Let’s start with a comparison of fabricated and real/desired scenario about Afghanistan:
- Fabricated scenario: Daily news broadcast globally: “Due to Taliban attack twelve civilians were killed, and thirty injured. The clash between Afghanistan National Army and the Taliban is still on-going…”
- Real/desired scenario: “Afghanistan is the land of opportunities for investment, there is a lot of qualified human resources and labourers to support the investment. Though there are security concerns but no tensions Mr. Investor, keep your spirits high and enjoy the opportunities within the country”
Globally, people have different perceptions about different countries. From what I have personally experienced in some of the countries I have visited, people have different fabricated understandings about my country. There have been many occasions where I have introduced myself from China, Mongolia, and even from my district with newly-met people (I introduced myself from these Asian countries due to the similarity of my facial feature with the people of these countries), and then when real acquaintance had been made, truth would have prevailed about my real country, and my friends’ perception would have positively changed about Afghanistan. Overseas, most of the people are afraid of my country’s name – Afghanistan, they sometimes even mistakenly call it Taliban / Terrorist. But I am a proud citizen of Afghanistan. Excluding the political scenario; I am proud of how the country is diverse in many ways, how gracefully Afghans live their life, and how radiant the future can be with the old generation/warlords gone.
The extraordinary things I like about my tangled country are listed below:
- The state of being the in the top list of youngest countries in the world
Afghanistan is the 5th youngest country in the world, with 68% of the population under 25. Being in the top list of youngest countries has many opportunities and threats. Opportunities can only be created by utilization of the young task-force to contribute their share in development of the country. Utilization from these young resources can only happen when the leadership of the country is given to a policy-implementer geek, who creates jobs within the country so that the most productive task-force doesn’t flee the country. However the current policy-making leadership of the government’s most suitable decision is to stop giving passports to these young resources so that they don’t flee the country.
“5th youngest country in the world”
I hope opportunities are created for the youth inside the country and they are given a chance to serve their desperate developing country, rather than serving the advanced developed countries. I like my country being the 5th youngest nation in the world, but unfortunately the youth are now more of a threat to the country rather than being supportive, due to high level of bad governance by NUG that has led to high level of unemployment. These jobless youngsters either illegally take the dangerous journey of getting to the west, or join extremist groups, or gets addicted to narcotics and live on the roads/under the bridges – being a burden to their family and country.
Picture 1: a group of young labourers building the compound of a football stadium in District 13, Kabul
Afghanistan, with such a small geographical area is the home for diverse range of:
- culture – from Ghaznavian reign in Ghazni (the Cultural Capital of Islamic World)to the Koshani reign in Bamyan (the 2015 Cultural Capital of SAARC);
- languages – from Shighnani to Brahawi;
- dialects – from a Pashtun’s Kandahari Kha – meaning: okay/good; to a Nangarhari Sha;
- food – from an Uzbaki Qabuli to a Hazaragi Wogray Ajay;
- costumes – from long Uzbaki costume to the beautiful modern Kabuli costume;
- musical instruments – from Danbura to Rubab;
- dance – from Atan to Qarsak;
- national games: from Buzkashi to toup-dunda ;
- Fauna species: from the beautiful snow leopard, Marco Polo, and yak to the jet-like snow finch; and
- Flora species: from rhubarb to giant hogweed (To be noted: There are over 3000 plant species in Afghanistan, including hundreds of varieties of trees, shrubs, vines, flowers, and fungi which makes Afghanistan more diverse in flora species comparing to entire Europe)
“From an Uzbaki Qabuli to a Hazaragi Wogray Ajay”
Unfortunately diversity in Afghanistan is handled negatively by some high-level racist leadership which then leads serious impact on thousands of illiterate low-level racists; making the biased diversity national. I hope, someday, these all national days dedicated to some dead tribal leaders are dedicated to the events related to national diversity where national unity is strengthened rather than a specific tribal unity.Picture 2: Thousands of Afghans from different provinces of the country and abroad (both men and women) gathered in front of the giant Buddhas of Bamyan to enjoy the Hamdeli Concert
Afghans are hospitable, in the sense that they are simple and serve the guest as usual with the routine family food, and that’s why we have the proverb: “Nan wa piyaz, qash waz” meaning: “Bread and onion be the food, with happy mood”. Unfortunately our hospitality has no eligibility criteria; even world terrorists are served well, which then leads to global crisis and national conflict/decades of war.
“Nan wa piyaz, qash waz”
The hospitality of Mullah Omar (Taliban Leader) that caused keeping Osama Bin Laden (Al-Qaeda Leader) in the country during the time when he was exiled from his own country caused the worst tragedy in the history of USA and Afghanistan. I want to see the hospitality eligibility to be introduced in the country so that further tragedies are overwhelmed.
Picture 3: Group of mechanics having lunch after a busy morning work in Bamyan bazaar, Bamyan
- Public servants
Though my country has received many international awards for being one of the most corrupt countries in the world, which is partly due to corrupt public servants, but I still believe that there are public servants who have great ambitions of serving the country loyally – mostly coming from the new generation. One cannot judge hundred by one. More likely than the pen-moving officials (who sip tea in luxury rooms and sometimes move their pen for signing on a letter) sitting in their offices, I believe real hardship and suffering of the country is undertaken by lower-level authorities like municipality workers and brave security forces that serve the country with real hardship, in spite of getting the lowest payment. Pen-moving officials (in some cases) and real-hardworking officials (in most cases), we are proud of both of you; but in different ways.
“Great ambitions of development and commitment within the public servants”
Picture 4: An Afghan National Police (ANP) protecting the Hamdeli concert surroundings, Bamyan
- Sense of patriotism / dire of independence
Afghans are patriots; they have always fought for the independence of their country. Fighting for independence and against invasions is in their bloods and history. The British and USSR invasions have both been defeated by Afghans; though there has been some other foreign intelligence/support involved in these victories but still it would not have been possible without Afghans’ sense of patriotism and dire of independence.
“Fighting for independence is in an Afghan’s blood”
Sometimes the sense of patriotism of Afghans are undermined when they just get lost after visiting developed countries in order the get the foreign country’s citizenship; but as said earlier, hundred cannot be judged by one. Still I have a brotherly advice for my countrymen: “Your developing country needs you more than the other imaginary developed countries. Please stay patient, work hard, and rebuild your country for your grandsons.”
Our country knows how to unite in times of sorrow and despair, and they showed it during the Tabassum Revolution (Tabassum meaning smile. The revolution took its name from a 9 year old beheaded girl in Zabul province of Afghanistan which caused national unity and one voice against terrorism and extremism throughout the country). I hope the Tabssum, like the Tudor Rose of England unite the people of Afghanistan and ensure a peaceful, prosperous, and developed future.
Picture 5: Patriots during the Hamdeli concert in Bamyan, wave Afghanistan’s flag to show their support for unity in the country, Bamyan
- Rise of gender equality
Though based on a 2011 survey by Thomos Reuters Foundation, Afghanistan was identified as the most dangerous places for women due to high mortality rates, limited access to doctors and lack of economic rights. There have been major achievements in the path of gender equality, comparing the conditions to the Taliban’s era in the country. During the black era of Taliban regime, women were not allowed to work outside the home, were forced to wear burqa, and were not allowed to travel unless they were accompanied by a man and fully covered.
“The citizens of Afghanistan – whether man or woman – have equal rights and duties before the law”
Things have changed significantly during the post-Taliban period. Surveys by the Asia Foundation show that Afghan women from different social classes believe that they are experiencing slow but steady improvements in their life, and that 82% of men support principles of equality regardless of gender, ethnicity and religion. Major advocacy on gender equality has been included in the national legislations. The Afghan constitution, established in 2004, notes gender equality in Article 22, which states: “Any kind of discrimination and privilege between the citizens of Afghanistan are prohibited. The citizens of Afghanistan – whether man or woman – have equal rights and duties before the law.”
To build on gender equality, Afghan government has established Ministry of Women Affairs (MoWA), Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), and many other long-term national programmes including the National Action Plan for Women (NAPWA). Surveys by Oxfam show that girls comprise 38% of Afghanistan’s student population, there are around 3 million girls going to school in Afghanistan, and that 36% of teachers hired since 2002 have been female.
According to the PIRS report, Afghanistan grants 25% of seats to women in its lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, and 17% of seat to women in the upper house, the Meshrano Jirga. These quotas are specified in Articles 83 and 84 of the Afghan constitution.
Picture 6: Thousands of Afghan women and men gathered at Bamyan Provincial Park to enjoy the 7th Silk Way Festival, Bamyan
- Simple lifestyle
Afghans live their life in the simplest way. An Afghan family lives within a house together collectively, unlike life in the west where everybody has their own compartment, and the family only gathers during the meal hours. Simplicity in life of Afghans start from living collectively and continues to: a) their simple sitting style – cross-legged sitting on the floor rather than the fancy chairs; b) their sleeping style on a mattress on the floor rather than luxury beds.
Appreciating the simple Afghan lifestyle, it would have been great that their daily lives were free of huge national tensions which mentally affect them. As an Afghan, the living environment within a house which depends on the family is fair mostly; but when you are out of the house, things change. Outside your house, people are poor – they beg, they live on the road-sides, they are narcotic addicts, they are hopeless about the country’s now and future, they leave the country in search of a peaceful place to live, they are jobless, they are being killed by insurgents, etc.
“Afghans live simply with happy faces, but loads of national sorrow inside their radiant heart.”
Living in such a society, every human-being with a sense/feeling will be affected. Huge national tensions rise throughout the country due to the terrible situation throughout the country. In other sense Afghans are happy in their face, but with loads of national sorrow inside their radiant heart. I like the simple lifestyle of Afghans, until they have the resources to change it better, but the first priority area before changing the lifestyle should be removing the national tensions from the life of every Afghan which needs a lot of time, effort and resources to happen.
Picture 7: Rope-pulling, the national game of Afghanistan is also a simple game with simple principles
- Children going to school
The long-running conflict in the country has affected Afghan children significantly. In 2001, there were no girls formally attending schools in Afghanistan, and only one million boys going to school.
“7.8 million children enrolled in schools”
According to the World Bank, a total of 7.8 million children enrolled in schools as of 2012, including 2.9 million girls. Though there are many challenges faced by the Afghan children, considering the UNICEF surveys that show approximately one quarter of children ages seven to 14 were working in 2007.
With around 8 million national hopes enrolled in schools, the future appears bright and prosperous. The new generations of hardworking intellectual Afghans, having pen in hand and wisdom within, can truly change the country’s direction towards development and self-sufficiency.
Picture 8: An Afghan traffic police guiding the students of a school to pass from a busy road, Kabul
Afghans are addict of nans; get everything out of their meal but don’t get the nan. We Afghans even eat nan with nan when our desire for nan is heightened. Our nan with nan meal is called Shorba where pieces of shortened nan is soaked in the cooked meat’s water, and then eaten back with nan (optional).
“Afghans even eat nan with nan when our desire for nan is heightened, and that meal is delicious”
For the sake of nans – which are highly harder than sliced bread (which is way softer than Afghanistan nans) Afghans sometime get toothache after eating soft sliced bread for more than a year overseas, and then eating the hard nans back in the country. So thanks to our hard nans that has grown strong teeth for Afghans.The strong Afghan teeth sometimes made/make our former president/proud Afghans recall that “Afghans are lions”, yes we are lions only from the strong teeth perspective.
Picture 9: Early morning in Bamyan bazaar, a baker bakes nan, Bamyan
- Fruits and mineral resources
More than 80% of Afghanistan’s population depend on natural resources for living. Unfortunately due to security threats less investment has been done in the field of country’s natural resources. Afghanistan’s Kandahar province has the most delicious pomegranate in the world, the country has the best dry fruit, and Bamyan has the best potatoes. The value of country’s mineral resources were estimated to be around three trillion US Dollars.
“Three trillion US Dollars of natural resources”
Despite the quality pomegranate, potatoes, best dry fruits, and huge amount of mineral resources, the country witnesses extreme poverty, less/no economic growth, and rising unemployment. Though our so called president is a policy-making geek, I hope we had a policy-implementing geek president who could actually make things happen rather than talking about it. The policy-implementing geek president would have led to economic growth, employment opportunities, poverty eradication, and extinction of Afghanistan-based terrorism.
Picture 10: A happy Afghan fruit-seller in Shar-e Naw, Kabul
Stay tuned: Coming up – 10 Things I Hate About Afghanistan