Tuning in to Kala Gush Radio
August 11, 2008
NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Army News Service, Aug. 11, 2008) -- With steady hands, Mohibullah, a broadcaster for Kala Gush Radio, held his cell phone up to a microphone to pick up the voice of a local Afghan, who was calling in to make a request. Out his window the purple mountains stood tall against two small connexes that house the station.
While the station itself is small, its signal carries far -- reaching the entire province of Nuristan.
About a year ago, the Provincial Reconstruction Team had a vision to create a radio station for the people of the Nuristan province. After months of planning and coordination, the dream became a reality. Kala Gush radio aired for the first time in March.
"The people are so happy, they are so glad we have a radio station," said Farooq, another broadcaster. "Everyone you meet is talking about the radio. They're calling on the phone to ask for songs, introduce themselves or read some poetry."
For many people living in secluded villages throughout the Nuristan province of Afghanistan, Kala Gush Radio is the only means of getting accurate information. The literacy rate is low in the province, and newspapers and other publications aren't as beneficial.
For years, the Taliban have used the illiteracy rate to their advantage, changing the meaning of the Koran to promote their own agenda. This is something the PRT and the Kala Gush broadcasters plan to change.
"I know very little about the Koran, but I have never met anyone who told me that it says anywhere in the Koran that it's ok to put on a suicide vest and blow up people," Maj. Rory Aylwood, Nuristan PRT, told Farooq.
"When the Mullah [Islamic cleric or mosque leader] comes, we will question him if suicide is against the religion or not," replied Farooq.
The Mullah is only one of many guests who have been interviewed at Kala Gush Radio. The PRT and broadcasters have been working hard to line up informative speakers, creating segments on medical tips and advice, providing pertinent security information, and interacting with the community to find out what more can be done to get the right information out.
"Every Wednesday there's a flea market where people bring in their animals to sell in Nengaresh," Farooq said. "They come from all the villages and we're going to interview these people to find out what they want, what they need and find out what kind of problems they have."
One of the challenges in distributing information is the limited amount of radios in the area. The broadcasters talked about how the village women always send their children over to their house to see if they can get a free radio. They figure since the broadcasters work at the station they must have extra radios to give away. Unfortunately, this isn't the case.
"Please give us more radios so we can give them out as rewards during our question and answer show, it encourages more people to listen," Mohibullah asked of the PRT.
Although the PRT has already made numerous trips to the surrounding villages to hand out radios, and the broadcasters have given several away as prizes, radios are still scarce in the province.
When Task Force Centaur arrived in country, Kala Gush Radio was already up and running, but the unit wanted to do something to contribute to the success of the station. They completed their first joint operation with the Afghan National Police, the 527th Military Police Company, Hohenfels, Germany, and the PRT, handing out radios to the people of the small village of Nengaresh, Jul. 28.
When they arrived at the village, word spread quickly as a crowd of villagers stood waiting, with outstretched arms, for the chance to own a radio. U.S. forces and the ANP stayed until the last box was empty, and it seemed as though every villager had a radio in hand.