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...

Oct 19, 2011

Afghanistan's Story in Pictures

My second photostory is about 10 years changes in Afghanistan. This month, Afghanistan marks the 10th anniversary of the start of U.S. and NATO operations to oust the Taliban. The NATO Review asked me to make a photostory to illustrate the biggest changes since 2001.

Please find the photostory on this link "Afghanistan's Story in Pictures."

Oct 2, 2011

In Afghanistan, 'A Generation of Hope and Change'

In some countries, young people have led in bringing change. In 2010, in Egypt and Tunisia, they toppled the government; in Iran, they have become the biggest and longest threat to the theocratic regime. In Iran, over 60 percent of 75 the million people in the country are under 30 years old. In Afghanistan, according to a United Nations report in 2008, 68 percent are under 25 years of age.

Traditionally, Afghan youth as a group have been quiet and never caused trouble. That may be changing. The Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings that spilled over to many other Arab countries have also inspired the Afghan youth.

Facebook and Twitter played a critical role in the Arab spring. Many Afghan young people were following the news of Arab uprisings carefully, and as regimes collapsed one after another, dozens of Facebook pages have sprung up calling for change in Afghanistan. A Facebook page like Love Afghanistan encourages Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek to unite. A similar page called "I love my glorious Afghanistan" promotes patriotism among its 9,000 members. The members debate questions like “when are we going to learn that unity is the only weapon to vanquish our enemies and is the best tool to make a better future for our Afghanistan?” Continue reading on the Nieman Watchdog...