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Mortenson - Stones Into Schools (2009) - Synopsis

Mortenson - Stones Into Schools (2009) - Synopsis



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Published by Mark K. Jensen
Synopsis of Greg Mortenson, Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Synopsis of Greg Mortenson, Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan

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Published by: Mark K. Jensen on Mar 08, 2010
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UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) — Digging Deeper CXVI: March 8, 2010, 7:00 p.m. 
Greg Mortenson,
Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan
(New York, Toronto, and London:Viking/Penguin Group, December 2009).
Mortenson's Central AsiaInstitute is founded on the belief thatbasic education, especially of girls, is themost effective way to fight militantIslamism and promote enlightenmentand social progress generally.]
6 pp.
Who's Who.
4 pp.
Foreword by Khaled Hosseini.
In"[t]he muddled war in Afghanistan"education has been a "success stor[y]."(xxi). Mortenson's philosophy is a simplefaith in education; he has emphasizedthe importance of the education of girls(xxii-xxiii).
PART I: THE PROMISEIntroduction [August 2009].
Story of a young woman, Nasreen Baig, whoresumed her education ten years aftershe was forced by local authorities tostop her studies (3-6). The interest inand generosity toward Mortenson's workamazes him (6-11). Ironically, he detestspublic attention (11-12). The educationof women is especially important (12-14). The Central Asia Institute is notinterested in indoctrination (14). Girls'stories are what is most important (14-17). Summary of 
Three Cups of Tea
(17-19). This book "picks up . . . in 2003"(19; 19-21).
Fourteen Kirghiz horsemenarrive asking for Mortenson's help with aschool (27-30).
Ch. 1: The People at the End of theRoad.
"We simply want to plant ahandful of schools in the hardest placesof all, empower the communities in theseareas to sustain those projects, and thenstep back" (34; 33-37). The WakhanCorridor, Afghanistan's panhandle (37-39). History of the Wakhan Kirghiz (39-42). Staff (42-48).
Ch. 2: The Man with the BrokenHand.
Meeting with Sarfraz Khan in1999 (51-57). The political dynamics of the Wakhan (57-60). After a feast of mutton, a Khirgiz leader, Roshan Khan,invites Mortenson to build a school (60-65). Mortenson agrees; he regards sucha promise as "sacred" (64; 64-65).
Ch. 3: The Year Zero.
History of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan,emphasizing Pakistani involvement andthe movement's violent intolerance anddownplaying Mullah Omar (69-72).Persecution of women; "the act of teaching girls to read and write wasoutlawed" (74; 73-75). The Taliban'sinvolvement with al-Qaeda caused a"radical reversal" in its fortunes (75-76).Mortenson first visited Kabul in "thesecond week of December" 2001, drivingfrom Peshawar [the chronology differsfrom that in
Three Cups of Tea
(282-87),where his first visit to Kabul was viaplane in "mid-February 2002" and thatthe drive into the country came later, inApril 2002] (76; 76-81).
Ch. 4: The Sound of Peace.
SadharKhan, who controls the entry to theWakhan, embraces the project [thisaccount, too, differs substantially fromthe one in
Three Cups of Tea
, in whichMortenson finds Sadhar Khan on his firstattempt (325-28)] (85-95). SadharKhan's war experiences fighting theSoviet troops; a
with the soul of a poet, he says appreciating peace isonly way he can "justify having gone to
war," something only one who has knownbattle can appreciate; he later writes apoem on "the sound of peace" to explainhimself (99; 100; 95-100).
Ch. 5: Style Is Everything.
SarfrazKhan typifies "savvy but shameless" ex-mujahideen with a passion to promoteeducation (103-04). Contractual matters(104-06). "Style School"—the art of avoiding being kidnapped (106-09).Story of Abdul, an 11-year-old boyMortenson was unable to help and wholater disappeared (109-13; hisphotograph appears in the book).Mortenson's symbiosis with Sarfraz Khan,sharing almost all items (a practice thatled to a reporter's question and therevelation that Mortenson wears noundewear [see a December 2008 profileof Mortenson by Kevin Fedarko in
for an even more engagingaccount] (113-15). Management;
(115-18). Government inefficiency at thenational level (118-20).
Ch. 6: The Seal of the Kirghiz Khan.
Construction of Sadhar Khan's school inBaharak (123-26). May 2004 riots in Jalalabad over Koran desecration (126-27). Abdul Rashan Khan's travails (128-30). Agreement to build a schoolstamped by Abdul Rashid Khan with "theofficial seal of the Khan of the Kirghiz of the Little Pamir" (133; 130-34). Insubsequent riots, the school in Baharakwas defended by locals and spared (134-39). Sees an abandoned toilet beingused as a school (139-41).
PART II: QAYAMAT ("THEAPOCALYPSE")Ch. 7: A Dark and Distant Roar.
Geology of the Himalayas (147-48). Oct.8, 2005, earthquake in NE Pakistan (148-53; 157-59). Mortenson, in Salt Lake Citywith his children, prays with them andlearns none of his schools or staff aremuch affected (153-57). Decides the CAIshould try to help a remote part of Kashmir (157-62). History of Kashmir(162-65).
Ch. 8: No Idea What to Do.
Safrazheads into Azad ('Free') Kashmir,reporting on the disaster to Mortenson bysatellite phone (169-74). OperationLifeline, using helicopters, helps, but theresponse is chaotic (174-78). Islamicmilitants provide "some of the smartestand most effective relief" 178; 178-81).Mortenson's wife Tara urges him to goback (181-83).
Ch. 9: Farzana's Desks.
Relief efforts;tent schools (187-95). Return to U.S. topromote
Three Cups of Tea
(195-96).Moved to realize his own son has learnedto read (196-97). Bureaucratic problems(197-99). Realizes the importance oplaygrounds (199-201).
Ch. 10: Sarfraz's Promise.
Safrazalmost dies of a gall bladder abcess (205-13). Thanks to Safraz, CAI builds threeschools in Azad Kashmir in only 19 days(213-23).
Ch. 11: The Chance That Must BeTaken.
The importance of "[p]rovidinggirls a basic education that includesliteracy and math skills" (230; 227-33).Family or community resistance (233-38). Mortenson experiences a sort of breakdown on Nov. 20, 2007, whilemaking his pitch in West Chester, PA, butaccepts the irony that his fame makeshim most useful as a fundraiser,separating him from "the people and thelandscaptes that I loved and that haddrawn me into this work in the firstplace" (242-43; 238-43).
PART III: THE SCHOOL ON THE ROOFOF THE WORLDCh. 12: An E-mail from the AmericanColonel.
Mortenson is critical of themilitary when first invited to speak at thePentagon (249-51). But the 2003
article leads to a strong response from
military personnel and "a new beginningwith my relationship with the U.S.military" (252; 251-52).
Three Cups of Tea
generates a growing interest frommilitary and their familes and,eventually, "the equivalent of sharingthree cups of tea with the U.S. military";growing contacts change the "harsh andrather uncompromising" attitude heinitially had toward U.S. military activityin Afghanistan (257; 252-57). ASeptember 2007 email from Lt. Col. ChrisKolenda, commander of acounterinsurgency task force in Kunarand Nuristan in the Hindu Kush, agreeswith Mortenson's view that education isthe best way to fight terrorism; theystrike up a relationship (257-63). ButMortenson's policy had been to keepclear of the military (264).
Ch. 13: The Man from the JalozaiRefugee Camp.
Wakil Karimi, whomMortenson met as the clerk in a guesthouse he frequented, grew up in arefugee camp (267-69). He successfullylobbies for Lalander, a village 30 milesfrom Kabul, as an exception to CAI'sremote-only policy (270-75). Wakil ismade CAI's Afghanistan director, andinterprets a dream to mean he mustovercome fear of Taliban violence; hevisits Lt. Col. Kolenda near the village of Saw (275-82). The school in Saw wasCAI's "first undertaking within theconfines of an active Taliban combatzone" (283). Taliban threats are repelledby local residents (282-84). Wakildreams of building a school in DehRawod, Mullah Omar's village (284-87).
Ch. 14: Barnstorming ThroughBadakshan.
Action interlude: race tothe Kabul airport (291-94). Wakil's heroicefforts to get NGO status for CAI from theKabul government are successful (295-98). On a hurried trip to the Pamir regionat the extrmity of the Wakhan,Mortenson receives an invitation from fortea from President Musharraf of Pakistan—in the midst of a political crisis (298-307). Rushes to Islamabad and spendsfour hours with Musharraf (307-10). Buthe doubts his decision to give up meetingwith villagers to meet with Musharraf wasthe right one (310-12).
Ch. 15: A Meeting of Two Warriors.
In November 2008 Mortenson meets atthe Pentagon for an hour with Lt. Col.Kolenda and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairmanof the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Mullen says:"My wife, Deborah, just loves your book"(318; 315-18). Mortenson tells him that"Americans have far more to learn fromthe people of Afghanistan than we couldever hope to teach them" (318). July2009 trip to Kabul, where Wakil has setup 17 women's literacy centers (319-28).Visit to the Panjshir Valley, where twoschools are have been built; Adm. Mullencomes with major media to attend thePushgur school's inauguration (328-33).
Ch. 16: The Point of Return.
Theunequaled logistical challenges of building the Bozai Gumbaz school in thePamir (337-42). An almost non-stop 40-hour drive through Taliban territory toreach the Wakhan (342-48). ButMortenson falls seriously ill and is in afevered delirium for three days; Sarfrazrefuses to take him any further (348-51).Reflections on this failure (351-52).
Ch. 17: The Last Best School.
Thedire situation of the Kirghiz in the highPamir (358-62). Abdul Rashid Khan fallsill; Mortensen asks for help for the U.S.military's help, but the mission isdeemed too risky to attempt (362-67).
Abdul Rashid Khancommandeers an extraordinary effortand the school is finished by Sept. 28,2009 (371-74). At present [October2009], the region is locked in winter andno one knows if he is still alive (375).Mortenson reflects that it is best hehimself never reached the school andthat Abdul Rashid Khan's peopleaccomplished it themselves (374-79).

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