My Beautiful Afghanistan

Trip to Afghanistan 2012

Recently during the end of July 2012 I visited Afghanistan for a month. I thought of sharing with you all my experience of the modern Afghanistan. I hope you enjoy it.

Stepping out of the plane, onto the grounds of my birth place, Afghanistan, had me Excited, nervous,  anxious and scared. Walking through the developed airport, I saw men and women in uniform keeping an eye on all the new arrivals. It took me by surprise to see women working, I was shocked and pointed out to my family I said, “Look women are working too.” My father smiled, a happy smile and said, “Yes love, a lot has changed.”

My father is a journalist, well known by the people of Afghanistan, for that reason he did not inform anyone of our arrival this meant We did not expect family collect us.  This was a little disappointing as it would have been lovely to see our family waiting to be the first to greet us, after many years of not seeing one another. We had arranged a secure car provided by the BBC to collect us, I was extremely excited to be seeing my family after such a long time. I thought of everyone on the way to my grandmothers home, where they all lived. Through the windows of the tinted jeep, I looked around me onto the streets. I saw young children, old people, men, women, poor people, rich people and foreigners.

Women wearing a Burqa. . . I looked closely and realised I was wrong, I saw women, women not wearing a Burqa. Had I really seen women without a Burqa? I was once again surprised and very pleased with what I had witnessed. I saw children walking home in school uniforms. Boys and girls dressed fashionably, having a walk with friends laughing, joking, living the good life after thirty years of war, sorrow, deaths and hate.

surprised and very happy I smiled, rested my head on my seat and thanked god, for everything, most of all for giving the people of Afghanistan hope once again.  Women walked around with beautifully coloured clothes. perfect makeup and heels which ticked and tacked as they walked past joyfully, little did I know that this was not picture in many cities of Afghanistan.

We drove through the street of Bebe Mahroo in Kabul. The car came to a stop, and there it was, finally we reached our destination. Stepping out of the car I walked towards the door, greeted by little kids all of whom were my little cousins, new members of the family whom I had never met before. I hugged and kissed them all asking for their names, they were shy at first and confused as to who we were and what we were doing going into their home with big black luggage bags.

While walking through the door, I saw that the garden had changed, there were now more flowers that blossomed, looking colourful full of life and beauty, all thanks to the healthy Afghan weather. My cousins who fall into my age category had grown. I saw new faces, they were the new brides of our family. The layout of the house was exactly how it was a couple of years ago and so were the rooms, I knew exactly where my grandmother was resting, so I walked towards her room. Surprised, she held out her arms with tears rolling down her face. She hugged me tightly, telling me how much she had missed me. Her joy was the best thing I had experienced, I felt the love in her heart. It was very emotional, her tears made put a tear to my eyes. I thanked god once again that she was still alive and for allowing me this opportuinity to see her once again.

A lot had changed in the lives of our family, and the change was a good change, an amazing life changing kind change. The girls of our family and other girls in the neighborhood now attend school and are happy to be able to go out and meet their friends everyday. I asked them how they feel to be able to go to school and be given the freedom they were once deprived of, and they said we love the change we feel there is now hope for us, we are very happy and love school, we look forward to school everyday and look forward to the future. The joy I felt for them is once again something I cannot put into words.

There are a lot of members in our family, slowly everyone came over to meet us, it was very crowded, and I loved it. We all laughed, joked and had long conversations until the early hours of the morning. The week went by so quickly, they say when you are  having fun time flies.

Eid came along and it was my first real Eid back home. It was an Eid I can never forget. We met old friends, more family and went to explore the city of Kabul. We went out to the market and had a lot to eat. The popular ‘Sheer Yakh’, a kind of ice cream, very famous with the Afghans was my favourite of all. While in Kabul I visited ‘Afghanistan Women Council,’ an organisation that helps people find jobs. The AWC mainly concentrate on the women of Afghanistan, helping them find jobs easily in order to provide for their children. The organisation belongs to Fatana Gilani a very close friend of my father. I spoke to her about her company and she said, she was very happy with the outcome of AWC, and that it made her happy and proud to be able to help the women of Afghanistan. She said, “my only wish is for this organisation to be known worldwide, I want people outside of Afghanistan to help us and notice us. That way we can spread out and help more women around the country.” People like Fatana Gilani inspire me, I wish we have more organisations like the AWC to help not only Afghan women, but men also, to give them a voice and a better life.

During my trip I tried to visit as many cities of Afghanistan as possible, but there was no time, but we managed to visit Jelalabad. We drove from Kabul to Jalalabad through the Myper way. The drive there was very long but the views were beautiful. When we first entered Jalalabad, I expected to see developments and change like I saw in Kabul, but unfortunately there were no changes nor any developments in this city of Afghanistan, still left in the dark age.  

All I could see from the window of our car were  men, men and men. Men unfamiliar with the sight of women. Every eye turned to our car as there were women passengers inside. I felt scared, the men looked as though they were seeing women for the first time. It was completely different to what I had witnessed in Kabul. The two cities were like two different worlds. I felt sad, sad for the almost abandoned women. How could these women live? for a big percentage of women in Jalalabad they are expected to stay at home all day and are not able to leave their homes, I would describe them as almost caged birds. Surprisingly with the difference of living standards,  Jalalabad’s one good point was that there were schools avaliable for girls and that was a big change which I was grateful for although the women in Jelalabad still lacked many of the simple human rights.

We spent three days in Jalalabad, it was extremely hot. My mother and I decided to visit the Bazar with my cousins. We got dressed and ready to walk out to catch a taxi. As I stepped out of the door for the first time in two days, I was nervous. We walked with our long scarves draped over our heads and body, covering our faces except the eyes. We walked five minutes away from the house and we had men peering at us. I did not wear a ‘Chapan’ (long black shapeless dress covering neck to toe), so my colorful outfit was visible. Men were looking, very surprised. My mother looked back at me as scared as I was and said, “turn back and go home, you are attracting too much attention.”

I looked at my mother in agreement turning back with one of my cousins. I felt angry, angry at why I had to go back home? why is it not normal for women to be out in the streets?  why are women having to live this way? why is life so hard for Afghans? why can’t god help them? can god see them? I had thousands of questions running through my mind. As I walked back home I saw the looks on the men’s faces , I wanted to stop and ask them why they are doing this, why they can’t accept the fact that we are all one whether man or woman, we all deserve the same freedom. But I knew to keep quiet becasue if the cries of  thousands of women were never heard then what difference would mine make. 

Kabul and Jalalabad are two cities in the same country, but completely different. I did not expect such a big difference, it is like comparing heaven and hell, darkness and light, the west and the east. But I only visited the two cities, there is still more to see, more cities to visit. For all I know there may be cities in worse conditions that we in the west are not aware of.

The time came for us to go back to Kabul as we had a flight to catch back to London. I was sad to be leaving Jalalabad, not sad for the city but sad for my family. Sad they had to carry on living this way, and sad that I could not take them with me to England for a better life, where they could finally live.

Once we reached Kabul, our cousins had a a big goodbye party for my family. We were all very sad but tried to enjoy the night. At the end of the night I lay down on the bed in the garden, breathing in the beautiful fresh air for what could be the last time. I laid there with my favorite cousin, we looked up at the stars and the beautiful moon silently. I prayed for a better Afghanistan, and prayed for my cousins and family to have a good life ahead of them, with lots of opportunities. I thanked god for all that he had blessed me with. And I pray everyday for people to help my sweet, sad, abandoned country. I pray for a brighter future for Afghanistan and pray for the innocent children in every corner of Afghanistan. I thank those who come into Afghanistan with the intention to help the people and curse those who come to harm the beautiful, innocent, and desperate for love Afghanistan.

Sahar Ehsas

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