Aug 16, 2018

Systematic Attacks Against Hazaras in Afghanistan

Yesterday, a suicide bomber entered into a classroom of tow-hundred students in an education center and blew himself up. The attack happened in Dashte Barchi, a predominantly Hazara area in western of Kabul. As a result, 48 people were killed and more than 70 were injured. They were all students aging from ten to eighteen, and they were all from ethnic Hazara.

This kind of attacks have been increasing against the Hazaras. The central government which is run by Ashraf Ghani, an ethnocentric leader, has done nothing to stop violence against the Hazaras, instead, he and his government have shown acceptance and enthusiasm for the Taliban  and ISIS insurgents who commit the atrocities.

Hazaras are left alone, and targets against them are even justified by the Afghan government. This BBC journalist tweet indicates that. An official of the Afghanistan's National Security Council has told him that Hazaras are Iranian spies. This is a dangerous machination to dehumanize the Hazaras and it makes them more vulnerable to systematic targets. Calling Hazaras spies of Iran is a sinister technique of othering and sub-humanization, which has been happening for the past decades. This is a clear green light to the Taliban and ISIS to target the Hazaras more than before. Such statement comes from an Afghan official who is sitting at the national security council, which is being chaired by Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani.

Foreign media organizations have failed to report on the nuances of widespread attacks on innocent Hazaras. They have been simply framing them as attacks against the Afghan civilians, and sometimes highlighted their religious belief. They have not paying attention to ethnic lines as much as it requires. The Taliban and the ISIS targets are the Hazaras, because they are different, they speak Farsi, practice Shi'ism, and they look Asian. These are inherent guilts of a minority called Hazaras whose ancestors have been Buddhists and Shamanists.

Aug 11, 2018

Afghan Saffron at Whole Foods

A couple of days ago, I was listening to NPR while making my breakfast. There was an interview with two American veterans in Afghanistan Keith Alaniz and Emily Miller talking about their efforts to import Saffron from Afghanistan and sell it in the United States. (Check out the their interview here). I wrote a note for myself to write something about it and today, as I was cleaning the closet, I saw the note.

This is actually for the first time an Afghan product is going to be available nationwide in the United States. Saffron is the most coveted and the most costly spice in the world  For the past decade an a half, this "red gold" spice has been given an incentive for Afghan farmers to grow as an alternative to opium poppies, which is a source of heroin.
It is exciting to hear that a high quality spice from Afghanistan is going to be found at American kitchens soon. This may provide a different image of Afghanistan and its people, other than war and violence, something that people have been used to hear.

One of the intriguing things about this product is the name of the company that carries the spice. It is called "Rumi Spice." Rumi is becoming a household name in the West and especially in the United States. Whoever came up with this name is praiseworthy.

In terms of quality, the Afghanistan's Saffron is considered the best in the world, according to the International Taste and Quality Institute in Brussels and it has been rated the best for three consecutive years. I hope the veterans' efforts bear fruit. It will definitely impact the lives of the Afghan farmers, specially the women who are mainly employed for harvesting the spice.

Jul 23, 2018

Contradiction: Islamic Dogma and Modern Values

There is an uproar on social media, particularly on Twitter over a video about showing how Muslims are the coolest creatures. The video was published here. Muslims activists and non-activists called out for lack of racial diversity. I, on the other hand (not as a Muslim), looked at it from a different angle and that is the issue of Muslim identity.

Why sometimes people take what a short video or article shows or says at face value is beyond understanding, albeit, this could be a way of struggle for recognition of certain groups of Muslims. Despite diverse backgrounds, Muslims, by outward appearance, try to be identified as Muslims in the West. However, coming from a particular region or belonging to a particular culture is neither necessarily representing a religious identity nor amounts to religiosity of a particular.

A video like this one does not show the real Muslims at all, it rather shows how some Muslims (from various backgrounds) have not been able to assimilate and integrate with the indigenous people and and to accept their culture in the West due to their Islamic dogma. It also shows how Muslims are willing to be segregated, find their collective and like-minded people, clinging to their ancestors' beliefs and disregard modern values.

It is impossible to overstate how incongruous the video is. In fact, in the eye of Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia, these people could be heretics and conceivably from some other Muslims' view point in the Middle East, these people do not deserve to be called Muslims at all. Creating a video to show how cool Muslims look like when men and women mingle with each other is of course great and cool, but it contradicts with the nature of Islam, which is against equality between men and women. The video clip is an indication of struggle for identity, for some; an identity that is based on dogma which is truly contradictory with modern values. 

Jul 22, 2018

The Head-spinning Deportment at DC Metro

A couple of days ago I had to change metro line from green to red at Fort Totten metro station. I went to upper level and looked at the schedule on the screen, which said the next train comes in 9 minutes. I stood and rested my back on the column by the a long bench where a young couple was sitting. They spoke Spanish and had a son (who could have been 7 or 8 years old) who was playing game on his father's cell phone. A moment later with hands holding his crotch, the little boy asked his mom to take him to the restroom. She was glued to her cell phone. At first she ignored, then the boy kept yelling at her mom. She said something that the boy turned to his father.
His father told him in English: "Pee!," pointing to the ground "Here! Pee here!" The little boy turned around and looked at me and turned his back as shyness manifested in his face.

I was observing this with a great surprise as the father kept yelling at his young son to pee at the station platform while the mom was holding her cell phone close to her face swiping up and down on the screen.

I was the spectator. I was watching something that was unpleasant, impulsive and irresponsible that was caused to unfold by the careless parents.

It gave me a feeling of a complete abhorrence. I couldn't resist to be the spectator and I couldn't resist the temptation of not saying something to the parents. As the father kept yelling at his son to pee on the platform, I finally decided to interrupt him. I said: "Excuse, if you let your son pee on the platform, I am going to call the police." I said it seriously and loud. Then, I looked at the train schedule which we still had another 7 minutes. I asked the parents to take their son to lower level and ask the conductor to let their son use the restroom.

The parents spoked gruffly as seem to be infuriated. Both parents, as I could see astonishment and anger in their face, looked me. Then the mom pulled out a bottle of water from her purse, emptied the water on the platform and asked her son to pull down his pants. She then shoved it to her son's crotch and asked him to pee.

I thought, well, maybe that's an alternative if you are lazy to take your son to the restroom. But much to my dismay, the situation became uglier. The mom got off the bench while holding the bottle filled with her son's urine and went to the edge of the train platform and emptied the bottle on the train track. At worst, she threw the bottle on the track.

I was left speechless as I was watching the head-spinning deportment of the crude parents.

A moment later, the train arrived and I got on the train and left the station.

Jul 16, 2018

What to Remember from World Cup 2018

I was very much liked to see a small nation underdog team is going to collect the trophy of FIFA World Cup in 2018, but as sheer bad luck Mario Mandzuki own goal put France ahead of Croatia and that underpinned an ominous augury of loss.

I followed the match live on my mobile phone but I couldn't watch the game live. I watched it later at night when I came from work. The Croatian players had possession of the ball for much of the game but it doesn't actually matter since we have seen the game between Russia and Spain. The Spanish players have dominated the game and played almost 80% of the ball at Russian's field, but just maintaining the ball is not enough. Spain passed the ball 1,100 times, while Russian barely completed 300 passes and it was Spain, finally, at penalty that was knocked out.

I am not an expert but I read opinions and statistics about Croatian previous matches. One thing that caught my attention was that a winning team must be ambitious to win by scoring not dragging to extra time and finally penalty, which was exactly what happened at the game between Russia and Croatia. Having that in mind and then their game with England at extra time, I was not very optimistic, but I did not lose the hope for Croatia to win this year’s World Cup.

Anyway, there is a lot to remember about this year’s FIFA World Cup. We might forget that France won the World Cup and it may not matter at all, but we will definitely remember some upsetting and exciting moments. We remember the painful knockout of the defending champion Germany by Mexico, we will remember Russia's stunning victory over Spain and we defintely will remember the remarkable rise of small-nation teams like Iceland and Croatia.

Other moments to remember is that Japan lost a winning game while 2-0 leading with less than 25 minutes but Belgium's counterattack snatched the win at last with stunning play 3-2 against Japan.

Of course the world will remember the moment when Messi missed a decisive penalty for Argentina that would bring victory against Iceland. Of course the world and the soccer lovers will remember the Cristiano Ronaldo's hat trick that did not only earned Portugal a thrilling draw against Spain, but also made history.

Finally, we all remember that the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) that was used for the first time in the World Cup. Though the VAR is impressive to be used in the any soccer match, it has one serious problem: There is one person in the field to make the final decision and that's one-field referee.

Jul 10, 2018

Meeting Miss Iowa

I happened to meet Miss Iowa in downtown Washington DC today. I gave her and her mom a mini tour on Pennsylvania Avenue, showed some landmarks on both sides, and snapped a couple of pictures of her in front of the FBI Building. She said she has been following the American drama series called "Criminal Minds" and it features the FBI Building in Washington DC. (I have never watched this show)

Toward the end of our tour when I asked her and her mom what they are in town for, she said she is here for the beauty pageant's event. It was then that I realized what an important guest I have on board and toured. She was so humble and when I asked her to take a photo with me, she delightfully conceded. Her mom took out her white sash from her purse, which the words "Miss Iowa" were embroidered on. Then she draped on her right shoulder to pose for a photo. It was so humbling moment to meet her; alas, I forgot to ask her name. If I were the judge and if I were to appraise her personality, I would give her 100. She absolutely deserves to be the winner of the beauty pageants. Go Miss Iowa!