What do a soldier, an aid worker and a refugee have in common? They all share the experience of war. And while one is an active participant, one seeks to heal its wounds and one deals with its impact, their personal, raw and oftentimes visceral stories are rarely heard. Rather, war is too often depicted as clean, precise, and distant. It occurs ‘over there’ and happens to ‘them’.
Hi everyone, my name is Vedran ‘Maz’ Maslic and I am the host of ‘The Voices Of War’, a podcast with a simple vision—to bring to life the true costs of war, through the voices of those who have lived it.
My first experience of war was during the siege of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where, as a ten-year-old, the world I knew came apart. Not long into the war, I became a refugee in Germany where our life was precarious at best and outright dangerous at worst. Nearly four years later, my family was lucky to migrate to Australia, where I later joined the Army. Having served in Afghanistan and Timor Leste, I again saw the impact of war, except this time as a uniformed participant. Since then, I’ve established a not-for-profit in Bosnia, studied in Sweden, worked as a consultant in Iraq, lectured on intercultural and interpersonal communication, and now, back in the Army, I manage doctrine and instruct on interpersonal communication and human terrain analysis. Over the years, I’ve realised that most of our social narratives of war are simple, sanitised and rarely account for its true horrors and abject inhumanity.
It is this gap in our social discourse of war that this podcast seeks to fill. I speak with development workers, soldiers, refugees, negotiators, academics, medical practitioners, and anyone else whose life has been shaped by war, be they a survivor, perpetrator, mediator, or healer of it. My aim is to dissect war into its most-basic definitive parts to demystify and, perhaps more-importantly, deglorify it. I want to make lucid the magnitude and scale of human suffering caused by war within those professionally engaged with it—be they an advocate or prosecutor of it—as well as within those who merely observe and judge it from afar through mainstream and social media. By doing this I hope to dislodge, ever so slightly, our collective tendency to view war as the solution to our many local, regional and global challenges.
Thank you for joining me.
The Story Behind ‘The Voices Of War‘
Since starting 'The Voices of War', many people have asked me how this podcast came about.
A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by Pascal Gemperli who runs the popular 'Conflict transformation, Peacebuilding and Security' (CoPeSe) group. Pascal was kind enough to give me ample time and space to share a bit of my own background and the story behind The Voices of War podcast. We touched upon my early experiences as a refugee, life in the Army, the story behind starting CrossFit Sarajevo, my exposure to the world of development work and ultimately the motivations behind the podcast.
Many thanks to Pascal for this opportunity. You can find out more about his 40,000+ members community, 'Conflict transformation, Peacebuilding and Security', at www.copese.org/ or by searching for CoPeSe on LinkedIn, Facebook or YouTube.
Sahar Fetrat - On the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan
My guest today is Sahar Fetrat, a young Afghan living and studying in London. Born in Afghanistan but forced to flee when she was only one year old, Sahar returned with her family to Kabul when she was 10 and stayed there until graduating from university. She then moved to Budapest to pursue her first Masters at the Central European University before moving onto her second Masters in War Studies at King’s College London, where she is currently a student.
Sahar introduces herself as a ‘feminist who’s navigating her way between activism and academia’—a journey that has seen her produce short films as well as becoming a prominent social commentator. During her relatively short, but impactful career, Sahar has directed two short films, one called ‘- this is Kabul’ and the other ‘Do not trust my silence’, with the latter winning a best film prize at an Italian short-film festival. Both films seek to challenge the position Afghan women and girls hold in that society. More recently, Sahar has published articles that seek to highlight the struggle of women and girls in her homeland, an issue particularly relevant now that the Taliban has returned to power.
Some of the topics we covered are:
Life of a child refugee
Kabul during the ‘peaceful’ years
Answering the call of activism
Failure of ‘black and white’ narratives
Role models that influenced Sahar
The story of ‘Do not trust my silence’
Lived experience of women and girls in Afghanistan
Camera as a weapon against inequality and abuse
Taliban attack on Sahar’s university
Losing her mother and father
Scars of war and importance of legitimising emotions
The current situation in Afghanistan
The power of individual action
Sahar mentioned a program, ‘Sahar Speaks’, that introduced her to the power of the camera. That same program has recently helped resettle two dozen alumnae in host nations around the globe. You can find out more about their struggles and help nurture their journalism careers at the following link:
Dr Ghassan Jawad Kadhim - Still ‘The Last Optimist In Baghdad‘?
My guest today is Dr Ghassan Jawad Kadhim, who is a political advisor and analyst of politics of the Middle East. His expertise lies in his own homeland, Iraq, where he has spent nearly twenty years supporting dialogue and development. He has worked extensively with local as well as international actors on diverse projects seeking to promote national reconciliation, co-existence, and peacebuilding. He has served as an adviser on anti-corruption, security, and political stability.
Ghassan is one of those people who seems to know everyone and is never far from decision makers. His enthusiasm to get things done has been publicly recognised in a book written about his life and contribution to Iraq by Dr Brian Brivati, a British historian, in his 2016 book ‘The Last Optimist In Baghdad’.
Some of the topics we covered are:
Becoming the ‘Key-maker’
Ghassan’s personal experience of torture at the hands of his own countrymen
The power of perspective in shaping narratives
The complexity of Iraq
The progressive destabilisation of Iraq over decades
Issues with domestic leaders and why they are stifling progress
Complexity of governance in Iraq
The birth and impact of ISIS
Interests of regional and global actors
Possible ‘redrawing’ of maps of Iraq and the region
Was the invasion of 2003 worth it?
The ‘curse’ of oil
What the future holds for Iraq
LTCOL Dave Grossman - On killing, combat, sleep, 'blind spots' and everything else in between
Today, my guest is LTCOL Dave Grossman. He requires very little introduction, as I’m sure most of my audience will be intimately familiar with his books, most notably the one that has revolutionised the way we think and talk about combat. The book is of course ‘On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society’, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; has been translated into multiple languages; is on the US Marine Corps Commandant’s Required Reading List; and is required reading at the FBI academy and numerous other academies and colleges around the world.
He is now the director of the ‘Killology Research Group’ and is on the road almost 300 days a year, training elite military and law enforcement organisations worldwide about the reality of combat.
During our chat, we discussed a range of topics, including
Non-firers in combat and how we made killing a conditioned response
How anonymity can enable violence and the importance of non-verbal communication
The logic behind the term ‘killology’
What LTCOL Grossman means by the phrase ‘no pity party, no macho man’
Sleep deprivation and its effects on our societies
The issue with high doses of caffeine in energy drinks
The impact of sleep deprivation on ethical decision making in soldiers and first responders
Social blind spots and how they impact our decision making
The blind spot of creating a generation desensitised to violence and war
How medical technology decreases murder and death rate, and thereby hides an increase in violence
How otherwise good people come to do bad things, particularly in war
‘Killing enabling factors’ and how they can lead to atrocities
‘The virus of violent crime’ and its implications for our future
The need to understand causes of violence, not means to carry it out
The power and danger of information
Since I’ve barely scratched the surface of LTCOL Grossman’s extensive biography, you can find an extended version here. You can find a list of other books he has written over the years, including the two mentioned in our chat—'On Combat' and 'Assassination Generation'—here.
Dr Mike Martin & Dr Christopher Ankersen - Afghanistan Update and Future
Today, I’m speaking with Dr Mike Martin and Dr Christopher Ankersen. I have spoken with Mike at the beginning of this crisis (link here) as well as a few months back (link here). Suffice to say that he is considered an expert on Afghanistan and is the author of the book ‘An Intimate War’, considered by many as the most authoritative book on the political, social and economic dynamics of Afghanistan.
Dr Christopher Ankersen is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Global Affairs at NYU. Prior to joining NYU, he enjoyed a colourful and eclectic career which includes being a security adviser for the UN, as well as serving in the Canadian Armed Forces for more than a decade. Throughout his career he has taught at the London School of Economics, the London Centre for International Relations, King’s College London, Carleton University, and the Royal Military College of Canada. He has also lectured at staff colleges in Canada, Australia, and Denmark. A link to his full bio is here.
Mike and Christopher join me on Saturday the 28th of August, just before 0500h Kabul time, to discuss the ongoing situation in Afghanistan and its implications for the region and the world.
You can find Mike's and Christopher's article titled 'The Taliban, not the West, won Afghanistan's technological war', here.
Hizbullah Khan - On the current situation and the future of Afghanistan
Today, I once again spoke with Hizbullah, an Afghan security analyst and journalist, who remains in Kabul. We recorded our first discussion on 17th of August, only a day after the Taliban took control of Kabul where we discussed how we got to where we are now (you can access that episode here). Today, we spoke about the current situation and what the future might hold for the people of Afghanistan.
Thought provoking topics and guests covering all aspects of conflict. For anyone with even a passing interest in the human impacts of war, this podcast is worth the listen.
Insightful and interesting
Definitely worth listening to. Maz has a wealth of knowledge and these podcasts are very well put together and presented beautifully.
War through a different lense
Maz has created a thought provoking look at war. The cross section of guests each bring their own unique insights into war. The guests are balanced from victims to bystanders to active participants. Maz has a clam questioning technique which puts the guest at ease and seemingly wanting to say more about their experience and take on war. A refuge from Bosnias civi all war Maze brings a knowledge of war to the interviews that brings out the best and helps you the listener gain a different perspective. War is not glory.