Help Us Build, But Stop the Killing

Editor’s note: Our writer reacts to the events of the past few weeks in Afghanistan. Riots and retaliatory actions have been ongoing since the February burning of copies of the Koran in a trash incinerator at a U.S. military base and the March 11 killing spree by an American soldier in Kandahar that claimed the lives of seventeen Afghan villagers.

After the fall of the Taliban government, people in Afghanistan had many different thoughts about the presence of international forces in our country. But in my house we were full of hope and good wishes.

I was a teenage girl. One day my father came home from work and his eyes were shining with happiness. After lunch he told me how he had visited a hospital where there was a baby born to a very poor family in a village in Paktia. The baby had heart trouble, and his parents were told he could not survive for long. But there were American doctors in Afghanistan who they said they would operate on the child. My father said they indeed did so, and that “The newborn baby was fine and has his health back from God and as a gift from the U.S. soldiers.” 
Later, I experienced other reasons to respect Americans. I worked with Americans at an international organization that helps women, children, and the disabled through education and health projects in remote parts of Afghanistan. My boss never ate in front of me when I was fasting for the month of Ramadan. If I prayed at the office, she never interrupted me, but waited for me to finish.

I know an American teacher who, at 76 years old, works with the youth in Afghanistan. He provides students with scholarships to study in the U.S. because he thinks education is the key to rebuilding Afghanistan. 
A few years ago one of my best friends received a scholarship and studied for a year in the U.S. where she wore her hijab and veil freely at school. She told me nobody would ask why she was dressed like that. Everyone respected her as a Muslim.

Half a world away, an American woman discovered us Afghan women writers. She gave us a pen and told us to write. Through writing, I learned to trust in myself and believe in my womanhood.

But now I ask myself, what is this news that I am hearing, which disturbs my sleep and hurts me so?

NATO forces bombed a village, killing more than sixteen children, and burned holy Qurans, and after that an American soldier killed sixteen women and children. I ask myself, can this be true?

I was as angry as I was when I heard the news that Afghan police had killed NATO soldiers, and as angry as I feel every time I hear that international forces have been killed together with our Afghan fighters in the streets, as a result of suicide bomb attacks. I shake my head, I put my head in my hands, and all I want to do is shout out: “Please stop killing innocent people!”

I think that life must have no value for that American soldier who killed the women and children like that, and that there is no humanity in those international forces who burnt the Qurans. These are wild actions, and it is a travesty to even call these people soldiers, because being a soldier is such a precious duty, and when you are wearing a military uniform you shouldn’t be doing the devil’s bidding.

I don’t know what is in the hearts of policy makers in the United States and Afghanistan, but I am confident that the peoples of both countries are sad about what happened these past days. I also feel that as terrible as these events were, they will never destroy the honor and respect we have for each other. I am sure that all the people in both countries hope for peace in Afghanistan. 
In Afghanistan the people expect a good end to the war. We are all wounded in our hearts from war and conflict, and seek only peace with the United States and the rest of the world. 

It is easy to destroy. Please help us build.

By Norwan 

AP photo: Anar Gul gestures to the body of her grandchild, who was killed by a U.S. service member in Panjwai, Kandahar province south of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, March. 11, 2012.


  1. Jane Holly Love says:

    Dear Norwan,
    I am outraged at the actions of some of the U.S. soldiers in your war-torn country. I do not believe the soldier who killed 16 innocents should be allowed to make any excuse for his actions. He should have remained in your country to face the consequences, not brought back to the safety of the U.S. I hope you know that there are many of us in the U.S. who feel this way. This was a wild action as you say. It shows a depraved attitude and sullies the good intentions of many other citizens who come to your country with healing in their hearts.

  2. Amrita Murali says:

    Dear Norwan,
    You are so brave. I feel exactly the same way. Even though I live in America where I have no idea how terrible things truly are, I know that war and violence will not solve anything. There are so many people in the world that do want to help your country for peace and equality. We will rebuild Afghanistan so that it can live to its fullest potential. Thank you for sharing your story with us because the world has to know. You are an amazing writer and I hope that your country can heal.

  3. You are so right. “It’s easy to destroy.” I also think you are right that the people of Afghanistan and the U.S. want peace, and the policy makers need to hear them. It is women like you who are part of the rebuilding, by writing from your heart. May all your wishes come true.

  4. Thank you for writing this, Norwan. Words have stuck in my throat. I feel such shame for what has happened. I could understand how someone could feel anger at all Americans for this. You are such a deeply graceful person and poet, Norwan. Thank you for sharing that grace with us, and for being brave enough to write about these terrible and tragic crimes.

  5. Renee Swanson says:

    Dear Norwan,
    You are a fantastic writer. Thank you so much for using your words to express you pain. You are very right, the majority of American citizens are horrified by the events you have written about. I am not making excuses, but please think of the soldier who recently went on a horrible rampage as someone who is quite broken and may have done that same act at a U.S. school, hospital or many other settings. I wish you and your country peace and healing.

  6. Thank you for your compassionate response to the recent tragedies suffered by your country. You are wise in your realization that war hurts all parties and that peace and goodwill between Afghanistan and the world should be the “good end” to the conflict. I wish that our world leaders would be as steadfast as you are in recognizing the many good deeds by Americans for your country, while not excusing the recent horrors. “Wild actions” cannot be ignored, but the justice phase should examine ways to prevent future trauma and to re-establish the trust between allies.

  7. Dear Norwan,
    Thank you for sharing your voice with us, I think every Afghan heart has a sad story like this to tell. This war burned our beautiful country as well as our future, our respect and value, our freedom and our happiness, every thing has been burned. I am really proud of you as a great Afghan lady writer who tries to reveals the reality in a wise way.

  8. Richelle McClain says:

    I am glad that you have learned to trust in yourself through writing. Your voice is as beautiful as it is strong. I hope you continue to write.

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