Greetings from Bamian!

pa310028.JPGThis post comes to you from the heart of
Asia, roof of the world, and, sadly, a used-to-be treasure trove of Buddhist relics, Bamian. Yes, I’m writing to you from an internet café located under the majesty of the remains of the giant Buddha statues destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban.

 

I am here to work on a book which is about the culture and history of the Hazara people of Afghanistan. It will contain stories for children about the struggles of daily life in this cold but historic province. The book aims at introducing these people to the children of the
United States whose country is spreading “freedom” and “democracy” in that region. The Hazaras are one of the three largest ethnic groups in Afghanistan and are of Turco-Mongolic ancestry (I am a Hazara myself, if you’re curious).

 

I will be staying here for a few more days. During my stay, I’m going to take lots of pictures and do many interviews of the people to get to know more about their troubles and travails.

 

I will also visit the picturesque Band-e-Amir, a group of lakes situated outside the Bamian city. I will hear from the locals the many folk stories associated with this lake.

 

From my first impressions of Bamian, I am humbled by the magnificence of what remains of the two Buddha statues, and saddened by the barbarity that went into destroying them. I am also enchanted by the beauty of this valley and the warmth of its people.

 

Bamian is the safest of all provinces in Afghanistan. And if all goes well, I will  hopefully be back home in after a week. Then, I will blog and post some of the pictures I take. The internet situation here is shaky due to which I am not be able to post from Bamian.

 

See you all on the other side of the border. Till then, stay safe and good wherever you are.

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26 Responses to “Greetings from Bamian!”


  1. 1 Ranya November 26, 2006 at 10:25 pm

    Hey nice to hear from you again. Really you’re going to work on a book, wow that’s great Ahmed! Is it your own work or are you working as part of a team on the book production? However, I wish you a very nice time. Make sure to take many pictures! Looking forward for your return. Take care. Btw have you heard anything from your application to the US colleges for journalism studies? You did/were going to apply didn’t you?

  2. 2 dream.dragonfly November 27, 2006 at 8:23 pm

    The book aims at introducing these people to the children of the
    United States whose country is spreading “freedom” and “democracy” in that region. — A tad bit cynical to say the least, and in case of Hazaras about the best thing that could have possibly happened, and if one thing we should bemoan, it is the fact that this drive to spread “freedom” and “democracy” didn’t overtake the Americans in 1998 before the Mazar and the Bamiyan massacres. Of course we all now, the US intervention in Afghanistan had nothing to do with “freedom” and “democracy”. The events of September 11 were a declaration of war.

    It’s nice to be an idealist, but one needs to temper it with some truth. Don’t cloud your analysis with sloganeering — this comes from someone who did it for a lifetime and has nothing to show for it.

    For the time being let’s stick to the moto: “understand before you judge.” Which is what Buddha would perhaps say. (After the destruction of the statues, I am more a Buddhist than anything).

    Have a safe trip though and good luck with the book. I am Hazara too, and do let me know if you need any help.

  3. 3 safrang November 29, 2006 at 1:09 am

    Do I envy you Ahmed! I was there last summer and notwithstanding the destruction, the Buddhas’ majesty is still spellbinding. It is great you are working on this book project. While I agree with the redoubtable dragonfly about US motives, I still find it crucially important that the American people do not confound the reaction of people in these parts with what usually takes up their TV screens -the carnage and hostility in the South. I will attempt to present this viewpoint at a panel sometimes soon myself.
    I am more keen to hear about your higher education plans in the US. I would be glad to offer any help I can with that.

  4. 4 MyScribbles: Write-ups of an Afghan November 29, 2006 at 6:15 pm

    Ranya: I’m working on this book as part of a team. There are three people on the team, including me. I’m responsible for the research in the preliminary round; then, from the notes I take here, I will work with another colleague to compose the main text for the book. The pictures I take will be painted in watercolor by another colleague. Then the book will be compterized and printed.

    My college admissions: I applied to the University of Maryland before embarking on this trip. I’m planning on applying to a number of other schools too, once I get back. I will hear about their decisions on my acceptance or otherwise on around April/May. I shall get to college in July or August.

    dream.dragonfly: “The book aims at introducing these people to the children of the
    United States whose country is spreading ‘freedom’and ‘democracy’ in that region”–This sentence doesn’t and shouldn’t mean that America came to Afghanistan to spread those values in Afghanistan. It means that after coming to eliminate the Taliban, Bush suddenly got the notion of ensuring that democracy works in Afghanistan. As he said in his address to the UN general assembly in September 2004:
    We will be standing with the people of Afghanistan … until their hopes for freedom and liberty are fulfilled.”

    Now, let’s get back to your advice–“understand before you judge”–which applies to you as aptly as anything.

    I, along with many Afghans and other people who truly value human dignity, find it difficult to think of America’s role as a mere spectator–I don’t know if they issued a condeming statement or not–in the wake of the Afshar, Bamian City, Yakaolang, Robatak, Mazar, Shahjoi…massacres, all involving the killing of the Hazara people.

    Yes, it was the best thing that happened to the Hazaras when the Americans attacked and removed the Taliban, a regime they helped form and take over Afghanistan. However, you ought to know that this intervention is no longer the best thing that has to happen to the Hazara people; this is evident if you take a look at the amount of reconstruction that has taken place in the Pushtoon areas of the South as compared to that of Hazarastan. Also, take a look at the ethnic balance in the cabinet and goverment ministries–There’s only a 2% Hazara presence in the judiciary and its related ministry. Take the Afghan National Army, whose 85% personnel belong to the Pushtoon ethnic group. And, to tip all this off, Karzai’s invitation (And America’s silence) to the Taliban to come and take part in the “democratic process,” without the fear of repercussions, because, he thinks, they are his “Afghan borthers” and that they have a “constitutional right.” Taking advantage of this offer, some, including the notorious Abdul Salam Rocketi, are already in the Wolesi Jirga, decidig over the fait of the people.

    What do all these have to do with the American presence? A lot. The Americans are, through these measures, trying to please the violent Pushtoons of the South and is trying to get them to cooperate.

    Also, please stop going around the internet and labelling people. I don’t call myself an “idealist”; and, for your information, I don’t like people calling me that either.

    By the way, free of the Pakistani restriction over Blogger, I also visited your blog. And let me tell you this, you’ve got a good blog there and have integrated very well with the American lifestyle. And, like many living in America, you’ve done a good job in submitting your will to what you’re shown in the American media.

  5. 5 dream.dragonfly November 29, 2006 at 9:09 pm

    Point taken, although I must say the way things stand right now, the American presence in Afghanistan is by far the only guarantee against another Taliban takeover (and from a strategic view it will likely be so for the foreseeable future). No one else has the military or economic clout to counter the deep Saudi pockets. And I think we all agree on the point that this time the reprisals will be more vicious than before.

    If you may notice, I am not exactly defending the Bush administration. Americans are in Afghanistan to prevent another take over by the Taliban. And I don’t carry any illussion as to democracy and ethnic representation, though remember that prior to their engagement Hazaras were out of the government entirely (apart from the odd Akbari or someone equivalent). If Hazarajat is not receiving any significant aid it is because of their hapless strategic location. This much the Soviets understood very well, and it is the one single fact that historians like Hassan Kakar use to insinuate the understanding that the Hazaras cut a deal with the Soviets. Either way, historical analysis of ethnic conflicts has shown that the only way they can be permanently resolved is to have a decisive victory by one of the groups. Even if we were to go that route, Hazaras can’t win a decisive victory over anyone.

    So what if the Hazaras have an uprising? We have been crushed decisively on three occassions, I don’t see why it can’t happen again. So to insist that Americans shed their own geo-political interest and pay attention to the interests of a strategically insignificant ethnic group does sound idealistic. Nor is there any imperative that they go about condemning every single occurrence of an ethnic massacre. People here are a bit busy maintaining such services as this blog of which we – the enlightened score keepers of petty ethnic rivalries and historians – seem to avail ourselves. And by the way, I have yet to see a Hazara go out of his way and try to crack the history of Rwanda or the pygmies of Congo, or even the history of Noristan for that matter. We all have our limitations at some point and need to acknowledge it in others.

    So it is a pity that the Taliban leaders are making a come back. But so did the Nazis, the Japanese imperialists, the communist aparatchiks in Eastern Europe, the white supremacists in South Africa, and so on and so forth. They should be decapitated, but the common foot soldier doesn’t have much going for him.

    As for my lifestyle, it has servs me well. Now does it detract from what I say? Should I really care about that? The reply seems to be a resounding “No” on both instances. To the extent that my blog reveals that, well, so be it then. Also, I do have the annoying habit of “labeling” and I have yet to see anyone who doesn’t. I gladly label myself a social democrat, a pseudo Hazara nationalist, an ethical utilitarian, an aesthetical minimalist, an academic careerist, conservationist… Anyone can ask me to temper, say, my enthusiasm for Hazara nationalism and can point out the pitfalls, and I will be much the richer for it.

  6. 6 dream.dragonfly November 30, 2006 at 12:28 am

    By the way, a worthwhile discussion of the main schools of foreign policy can be found at http://www.bloggingheads.tv. It’s a discussion between Anatol Levine and Mary Anne Slaughter (its somewhere in their archives). They summarize the main distinctions well, and when I say idealist, I use the term in the narrow context of foreign policy theory (since I assume that’s what the discussion really comes down to: American foreign policy).

    As far as I know, Blogging Heads is not part of the mainstream media about which everyone and their grandmother has taken to complaining.

  7. 7 Joshua Xalpharis December 4, 2006 at 10:47 am

    I’m sure the Boy King has no problem with the Taliban returning to power. He had no problem with the oppression they dealt out wholesale before the Saudis decided to attack.

    That, and American oil companies needed a pipeline through Afghanistan. I suppose money trumps human freedom.

    Now that the whole “9/11″ nonsense is taken care of and Iraq is the main stage, with Iran/Syria as stage two, one can assume that Afghanistan is all but written off.

    If the invasion of Afghanistan (as accepted as it was, it was still an invasion of a sovereign nation) was handled properly, would the Taliban be slowly taking the country back from the US puppets currently ruling in Kabul?

    George Bush has done just as much damage to your country as Mohammed Omar ever did. At least Mohammed Omar eventually left the country when he saw the writing on the wall.

    Bush doesn’t even have that much sense.

  8. 8 The Artist December 7, 2006 at 11:03 am

    Congratulations on being part os such a worthwhile project. The Hazara people have have had much suffering and to have their story told will be part of their healing How wonderful as a half Hazara that you can take your people’s voice out there in the world. Do let us know on your site the details of your book when it is published. There will be so many people wanting to share their story and their legends, and to come to understand their history and experience, best wishes, The Artist.

  9. 9 Dan December 14, 2006 at 6:24 am

    Nice to see, I’m a buddhist, the statues are a great loss but where always going to be lost non the less. What is a greater loss is the minds of those who destroyed them. I wonder, I heard that there was going to be some reconstruction or some sort of a light display to project an image of the buddha’s onto where there were, is there any sign of work like this happening there?

  10. 10 floyd December 14, 2006 at 2:28 pm

    Let me say first of all you have a very nice blog and very informative,I would like to ask your thoughts on some matters if I may.

    What do you think of the build up by Taliban and others in Northern Pakistan and as I have read, do you believe the opium trade to be funding the Taliban in Afghanistan and if so are the forces there getting the matter under control?

    These are some things I have been reading going on in the area.

    Good luck also on your book.

  11. 12 Saboma December 16, 2006 at 8:11 am

    Come back, come back, wherever you’re at!

    *Hugs*

    ps- I just had to say that. Now I feel better.

    ~:o)

  12. 13 Dustin December 18, 2006 at 2:40 am

    I still can’t believe the thought process behind destroying the giant Buddhas. Such idiocy. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the area, however, and I hope to hear more from you about it. I also heard, recently, that there’s on-going excavations attempting to find a “reclining” Buddha statue that was said to be larger than any of the destroyed ones. If you know anything about that I’d also very much like to hear about it!

  13. 14 Watchman December 20, 2006 at 3:42 am

    Since I last posted to you Ahmed, I occasionally check back to your very interesting blog. I just wanted to say I wish you all the best in your endeavors. You seem sincere in your care for your people and there needs to be more of your type both in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    My best to you

  14. 15 The Artist December 22, 2006 at 1:14 am

    Calling in to say hi and I do hope all is well with you, best wishes, The Artist

  15. 16 Mystery Maiden December 24, 2006 at 12:18 pm

    The fact those incredible statues were destroyed breaks my heart. Write on, fellow writer, and make sure to drop by and let me know when I can pick up a copy of your book!
    :)
    Mystery
    http://www.shotinthedarkmysteries.com

  16. 17 speakeezie January 4, 2007 at 3:54 am

    This is a fascinating insight into the physcology of war. Glad you came out of this frightening incident in one piece and thanks for sharing it with us. War breeds fear and insecurity as much among the peacekeepers as anybody eles. Their lives are also in danger and their first thought is to protect themselves. I can understand how these incidents occur but that does not make them any less traumatic for those involved.

  17. 18 Ken Albin January 24, 2007 at 3:15 am

    I think you need another driver. Glad to see that you all are ok.

  18. 19 Ali January 25, 2007 at 1:25 am

    Dear friend,

    nice adventures, I will go through all of them once. Please visit me on http://www.subtle-crystal.blogspot.com/ I am also an Afghan blogging in English.

  19. 20 Wally February 27, 2007 at 11:16 am

    My God watch over you.:)

  20. 21 Desi Italiana March 26, 2007 at 4:55 am

    Hello! I am glad I stumbled upon this blog, it is very interesting and I am enjoying it.

    The exchange between dream.Dragonfly and Afghan is fruitful. If I can add my two cents:

    Dragonfly says:

    “Of course we all now, the US intervention in Afghanistan had nothing to do with “freedom” and “democracy”.

    “So to insist that Americans shed their own geo-political interest and pay attention to the interests of a strategically insignificant ethnic group does sound idealistic. Nor is there any imperative that they go about condemning every single occurrence of an ethnic massacre.”

    I totally agree here. I have never thought that the US invades a country out of goodwill, especially not freedom and democracy. It’s simply not beneficial for the US in terms of the cost-benefit analysis. Moreoever, judging from the US’ past record, the US doesn’t really care about democracy and freedom, especially when it props up the most undemocratic regimes. “Freedom” and “democracy” are simply rhetorical engines to drive popular support and justification for intervention/invasion/occupation. And, “democracy” actually means the “free market” and “freedom” means the freedom to retain a monopoly over the “free” market (which doesn’t really make it “free” after all).

    Afghan says:

    “It means that after coming to eliminate the Taliban, Bush suddenly got the notion of ensuring that democracy works in Afghanistan.”

    Yes, and I think that is because “democracy” is so much a part of our national myth (I am American). Collectively, we like to define ourselves at “democratic” and how we have a “democracy” though we hardly spend time seeing whether we are engaging in democratic PRACTICES, and we’d see that we are not so democratic at all, and even if we have a democracy [albeit flawed], we don’t really put it to use. Take for example the 2000 election that was stolen, the evidence that the 2004 election was jigged as well, the fact that the president lied in order to go to war, has systematically underminded civil liberties, fired US prosecutors, has made illegal measures legal, and what do we get? Nothing. We could impeach, but no one is seriousy thinking about doing that. All we get are Democrats who pass “nonbinding” resolutions. If all this happened in another country, there would be no end in the criticism.

    I digress.

    So, the US used the notion of “democracy” because that is supposedly one of the values that all Americans presumably believe in. And what other excuse would allow us to invade Afghanistan? As far as I know, we still don’t have concrete proof that Afghan heads of state were complicit in 9/11 (and even if they were, I still do not believe that we should make the civilian population pay the price. There is a little thing called the international court, which, if we wanted to, we could use. But the “democratic” and humanitarian US doesn’t want to).

    “Also, please stop going around the internet and labelling people. I don’t call myself an “idealist”; and, for your information, I don’t like people calling me that either.”

    You sound like me :) I don’t like it when people label me, and I also do not like to label myself [though I do call myself a South Asian-Indian American].

  21. 23 jan January 2, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Nice post and cool site
    all the best bro

    visit my blog:

    http://hazaranation.blogspot.com

  22. 24 Murtaza Ali July 5, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Greeting from Herat!!

    Well, Looking such a professional and powerful writing increase our self confidant and hope as Hazara that God is helping us through some way to overcome to the all problem we face as a nation in Afghanistan. Our voice is not being hered or lack-hered in the history due to not have internal influence (to political power) and external influence (to international media).

    The dominant Pashtoon with the back-support from pashtoon
    governament still are continuing invading to the hazaras territories and taking people’s life that was continuing from centuries. Their cruelty has been concealed for 100s of years through Kings while now the media allows us to make our voice hered. While still the Geopolitical location of Hazaristan are a barrier of itself that is surrounded by Pashtoons.

    There are tremendous stories of their cruality on Hazaras that the world should know about and that needs profesionals to speak in their language. I appreciate your efforts and wish to see more from you.

    To have a network of our pen-holders writing mostly on web in many languages can be much more appreciated that help in synergyzing the efforts. I am seing many hearts beats in the similar patterns and might be able to go on the same track.

  23. 25 sound healing los angeles April 27, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    Hi! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group?
    There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Cheers


  1. 1 A Common-Man Yardstick « MyScribbles: Write-ups of an Afghan Trackback on June 14, 2007 at 1:06 pm

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Welcome!

I no longer update this weblog due to academic and other preoccupations. However, feel free to browse through its older entries. Thanks.
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This is a weblog where a journalism enthusiast Afghan student writes about hot contemporary issues from an Afghan perspective. Enjoy your visit! Contact: mail . myscribbles @ gmail . com

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