Once, a Chinese student in an international class asked me to tell her about my country. I was embarrassed. My face got red and I did not answer her question. She looked at me and insisted, “Please tell me about your country!”
I felt that I had a fever all over. I suddenly looked at her and carelessly said, “My country has nothing to talk about.”
She didn’t ask me again. I was disappointed in myself. I would have to find out what is good to say about my country.
When I think of Afghanistan I think of Kabul, the city where I was born and grew up, the city where every wall, every street, every house, and every tree was my friend; all of them created memories and stories for me. Kabul, the city I fell in love with and was married to.
But no! No! The picture I have today of Afghanistan and Kabul is different from my memories.
Today when I think of Afghanistan I don’t think of its rich history and culture. I don’t think of Rumi and Sayyid Jamaluddin. I don’t think of minerals and mountains full of gold. I don’t think of wonderful weather and fantastic sunshine.
To be honest, I can’t put a mask on my face and lie to myself. I can’t be proud of our past when we don’t have a good present. I can’t be proud of the lives of my grandfathers when today I don’t know how to live.
Today when I think of Afghanistan I think of explosions, suicide attacks, killing, beating, corruption, dishonest presidents and ministers and government. I think of a country that is hell for women and children, a country that is first in the world—not in development, not in construction or reconstruction—but first in corruption.
Today when I think of Afghanistan, I think of the Taliban and a country where Bin Laden lived and married an Afghan girl. Thinking about current Afghanistan makes me mad. A tsunami occurs in my mind. I see myself destroyed—destroyed just like Kabul’s streets after suicide attacks.
When I think of Afghanistan, I think of schools, hospitals, offices, stores, and streets burnt in fires. I think of tired houses sitting beside one another, asking if somebody could rebuild them.
I think of dry gardens and trees that are sick and asking for water. I think of a sky that is tired of smoke from explosions and suicide attacks, asking for refreshment. I think of Afghan children begging in the streets, with hidden smiles on their faces, asking for schools to open.
When I think of Afghanistan, I think of nothing but its ordinary, brave people; people who are not seen as symbols of bravery and tolerance, but truly are.
They have tolerance and bravery in their hearts, these people who live with dead desires, no food, no houses, no money, and no rights. They live in an unknown today and unknown future, but still they smile and sacrifice.
Today when I think of Afghanistan, it is just the same as the body of the Afghan soldier that the Taliban killed. Even though he was dead, they fired again and again into his body.
Dear readers, just like the body of that soldier my thoughts and feelings are wounded with holes full of disappointments and sorrows, but do you know what we have?
If there is something to tell you about Afghanistan, it is the people. Behind every smile in the face of real Afghanistan people there is a hidden world full of stories. I look at them and their smiles tell me, “Write my stories!”
I love the people of Afghanistan so much. I love this country of stories and hope one day to write every story, describe every smile and every tear. I hope that a day will come when I can do something for my people and for my wounded Afghanistan.
Photo taken by Sebastian Rich in 1995.