Aina uses media and culture for development and reconstruction

June 2007 -

Iranian photographer Reza Deghati hopes to offer a window to the world for people in former and current conflict areas, such as Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, with his non-governmental organisation Aina. Aina, which means mirror in Persian, trains journalists and effectuates media projects. "In a period of five years, we have established five magazines in Afghanistan, the most successful of which is the free children's magazine Parvaz. It is distributed throughout most of the country and read by more than one-half million children. There is a Parvaz in Sri Lanka now as well, and we hope that many other countries will follow. We also trained the first female camera operators, journalists and photo journalists in Afghanistan."


Photo: Mark Thiessen / National Geographic

As a teenager, Reza started a magazine to shed light on the injustice in his country. The first edition of Parvaz, which means flight in Persian, was confiscated by the authorities. But Reza continued, was arrested, and was not released until Khomeini took office. Later, he traveled throughout the world for Newsweek, Time, Geo and National Geographic to report on wars and social injustice. Along the way he started training young people to be journalists and photo journalists. "It is not easy to start media projects in conflict areas, but our biggest problem is still the funding. The West underestimates how important media and culture are to development and reconstruction. For their donations, people want fast, tangible projects: the construction of schools, hospitals and homes. But we are building the adults of tomorrow whose only history is one of war and conflict. Our work adds another dimension to emergency aid and the physical reconstruction of the country. Aina links hurt souls. If a child sees his mother and father die before his eyes, you can always build a school for him. But that child will only have one thing on his mind: revenging the death of his parents! It is human nature. We want to break through the vicious circle of violence by giving the children the educative and cultural tools for constructing a culture of peace. Because without cultural reconstruction, wars and conflicts will always exist."