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,

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...