Oct 20, 2011

10 Years Changes in Afghanistan

Note: This piece first appeared on NATO Review.

First, I fled Taliban brutality. Then I spent time in refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan. Finally, I found myself working in Dubai.

It was while I was in Dubai that I heard one evening BBC Radio announcing the assassination of the Northern Alliance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud by two Arabs.

Two days later, I was watching CNN when I saw a plane crash into the World Trade Center. I thought it was a movie. But then I switched over to Al Jazeera and the BBC. I realised it was real.

Some of my Afghan friends were happy when they heard that the United States planned to attack Al Qaeda and the Taliban, who gave sanctuary to Al Qaeda. Six months after 9/11, I had my ticket booked to return to my country after spending years in refugee camps.

In the plane, I saw people singing and dancing and celebrating; going home after ten or 15 years away from their families was beyond imagination.

We landed back home. Kabul was dusty. All around the city buildings were destroyed, schools and houses were riddled with bullets, and the wreckage of tanks and munitions leftover from the civil war were everywhere.

As soon as I entered the city, I heard music playing in shops. I saw children playing in fields. The Kabul sky was filled with kites flown by children. Life was back.

I completely forgot all the miseries and destroyed sites which had reminded me of the civil war in unsparing detail. I saw the US and ISAF convoys patrolling in the city, children waving to them as the soldiers distributed pencils and notebooks.

In 2002, I went to my village in central Afghanistan to see my parents. Nothing had changed since I was born.

We still had the oil lantern in our house, there weren’t any proper roads, and people still rode donkeys and horses for transportation. There was only one elementary school, an hour’s walk from my village, and a high school which was three hours' walk. There was only one health centre in the entire district. Communication was through couriers, and news from the next valley could not pass through unless someone travelled to that valley. Continue reading on NATO Review...