Sep 20, 2014

Bidel: We are the messengers of the nothingness

Across ages, we are being amused at expressing worthlessness
and we are the opener of pages of the stories of nothingness
You could expect nothing from us, but name
we are the messengers of the world of nothingness

عمریست که سرگرم ِ بیان ِ هیچیم
طومارگشای  داستان ِ هیچیم
با نامی از آن میان، ز ما قانع باش
ما قاصد ِ پیغام ِ جهان ِ هیچیم

’aumrîst kî sargarm-e bayân-e heechîm
tumâr gushâyee dâstân-e heechim
bâ nâmi az ân mîyân, zi mâ qane’a bâsh
mâ qâsed-e paighâm-e jahân-e heechîm
                                                                      By Mirza Bidel
                                                                     Translated by Nasim Fekrat

The above quatrain reflects the depth of the Buddhism philosophy, and it also shows how Bidel was greatly influenced by Buddhism, and perhaps Hinduism's philosophy of life. There is no wonder to think of Bidel as one of the most modern thinkers and of a sufi poets of our age. He thinks and talks of our age, our meanings of life and he sees and says what we can't.

Sep 13, 2014

Bidel: The soft earth reflects the footprints

هرکه رفت از دیده داغی بر دل ما تازه‌ کرد
در زمین نرم نقش پا نمایان می‌ شود

Harkî raft az dîdah dâghe bar dîl-e mâ tâzah kard
dar zamîn-e narm naqsh pâ nomâyân meshawad

whoever left us
ailed us
and left a wound in our heart
like the soft ground 
reflecting the footprints
                                                                       Poem by Mirza Bidel
                                                                      Translated by Nasim Fekrat

Note: this poem was translated a while ago. It was republished on the web without reference. I changed the translation, not for that reason, but because I realized it was not translated accurately.

Sep 6, 2014

Bidel: The Paradise That Reflects Your Avarices

O the consumer of the residue of imagination, blessing is something else
You are being vain with illusion; the truth is something else
The paradise that is adorned with gems and gold
reflects your avarice -- the paradise is something else

ای زلـّه کش ِ خیال! نعمت، دگراست
مغرور توهّمی، حقیقت دگر است
خـُلدی که به گوهر و زر آراسته اند
مجموعۀ حرص تست، جنت دگر است

Ai zalla-kashî khiyâl, ne’mat digar ast
maghror-e tawahumî, haqîqat digar ast
kholdî ki ba gawhar wa zar ârâsta-and
majmo’aee heers-e tust, janat digar ast

                                                                            Poem by: Mirza Bidel
                                                                           Translated by Nasim Fekrat

Aug 30, 2014

Don't Be Bewitched By Your Cupidity

قناعت ساحل امن است افسون طمع مشنو
مبادا کشتي درويش در کام نهنگ افتد

qanā’at sāhīl amn ast afsūn-e tam’a mashnaw
mabādā keshtīyi dervish dar kām-e nahang oftad

Contentment is a safe shore, listen not to be bewitched by cupidity
Lest the dervish’s ship fall prey to the whale.
                                                                                  Poem by: Mirza Bidel
                                                                                 Translated by Nasim Fekrat

Aug 23, 2014

Bidel: You cannot quaff the ocean except as a whale

You cannot quaff the ocean except as a whale
You cannot sprint the mountain, unless a tiger
The sea of time and place, for you, is but one gulp 
Limit not your boundless imagination

دریا نکشی، اگر نهنگی نکنی
بر کوه نتازی، ار پلنگی نکنی
یک جرعۀ تست، قلزم ِ کون و مکان
ای حوصلۀ خیال تنگی نکنی

Daryâ nakashî, agar nahangî nakunî
bar kooh natâzî, ar palangî nakunî
yak jur'a-e tust, qulzam-e kown wa makân
ai hawsêla-e khîyâl tangî nakunî                                                 
                                                                          Poem by: Mirza Abdul Qadir Bidel

                                                                                   Translated by Nasim Fekrat

The above Rubāʿī  or quatrain is one among many famous Ruba'iyyat of Mirza Bidel. The translation might not be exact and clear enough, but reading the verses and delving into the meaning of images and imaginations that form a complicated concepts of mystical fascination of life which are unique in poetry of Bidel, I tried to remain loyal to the origin of the poems rather than conceptualizing them. After reading Bidel's poems, it has always been an awe-inspiring experience for me to be thrown into another world beyond myself, beyond my routine, and beyond explanation.

The first line: You cannot be the person that you want to be if you do not have the courage to take the risk.
The second line: You cannot survive in the mountains if you are not a tiger. In another way, if you want to survive among many other wild beasts in the mountains, you must be strong like a tiger. Consider your situation in a society where you are surrounded by numerous social traps. These traps can be your social coterie, meretricious decor, styles, marks or social networking sites that could have complete control of your life.
The third line: Here, Bidel, says, if you have the quality of self-control and forbearance, then, a world's ocean would seem a gulp to you, but Bidel lays down a condition in the last line: These are all possible if you are patient enough, that if you possess the power of self-control and most importantly, control over your free will.

Aug 16, 2014

Bidel: Humbleness, a Path to Harmony

به هزار کوچه دویده ام، به تسلی نرسیده ام
ز قد خمیده شنیده ام، که چو حلقه شد به دری رسد

Ba hazār kūcha dawīdam-am, ba tasallī narasidam-am
Zī qad khamida shinīda-am, kī chū halqa shud ba darī rasad

Running into thousand of streets, brought me no tranquility
I heard from an elder that the one, who turns to a ring, reaches the door.
                                                                               Poem by: Mirza Abdul Qadir Bidel
                                                                                  Translated by Nasim Fekrat

In this poem, Bidel, demonstrates the ultimate humbleness that one should possess if undertaking a journey to reach harmony. He says that he ran through thousands of streets, spent nights and days, and endeavored pain to reward himself with tranquility, and peace. For Bidel, the word ‘tranquility’ is an allusion to the achievement of the reality of the existence; also, it is an insinuation to his beloved one, whoever might be; and finally, ‘tranquility’ is an allusion to his God. Bidel says that life has a meaning, and that meaning is not easily attainable. The significance of the first line’s meaning manifests itself in the second line.

Bidel says I perceived from an old man that the path to harmony is to become a door’s ring. This multifaceted line, at first glance might drive the reader into complete perplexity and wonder. However, it is no wonder when the readers find themselves confused, Bidel has unique style and he has used the most complex and implicitly difficult meanings to extract his imagination of humbleness.

So, to put it an understandably meaningful way, Bidel says that I spent all my life to reach harmony, but I was failed. Then he says: “An old man told me that in order to achieve the state of harmony and tranquil, one should be humble enough.” The word ‘ring’ has a special and an implicit meaning here. Bidel uses ‘ring’ to symbolize the old-age and the U-bend of life. Symbolically and humbly, Bidel pictures himself as a door ring at the gate that he might refer it to God. In another way, Bidel uses ‘ring’ to symbolize bowing; the gesture of humbleness, and obedience to God. Finally, being a ‘ring’ at door that implicitly pictures humbleness is a supreme virtue.

So, what is Bidel’s wisdom for us?
Modesty is the core of success and a path to harmony. Be modest in your clothing, in your talking; do not show off your knowledge and your wealth to others. Demonstrate humbleness and kindness to others, life is short, and at the time you realize you have ran thousands of streets and still running to find harmony, but you cannot, pause and ponder how modest and humble you were.

Aug 9, 2014

The Path of Humbleness Leads to Perfection

"Bidel, way to honor lies in humbleness
This path, led the new moon to its perfection"

بيدل دليل مقصد عزت تواضع است
زين جاده، ماه نو به جهان كمال رفت

Bidel, dalil-e maqsad-e ezat tawāz‘a ast
zin jādeh, māhi naw ba jahān-e kamāl raft

                                                                 Poem by: Mirza Abdul Qadir Bidel                                                                                                                  Translated by Nasim Fekrat

I chose this verse because to remind myself of a humble person that I have met recently in a coffee shop. He was a short man with white beard, probably in his 60s. I can’t remember what sparked a conversation with him but a brief chat with him was worth million moments that I routinely spend in vain.

He was leafing through pages of a new book that he just opened it from its mailing envelope. I asked him the title of the book, he lift up his demure face and told me: “I’m embarrassed to show you the title of the book.”

The book contained a series of scholarly articles inspired by his work and it was published to honor him and his academic research in the field.
For the past few days I have been thinking about him and his humbleness. Today, I came across one of Bidel's poems that says the path to perfection is humbleness, what the old man has been following.

PS: Every Saturday, I plan to translate a poem of Mirza Abdul Qadir Bidel, one of the greatest 17th century’s Persian mystic poets.

Aug 7, 2014

The Audacity of Karzai's Crony

Karim Khalili, the second Vice President of Afghanistan and Karzai’s crony has the audacity to call on UN to verify the authenticity of the audiotape that Abdullah Abdullah’s team has claimed he was involved in electoral fraud. For the past 13 years, Khalili has done nothing to his oppressed minority and long persecuted ethnic group “Hazara,” rather than acting as a subservient to Karzai and delivering Hazara votes to him.

To my dismay, I discovered that Afghan officials from top to bottom have no moral obligation towards people and their votes. The audiotape is a clear evidence of Khalili’s involvement in the electoral fraud. In the audiotape, from his disgruntled tone of voice and his embarrassment of the result of the first round election, the phrases that he uses, and from his utterance, it is crystal clear that the voice belongs to him. An individual who feels morally obligated and responsible towards his action, must have certain capacity; unfortunately, Afghan officials lack this basic humane act.

Mar 20, 2014

It's a New Year in Afghanistan

Happy New Year and Happy Nowruz. In 2010, I wrote an article for CNN explaining how Nowruz is celebrated throughout Afghanistan.
Also, what a happy coincidence that - probably for the first time in the history - Nowruz concurring with two other important, and exciting days: The International Day of Happiness and Spring Equinox.

Here's an excerpt of the article on CNN:
One of most famous of Nowruz traditions among Afghans is to forget and forgive mistakes of one another and start the New Year with new hopes and new goals. During the first three days of the year, families and relatives meet and visit each other’s houses. These are parts of Afghan traditions that date back centuries. For further reading please go the main article.

Mar 19, 2014

A Melody of Hope with Rabab and Nowruz 1993

I published this on my photoblog, and today, I thought, why shouldn't I post it here as well. Well, this headless person who plays this piece of music on Rabab is me. I improvised this melody while I was procrastinating with my homework. I recorded it last year when I was in college and presented it to a friend. I’m a beginner and pardon me for any mistake if you noticed.

Rabab is one of the most respected instruments in Afghanistan and in fact, it was originated in Herat, western Afghanistan, and then spread throughout Indian subcontinent. Those who are familiar with the history of the Mongol Invasion of India, especially, with the Delhi Sultanate in 1200, and the spread of Islamic mysticism through Afghan Sufis, they can understand the influence of this mystic instrument on Indian music as well.

Rabab - though slightly different in shape - is widely used in Indian classical music today, which has also an immense influence on Afghan classical music. It is also a popular instrument in Central Asian countries, namely in Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, though, with different forms, and with a few extra strings.

Rabab is an Arabic word "رباب" rābāb, which is a feminine name, and presumably the name of a peerless beautiful girl who probably lived in Levant. According to the myths, someone who fell in love with Rabab, made an instrument in her name to lament his affliction, and pain through the sounds of a magical, and mystical instrument "Rabab."

Today, Rabab is pronounced differently. For instance, in Pakistan, and India, people pronounce it Robab, Rabob and Rubab. An astute reader of this text should remember that though these names have almost similar sounds, the correct way to pronounce it is “Rābāb” otherwise, it means something else.

Final note:
Happy Nowruz, Happy New Year to all of you! I wish you a prosperous year, filled with health and creativity!

Mar 18, 2014

Rumi Loved Rubab


One of the instruments that constantly comes in Rumi poetry is Rubab. In Rumi's time, Rubab was one of the main instruments that was played in Khanqah (the Sufi lodges). Up to the present time, Rubab remains an influential instrument in Khanqahs, and other Sufi gatherings in Afghanistan.

He probably liked Rubab because of its rhythmic sounds. It produces the sound of ecstasy, it echoes, it bounces, and rebounds, and one can imagine how it would have sounded in a sufi lodge with a high ceiling, and how the sounds and melodies reverberated through the souls of Sufis. 
Here what Rumi says about the sounds of Rubab:

                  "Do you know what the voice of the rabab is saying?
                  Come follow in my steps and find the way;
                  Since through error you’ll discover what’s right,
                  Since through questions you’ll end up with answers."
                                                       Source of translation is unknown, but I got it from here
It is worth mentioning that he also liked flute made of reed. Flute was the most handy, and attainable instrument in his time. No matter, it was played by a goatherd in the desert, or, by a lad in the court, it sounded the same to a mystic. Here what Rumi says about flute.
                "We have fallen into the place
                  where everything is music."
                                                                Translated by Coleman Barks

Mar 11, 2014

Bamiyan Buddha Statues Were Destroyed By Taliban Not Al Qaeda

An uninformed individual might be better respected, and revered than an ill-informed individual who tries to knowingly spread incorrect information based on speculation. An uninformed individual cannot test the plausibility of an assumption, or, claim that is being made in a topic. Moreover, this uninformed individual cannot be blamed for being ill-informed; rather, the source of the misinformation should be blamed.

To be precise, recently, an article was published on The Wall Street Journal which was titled: Afghan Hazaras Emerge as Power Brokers in President Elections. It is well-written, and it is worth reading, but not everything has said is necessarily true. Halfway down the article, you will find this line: “The destruction by al Qaeda of Bamiyan's historic Buddha statues in 2001.”

When I read this, I thought this must be an unintentional mistake. I tweeted the article, a few minutes later, my tweet was retweeted by Nathan Hodge, one of the writers of the piece. Then I tweeted him:
Al Qaeda had no role at the destruction of the of Bamiyan's historic Buddha statues which happened on March 11, 2001. The Buddha statues were destroyed by the Taliban regime, inspired by their sheer tribal barbaric mindset who not only rejoiced in the destruction of the most ancient historical monuments, but they also glorified themselves by slaughtering thousands of innocents of Shiite Hazaras in Bamiyan, and other cities. Though Al Qaeda were as extreme as the Taliban in their religious belief system, they did not involve themselves in local matters, their main focus of interest was in the United States, and in other western countries. Of course, the Taliban regime did not fail to pay heed to the Al Qaeda advices in some areas, but particularly, not in the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha statues.

In fact, today is the 13 years anniversary of the destruction of Buddha statues by the Taliban regime, and I posted a photo alongside a short post on my photoblog. One should bother reading a little bit before putting his, or, her pen to paper because we are all responsible toward what we write about people and for people.

Though such mistakes in western media is abundantly describable, I do not see myself in a position to judge, and notice others' mistakes, in this case, count it on my brusqueness, and I appeal for your pardon.

Mar 10, 2014

Why Charisma Is Important In The Afghan Election?

Charismatic quality will be a driving force for candidates for the upcoming presidential election in Afghanistan. A charismatic leader can unite Afghanistan which badly suffers from disunity, while a charismatic leader can also disastrously drive Afghanistan into a complete opposition direction.

In the west, sometimes, a leader does not have to be charismatic. A good example would be Angela Merkel, probably, she is one of the most uncharismatic leaders in the world, but the most powerful women in Europe.  Despite the lack of charismatic quality, she remains the most popular and dominant figure who last year won the third term as a federal leader in Germany. People in Germany complain about her lack of sociability, her outfit and call her ‘boring’ and ‘snoring.’ In 2010, German philosopher Jürgen Habermas complained that modern Germany had a yearning for "charismatic figures who stand above the political infighting."

On the hand, Barak Obama, the most powerful man in the world, is considered one of the most alluring and charismatic leaders in the history of the United States. Before being elected, pundits in America have called Obama a “rock-star,” because of his unique charismatic quality. He is being regarded something as “rare” and “special,” the quality that John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy had. Obama is intelligent and most importantly, he is famous as an eloquent speaker and his rhetoric suffused with passions that is shared by people of all stripes. During his speech, women scream and swoon, and shout at Obama "I love you." None of Obama's predecessors aroused such feelings, even the founding fathers of the United States.

In the developing countries, rally around a leader, is usually takes place when patriotism is enforced by a leader. However, in Afghanistan patriotism is buried by tribalism, religionism, regionalism, and parochialism. But having said that, among the 11 presidential candidates, there are a few who have unique charisma, just enough to rally people around hi,m and win the election.

So, why Afghanistan needs a charismatic leader and why charisma is an important factor, particularly, for an Afghan leader who will replace Hamid Karzai? If you look the word “charisma” in the dictionary, you will get these synonyms: alluring, bewitching, captivating, fascinating, charming, enchanting, engaging, magnetic and seductive.
In the next few posts, I will try to highlight some of the important charismatic quality and skills that Afghan presidential candidates have and have not.

Mar 9, 2014

The Fantasized Dejection

Your day starts with rejection that sinks you deep in dejection. You are being half-hearted, and gradually start depriving your hope. A feeling of desperation, and defeat vapor in you, and fleetingly cloud your sight; despair is the word that you could name it.

But, no, that is not true. I should not feel that way. After all, tomorrow, when the sun rises, I will put on my new shoes, and rise again.

I will forget what befell me, it will not hurt me, and I must remember that this is the beginning of the first season. I blame the malignity of the time, but I have the temerity to challenge the fate, if, there is one. Oh, I must not forget that this is the first chapter; I should note that, in the end, the defeat is an experience toward victory.

Mar 1, 2014

Ashraf Ghani, Promises To Ban Burqa If Elected

Women who participated in Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai's presidential campaign in Kabul. The photo is taken from his facebook page
For the first time in the history of Afghanistan, a hope ignited for Afghan women to be totally liberated from sexual oppression, imposed by their men. On Thursday, February 27, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a potential contender for the upcoming Afghan election in April 5, talked to an audience of women who were all in burqas. Under a tight security measure - fearing of women being stolen - the ceremony was held at the Intercontinental Hotel of Kabul and hosted thousands of women from all over Afghanistan.

Wrapped in a khaki Afghan shawl, Ashraf Ghani, emerged with his entourage and went directly to the podium, where a banner proclaimed “tāhāwūl and tādāwūm” (change and continuity). Gazed at his audience while clearing his throat; after resting his elbows on the podium, he started: “Sisters and mothers, you all have endured pains to come to Kabul, and pronounce your support for me,” after a short pause Mr. Ahmadzai continued, “as a servant of you, not as a ruler, I tell you that you will all be liberated, when I am elected a president.”

His voice roused some women from their slumbers. Some were murmuring while some others were quite but anxiously waiting what Mr. Ahmadzai would say to them. Mr. Ahmadzai, spent more than 45 minutes talking about history of western women and how they struggled to obtain their freedom that ultimately resulted to the liberation of their bodies, something that men desire. Everyone seemed bored of his boring long-winded speech; some elder women have already fallen asleep and their deafening snores were reminding of several tanks moving towards the battle field. Worn out of his bombastic speech, almost at the end of his speech, Ashraf Ghani, excitedly took out a piece of paper from his left pocket and after taking a deep breath, and while his right hand still held in the air, he volubly started:
“If I become the president of our motherland, I will issue a decree to ban the burqa that is imposed on you. The central oppression remains in burqa itself, it is a prison, and it clogs up the flowing of thoughts in your brain, which is why people think you are all thoughtless. That is the reason that today, Afghan women are considered by their men as mere chattels: possessions with no rights, and sexual slaves. The reason that you are being treated as sexual slaves, I must say that there is a lack of sex drive in you all, because you all lack libidos, a sexual desire that is important, first, for yourself, and then, for your men. Why? Because it is clear to me that you all hide it under those damn blue burlap sacks, when you walk on the streets, no desire being aroused in men. This is simply a tragedy. What we all have between our legs should sacredly be treated and publically be demonstrated.  Therefore, in order to make a better Afghanistan, I want the women, the 50% of our population, to be part of my team, the “change and continuity.” With this, I mean, I first change you, and then, I continue that change in you."
Ashraf Ghani’s words like aroma of geranium permeated throughout the hall, whiffs of a familiar and unfamiliar smell resided in the limbic system of women who were all in burqas. The impulse of self-attraction and imagination of libido was inflamed in all participants. Under the burqa, some started turning their bodies right and left, then started experiencing twitching and spasming, a small group of them still played with themselves, while some others’ moans have already filled the entire hall.

No one listened and no one knew what Mr. Ahmadzai have said during this time. He left the hall amid magnificent smile and joy pouring from women in burqa onto the floor. One of the Kabul-based newspapers titled the event as “a historic moment for the Afghan women.” Afghan historians simply called it a “turning point” in the history of Afghanistan; while women who took part in the event simply called it the “dawn of Afghan women libido.”

Feb 26, 2014

Legendary Guitarist Does Not Play Anymore

You with your lightening-speed of fingers on the strings of guitar dazzled millions of people around the world; with your rhythms of flamenco, you knocked on the doors of millions of hearts. You transcended beyond the borders; through your magical fingers on guitar, you talked to every individual in the same understandable language and in the same level, either rich or poor, they all equally enjoyed your music. Like sun, your music illuminated the hearts and lasted deeper than sun. Today, thousands of your fans are grieving for your unexpected death.

Paco De Locia died today, he was born in a poor family, and as a poor boy he could not finish his school, but later, as an accomplished guitarist, he brought technical skills of flamenco tunes into a sublime perfection, which rose him a world-renown guitarist.
Rest in peace, Paco de Lucia, my favorite guitarist!

Feb 21, 2014

Anahita Ulfat, Sings Songs of the Oppressed

Anahita Ulfat in traditional Hazaragi dress performing live on stage 
Solemnly, but smiley, Anahita in her unique traditional Hazara dresss, gently walks up onto stage. When she turns her charming smiley face towards the audience, her beauty pervades gloom all over the place, and as soon as she starts singing, the audience goes wild. Anahita sings with a vital rebellious voice against discriminatory attitudes towards her ethnic group. With her voice, she expands the horizon of hope for the Hazara women, for those who have long dreamt to bid defiance to limitations, and ignoring.

Anahita Ulftat is back on the stage of Afghan Star, the Afghanistan’s pop idol that broadcasts on a local TV channel, “Tolo TV.” She is a Hazara girl from Ghazni who rings the bravery bill of all Hazara women. With her unique serene gesture, but exciting voice, she melodizes unwritten songs; songs of silence, songs of an oppressed minority that for centuries has been deprived from their basic rights. Anahita sings the crying songs of thousands of innocent people who have suffered from ethnic cleansing, historical discrimination, prejudice, and exclusion.

Calm and vigilant, Anahita sings love songs, the ones that could recall the tale of a Hazara boy who is enslaved by a Pashtun, and he grieves for his lover who is taken away into a slavery market in Central Asia by bandits of Uzbeks and Turkmen who also plundered their villages. Anahita has a pain in her heart, the pain that is shared by all Hazaras throughout the history. Anahita suffers from the same pain that every Hazara has suffered and suffers today; the pain of being ignored, being discriminated, and being excluded. She sings the song that is buried in fears; laughed at, and being condescended.  She cries out the pain of a minority that has suffered from overpowering deprivation.

Finally, Anahita Ulfat’s voice has a lasting impact, and deeper like sun. Her voice illuminates the hearts, and tranquilizes the minds. The star of the 9th season of Tolo TV, must be Anahita Ulfat, and everyone should vote for this courageous, rebellious young girl, who dares to ring out the sinner voice of the Hazara women. Anahita represents a minority group, and the bravery and liberality of women, and the young generation who wants to fly high.

Here are two video links to Anahita's outstanding performance:
Anahita Ulfat sings Qatma Qandahari from Farhad Darya
Anahita Ulfat sings Norband

Feb 18, 2014

Afghans are Natural Born Thinkers

The photo is taken in Kabul suburbs -2008
Sunk deep into an ocean of thought, Afghans are famous to be natural born thinkers. As you can see in this photo, three Afghans who are probably in their 50s have glued their gazes at the patterns of the colorful carpet. The man with a Kandahari hat thinks how drops of ocean have ended up into his cup and turned into tea that would finally goes into his body. He floats deep into a dream of joy because he finally comes into the conclusion that the water has come from ocean, which Afghanistan lacks.

The other person in the middle has stuck his tea cup into his right cheek and wonders how in the heck humans learned to draw such complicated patterns on the carpet underneath him. The third person, on the right, has broadened his look to a horizon which is not usual to Afghans. Afghans do not to have horizon, at all; even the most basic and needed ones; for example, horizon of having peace, live a better life, and hoping a better future for their posterity.

Nevertheless, Afghans are ironically the greatest thinkers and they think extremely deep. When they fall into thinking, they completely forget to take a break. A correct political term for this type of people would be “extremism.” In fact, some Afghans are extremists, especially in fighting. Take the 30 years of war for example; when Afghans start fighting, they do not stop until they exterminate each other, or, someone else interferes and halts them from fighting. They even invented a code to justify their deeds and their desires for killing each other: “Pashtunwali,” the famous Pashtun tribal code of conduct that’s famously themed in the Lone Survivor movie. According to Pashtunwali, you can kill as much as you want, until no one is left to take revenge. If you cannot kill them right away, wait for 100 years and beyond to protract the blood feud to thousands of years.

Afghan thinkers have their own base of reasoning. Their women are not included, however; they rather think women are so meek to be bothered, for their presence in public would be lustfully disastrous. As a result, women in Afghanistan are part of social outcast, like once the Hazaras were.

When it comes to modern thought and philosophy, Afghans are unique. A few centuries ago, Rene Descartes, while in his dark room sipping his bitter coffee went into a deep thought; he struggled to find a valid reason to form the foundation of his philosophy, but he finally postulated this famous statement: “I think, therefore, I am.” This statement to Afghans is worthless. I asked several Afghans about Descartes’s quote, their reaction was: “So, who cares.” Afghans think that they have given birth to God to serve them, and the crux of their philosophy is: “I am an Afghan, therefore, I’m destructive.”

In the words of Thomas Hobbes, Afghans could fall into the category of “brutish.” In the words of Thomas More, Afghans are so incorrigible, and ignorant that thousands of years even pass, Afghans would not be eligible to enter into Utopia. Sadly, More, would even go further on listing the words “Afghan,” and “Afghanistan” as taboo words in Utopia.

Nonetheless, Afghans remain extreme thinkers to this day, and deductively, sadly, some of them are with extreme opinions.

Feb 12, 2014

US Drone Crashed in Jalalabad not in Herat

This is a correction note on my earlier post "America's drone war stoned by Afghans" on January 29. In that post, I made a reference to a news on Iranian government's propaganda channel, Press TV. It said that the American drone had crashed in Herat, without naming a source. Later, I investigated and found out that the drone was crashed in Jalalabad city, in eastern Afghanistan which is populated by Pashtun tribe. The drone was crashed after technical problems and before the Taliban notice the drone was taken away from the area by U.S. forces.

Those who follow the news on the Middle East and Afghanistan know that Iran has a hostile foreign policy towards the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and in the Gulf. Being under a direct control of the government, Iranian media use any opportunity to galvanize Afghans against the U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Why does Iran want to sabotage the U.S. presence in Afghanistan? The answer is simple: Iran thinks the United States may use Afghanistan as a platform to attack Iran. In December 2011, an RQ-170, a C.I.A. stealth drone crashed in Iran. Later, Iran complained to Afghanistan about the U.S. drone and claimed that the drone had flown from Afghanistan into Iran's airspace. So, an ultimate goal for Iran is to kick out the U.S. troops from Afghanistan and its media does not shy away from lying and distorting any news against the United States.

Feb 9, 2014

Daykundi: A Long Forgotten Province of Hazarajat

This photo belongs to my trip in Daykudni, in winter 2008. I don't remember where exactly this place is but it was a deep valley adjacent to Ashtarlai district.
A long-forgotten memory stirred in me this morning; one of those that creates tumult in you and sinks you into an anguished mood. One of those memories that wraps you in a velvet of agony. Then, you are torn inwardly, and left with shredded memories that you are trying recollect when you of course cannot. Just like tattered cloths that cannot be patched, some memories cannot be healed, they rather torment you from inside. Precisely, this is what I felt this morning and here is the story:

In the winter of 2008, I with a friend - who was a documentary filmmaker - made a trip to central part of Afghanistan "Hazarajat" (where the Hazaras are living). Two days before, a storm of heavy snow hit the area and there was over a foot and half of snow blanked in all places. My friend and I were sluggishly ascending the steep and slippery path to top of the pass, near Ashtarlai district. In a short distance, a group of men appeared who were zigzagging their way up to the mountain.

My friend and I were probably the second group making the narrow trench wider in the snow, and perhaps easier for the next travelers. We gradually approached the travelers who were piercing into the depth of the snow and were step by step nearing. We stepped aside and patiently waited to let them pass. At a converging point, I looked at the men’s face; they looked drained, anguished, worried and irritable. In the middle, a man who was going short in breathing carried a basket in his back; one of those baskets that are usually used for collecting grasses for animals in the summer. Suddenly, I heard groans of a woman from the basket, she sounded like a wounded soldier, even close to sounds of someone who gives out the last breath.

A sudden fear with grief conquered me. I impatiently asked the last person in the row: “Who is in the basket and what is going on?” The pale man who has already seemed grief-stricken was one of the woman's closest family members paused for a few seconds to catch his breath, then, he said: “She is sick, we are taking her to the doctor, in Nili." They were coming from Ashtarlai district. He told me that they were en route for two days and they were in their third day to arrive at the hospital in Nili, the capital of Daykundi province.

Six years passed from that winter and that incident, I am having doubt that there has been much improvement in Daykudi; one of the poorest provinces in the far-flung of central Afghanistan. This memory is one of the many that I recall now from my trip to Daikuni province, in one the coldest winters, in 2008.

Feb 6, 2014

Iciest Wrath and a Dismal Day of Pennsylvania

A fallen tree in my neighborhood
In my room, pots are for collecting the leaking water from ceiling
The last snow storm dumped more than a foot of snow across Midwest and East Coast of the United States on Tuesday. Then, on Wednesday, thick coating of ice covered all over the place. Early in the morning, I woke up with the sound of drops of water falling on my pillow. I cast a fleeting look at the ceiling, it was leaking and from its corner the water was pouring down. I collected pots and pans from my kitchen to prevent further damage to the floor. Then, I tried to call my landlord, my phone was dead, and there was no power to charge my phone.

I rushed out of the house to get access to power and charge my phone. At the door, not knowing that ice has covered the stairs and the patio, I made a nice slide, but thankfully fell on the snow; otherwise, I might have broken a limb, like many trees that lost their limbs. As I hit the sidewalk, limbs of trees were lying on sidewalks, roads, and backyards of people; I hardly made my way through them. Just around the corner, a huge pine tree was left prostrate as a result of heavy snow on its branches. I took it metaphorically very meaningful: You do not get big, if you do, your fall will be disastrous, just like the demise of empires.

So, finally, after cruising around the blocks to circumvent stepping on torn electric wires and fallen trees, I arrived at the Starbucks. At the door, the sign said: “Due to power outage, we are closed.” Suddenly, a second thought rushed through my head: Why not taking the bus and spend the day at Barns and Noble. In the bus, a woman was sitting in front of me; tears were rushing down her face. Her house was damaged by a fallen tree. I plaintively sympathized with her, to the point that I almost lied that a huge tree has fallen on my house as well and my life is ruined. I took a somber mood and showed it through a doleful look on my face. At one point I almost wanted to take her hands in my hands to calm her. She got off the bus in mid-way, but her sorrow left a tristful feeling in me for the rest of the day, even to this moment.

Anyhow, the Barns & Noble was closed, they didn’t have power either. I spent the whole afternoon at the Giant Store’s café.

What a dismal day I had and probably thousands of others were in a similar situation. This experience reminded me of my village, where electricity, and internet were not involved in our lives and we did not face this much unexpected hassle.

Feb 2, 2014

The 2014 Election, an Examination of Afghan People

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah
Today, January 2, Afghanistan's presidential election campaign kicked off. There are 11 candidates from different ethnic groups, different backgrounds, and with different plans. The 2014 Afghanistan’s presidential election is a historic by its sheer nature; the election if peacefully and not violently goes, it will definitely propel the country into a hopeful future.

The 2014 election is an examination of Afghan people, examination of their tolerance of accepting each other in a brotherly manner, and forgetting their ethnic, and religious differences that would put their fate in peril. The election will test the Afghan people’s understanding of the last 13 years of rule of democracy, desire for a better life, and their willingness to move forward, and put an end to their miserable past. 

The upcoming election will also examine how much they have learned from the last 13 years of relatively peaceful atmosphere in the country with the support of foreign troops. The presidential election is set for April 5. The next 2 months will be a hectic time to the Afghan people and especially to its security forces that much of responsibility rests upon their shoulders.

I, therefore, will regularly keep my blog up to date. I will extensively focus on the 2014 Afghanistan’s presidential election, and I specifically will write on candidates and their plans, who is who, who seems to replace President Hamid Karzai, and finally why the Afghan election matters to the United States, and its international allies.

Jan 29, 2014

America's Drone War Stoned by Afghans

Apparently this drone has crashed three weeks ago. According to PressTV, the unmanned drone has crashed in western province of Herat. From people's words in the video, it appears that the incident has happened in a Pashtun area. Nothing has yet said or published online by American officials in Afghanistan to disclose any details about the incident.

The militants has claimed they have shot it down and then they have taken away the wreckage of aerial vehicle. Since the incident happened in Herat province, which is coterminous with Iran, it might be possible that the Taliban have sold it to Iran. If the Taliban have not sold it to Iran, then, one would wonder, what use the wreckage of drone may have to the Taliban? Apparently nothing and they may destroy it by throwing stones at it, as they do in this video.

A friend of friend who had shared this video on his facebook page sarcastically titled "the stranded pilgrim." According to some, this beast has done a great job, so far, on going after the Al Qaeda members and the Taliban militants. Most of the operations have been taking place in Southern Afghanistan, alongside the borders with Pakistan. The area is predominately populated by Pashtun tribe, a major ethnic group in Afghanistan.

In particular and related to this incident, a plausible guess would cast on American drone operation on Iranian soil, otherwise Herat has not been a hotbed of Taliban activities. Previously, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has often been accused of supplying weapons and funds to the Taliban. It is also possible that the drone had cruised alongside the border of Afghanistan adjacent to Iran to observe the Taliban's movement on the border.

Jan 21, 2014

Under the Frozen Tears of God

riding my bike in the snow
Today, I took my bike out to ride around the block for fun, slipped twice and fell off on the street, made people laugh and it was all entertaining and enjoyable.

riding my bike in the snow
It feels great to bike in a foot of snow, but be careful if you're going to do it, you need to lower the seat, just enough to control your balance. You also need to have mud or studded tires to prevent slide.

Heaps of snow is going to blanket the entire East Coast of the United States tonight. It has been snowing since Tuesday morning with a slightly frigid chill that is sweeping across the Northeast. Tomorrow, a bitter cold is expected to follow after the sky satiates itself from shedding its frozen tears on to earth.

Today, I was feeling nostalgic for those snowy days in the most far-flog village in the central Afghanistan. The snow storm of today reminded me the heavy snow fall - up to 3 and sometimes 4 feet snow - in my village. I recall the winters in which sometimes the slow and steady snow lasted five days. I recall the winter that as a result of a heavy snow a barn was collapsed in the village. In one morning, when I walked out of the house, my elder brother asked me to stand at the edge of snow wall, the snow was higher than my height. I was 11 years old.

The flat and little houses of villagers were enveloped with snow and roads were completely blocked. We used to spend almost three days removing the snow from the roofs, paths, barns and backyards. Then, the fourth day, the whole community were getting together for a mass clearing of the snow from long paths leading to other communities. For almost 3 months, the communities in the entire district were going into hibernation.

In this way, life was simple and warm. It was easy to believe anything that was told us and we never knew what the fact was and what fiction was. Everything was new and fascinating to us. Old mythical stories always amused and amazed us, especially, when we listened to some of them with absolute horror. The fairies, ghosts, and deads becoming alive, were the stories that bewitched our little souls and captivated our memories with imagery fears and attractions.

It is those days’ memories that cling to me, every once in a while. It is those endless reminiscences that fascinate every moment of my life, today. It is those stories, and nostalgia that wistfully hint a river of melancholy mood in me, in the dismal winter of Pennsylvania.

Jan 20, 2014

The Aftermath of Kabul Restaurant Attack

  Afghanistan security forces help an injured man from the scene of the attack, where at least 21 — mostly foreigners — were killed.
By: Massoud Hossaini/AP
The Taliban attack on a Lebanese restaurant, the “Taverne du Liban” in Kabul, which took 21 lives, 13 foreigners, and 8 Afghans, caused a great grief to many families inside and outside Afghanistan. The question that should be asked the Afghan security apparatus and President Hamid Karzai would be: “How is it possible that the three suicide attackers penetrated one of the most highly secure areas in Kabul?”

The government has already suspended three police chiefs who were obviously responsible for Wazir Akbar Khan’s security breach. With no doubt one of these police chiefs must be responsible for allowing the attackers to pass through the security barricades, several check points, and finally infiltrate into the building. It is quite likely that one of those chiefs has received money from the Taliban, and might have involved in the scheme independently if not acted in a group. If so, there must be an element of distrust between Karzai and his senior government officials who might be linked with the Taliban over the attack. Otherwise, doubt may cast on Karzai himself and his commitment towards people’s security. Karzai has been infamous for sympathizing with the Taliban calling them “unhappy brothers” and most importantly, he recently decided to release 72 Taliban prisoners who were considered the most “dangerous criminals.”

Inside Afghanistan, some believe that the recent attack on Kabul restaurant might have operated by those Taliban prisoners that Karzai ordered the release a week ago. However, the Afghan officials have already said that such a sophisticated and complex attack is not expected from the ordinary Taliban. The Afghanistan's National Security Council (which is chaired by Hamid Karzai) has blamed the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, for orchestrating the attack.

Whoever is behind the attack the consequence will be costly on Afghanistan, and its people. First, the security breach demonstrates the weakness of Afghan security forces, and specifically their incapability of sustaining the security of foreigners in Kabul. Such attacks are serious threats towards foreign investors and the consequence is detrimental to the Afghan fledgling economy, which has already flagged as the foreign aid has started drying up. In addition, such attacks on foreigners will potentially generate a ground of distrust and cynicism between foreigners and Afghans. As a result, the community of expatriates in Kabul will isolate more than before as mistrust is breeding.

Second, the accusation of Pakistan involvement in the attack will definitely have a serious repercussion on Afghanistan-Pakistan fragile relations. Since the Afghan government has earnestly been seeking Pakistan’s cooperation for peace talk with the Taliban, the National Security Council’s allegation may halt the peace process efforts, and it is very likely that within the next few days the Pakistani officials will angrily react to the Afghan government’s accusation.

Third, for the Afghan people, since the United State has decided to withdraw its troops in 2014, such attacks cause serious concern for their security. A Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) which allows some of the U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan and has already approved by the Afghan tribal elders, Karzai still refuses to sign the agreement. Finally, such attacks will certainly be a threat to the upcoming 2014 Afghanistan’s presidential elections, though Karzai would benefit for postponing the election in order to hold on to power beyond 2014.

Jan 13, 2014

ISI’s Plot at Indian Consulate in New York

The Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, who was arrested on a slavery offense in New York, finally left the United States for her home country. At the V.I.P aisle at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, hanging on his father's shoulder, Khobragade complained about her cavity search by police in New York: “They put their hands here,” pointing to her crotch “and here,” pointing to her cleavage, “I didn’t understand what they wanted from me.” Said Khobragade.

A journalist who belonged to the National Democratic Alliance asked Khobragade: “Don’t you think your case is being knowingly confused by the ruling party in India that no official has regretted so far?” While Khobragade tried to get her strength back and find an answer, another journalist asked: “Ms. Khobragade, don’t you think your case is a modern day slavery, which is a norm and widely practiced in India and deeply engrained in Indian psych that they don’t think it is wrong?” Bewildered, Khobragade, in the meantime, looking chagrined, she angrily tried to answer the question, but her father, Uttam Khobragade, intervened: “It was a plot by the Pakistan ISI to prepare the ground for another attack on Indian soil by Lashkar-e-Taiba, like the 2008-Mumbai Attacks. Don’t worry, this time, it will be on the U.S. Embassy.” He was reminding the journalists of India’s retaliation against the United States in which the Indian government removed security barriers to U.S. embassy as anger over the diplomat's arrest.

Uttam Khobragade said to media that the slavery charge against his daughter was a plot by the Pakistani intelligence service in New York. Uttam added that at first, he believed that his daughter’s ordeal was a complicated machination by the CIA, but he finally came to the conclusion that Sangeeta Richard was an ISI agent.

“Slave,” Sangeeta Richard, who earlier this week spoke to journalists in New York City, denied the Uttamn’s claim that she has been an ISI agent. She told the media that she was forced by Ms. Khobragade to work 168 to 190 hours a week, with no breaks for sleep, calls, and meals. “I told her a lot of time that madam, I’m unhappy, too much work, no time to do my things.” Ms. Richards continued while a mood of despondency turned her face pale: “In two years, no sex, nothing. Every time I tried with my husband, Philip in Delhi, over the phone, madam interrupted.” Said, salve, Sangeeta Richard.

On Friday, January 11, the Indian government welcomed the return of Devyani Khobragade, and promised to appoint Ms. Khobragade as the Minister of Modern Slavery of India.

Jan 10, 2014

Karzai Gives Away his Bloody Swords

Afghan President Hamid Karzai donated dozens of his bloody swords to the National Museum of Afghanistan. The ceremony which was held under a tight security measure at the Afghan presidential palace hosted chieftains, clan elders with dyed and hoary beards from all over Afghanistan. According to the news, the ceremony started three hours late due to Karzai’s health condition, which was caused by his emotional attachment to his swords that were prepared to be given away.

Among the participants, a long-bearded man in black turban who lost his temper stood up and frantically said: “I’ve never waited for three minutes for my wife let alone three hours for a puppet.” Elders who were personally invited by Karzai gradually began to lose their patience. Another elder who claimed to have three of his failed suicide-mission sons pardoned by Hamid Karzai cried: “This pig-headed doesn’t realize that in three hours I can water my three acre poppy field.”

The hall which was in a complete mayhem, suddenly, sank into full silence as soon as President Karzai entered.  Pausing, and looking around, Karzai, who was overwhelmed by a feeling of pensive sadness, approached the podium.

With a sullen gesture and after repeating “brethrens, you’re welcome” Karzai addressed the participants: “I’m giving away these swords, the honors of our nation and history, the swords that were confiscated from the first infidels who intruded into our fatherland and were contemptuously defeated by us lions, by proud Afghans.” By mentioning “the intrusion of first infidels” Karzai was reminding the elders of the first Anglo-Afghan War in 1839-1842 that left a heavy death toll on the British.

After rubbing his eyes that became red, tears instantly started trickling down his face; Karzai lost his control, first mumbling, but then, hysterically saying: “These are the swords that chopped off the infidels’ heads from their bodies, not far away from here,” Karzai continued while pointing his finger to the southern corner of the hall “Their bones can still be found at Bala Hissar.”

While struggling to overcome his emotion, Karzai, with his right hand pulled out a scimitar with dried blood. He then addressed the elders: “This is the sword that our four fathers used to kill the invaders, the dried blood you see on it is the blood of British soldiers.” Elders immediately cried out: “God is great, down with the infidels, we will kill the infidels.” One of the elders whose blood was boiling as a result of Karzai’s oration against foreigners, immediately started bleeding. Blood gushed out of his ears, nose, and mouth.

Finally, President Karzai erratically took out a sabre - dripping blood - from his sheath, and addressed the elders: “I will not surrender myself to these American infidels; I will not sign the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States.” He then left the hall without further delay.

The participants all began bleeding, and finally, all sunk into a pool of their own blood, except a short man from Bamiyan with a rounded face, and flat nose who survived. A journalist asked him why he didn’t bleed. In his response, the flat-nosed man while pale and confounded said: “I don’t have blood. I have been bleeding throughout the history.”

Note: The scimitar and sabre were used by the Afghans against the British soldiers in the first Anglo-Afghan War. Some of those swords can still be found in some Afghans' households. Some other parts are allusions to Afghanistan's history, and particularly a reflection on the current political situation.

Jan 3, 2014

Why Modernism didn't Take Place in Afghanistan?

In his introduction in The Emergence of Modern Afghanistan, Vartan Gregorian, mentions a quote from Mohammed Ali’s book, A New Guide to Afghanistan, as follows:

“No country comparable to Afghanistan in size and no people approaching the Afghans in historical interest and importance have received so little consideration at the hands of modern writers as have Afghanistan and the Afghans.”
For its importance and its relevance, Gregorian, puts this quote, contextually, in the 19th century of Afghanistan in which he argues that Afghanistan, for the most part, was culturally isolated, and protected as a parochial region in the Muslim world. That is one of the reasons that Afghanistan remained an unknown region to the rest of the world. He then draws a bigger picture by putting Afghanistan in the colonial frame; Gregorian says that causality of this “isolationism” and “parochialism,” relates to the fact that Afghanistan never undergone of a period of direct, and intensive European colonial rule.

This kind of argument has always made, and for the most part, it is true that Afghanistan in the 19th century had been thrown into the ditch of negligence. In part, colonialism could be blamed for this negligence, on another part, imperialism, however, by in large, it was the Afghans who had been the most neglectful, and ignorantly resentful to spread of any modern, or, European thought in their country. The effect of the harbouring resentment, of course, as Gregorian mentions in his book, was almost a total isolation that its effect has been destructively but invisibly palpable throughout the 19th and 20th century.

There was a chance, at the time, for Afghanistan to layout the ground and expect the waves of modernism, or, European thoughts, which could help Afghanistan not to be completely ignored. Unfortunately, however, it was the tribal Afghan Kings – who were mostly Pashtuns – were unable to understand the necessity of basic human needs, let alone modern thought, and developmental tools; they rather dragged Afghanistan into their Pashtun tribal domination, Pashtun parochialism, and Pashtunwali (a non-written tribal code of conduct of the Pashtuns). 

Tribal groups among Pashtuns began fighting over power – that who should rule Afghanistan – and as a result of blood feuds, they not only wrecked their own bases of tribal unison, but they wreaked havoc on potentiality of human development of other tribes in Afghanistan, namely the Tajiks, the Hazaras, and the Uzbeks. Therefore, Vartan Gregorian’s argument is legitimate, and understandable that if, today, one wonders why modern writers neglected Afghanistan, the clue is to dig into the history of modern Afghanistan, specifically, the period of 18th and 19th century.