I Am Married with You, Afghanistan

Afghan children

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.

Corrupted vision

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. 

By Norwan

Photo taken by Sebastian Rich in 1995.


Comments

  1. Dear Norwan: You mine the gold from the mountains with your words. You display the beauty, and the pain, so that we may understand, admire, and hurt with you, too. Your eloquence and vision is strong. I hope this piece is read over and over again by your countrymen&women, and by people abroad. May it open hearts and minds.

    Stacy

  2. Peter Markus says:

    This essay should be read by everyone who has eyes to read with and a heart to feel with. This should be an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times. Passages from it should be placed up on billboards, pasted on the sides of busses, should be a scrolling run on CNN.

  3. Elizabeth Titus says:

    Oh, Norwan, even though I worked with you on this, seeing it in final form on the blog just blows me away! I agree with both Stacy and Peter! It is so important and it SHOULD be read by everyone all over the world. It is an accomplishment, just writing this difficult essay, and you should feel very proud. You are the voice of your country.
    Love,
    Liz

  4. Pat Collins says:

    How proud you young women should be. You are the warriors, the leaders, the salt of the earth. You carry the stain of your pain like tattoo, never too be completely gone. It will fade with time and you will rise above the ignorance by spreading the word to others through your writing.

  5. Bravissima Norwan! What is there to say about Afghanistan that you have not so eloquently said? You are an extremely powerful writer and communicator. I pray that as time goes by, you will reach more and more of your Afghan sisters so that they may be encouraged to put forward their insights into life in your unfortunate country.

  6. A love affair with a country that does not deserve Norwan’s devotion. What disappointment, discouragement, drought in the dead environment! Still the human spirit will not be silenced when woman speak from the heart.

  7. Great! This is great.
    I am really proud of you and understand what you feel when foreigns ask about Afghanistan. You want to ignore their questions and do not answer them because you know answering these questions hurts. However, by sharing this piece, you showed how responsible you are toward you country and I hope someday you bring the change you want, so no any other Afghan child be ashamed of talking about Afghanistan.
    Keep writing,
    Fatima H.

  8. This is stunning writing! You have a long been a strong, hopeful voice for the people of your country — and this is one of your best yet. A powerful message to the world!

  9. Jessica Prouty says:

    Norwan,
    This is a very powerful and beautiful piece. It is heartbreaking that at the time you were asked the question you could not think of anything positive to say. I am taking a class Deminsions of Freedom and our teacher made a powerpoint showing improvement in Afghanistan over the years from an outside point of view. It is sad to hear the true and negative changes that have happened over the years from an Afghan woman. I can not wait to read the rest of yours and others stories. This is an amazing website.

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