My Afghanistan story
By: Wazhma Frogh,
After 20 hours flying from Kabul airport, I finally arrived in New York to attend the Afghanistan Panels at the Commission on the Status of Women at the U.N., inaugurate a photo exhibition of Afghan women at the Congress, and launch the Resolution to Act which is ensuring that Afghan women are at the table during talks with the Taliban. While coming to the United States, during the flight from Dubai to JFK, I was preparing my talking points and presentation on the situation of Afghan women, and kept comparing our lives with the situation 12 years ago, and only one statement kept echoing in my head that we’ve come a long way.
For me the progress that is made in Afghanistan is beyond President Karzai or any other individual in the government. This progress is about our own lives. Our struggles to change our own lives from complete isolation to getting on to the world stage, and that in 11 years, has been realized to some degree. This progress is about the female MPs that lobby politics inside the patriarchal parliament of Afghanistan. Its about thousands and millions of young little girls with their head to toe black uniform and the white scarf that distinguish them from the crowd on the streets. This progress is about thousands of female doctors who are now treating their patients with electronic medical aid and can prevent pregnant mothers from dying. This progress is about thousands of female nurses who were not even allowed to enter hospitals 12 years ago and this progress is also about thousands of young Afghan men and women who are journalists, day and night reporting on national and international interests to Afghans through over 50 television channels, hundreds of radio stations and hundreds of newspapers.
Every morning I go to my office in Kabul and work to bring women to the forefront of the country’s reconciliation process. I help women at risk to get immediate support and protection. But its not only my own colleagues that give me the hope to continue. Its all those young men and women that I see in my neighbourhood holding their laptop bags, many other young Afghans holding books and running to catch their school buses. I see female teachers holding the hands of the little children and cheering the traffic police who stop the cars so that they all can cross the road and get to their schools. I see the minibus dropping the female air-hostesses that host thousands of travellers to and from Kabul airport coming back to their homes. I see the female journalist who comes to our neighbourhood to cover the weekend artwork exhibition by the women handicraft workers.
This is the story that I wanted to share with Americans in Congress, the Obama administration, American NGOs and the American people who have been the biggest donor and supporters of Afghans in the past 11 years. But as I landed in JFK, there was what appeared to be some shocking news. The television channels at the arrival lounge were flashing news that showed the photo of the Afghan president with a headline that read “Taliban and American are working together.” This was just as I had already arrived at the immigration counter. Hesitantly, I gave my passport and the immigration officer looked at my passport with the words “The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.” He then looked at me and we both once again looked at the television that was still flashing the same headline. He nodded his head and didn’t say a word.
This isn’t the story that I wanted to share with the world or why I travelled all these thousands of miles surely. The first thing I did was to check my phone for Internet and was again shocked at the sensation that the president’s March 8 speech had caused. I couldn’t do anything but watch and listen to what he really said. Standing in the cue for the taxi at 7am in the morning while it was raining in New York, I listened to the president’s speech. There was literally no statement as such that “Taliban and the Americans are working together” instead I found his focus more on the Taliban and creating a national resistance against the Taliban.
I am not the President Karzai’s spokesperson nor do I entirely agree with his political stances. However, I am an Afghan who has lived through war and has also lived through the past 12 years of Afghanistan’s journey and I am struggling hard to not allow the cynicism around the war to overshadow the progress we Afghans have made at the cost of much blood and treasure, but not ours alone, but that of thousands of American soldiers as well. This is a struggle that we both share. If we succeed, it’s a common success, and if we fail, it will be a joint failure.
I don’t know much about the politics in the U.S. Right now, I am more concerned about my own country. But what I ask for in particular from the American and western media is not just to look at Afghanistan as a country where the U.S. is at war, but rather as a country that has people and a history. People are living lives just the way everyone else does here in America, whether it’s running to catch the subway in Manhattan or catch a bus. So too Afghans are running to catch buses to get to their work and return back home to spend time with their families and children. Sensationalizing a statement from the Afghan president will sell news here in the U.S. But it can easily ruin the relations that Afghans have created with the United States and with the American people over the past 12 years of common interest, especially when those statements are not even properly translated.
Wazhma Frogh, co-founder and executive director, Research Institute for Women, Peace and Security, Afghanistan – 03/25/13 02:00 PM ET