American Soldiers: Here to Protect, or Violate?

American Soldiers: Here to Protect, or Violate?

“Where is the international community now?” a widow cries over her husband’s dead body. “Where are the human rights commissions to hear me? They are always speaking about human rights. Which human right allows you to kill two persons while arresting an accused person? You judge.”

The woman’s husband, Hamdullah, was killed early in the morning of Nov. 19, 2009, when three helicopters brought a group of American soldiers with guns and barking dogs to a family compound in the ancient city of Shelgar, located in the Ghaznai province in the south of Afghanistan. The soldiers attacked the compound, looking for an accused Al-Qaeda member. The bloodcurdling sounds woke all the villagers, but no one left their houses for fear of being shot.

While the Schools Burn

While the Schools Burn

“I am burning,” says the school. / “Who will save me?” cries the school. / “Where are my students, the teachers, our friends?” / “Why do the Taliban burn me?” They are not literate.

A Letter To Poppy

A Letter To Poppy

I hate you, poppy / You have ruined my life / You took my happiness / You made me addicted / When I made friends with you / I lost my intellect, my talent, my knowledge of myself, my family and friends.

Brothers

Brothers

The elderly women of our country often say: “Having one son means having nothing; two sons equals half a son; three sons equals one son.” By this they mean that one son is likely to die in war, and a second to die young, but at least a third son will survive to support his family. The day my brother was born, I remember the elderly women saying I didn’t yet have a brother since I had only one. We regularly prayed to Allah to give us another brother, so at least we could have half a brother.

Spring

Spring

When you come, / Nature wears green clothes. / Grasses raise their necks, / Plants birth flowers, / Fruitful trees bear fruit. / Nightingales sing, / ‘Welcome spring.’

Socks and Vaseline

Socks and Vaseline

My neighbors are poor, very poor. Their mother-in-law was not well. She had a sickness that made her legs ache. To help relieve the ache, her daughter-in-law made a special Vaseline-based salve. She then put socks on her mother-in-law’s legs to help the mixture penetrate.

Poor Orphan

Until when / Must I hope for donors, / Must I depend upon businessmen, / Must I wait for the rich, / Must I look to the kindness of strangers / To take my hand / And support me?

Do Not Shake My Hand, Please!

Do Not Shake My Hand, Please!

“I did something I should not have,” she said, lowering her eyes. “There was a foreign man in the interview. He gave me his hand to shake. And Freshta-jan, I gave him my hand. I didn’t want him to think I am dark-minded, like a Taliban. He doesn’t know that me shaking his hand is forbidden by our religion and culture.”

Bas Bi Bi and Khatema

I was on my way home one day when the smell of spices wafting through the air drew my attention. My nose led me to look across the street. Sitting in the wet dirt was a thirty-year-old woman who looked more like sixty. She had a dry, yellow face and cracked lips. She wore a filthy burqa, though her face was uncovered. She was selling bolani—a ball of dough filled with salted leek and then fried and eaten with yogurt or spices. She was yelling: “Buy hot and fresh bolani. Buy home-cooked bolani.”