Return to Afghanistan

June 26, 2010

The photos below are from my flight from Dubai to Kabul.  In our recent video it is said that “for many Afghans you are a foreigner whether you are from 7 or 7000 miles away.”  Looking down at this extreme landscape it is much easier to understand how isolated many Afghans are and why the war is not against one ‘Taliban insurgency’ but against thousands of proud communities, traditional tribes, opportunist thugs and gangs as well as many fundamentalist religious groups.  Combine the divisions created by this landscape with cultural and religious traditions that are the most conservative anywhere and add 40 years of survival through wars and poverty is it any wonder that many Afghans – especially those in the 80% of the country that is rural – are suspicious, paranoid, xenophobic and easily moved by conspiracy theories? Here is a slice of the landscape that forms the foundation of the Afghan character.

The foreign forces are more visible at the airport and in the city then when I was last here in October 09.  For some years the strategy has been for foreign forces to maintain a low profile in and around Kabul.  The intent is to give the Afghan population the impression if not the belief that their capitol can be protected by the Afghan police and military.  The dramatically deteriorating security situation is making this more difficult.

In the evening a Takhari folk music recital organized by the Aga Khan Music Initiative for Central Asia. This evening’s concert was part of an ongoing program, supported by Norway and the United States, to invite musicians from the provinces to Kabul to rehearse, record and perform.

Ustad Rajab, 90 years old, sang a form of Takhari music called Goraghli.  Goraghli means “born in the grave” and comes from a Turkmen legend, telling of how Princess Mahilal, the sister of the King of Turkestan, becomes pregnant as a result of the gaze of a stranger.  Nearing the time of the birth of her child and ashamed of the stories that others tell defaming her character, she prays for death.  Before her child is born she dies and is buried by her family.  Her child is born in the grave, and a horse called Madian hears the child’s cries, digs the baby out and raises it. [from the Aga Khan program notes]

Related Posts:

Against the Wall – An Afghan Evacuation Story – Part 1

Against the Wall – An Afghan Evacuation Story – Part 1

On Aug 15th, the day Kabul fell to the Taliban, Basir and his family made their first attempt to get into the airport and onto a plane. It would be nearly a month before they escaped into Pakistan. Over the next weeks they would be beaten at Taliban checkpoints, endure crushing crowds and be threatened and sworn at by soldiers from around the world.

CSFilm Benefit Screening – Brattle Theater, Cambridge MA – Oct 18th

CSFilm Benefit Screening – Brattle Theater, Cambridge MA – Oct 18th

A Special Benefit Screening for Community Supported Film’s Fund for Afghan Evacuation and Resettlement:

Far from Afghanistan (2012), dirs. John Gianvito, Soon-Mi Yoo, Jon Jost, Minda Martin, Travis Wilkerson

Monday, October 18, 7PM at the Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138

2 Comments

  1. Michael Sheridan

    Madeleine,

    Thanks for your comment. The flight from Dubai to Kabul is about 3 hours.

    Reply
  2. Madeleine

    I know the photos of Afghanistan are intended to illustrate a point, but they’re also beautiful…just curious how long the flight was from Dubai to Kabul…wishing you luck with everything over there!

    Reply

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