Dec 30, 2010

Choking Feeling

It was last year at this time of the year; I was torn apart with the grief and sorrow at my mom’s death. I was at school when I noticed that she left the world. That night, I was left in shock and chilled to bone. I didn’t know that I should expect such grief while I was away from home. It was fall semester and I had to cope with the pressure of finals and the grievous loss.

I didn’t tell anyone why I was sad and instead I isolated myself in my room and rarely walked out to the café and gym. I came to Philadelphia to spend my four weeks break with my host family and friends. My host family celebrated my birthday, and it was the first time in my life. When I was in Afghanistan, I used to consider it unimportant and no one really cares about it. That night, at dinner table, my hostess told me that when I get back home I should thank my mom for bringing me into this world. A sudden sharp grief chocked in my throat shortly, I resisted and I embraced her suggestion and said to her: “I will, I will.” No one realized the quiver in my voice. She didn’t know nor did others that what was happening in my inside. Nonetheless, that night was fabulous even it was blended with some bitter feeling.

Almost five months later, after all through the months and weeks that I have had a choked feeling in my throat and holding back my tears, I told my friends about the grievous loss and I wrote a eulogy to my mom’s death.

Anyhow, these days reminding me of last year’s memories, especially, the New Year’s night in Northern Liberties that I had put the bar’s glass in my pocket which the next day I returned it to the bar. I was heavily drunk that night.

My friend, you went far, to remember those nights, Cheers!

Oct 17, 2010

Waltz with Bashir

In 2008, during a hot summer of Kabul, while I was wandering around the city of Kabul and trying to raise money in order to rent an internet café to teach blogging and online journalism to the students and journalists who were interested in doing citizen journalism, I approached a young documentary filmmaker who randomly spoke to me about the Oscar Award. He mentioned the movie ‘Waltz with Bashir” which was nominated for that award, but because I lived in secluded cities of Afghanistan that are mostly disconnected from the world, you would never hope you watch the most recent movies. Therefore, I never expected to watch “Waltz with Bashir” until I was assigned to write about it for my class.

The movie “Waltz with Bashir” is an Israeli animated documentary written and directed by Ari Folman. Folman served in the Israeli army and has been an infantry soldier. He depicts his memories of nightmares of two refugee camps: Sabra and Shatila. At a time when the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) occupied Beirut and blockaded the refugee camps, the allied Lebanese forces, enraged by the murder of their leader, entered the refugee camps and overnight more than 800 people were massacred.

Folman put himself aside and looks at this incident as a solider who later said that we were all pawns in internal political disputes that resulted in the massacre of hundreds.
“Waltz with Bashir” is a depiction of horror, insanity and pouring indignation. The film starts with a group of rabid dogs running towards a checkpoint and immediately cut into a dialogue where a solider tries to recall his lost memories from 20 years ago from the Lebanese civil war. He finds himself in a tank shooting aimlessly. in the meantime the film shows that the IDF were ruthlessly cruising the city of Beirut, moving from small alleys and driving the tank over cars and destroying the walls to find a way out. The story is being told by his friend whose tank hits a mine and as all the soldiers flee they are gunned down leaving one survivor. He swam and finally reached an outpost which belonged to his regiment.

Folman afraid of dying, he recalls his girlfriend and how hard it would be for his girlfriend to see his dead body back in Israel. He deploys to Beirut and after getting off a plane, he walks through a terminal and feels he should be sent on a vacation rather than to war. While he rejoins his unit, suddenly he and his fellows are targeted from the buildings nearby by enemy fithers.

Folman tries to remember his lost memories; he hallucinates on the beach that he drowns while his fellow friends left him. Folman tells the story through different characters; cameraman, commander, officer and major of military units. Folman shows that the Christian Phalangists take women and children out of their houses and drove them to a site of murder. The Israeli soldiers realize what will happen to them but are reluctant to prevent the massacre.

Finally, the film ends with actual footage of men, women and children who are brutally massacred by Christian Phalangists. “Waltz with Bashir” is a powerful film that narrates the story of Sabra and Shatila and could only be made possible though such an animated movie. “Waltz with Bashir” is mixed of horror and satire that depicts the most violent pictures with rock music, soldier’s dream of naked women, memories from living in pleasure at the beach and surrealistic pictures and the dreams in amidst of battle. “Waltz with Bashir” shakes up the viewers and shows the outrageous, shocking and graceless side of human nature.

Sep 27, 2010

At the UN Week Digital Media Lounge

I spent two days last week in New York, having been invivted by Oxfam to cover the events of UN Week, and the Summit on the Millennium Development Goals. These were the final two days, and they were packed full with many great events happening Here I highlight just a few of the many inspirational, informative, and occasionally troubling events that highlighted UN Week Digital Media Lounge.

Thursday morning kicked off with an Oxfam breakfast disccussion about the Pakistani flood, which is affecting more people than the Tsunami of 2004, the Earthquake in Haiti, or Hurricane Katrina. The guest speaker was Dr. Donya Aziz, Pakistan’s youngest MP, and a long term advocate for health, education and womens empowerment in Pakistan. The program was moderated by Øistein Moskvil Thorsen, a humanitarian campaigner for the Oxfam. While by now it is common knowledge among international humanitarians that

The discussion focussd on the continuing effects of the flood. While it has been more than a month since the flood began, 430 people have been killed, more than 20 million people have been affected, thousands of whom remain in desperate need of aid, Dr. Aziz highlighted important aspects of catastrophe that rarely heard from conventional media. For example, a massive amount of crops were destroyed in the flood, which occurred soon before the seasonal harvast, so one of the lingering effects of the flood will be a massive food shortage and the economic impact of food shock.

While Dr. Aziz was talking about the flood and its devastation in Pakistan, USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah took part in a discussion moderated by Sen. Tim Wirth, Presidentof the UN Foundation. Though USAID has made major contributions o humanitarian aid relief in Pakistan, Shah took the opportunity to discuss a different issue, he Obama Administration’s domestic and international economic development. He made special mention of public-private partnerships, and the importance of bringing in businesses to invest more in global health problems. As an example, he invoked the work of Coca-Cola and their announcement to empower five million female entrepreneurs by 2020. Shah also spoke of “mutual accountability” as the fundamental driver of how USAID wants to operate.

The week also included the annual reveal of the top ten CNN Heroes of 2010. This is an annual television special created by CNN to honor individuals making extraordinary contributions to helping others. This year’s panel of judges included Muhammad Ali the former champion boxer.

The UN Week Digital Media Lounge was presented by Mashable, 92Y and the UN Foundation. The summit consisted of a week’s worth of activities revolving around how social media can be used to tackle some of the world’s social challenges and issues.

Sep 15, 2010

Someone is missing

As usual, you come back from gym, sit on computer, log onto e-mail, read the newest e-mail and you are suddenly burst with excitement after read them, jump up and down like a child, grab the cell phone, look up the numbers to share the good news with a friend, start scroll through names from top to bottom but you can’t find someone on the list, someone who can express his/her enthusiasm towards your excitement. You pause and think for a moment how lonely you are sometimes. Suddenly, a cold sweat tumble down your cheek and you still think someone is missing from your list.

Aug 10, 2010

Days with the mourning dove song

It is the cruelest week in this season; especially, when its days last longer and its hours operate slower when it is hot and humid. The cruelest part is when the mourning dove starts singing early in the morning and it goes on till frustration deepen to nerves. Then you have to challenge with your sadness that followed by your own insanity.

The season that everyone starts leaving or about to leave for a short journey or a long one, it reminds me that this is also the season of when every living thing in desert swoons south toward some dream of a Gulf and better climate (if we human beings respect and protect the environment); I guess they also test the horizon while human beings are not able to see it because of shortsightedness or may be they are not able to be so ambitious to fly that high and see the horizon. Down here is blocked by cloud, fog and bushes. To see the horizon, indeed, we need flying up there to see the better horizon.

My mom (Janet) is flying tomorrow, I envy her ambition and her ability that she is able to do it. Here, everyday, the shrill of cicadas hurts my ears in Chestnut Hill and around but now there is another thing overlapping and haunting me: She is flying by tomorrow and will be away for a while. A while that will end my summer and I will not be able see her when she gets back, probably a month later. A while that I have to bear her absence and feel lonely and live with her memories, what she taught me and what I learn from her. A great woman that I ever met, a great woman that has been a great supporter to me at any time. A well-educated and informative woman and most importantly very enthusiastic about environment, energy, human rights, education and more importantly thinking about global issues. A gift that can be found only rarely, mom is leaving by tomorrow and my day, tomorrow, will start with mourning dove song.

Jul 7, 2010

Afghanistan's not-so-free press

In November 2008, I received a phone call at my home in Afghanistan from Information Safety and Freedom (ISF) an Italian nongovernmental organization that supports free speech, notifying me that I (and Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, a journalism student at Balkh University), were the two international journalists to receive its award. The winners, I was told, would travel to Italy for an awards ceremony. But I knew that would be impossible -- Kambaksh was in Kabul's prison. In October 2007, Afghan police arrested him for blasphemy, after he allegedly downloaded and distributed information about the role of women in Islamic societies, and he was sentenced to death in early 2008. His sentence was later commuted to 20 years in prison, after outcries from Afghan journalists and right groups. I received the ISF award for my work on a weekly satire cartoon magazine and blog, which was shut down in 2004. I received numerous death threats and was forced to leave the country for seven months that year. Continue reading...

Jun 22, 2010

Mullah McChrystal Must Be Drunk

General McChrystal's remarks on Obama and Biden and others is already echoed through the media in the United States. God knows what he has been thinking with expressing such bizarre statements. I am having doubt that those comments are direct and are not have taken from the context.
But when he apologizes, this assures us that General has said something wrong.

There are many things to consider before writing about him, especially, during his command since 2009 in Afghanistan. I trawled through Afghan media to find Afghans reactions because this might bring a big shift in Kandahar operation which is planned to be happen in the next coming months but I couldn't find anything up to now.

Why Mullah McChrystal? Well, Mullah is Farsi word and means master, anyone who has enough knowledge in his (not her because mullah masculine name) profession is called Mullah. McChcrystal can be a mullah in Afghanistan but Mullah is also a notorious name for someone who is doing something wrong or screwed up, like McChrystal.

It is hard to hope that he will not be fired as everyone at the White House is angry at him right now. But lets hope for a big changes in U.S strategies fighting against Taliban. May be a new general with a new strategy is needed but who can be like McChrystal? May be the answer is no one.

Jun 21, 2010

With 95% of the Country Insecure, The Prospects for the Parliamentary Elections Look Grim

According to the BBC, the Afghan Interior Ministry released a report to the media on Thursday June 17th stating that out of the country’s 364 districts, only 11 are stable. This report has come out during preparations for parliamentary elections scheduled for September 18, 2010. It raises question marks over the ability of the Afghan government and its international supporters to hold a national election amidst widespread insecurity that is escalating with each passing day.

Initially slated for May 22, 2010, the election was postponed by the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan due to security concerns, logistical problems and insufficient funds. The postponement was warranted at the time, but it is unclear whether conditions will improve markedly enough to hold the poll in September. If the Afghan Interior Ministry’s estimation is accurate, almost 95% percent of the country is unstable at the moment. Read more...

Jun 14, 2010

Fresh Allegations Against Karzai

Recently, a journalist based in Kabul reported from an unknown source that Mullah Baradar, the deputy of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the leader of the Taliban, has revealed information regarding his relationship with the Afghan authorities. Baradar was captured by US and Pakistani forces in February 2010 and is still in custody in Pakistan. President Karzai has persistently demanded that the Pakistani government transfer him to Afghanistan, but Pakistani officials have refused.

According to the unknown source, Mullah Bradar has revealed that a number of close relatives of Karzai have been working closely with Taliban insurgents in recent years. They were involved in mobilizing suicide attacks in a number of different cities. The source claimed that Mullah Baradar has revealed a long list of prominent figures in Afghanistan that opposed Karzai who were targeted by Taliban insurgents under this arrangement. Continue...

May 30, 2010

I became the grand prize winner

I want to express appreciation to all who supported me and voted for photos in the contest. The photo contest which is called "Why Afghanistan Matters" was launched last year by NATO. According to their website, there were 451 photos submitted from 57 contestants in 15 countries. The goal of this contest was to show Afghanistan to the world through the lens that why Afghanistan matters. There were four categories: Beautiful Afghanistan, people of Afghanistan, ANSF in action and ISAF in action.

I entered into three categories with six pictures. This was a unique opportunity for me to show a different picture of my country to the world, the pictures of beautiful nature of Afghanistan and its people that rarely shown to the world. I became the grand prize winner with a photo from Mazar-e Sharif in which a family is feeding pigeons considered to be sacred.

Finally, thanks to NATO and organizers who came up with this great idea that allowed me to be parts of showing why Afghanistan matters.

I will continue to work hard and take pictures of issues which lie ahead.

May 24, 2010

The Independent and Accuracy

Unbelievably, The Independent has changed and deleted most parts of the article after my critic about its exaggeration and almost lying about Afghanistan's administration position towards David Bekham's visit to Helmand. That is good sign, that means it was a telling criticism that made The Independent to rectify that errors.

That shows the tolerance of criticism and believing in accuracy of The Independent. We often come across some news that are published in some newspaper that is pure hogwash but still believed true. I occasionally find them in Afghan newspapers that reading them haunts me.

The point I criticized was not only on exaggerating but more it was humiliating to Afghan people. I personally can not tolerate any kinds of contemptuous comments against anyone, especially, my country. Bekham, went to Afghanistan for a goodwill visit to meet British troops in Helmand and support them. That is a great job and I am happy for that too.

But, I wished Bekham could come with a tiny plan that he could make donation for making a soccer field to those children who lost their parents in war and for those adults that wandering around in the field of poppy in Helmand that can be easily hired by Taliban.

May 21, 2010

Beckham visits Helmand

This news is on the Independent website that says David Beckham flies out to visit British troops in Helmand. But this part must be a joke:

The Afghan government was keen for Beckham to also travel north to spend time in the capital Kabul – which would have been a considerable coup for the administration, given that his celebrity extends to the Islamic Republic. However, the plan was vetoed at an early stage.
I found it a bit snobbish and naive. Everyone knows that Afghanistan is grappling with its insecurity and series of other problems and his visit as a soccer player have nothing to do with Afghan situation. Bechkahm is famous in UK and other European countries that soccer is considered a major sport in their lives but not in Afghanistan. I'm having doubts that if you could find a few people knowing Beckham in Afghanistan, let alone the government.

It is funny that the writer insistingly says that it would have been a considerable coup for the administration that his celebrity extends to the Islamic Republic. What a funny joke I ever heard of. Sometime, lying to make things important is too hard, like this one that brings a disgusting feeling to you.

Anyway, my cousin and I were a big fun of him in 2002 World Cup when we were in Dubai but when we moved to Afghanistan, due to lack of electricity that we had to light a candle at night, it was hard to remain a fan of Beckham, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and other Brazlian soccer players.

May 19, 2010

Thank You All

Where to begin, what to say... I can't remember anything right now for writing. I just come here to say:
I deeply appreciate your kind expression of sympathy in my time of great sorrow. I know my pain will decrease and what will remain will always be. Your words definitely consoled my heart. Thank to all of you; those of you who left condolence words on my blog and those of you who sent by e-mail. Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers.

May 11, 2010

Eulogy For My Mom

Please, someone should stop the clocks, someone should ask the dog in the alley not to bark tonight. Someone should go to the street and ask drivers not blow their horns and to drive slowly. I don’t want to hear screeching tires’ sounds. I don’t want birds singing tonight. I don’t want to hear any noises tonight. Please turn off the lights, I want it dark. Dark so that I can’t see myself or around me or nor the windows. My hands are numb, I can’t find my feet. Something is going wrong with my eyes; they seem to burn with acid. I can’t search nor see the windows. I want tonight darkened, I don’t want to see the stars gleaming up there, and someone should be out there to prevent the whiteness of the damn moon too. The moon and the stars are not wanted tonight. Someone should pull them down and pack them and put in the trash. I want everything silent like darkness, like tonight.

Let the wind stop blowing on the trees. If the autumn arrives, let its dead leaves shed on the moon to make it blind. I want tonight dark like a grave. I don’t want to see trees blowing in the wind tonight. Someone should answer my question, why is it so long tonight? Why can’t I see my feet? Someone comes by accident, leaves by accident, and is that all that life means?

For more than a week or so, I have had nightmare. Doesn’t matter day or night, even taking a nap was full of fighting and bloodshed. Amidst tough exam days, I received a short message from Qasem, my younger brother in Kabul. He had written: “mom is not feeling well; it has been more than 13 days, she didn’t eat.”

I wrote him back and begged him to connect me with my mom and dad. I wanted to talk to my mom, I wanted to hear her laughter and I wanted to hear her words asking me, when I am going home and telling me that she missed me. I promised her last year to go home and visit her. A week passed. Qasem wrote back to me:

“Nasim Jan, Dad called today, after greeting I asked him how is mom, he became quiet. I asked him again and again: “Dad, please tell me how is mom?” He answered with a broken voice: “My son, your mom left us, she is no longer among us.”

My fingers are numb on the keyboard, I can’t write him back. What should I write? I feel chilly and lethargic. It seems like I am steeped in a mountain of sorrow. No news was ever more devastating to me. I lost my mom, my beloved one; I lost my big supporter who always supported and saved me from dangers.

It is damn college exams days, it is silence instead of smile. Because you are not here. Because you are not calling me and I don’t hear your laugher anymore. You are not asking me over the phone: “my son, come home, I miss you.” Because you left this world. Because life is over, it ends my happiness too and starts a new season, which is sorrow and crying a river.

Because you didn’t wait to see your farmer son come back to you from college. Mom! You could wait to listen to my stories. Damn this life when I found myself, I left you and dad in search of food to survive. I remember those days on the farm, when we worked together to feed our herds, you told me: “my son, one day, I want you be a man for yourself.” You could wait and I wanted to demonstrate how I fulfilled your wishes.

I remember last year, I came to visit you. The road was closed because of fighting. I took different paths, stretching to mountains and desert and finally to reach you. After four days, I was there with you. I was there once again to refresh my commitments and to tell you I am a man on my own now. Last year, once again, I felt your thick and strong hands which one day held me, caressed me, pulled me up from the ground, left my arms and gave me wings to fly.

My friends were asking me: “how is your mom?” I had only one answer: “she is fine and using her medicine regularly.” In 2004, my mom was suffering from an unknown illness. Finally, in 2005, doctors found out that she had diabetes. Although diabetes is possible to treat, in Afghanistan it is hard and even to some extent it is impossible to cure diabetes. It was last year in June; to visit her, I went by motorbike after four days and driving 16 hours every day in the mountains, I reached her. No one knew when I arrived in the village. I parked my motorbike in the corner of our old house, started searching from room to room for my mom. I found her sleeping. After taking a few breaths, hesitantly I said: “salam mom, this is Nasim.” She woke up, jumped up and hugged me. She was a strong woman, still young, just 60 years old. I released myself in her arms, just like a baby does. We both wept until everyone noticed of my arrival. I didn’t see her a lot since I was 12 or 13. I moved out of the village and went to the city. Later I left to Pakistan, Iran and the U.A.E. She was a young and strong woman who worked on the farm. Her dream was that I become a cleric. She was a generous woman and always telling me: “Nasim, if a panhandler knocks on the door, offer him tea, feed him, and don’t let him go away without help.” It is her lesson that I remember in the Philadelphia or D.C train stations, when I see homeless or poor people, her words resonate: “help poor people, what goes around, comes around.” She never heard the words of human rights, but by instinct she knew and she taught me to be humanistic.

In 2006, your son “Hadi” took you to Iran for a pilgrimage to the Imam Reza shrine. Later, when you returned back home, I came home to visit you and I congratulated that for you. Still, you wished to go to Hajj. In 2008, you went with your eldest son “Zahir” to Saudi Arabia for a Mecca pilgrimage. You visited the house of God. Zahir told me that he had doubt about your energy and your ability to move around God’s house. But he was surprised of your energy and your ability. He said: “When mom started walking towards Mecca, I called her a lot but she didn’t hear me.” You were freed of yourself, you were with your God, and you were Godly in that moment. He said that he lost you and searched you for hours and hours. But miraculously, finally, you meet each other. This is was your heavenly sign.

Last year, you asked me to take care of “Qasem,” your smallest and beloved son. I remember I promised you to go back this summer but you are not there anymore! You are not there to position before the wall and look down from the hill when I arrive. You are not there anymore to cook for me and tell me: “I want my son to be strong and to become my hero.”

Mom! You didn’t wait for me. I want your demure smile now, your scent and your looks. I want your strong hands to cover my face, I want you telling me your fairy tales like you did in my childhood, I want your encouragement and your support. I feel so weak and unproductive.

No no, she is not here anymore. I want her now. I want to go back to her and find her at the corner of the room, sitting and sewing socks and gloves for her children. I want her telling me: Nasim, bring me a glass of water from the small stream which is few meters away from our house. I want her asking me go to the farm and collect grass for sheep, goats and cows.

No no, she is not there anymore. No one is there to listen to my words; no one is there that I can share my stories and my pains. She was that only friend that I could share everything with. I lost her. No one will be as worried about me as she was. No one will call me constantly that there is a season of fresh milk and yogurt.

Mom! You could wait for me to see your son. You could wait to see how much I am changed and have become a man for my own. That was your dream and your wish that I become an independent and wise man. You could wait to see the result of your hard working during my childhood that you have taken care of me and spent your life to grow me up.

Mom! You could wait to see your son, the son of your hardships, painful days and distress. You could wait until I finish my education and come back from the U.S. I remember how much you and dad were happy last year when I told you: “mom, I am going to the U.S for higher education.” You were about to burst of happiness. You could wait and see your Nasim is no longer a naughty boy, he has traveled around the world and shaken hands with great people. You could wait until I come back and I would tell you the stories, but now to whom I share my stories after you? You could wait, you were just 60 years old. Mom! Right now, I want to find myself with you in those days that followed the grasslands; steep pastures that I was collecting hay for the cattle.

Mom! No one would call me champion of mom anymore and no one would admire me as you did. I was your hero, because I used to work with you on the farm, because I carried your baskets and your grass loads in the field. We together fed the cattle and cows. Mom, when you were milking the cows and sheep, I was taking the bucket, I was providing you fresh water from a small stream which seemed as a vein in the village. I remember those days in soft summer, that wind blowing on the tree in front of our muddy house and the leaves and the little branches were trembling over. I remember those moments we were all sitting and having our breakfast and lunch in a hot summer under the shadow of trees. I remember those days I was collecting wood for your oven. When you were making bread, I was making tea for us. I remember that when the first bread was out of the oven, you were giving me that with a glass of milk insisting: "Go to your school before its going to be too late."

Mom! I remember the days that you told me when I had just been born, due to Soviet Helicopter patrol over the village, you had taken me to the mountains to protect me. I remember you told me how it was hard to hide from Soviet helicopter’s patrol. Although I do not know anything about those days, all the pain and suffering from those days, I have with me today. I bow down before you and your pain.

Mom! You were different to others. As far as I remember, when your sons were coming back from their journeys and bringing gifts for you, you were giving them to your daughters “Nikbakht” and “Aqila”. You had a pair of silver bracelets. Every kind of jewelry, you gave to your daughters. But instead of jewelry you had a heavenly love and I found you always praying.

But no no, she is not here anymore. I would like to hear her voice now. I want to find myself in her arms. Mom! My beloved! In all my life I learned from you. I am everything because of you. You have taught me to have perseverance.

When I close my eyes, I can image you. You are holding me between your arms and tap on my back and say: “Don’t be lazy, look around, move fast, learn from others, be honest, don’t lose your self-confidence, and keep the path of perseverance.” These are the lessons I have learned from you.

I heard, after you everything went to silence. No one talks loudly to each other, they dress in black, walk slowly, your place at the corner of our old house is empty. Near the furnace, where in winter was the warmest place. Where you were sitting and making socks, jerseys, gloves for your children.

After you, we all became wanderers. Your smallest, tender and beloved son, Qasem, is studying in Kabul. Juma Khan went to Iran. Zahir and Hadi are in Dubai. After you, all are scattered in different countries and cities. I heard all this from Qasem. I am unaware of everything in this corner of the world. If you remember, last year when we talked on the phone, you asked me, where am I living? I said in America. You asked me where that is. I answered that it is in this corner of the world. You asked me to come home. But now, I ask myself who will worry for me after you?

But mom! You are like a sun shining in my life, like a moon lighting my nights. You are alive in me forever. Please forgive me if I was far from you, forgive me if I couldn’t take care of you, and forgive me if I had to run after food to survive.

But mom! You are my strength when I feel weak, your memory gives me energy. You are giving me power to pursue my success and happiness, although, these nights have no stars in the sky and my days are rainy. But these stormy days will end soon and I will no longer be lost on the way back to my room, because I have you with me.

Mom! It was a great honor for me that you lived with me, took care of me and gave me wings. Thanks for all your efforts, thanks for all your love and the kindness you had for me.
It is our trajectory that we all will return back toward him. With the beauty and glory of God that is bestowed on you, may God rest your soul in peace. Rest peacefully, Hawa, my beloved mom!

Your son,
Nasim

May 5, 2010

Honor Gang Rape

We often hear of “honor killing” in the mass media, a practice that exists in some Muslim countries including Afghanistan. An honor killing is the murder of a family or clan member in which the perpetrators are motivated by a belief that the victim has brought dishonor upon the family, clan or community. A comparable, yet less widely publicized form of honour punishment, is gang rape. While honor gang rapes are usually carried out against women, an incident that took place two weeks in Northern Afghanistan involved the gang rape of two young men.

According to a local report, a dozen farmers and shepherds raped two young men as a punishment for engaging in sexual relations with two young women. The incident occured in the Dasht-e Laili (Laili desert) of Jawzjan province, an area famed for being the site of a Taliban massacre in the aftermath of September 11. Both young men are related to high-ranking government officials, one being the son of the provincial governor and the other the son of a police chief. Prior to the rape the two young men were disarmed and saw their belongings, including a few thousand US dollars, confiscated by the farmers and shepherds. The perpetrators of the rape explained that the punishment was meted out as an act of revenge for the sexual acts undertaken by the young men. Continue reading...

Apr 25, 2010

Public sexual harassment in Kabul

A woman who recently went to Kabul for the first time has often posted on her facebook about public sexual harassment on the streets of Kabul. To be honest, sexual harassment is quiet common in Muslim countries where women are restricted not to have public appearance. But, specifically, in the Afghan culture and society which is extremely religious and traditional, public sexual harassment is not only common but people enjoy if they harass women either by their looks or words. Even in less conservative city like Kabul, women are facing intimidation and regular sexual assault on a daily bases . But when it comes to school girls they are often victimized by male carrying knifes and acid.

In 2009, the Ministry of Education has reported that within eight months, 138 students and teachers have died and 172 have been wounded in criminal and terror attacks. About 651 schools have closed and another 122 school buildings have been blown up or burned down. Based on United Nations Population Fund in Afghanistan (UNFPA), about 31% of Afghan women suffer physical violence and another 30% suffer from psychological violence.

Nevertheless, she (who requested that her name to be removed) has written this sentence on her facebook wall that made me to laugh:
“I called a harasser on a motorbike "mordagow" and he almost crashed into a sewer. AWESOME.”

It is uncommon to respond back to a harasser on the streets of Kabul. First, Afghan women don’t have that courage to call on harasser “mordagow” because of predominantly male oppression. Second, because public harassment is so pervasive in Afghan society that women are used to it.

The word “mordagow” is Farsi (Dari/persian) word which is only used among Afghan Farsi speakers. The word that panicked the harasser means “cuckold”; a married man with an adulterous wife.

Apr 17, 2010

Translations into Afghan languages: Dari and Pashto

Since a long time ago, I had this in my mind to speak up publicly that I enjoy translation in Afghan languages. I used to work as translator for various publications and publishers in Afghanistan. As you might be aware, it is important for a translator to be well-versed in origin language, grammatical and verbal aspects. I tried to find some of my friends who have been working different NGOs and who have proficiency in at least two foreign languages.

So, for several weeks I talked to my friends in Kabul and outside, we made a small group of translation that work as freelancer. I am the director and responsible for any kinds of inquiries. Therefore, if you guys need translator please contact me and what we are doing is as following:

Dari/Farsi/Persian translations
Translating from Dari* (Farsi) to English or English to Dari (Farsi) is the core strength of our smart team, who have unfathomed capacity to translate any kinds of text. Most of our translators are working with the United Nations and international organizations.

Our Farsi team can deal with articles, books, letters, brochures, handbooks, manuals, websites, guides, contracts, and any kinds of documents.
Technical translation include user manuals, training manuals, instructions, scientific reports, and machinery, engineering, catalogs, software, multimedia presentations, installation procedures, and proposals..
We are flexible, and this is why we accepts and deliver the documents to the clients in compatible and readily usable formats, such as MS-Office, Unicode and PDF.

Pashto translations.
Also we deal with English to Pashto (Pashu or Pushtu) and Pashto to English translation. All our translators are qualified and working with the United Nations and International organizations. The Pashto translators are all native speakers.
The Pashto translation team can deal with letters, brochures, handbooks, articles, manuals, websites, guides, contracts, novels and much more. Our team also specializes in the translation of legal, engineering, marketing, business, IT and academic documents.

Please contact me at fekrat AT Gmail DOT com
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*Dari is the same as Farsi (like British English and American English) spoken in Iran and Tajikistan. In fact, the term Dari is recognized and promoted by the Afghan government for the language. Dari is also the religious language of Zoroastrianism, but Dari of Afghanistan and the Dari of Zoroastrianism are completely different and unrelated.

Apr 9, 2010

Afghanistan grapples with drug problem

Last year, President Obama reconsidered some of the assumptions of the counterinsurgency strategy but he forgot to reconsider fighting against drugs. He conceded the perilousness of Taliban and insurgency but he neglected to consider that Afghanistan has a silent and devastating enemy which is drug.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, until March 2008, about 1 million of Afghanistan's 34 million people were drug users, and the majority of these lived in the country's principal cities, based on UNODC estimation.


Map of Afghanistan showing major poppy fields and intensity of conflict 2007-08Today, with an estimation, two million Afghans struggling with drug addiction. Even different source offers that there are more than two million drug users in the country. Just in two years, the number of dug users doubled.

It is important for for the US and the world communities to reconsider the assumption of the counter-narcotic as a pivotal Afghan problem . Today, most of young Afghans don't have job and they suffering from different kinds of mental pressures. Needless to say, some of those youngsters join to Taliban.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime just announced that in 2010 Afghanistan is leading hashish producer. UN suggests that "it estimates that 10,000 to 24,000 hectares (24,700 to 59,300 acres) of cannabis are grown in Afghanistan every year and that this is used to make an estimated 1,500 to 3,500 tons of hashish annually." This is another double problem. Anyway, recently, I made a short interview with a website called "All Treatment." Read the interview on this link...

Apr 7, 2010

Drugs: Afghanistan's Silent Enemy

I just published a picture of an addict on my Photography website who I met in the abandoned Russian Cultural Center in Kabul. In the winter of 2008, I was assigned by UNAMA to picture the life of drug addicts in Kabul. I lived two streets away from the area where the addicts congregated during the cold winter. I passed by the wreckage of the building every day. One day, as I walked through the snow, mud and debris adjacent to the building, I found a dead body lying in the snow. Read more...

Apr 5, 2010

Anti-American outburst continues

Interestingly enough, the U.S is now deeply in trouble with Karzai, I was thinking that Karzai made April fool's joke but it seems Karzai is very serious and he once again slammed the United States. On Monday, April 4, President Karzai, who was talking to Pashton tribal elders in Kandahar, once again attacked US and said that the Taliban insurgency would become a legitimate resistance movement if the meddling doesn't stop.

According to Wall Street Journal, at one point, Karzai suggested that

He himself would be compelled to join the other side —that is, the Taliban—if the parliament didn't back his controversial attempt to take control of the country's electoral watchdog from the United Nations, according to three people who attended the meeting, including an ally of the president.
His remarks are widely reflected in Afghan media but all founded naive and destructive for the country. A few of them called upon Karzai that there are two options for him: "joining with the Taliban or resign if he doesn't find a better option."

Also NATO has admitted that its forces were responsible for the deaths of three women during a botched night-time raid in eastern Afghanistan in February.

Apr 2, 2010

How to justify Karzai's words?

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I just published a post on my Farsi blog regarding to Karzai’s caustic comments that recently said: "No doubt, there was huge fraud, there was vast fraud," Karzai said Thursday in a speech before the Independent Election Commission. "The fraud is not by the Afghans. This fraud has been done by the foreigners."

Also the most toxic part is the one that he provocatively addressed the West that they shouldn't do something against his willing otherwise all Afghans will stand against foreign forces.

In the meantime, Abdullah Abdullah, who lost to him in the disputed election, accused Karzai of undermining the morale of the Afghan military by implying that the country was under foreign occupation.

"It was extraordinary … this is treason to the national interest. What is the message to the thousands of soldiers and national police defending the country?" he said."[Karzai] thinks that by taking that message he has delivered a populist stance, an anti-foreigner message … he tried to blur the line between national resistance to terrorism and the insurgency."
The troubling and disturbing speech of Karzai left the authorities in the White House in shock and awe. I personally can’t belief and don’t understand what is going on through his mind. Does he lose his consciousness and wisdom?

If anyone would ask my opinion with regards to this, honestly, I can’t find the right answer and I can’t really justify Karzai’s ignorance and undiplomatic manner. I would timidly say: “ I am sorry for my country and I am sorry that such an ignorant and stupid man is leading the country, I am sorry for billions of dollars pouring in my country that is not appreciated and Karzai is not the right person who can use that money well.”

Apr 1, 2010

"Fearless Blogger"


When he was a child, Nasim Fekrat ’13 stood by a boulder at his parents’ farm in Afghanistan and watched other children heading off to school. His father, taking a break from tending to wheat, cows and sheep, walked over and asked, “Do you want to go to school with those children or do you want to be a shepherd? If you want to be a student, you might have a bright future, but you still have to work hard.” Read more...
There is an article written by Bill Sulon one my college's extra features' writers about humble me. I appreciate Bill who actually done a nice job. Briefly, I have talked to him about blogging and the impacts of blog on my life and its impacts on the society as a new tool for freedom of speech.

As internet is soaring in Afghanistan, the ministry of information and culture has recently announced that they are going to enact restrictions on web usage. This issue turned into a big concern now and it raising fears of censorship. Anyway, I will specifically write on this issue later but now you now can read my interview on my college website.

Mar 22, 2010

It's a new year in Afghanistan

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This year, the Nowruz festival holds even more significance and importance in the lives of Afghans since the United Nation’s General Assembly recognized March 21 as International Day of Nowruz.

Nowruz, banned under Taliban rule, begins on the day of the vernal equinox (the first day of spring) and marks the beginning of the new year. Every year, three days before Nowruz, tens of thousands of people travel to the northern Afghanistan city of Mazar-e Sharif to watch the elaborate ceremony.

Nowruz is celebrated for two weeks throughout Afghanistan. People wear new clothes, refurbish their house, paint the buildings and henna their hands. Young girls go with their mothers to holy shrines and pray to have a good future, a good life and a good husband and be fortunate while the boys have an eye on their parents to decide who is fair and suitable for him. Continued on...

Mar 17, 2010

The US did not "invade" Afghanistan

The western media has always framed the presence of US and other international forces in Afghanistan negatively. We constantly read and hear from the media the word “invasion” to articulate the presence of US forces in Afghanistan.

It is true that US forces are using the territory of Afghanistan in the war against terrorism, but does that mean that the US invaded Afghanistan? Simply put, the answer is no. This is because the United States was invited by the Northern Alliance, and the two united to stand against the Taliban, who at the time had seized almost 95% of the country.

Nine years of US presence in Afghanistan have passed. There are about 36,000 US troops who are not part of ISAF serving in the east of Afghanistan. As of October 2009, the ISAF had 67,700 personnel from 42 different countries including the US, European countries, Australia, Jordan and New Zealand. Now, does that mean that 42 countries invaded Afghanistan? Continue reading...

Mar 5, 2010

The National Constitution Center and Nasim Fekrat

The National Constitution Center's own International Engagement Manager, Jeffrey Stern met Fekrat while working a two-year stint as a freelance journalist in Afghanistan. Stern saw the power of citizen journalism first hand, and upon returning to Philadelphia joined with the Center to further projects like Fekrat's to burgeoning democracies around the world. It was in keeping with this pursuit that the Being We the People at the Center and Beyond project came into being. Continue reading...

Feb 24, 2010

The legacy of the London Conference: the UN and Taliban impunity

On January 28, 2010, during the London Conference on Afghanistan—which was intended to focus on security issues—President Hamid Karzai presented a list of top Taliban figures who are on the UN’s black list. For the last few years, Karzai has been pleading with the UN and the US to remove these Taliban leaders' names from the list in order to pave the way for negotiations. Karzai's position has led to widespread criticism from civil society and human rights organizations inside Afghanistan, and has raised concern globally. Continue reading...

Feb 19, 2010

Warlord Carries out Brutal Public Flogging in Ghor Province

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Do you remember last year in April 2009, the Guardian published a video of a 17-year-old girl's flogging by the Taliban in Swat Valley? Another incident just happened a few days ago in Dolina district in Ghor province, central Afghanistan. Ghor is one of the poorest provinces in central Afghanistan, and Dolina district has been a safe haven for illegal armed groups, which have committed these kinds of brutal acts before. The video, released on February 18, shows a man with a white turban flogging a woman who is submissively standing against 40 lashes. Continue reading...

Feb 16, 2010

Can a military draft work in Afghanistan?

During his visit to Germany, Hamid Karzai has stated that his government will consider instituting mandatory national military service. Afghanistan lacks a strong national apparatus for nation building where people from different ethnic background can share and learn from each other. Such an institution has been one of Afghanistan’s most fundamental needs over the last few years. Despite this, compulsory military service would be impossible to implement. Continue reading...

Feb 14, 2010

The Last Nail In The Coffin For Taliban

Today, there is a huge operation going on in Marjah in Helmand. There is some good news from Helmand that NATO and ANA have been successful in their mission. Until now more than 20 members of Taliban have been killed and two NATO soldiers also have been killed.

One thing makes me concern that civilians have been prevented by Taliban to evacuate the city. Marjah is the last and the most important stronghold of the Taliban in southern Afghansitan. Most of the insurgency activities were directed from Marjah. Unlike the previous operation this will be affective. NATO and ANA forces will stay there to secure the area after the Taliban whipped out. The Operation Moshtrak (together) is a good answer to those Taliban who rejected to negotiate with government. However, there is nothing has been left to be done by the US and Afghan government. Hopefully this operation will be the last nail in coffin for Taliban.

Also, today is a Valentine Day, a decent day in which people exchange flowers, cards and loving sentiment to a beloved one. I assume there are many others like me a dateless man. However, being a dateless on this day can evoke loneliness feeling for many but unlike others for me as a newcomer in this country, it is different. But I hope the oasis for lonely will be end soon for everyone.

Feb 9, 2010

Is God a Perpetrator?

Disaster always goes after the most vulnerable population in our planet. A recent earthquake in Haiti that killed 150,000 and still Haiti’s government says that the figure could double. Afghanistan has been always exposed to various natural disasters. Yesterday, after a heavy snow fall, there have been a series of avalanches on highways between Kabul and Mazar-e Sharif. According to local news at the scene, 60 bodies are discovered and number of death is increasing. According to New York Times, "NATO and Afghan National Army helicopters joined in the rescue effort. Some 2,500 people were recovered from their stranded cars and 1.5 miles of roadway were cleared Tuesday, leaving another mile still buried when work finished Tuesday night."

Now, you might think about it for a while. Is it a human rights issue? Is earthquake in Haiti a human rights issue? Human rights are defined as someone commits and perpetrates a crime against humanity. If this is a human rights issue, who is the perpetrator? If God is the perpetrator, can we bring him to justice and jail him because of his savagery and cruelty?

I want to come back and probe deep into this question later but let me know what you think.
Religious people have different answer to it.

Feb 8, 2010

It is time to listen to the Afghan people

A few hours before the start of the Afghanistan summit in London on January 28th five former senior members of the Taliban who occupied key positions in the Taliban government between 1996 and 2001, were removed from the UN blacklist. This move spurred widespread criticism inside Afghanistan that was barely acknowledged in the western media. Prior to the London conference, several Afghan civil society organizations and intellectuals protested against the action. They warned that by removing the names from the list, they were effectively forgiving them for their crimes. Continue reading...

Jan 31, 2010

JS-Kit Misuses Haloscan Reputation

Michael left a few comments on my previous post about Haloscan. I understand him and his position that why he is anxious. He has abhorrence of feeling in his words rather than convincing unfortunately. I didn’t determine to undermine the accuracy or lest attacking personal level at JS-Kit, I was simply raised this question that why JS-Kit is manipulating the reputation of Haloscan in order to make money? I didn’t say it is a dirty job.

Whatever Michael expressed is close to what I believe. Somehow we are in the same track but we have different looks over the horizon. I respect what the JS-Kit is doing and it is not my business to challenge Michael and JS-Kit’s willingness. However, i simply meant, Haloscan is quite well-known now, it is very obvious that JS-Kit can make business out of it but there are some moral issues that lie there. Morality is something that we are all obsessed with it. I have no idea that how Haloscan survived for the last years and finally why in 2010 they failed to continue.

The JS-Kit is simply limiting this window, the window that i personally endowed my time to right to outsiders that what is going on in my country, in what problems the inhabitants grappling with. The JS-Kit is doing good job - earning money - but I wonder if Michael and his colleagues can put themselves in a blogger’s position and feel differently for a while. I am sure they can understand that what means limiting the diffusion of free thoughts. Now you can evaluate this notion with a brutal and dictatorial regime that limits its citizens to criticize and to talk freely. I don’t find the JS-Kit in this position but I hail everyone to look in their action from different angles.

It is time for JS-Kit to think with dept about it. I applaud their efforts but unfortunately they are manipulating the virtue and reputation of a platform which used to be a supportive tool for free thoughts. This action is not acceptable morally. It is misusing and it is undermining the value and virtue of a software tool that has been used for free over the past years.

The JS-Kit should remember this that they can’t sell words and one's thought. It is time for JS-Kit to announce and give opportunity for free thoughts in order to spread them towards enlightenment in this small planet. They can earn the same through ads. We bloggers can help with click. Later JS-Kit can talk about it proudly. We are all human and we need to share our feeling otherwise we are all will remain aliens to each others and can not be understood.

Jan 29, 2010

Goodbye Haloscan

Since 2004, I am using Haloscan platform in my blog which is quite easy tool that enable the readers to leave comments under the posts. Recently i learned that Haloscan has been purchased by JS-Kit. It is time to appreciate Haloscan that gave us free service and supported free speech. It is time to appreciate those who invented this platform and made it public with no commercial purpose - at least for blogger like me. But alas that JS-Kit is determined to make money out of it. The JS-Kit has made it a paid system. I don't know how a blogger who is receiving not a penny how he/she can pay $12 per year?

For the last years, I kept blogging and my readers were giving me their feedback which was joyful for me to read their thoughts. For the last years, no one paid me for blogging, so this raised a question in my mind that if i never paid for blogging why i should pay? I think it is unfair that JS-Kit has decided to use Hasloscan platform for commercial purpose which was used for supporting free speech. It turned out to be a holey platform through sharing inspirational thoughts and words. But why JS-Kit is misusing its decentness and popularity?

Now, I am pleading for your (those who are technical) assistance to move my comments from Haloscan into Blogger. I just looked around the web to find a useful tool to import the comments but i was not successful. It is rather complicated and I am not good in technical matters.

Please let me know if any of you can help me to migrate Haloscan comments into blogger otherwise I am losing more than 1500 comments which are recorded since 2004.

Jan 28, 2010

A Nightmare Scenario for The London Conference

The London Conference will be held today -- Thursday, January 28, 2010. At this conference, the international community is coming together to fully align military and civilian resources behind an Afghan-led political strategy. It is a crucial moment for the Afghan government, which still has not fielded a full cabinet, after many of President Karzai’s second set of cabinet picks were rejected by the Afghan parliament just two weeks ago. This is not the only conundrum that Karzai is grappling with – he is also facing intense criticism from civil society NGOs inside Afghanistan who are advocating for women’s rights. Continue reading...

Jan 21, 2010

Naive BBC Persian Over Afghanistan and Tajikistan

I wrote this post on my Farsi blog a few days before. It had wide reaction from Farsi readers in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Iran. A new blogger friend of mine Jad Iqbal has already translated this post on his blog for his readers. I just did little changes and added to it and thought it would be good to share it with my English readers here too. I wrote a number of posts about BBC Persian, specifically about BBC Afghan service. As a permanent visitor for BBC websites, I would like to share my understandings and critics on BBC works in Afghanistan, especially after September 11 that BBC Radio had a dramatic decrease in the number of listeners. As a member of Afghan media family, it has always been important to observe how the media reflect the events in my country. As media was my favorite field for the past years, i would like to write more about Afghan media and its current condition.

BBC Persian TV, on its first anniversary has asked viewers for their feedback on the service over the past year. There were many who praised and spook highly of BBC Persian TV, but for me this is surprising when BBC Persian has said:

With 8 hours of varied programs a day, including news, analysis, documentaries and general entertainment from the very start, BBC Persian has attracted many viewers in Persian speaking countries.
BBC Persian is referring to Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Iran. But here are some initial circumstances that BBC Persian has provocatively and naively spoken about it.

First, the people of Afghanistan are mostly living under the poverty line and they don’t have the ability to buy a TV set, let alone to buy a satellite so that they can watch BBC Persian TV. It’s possible that offices in major cities such as Herat and Kabul, and maybe Mazar-e Sharif watch their channel, and there may even be a small number of people who incidentally flick onto the channel. But this does not at all mean that BBC Persian has won over the country to its TV service.

Second, BBC Persian TV doesn’t have any entertainment programs made for Afghans, and nor is anyone interested in watching the programs that BBC Persian TV produces and airs for its Iranian audience. There are more than 20 private channels all over Afghanistan that are broadcasting which have both interesting and entertaining programs, and also they have a direct relationship with their local audience. They have live programs on which they get feedback on from their viewers, who are also sometimes participate in debates and other activities lively. For a one-sided channel whose direct audience is only Iran, it is naive and not wise for the BBC to pat themselves on the back and say that they have attracted for lots of viewers in Afghanistan. As far as I’m concerned, such a simplistic belief on the BBC’s part is just laughable.

Also about Tajikistan, for the last year, there has been only one reporter who contributed once a month. With this belief that they targeted big audience in Tajikistan they must joked. The people of Tajikistan have enough to access to different channels in old Soviet States. They have better access because they speak Russian. However, they speak Farsi but they use for their writing the Cyrillic alphabets. In addition to this, people don’t have enough to spend their money buying a satellite dish in order to watch BBC Persian TV which its programs don’t relate to the country, its people, its culture and its history.

Thus, BBC Persian TV exaggerates and naively deludes not only its viewers but also itself. Since 2002, with the birth of more than hundreds local radio stations, BBC Afghan service has lost its listeners. Not only this reason but BBC Persian service didn’t improve its programs for Afghan listeners. As a matter of fact, BBC Persian Afghan service remained as a traditional radio that lagging behind.

Please vote for my pictures in the contest "Why Afghanistan is matter?." You don't need registration, just click on stars.
1- Child Street Worker (Egg Seller)
2- Colored Beard
3- Shoe Polisher in Kabul
4- Band-e Amir Lake
5- Feeding these birds brings good fortune (Mazar-e-Sharif)
6- Afghan National Army

Jan 17, 2010

Haiti and Afghanistan With Cataclysmic Events

In Farsi there is a phrase “har ja sang ast ba payee lang ast,” literally it means helpless is always left in the storm. For years and years people of Haiti were grappling with difficulties. This time the biggest earthquake, since 200 years, brought a human disaster for this country that awakened the world. For the last days, I was watching the news, I felt sick to my stomach. Last year, in the Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York City, I met a journalist from Haiti. He told me that he was going to run for presidential election in 2011. He was telling me that if he becomes a president of Haiti I should be proud that I have met him. Since earthquake happened, I immediately sent him an e-mail but unfortunately I have no news of my Haitian friend “George.”

At the Clinton conference we talked about politics. He liked Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai who has written a book about fixing failed states and he was saying me, Afghanistan shouldn’t have problem with having such considerable expertise.

Haitians were suffering from unrest, turmoil and political tragedy just like Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, the issue of tribalism and racism sparked a long political tragedy and in Haiti there are community problems. The populations of both countries live below poverty line. Both were forgotten by world for a while.

According to the United Nations’ estimation, the earthquake may affect some 3 million people in the country. Haiti’s problems never have solved but I hope that this unforgettable disaster that now attracted the world’s attention may end to years of human suffering. It is regrettable that the world was not aware of grinding constant poverty, it is regrettable that no one pays attention that people in Afghanistan and Haiti suffer from lack of education, food and suffer unless there is a cataclysmic event. A question pops up in my mind that why should we always wait until something happen like earthquake in Haiti and Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan?

In 1990s, Afghanistan has the same situation. Millions of people were facing death because of poverty and tens of thousands led to deaths by Taliban. In a span of 30 days, around 6,000 Hazaras have been killed by Taliban in ethnic cleansing drive in Mazar-e Sharif but the world never heard of it until the September 11 happened and millions of people survived of a potential genocide. It was the first time that people around the world heard of Afghanistan and were looking to find it on the map.

Anyway, it is not late if you want to donate, please go to Larry King’s page and select different NGO. May the souls those departed rest in peace.

Jan 15, 2010

Vote for "Why Afghanistan Matters"

I am kindly asking you to vote for my pictures which I submitted to a photographic competition entitled: "Why Afghanistan Matters". This conctest is hosted by NATO's Joint Forces Command HQ Brunssum. There are a total of six pictures entered into three categories:

1- People of Afghanistan
2- Beautiful Afghanistan
3- ANSF in action

All pictures are trying to articulate the beauty of the Afghanistan, its people, its culture, its love and humanity and its sacrifice for national security and for a prosperous future for Afghanistan. Your vote will be so valuable and will allow me to enhance my work in photography and empower me with a better vision. I am competing to be the winner in this contest and I promise to take nice pictures if I win the nice camera. That’s why I plead for your vote dear readers.

Please go to the following links, when the page is fully opened, look below the picture and move your mouse on the stars and click, your vote will be saved in one second. You can vote 6 times for 6 pictures. Pictures are in categories:

People of Afghanistan:
1- Child Street Worker (Egg Seller)
2- Colored Beard
3- Shoe Polisher in Kabul

Beautiful Afghanistan
4- Band-e Amir Lake
5- Feeding these birds brings good fortune (Mazar-e-Sharif)

ANSF in action
6- Afghan National Army

Jan 6, 2010

The profiling issue from an Afghan traveling to the U.S.

Note: Already published on CNN

After the unsuccessful terror attack on an American jetliner by suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, a 23 year-old Nigerian, security at international airports is getting tighter. In the days after the incident, President Obama vowed to “disrupt and dismantle” every possible threat against the U.S. and ordered enhanced screening and security procedures for all flights, domestic and international. These measures are smart, but they increase the concerns for those travelers who might be suspected by their nationality or religion.

Last week, a viewer called into CNN, to say that anyone who has a Muslim name should not be allowed to fly into the U.S. I have been profiled just because I am coming from Afghanistan, have a Muslim name and identify myself as an Afghan. I personally believe that judging travelers on their ethnicity and religion is not fair. Psychologically, it is disturbing and annoying to be interrogated just because of your nationality. Instead, the security should be reformed and new technology should be developed and used to determine who is actually dangerous.

After the recent incident, there is much discussion in the media about profiling, security screening and issuing special security checks for people coming from mostly Muslim countries. The new order for an extra security check for bag and pat down includes 14 countries. Afghanistan is one of them.

I personally feel comfortable with any kind of security measures that take place at the airports, and I do not find it offensive even to be strip-searched as long as security is the reason. I am from Afghanistan, and I have always experienced tight security at international airports and it doesn’t bother me. But the only thing that concerns me is profiling. As an Afghan, I have faced lots of difficulties at international airports. The security personnel at the airports asked me questions I have never heard, and inquired repeatedly about my destination.

For example, this past August when I got my visa from the U.S. embassy in Kabul to come to the U.S. to attend college, I was stopped at the Dubai airport and questioned more than ever before even though I have traveled to the U.S. before. The security at Dubai international airport was not honestly to check my bags but instead the security worker interrogated me about what I have been doing all my life, questioning me as if I were a member of al Qaeda or the Taliban. Even though I had already passed through security, my bags had been checked and the security personal had stuck a special security sticker on my passport - the security personnel didn’t let me on board while I was in line. He kept me until all passengers were boarded. While he was holding my passport in his hand, he moved around and finally found a camera and a scanner to take my picture and scan my passport. I got on the plane only five minutes before the boarding gate closed. It made me upset and annoyed just because I was profiled based on my nationality. The effect didn’t leave me until I reached my destination.

It is true that most of terrorist attacks have targeted Westerners, and that most terrorists are Muslim. But it is bigoted to judge people according to their religion or nationality. Such extreme measures would be profiling people based on their race, not evaluating them as individuals.

Since September 11, 2001, the security at airports has been effective enough to prevent terrorists from entering the United States, but the case of AbdulMutallab proved that the U.S. intelligence was not capable or failed to conduct a pre-emptive action.

Thus, as the U.S. admitted that its security failed to prevent the Christmas Day attack, al Qaeda has proven itself to not be confined to Afghanistan and Pakistan, but that it is also in Gulf countries like Yemen. The security was not smart enough to track down a 23-year-old man wandering around and boarding at an Amsterdam airport.

It is good to have to be checked to ensure security but it is devastating to be treated and interrogated the same manner as a suspected person, just because I am sharing the same type nationality. In August 2007, a 7-year-old Muslim boy was stopped in the U.S. three times on suspicion of being a terrorist. Also, in August 2009, the Bollywood star, Shahrukh Khan, was stopped for questioning at Newark Liberty International Airport which enraged his fans in India.

Finally, it would be good to investigate and recognize the suspected person before issuing him/her a visa and before traveling to the United States. Profiling is wholly inappropriate and will enrage people who are innocent. Looking for Muslim names and names similar to al Qaeda members that are blacklisted is not smart. Profiling based on nationality breeds anger only. Instead there should be effective and aggressive plans to track down the threats from those who are truly dangerous.

Please go to CNN crossroad blog page and read the critics at the bottom of this post