated at the base of the Kunlum Mountains and the southern rim of the Taklamakan Desert, it was renowned as a silk weaving center. Yet, centuries later, it’s the unique White Jade that is still being dug from the White Jade River in Hotan today.

To get a better look, I decided to travel up river to Malika Awat, a small village 6km north of Hotan, to see what the locals were digging up. Its was Saturday, and the air thick and mysterious from the sand storm kicking in from the north.

A bad sign for as the car drove up to the edge of the river the view was a dismal empty gravel pit. Except for one lonely Jade prospector, and his team of three men, they were all that was left on the dry riverbed that day. I decided to pay him a visit, and with trepidation, hobbled over the smooth blue and grey stones to find out his story. Its seemed all the other villagers had left due to the sand storm but this man was still working because he was living at the side of the river since his village is 75 miles away. His enthusiasm increased with the news that a villager found a piece of Jade the size of a man’s hand that morning. It was worth an estimated 500,000RMB or $77,000US. I wished him well, and commended him for his perseverance when I learned that this risky endeavor had cost him over 10,000.RMB or $1,500.00US. That’s a lot of money to the Uyghur household. I could only imagine what his wife was thinking as he slept each night alone amongst the rocks.

The next day, while enroute in the opposite direction to the Imam Asim Shrine, I   discovered the big business of Jade, in the 21st century.  The sight and sounds of the gigantic earthmovers was stunning in contrast to the vision of yesterday.

But, it was the small family of one woman and her two children, picking away at the earth that gave me the sense of the desperation. They were all there for the unlikely chance of finding a single piece of jade. The precious stone, when unearthed, glimmers a radiant light that even the smallest pebble is revealed from amongst the other rocks.

Dig for Jade Hotan, Xinjiang Province, China

Earth Moving Red Hotan, Xinjiang Province, China

Picking in Blue  Hotan, Xinjiang Province, China

Stone Seller  Hotan, Xinjiang Province, China

The real business is conducted at the outdoor Jade Market where dozens of prospectors come face to face with the merchants and middlemen involved in the modern Jade trade. Vendors, like this young girl with her stones displayed, compete for the highest price. Like all the others, she is armed with a water bottle from which she continually shoots the stones with water to make them shine.

1 gram of Hotan White Jade A+ quality is valued at 15,000.00RMB or $2,310US
Last year a camel herder dug up a baseball size piece of Jade that earned him 800,000RMB or $123,000US. 

May 21, 2011

Uyghur Wedding Kierya, Xinjiang Province, China

Village Street Donkey Cart  Keirya, Xinjiang China

Inside the old Kierya village the tightly wound, hard packed sand roads are busy with local traffic. Here, away from the rushing highway, the air vibrates with the chirping and twittering sounds of the hundreds of birds taking refuge in the cooling branches of the Poplar trees that line the banks of the gently flowing streams running along side the roads. Donkey carts are still the major means of transport for this fertile region. Keirya is the home to 300,000 people who are primarily Uyghur farmers who work the rich soil to harvest apricots, melons, raisons, corn and wheat for the infamous noodles, the staple of every Uyghur diet.  

I traveled 9182 miles, 20 hours flying time, a total of 3 days travel time to to return to Keirya in China’s Xinjiang Province. The home to the authentic Uyghur people whose way of life is dramatically changing with every passing year. The super highway system that connects this once remote southern oasis city is nearing completion. Now, donkey carts gallantly compete with huge oil tankers, semi-trailers, cars and motorcycles fitted with flatbeds that pass them, speeding down the highway, loaded with people and produce alike. 

I was fortunate to learn of the local wedding of Mamut and Halahnhan, from the friend of my young guide. I ventured into the old village and happily joined in the celebrations just as the entourage arrived at the family homes for their separate receptions; women and girls in one house, men and boy in another house. Luckily for me this was a true boy meets girl next-door love story as both houses were directly across the street from each other. 

 Mother of the Groom Greets Guests in her Home Keirya, Xinjiang China

Hasiyat Turd; Mother of the groom, at the entrance of her family home greeting guest to her son Mamut’s wedding reception. In traditional Uyghur style, she wears the formal attire and the tiny hat once made by the women of this small village in Kierya.  Her tiny hat, worn for weddings and funerals, is very rare as they are no longer handmade by the local village women. 

Aunts Waiting Wedding Party Keirya, Xinjiang China

Bridal Offering Keirya, Xinjiang China

Bride's Wedding Party Keirya, Xinjiang China

Female friends and family of Halahnhan, the young bride, are welcomed into the home of the Groom. They all sit on the heavily carpeted floor as they lean against the colorful wooden panel dado that lines the lower portion of the interior wall. The remaining wall is then covered right to the ceiling in bright patterned carpets. The bride will now live in her husband’s home, becoming part of the larger extended family. 

Cottage Keirya, Xinjiang China

Village Street Keirya, Xinjiang China

Keirya is 112 miles East from Hotan or 4 hours driving time. Hotan is 322.50 miles South East from Kashgar or 10 hours driving time. Kashgar, Xinjiang Province’s far Western city is located 2100 miles, 7 hours flying time from Beijing. New York City is 6760 miles, 13 hours flying time, East to Beijing.

May 9, 2011

Peace Caravan Video Preview

Friends and Patrons gathered on March 24th to preview the new Peace Caravan fund raising video. Soon to be shown on this website in the next coming month. I want to thank the gifted investigative journalist and director Stephen Digges of WIR Media/Pictures for his patience and diligence in making this video.

Coming soon to this website..........

Insight Tarot Fund-raiser

 Friends of the Peace Caravan gathered on April 20th for an evening of fun and individual tarot readings to gain insight and meaning into their most personal issues. Later we all discussed how being attentive to these subtle qualities in our lives can guide us on our journeys through life.  
I want to thank my sister Myra Mossman for the powerful tarot readings that she gave that evening and for her generous donation to the Peace Caravan project.
To learn more about Insight Tarot please visit:

February 7, 2011

Peace Caravan Presentations

Peace Caravan Presentations 
Marla Mossman
Peace Caravan: Journey Along the Silk Road
Northwest Art Center
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Alshire Theater
Minot University
Minot, ND
Contact: Avis Viekley

Peace Caravan Photography Exhibitions
Marla Mossman
Peace Caravan: Journey Along the Silk Road
February 14 through March 17, 2011
Northwest Art Center
Alshire Theater
Minot University
Minot, ND
Contact: Avis Viekley

Mt. Ararat

Marla Mossman

My photo
One woman traveling alone, in search of her religious and cultural heritage.