Jan 24, 2022

US Warmongering Rhetoric Makes Russian Invasion More Likely

The world in battling against pandemic, climate change and its devastating drought and omnipresent hunger around the world and yet the US that just withdrew from Afghanistan is planning starting another war. For the past few weeks, the Biden administration has stepped up in its warmongering rhetoric against Russia, and it seems as they are making the Russian invasion of Ukraine very likely. Last week, the US sent 90 tons of military aid to Ukraine and it is now preparing for deployment of 8500 troops.

What is the underlying reason behind US rhetoric? It's economic. For years, the US has been working hard to stop the German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, that provide Russian gas to Germany and Western Europe, from happening. It goes back to the previous administration in which Donald Trump began pressuring Germany to kill the plan. In July 2018, Trump criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel and said if the Nord Stream 2 project comes to fruition, Germany would become "captive to Russia." Though this came from Trump's mouth, it has been the US policy since the beginning. Pressure on Germany became futile because the country relies on natural gas about a quarter of its energy In May 2019, at the US Senate, a bipartisan bill was introduced by Ted Cruz in which it threatened companies involving in construction of the pipeline with sever sanctions. The threat didn't stop the construction of the pipeline and then in December of the same year, the bill reached Trump's desk and he signed it into law. 

When Biden became president, nothing changed, the antagonism and opposition against the pipeline regained strength. The US began pressuring German to end project over the poisoning of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The US continued its pressure and simultaneously it started sending arms to civilians in Ukraine, though it started during Trump administration, in hopes for building a resisting defense against Russian aggression as well as well fighting the separatists in the Donbas regions, eastern of Ukraine. This is straight from the playbook of the US foreign policies during the Cold War in which it armed the Afghan Mujahideen to fight its war against the Soviet in 1980s. You can see where Afghanistan is right now. Afghanistan should be a lesson for Ukraine and any country seeking US involvement in their political affairs. But what is the US intelligence on Russian invasion that the US is relying on? 

On January 14, the NYT has published an article based on an obscure and anonymous intelligence that the Russian has sent saboteurs into Ukraine to stage "a false-flag operation”operation. It is maybe too simplistic to reject the danger, it might there but the US makes it more possible. Remember how American media and US intelligence communities peddled a false charge against Saddam Hussein that he had weapons of mass destruction (WMD)? A year after the US invasion of Iraq, the New York Times published mea culpa over its false news and coverage of Iraq saying they were wrong. Who can trust the NYT and any US intelligence communities' claims now? I don't think anyone can.

Right now, wherever the US warmongering rhetoric is heading, it is going to be dangerous. Of course the Russian troops buildup on its border with Ukraine is worrisome, but the troops are on its own soil, it has not invaded yet, and may not do so based on Russian officials. What Russia is doing is a deterrence strategy against the NATO incursion on its borders, which has supposedly violated its promise made during a negotiation with the Soviet Union in 1990 not to expand into Eastern Europe

Jan 9, 2022

Indonesia has become an inferno for refugees

Refugees sleeping on the sidewalk in Indonesia (Photo source: social media)

What is going on in Indonesia? It has become an inferno for thousands of refugees who have been stranded for years now. Indonesia has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention and its supplemental 1967 Protocol which form the basis of rights of refugees and obligations of governments to protect them. The Indonesian government has done nothing but to create a situation that has become a protracted agony and suspense, a humanitarian predicament that has resulted in the loss of dozens of lives. 

In December 2016, in an attempt to a better humanitarian response to the refugee crisis, the Indonesian president Joko Widodo issued a decree called Presidential Regulation No. 125, which allows refugees and asylum seekers to stay in Indonesia, not to be forcibly returned to their country of origin. In the Article 1, no 1 it says:

Foreign refugee, hereinafter referred to as refugee, shall mean a foreigner who resides within the territory of the Republic of Indonesia due to a well-founded fear of persecution due to race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, and different political opinions, and does not wish to avail him/herself of protection from their country of origin and/or has been granted the status of asylum-seeker or refugee by the United Nations through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 

From the language, it is clear that Indonesia is able to protect refugees and wants them in its soil only for a terminable period, so to consider itself as a transit country. 

According to the UNHCR website, there are currently 13,273 refugees registered (there might be unregistered refugees and not counted) in Indonesia. Of that number 56% which is 7,432 are from Afghanistan, the rest are from Somalia and Myanmar. But the refugee resettlement has been slow and some of these refugees have been waiting to be resettled in third countries for nearly 10 years or more. 

The endless waiting coupled with terrible conditions of living contributed to psychological trauma. Pictures of refugees being shared on social media showing they are sleeping on sidewalks, under harsh weather conditions, on the side of the road and parking lots, some of them are placed in abandoned military buildings without running water or electricity and proper sanitation facilities. The resettlement refugees attrition in tandem with all these harsh conditions have driven refugees to feel they are condemned to slow death. As a result, 14 refugees have committed suicide and a dozen of others made failed attempts. Those who took their lives were all Afghan refugees who did not see any prospect of resettlement in third countries. Refugees have constantly protested against these inhuman conditions, they went on hunger strike, sewed lips, and set themselves on fire, but unfortunately none of these objections have changed policies implemented by the IOM, UNHCR, and the Indonesian government. 

According to UNHCR, in the year 2021, only 391 refugees were settled in third countries. This is extremely slow considering the overall number of refugees totaling 13,273 in Indonesia. If we consider the average resettlement 400 refugees per year, it would take nearly 32 years for all refugees to be resettled in third countries.

One of the options that UNHCR can take to end this predicament is to negotiate with countries that have already promised accepting Afghan refugees in the aftermath of US troops withdrawal that resulted in the collapse of the Afghan government. These refugees have the priority to be resettled because they escaped the brutality and persecution of the Taliban, and after all, they have been in limbo for over a decade in a country where they have little rights as a human being. Countries like Germany, Canada, the UK, and the United States have pledged to admit thousands of refugees. The majority of these refugees are young, single, educated, ambitious and ready to contribute to societies they would land in. 

Today, on January 09, 2022, people (mostly Afghanistani diasporas) have turned into Twitter using hashtag #HelpRefugees_Indonesia to amplify their voice against the pain and suffering that refugees have been enduring for years. If you can please go on Twitter and raise your voice in support of refugees who have been languishing in camps in Indonesia without access to basic rights such as work, education, and healthcare, and worst of all, living in limbo not for one or two years but over a decade. 

Jan 8, 2022

A response to my earlier post about

In response to my previous blog post about the crises at the Afghanistan Embassy in Washington DC, I received the following e-mail the Afghan Embassy and for further transparency, I am going to copy and paste it here. The purpose of that blog post was to highlight the misery and injustice that the US brought on the people of Afghanistan not only inside but also outside. I have spoken to a few Afghan diplomats, they are struggling to survive as their country is handed over by the United States to the the criminal group, the Taliban. Anyway, the following email is indicating that I got a few facts wrong. This post is for that purpose.  

Embassy Admin *******@afghanembassy.us

Dear Fekrat,

We are writing to inform you that the information contained in your blog post published today, supposedly provided by our diplomats, are false. In this regard, we would like to clarify the following.

1.      We are not told by the Department of States not to talk with the media. And our Bank accounts are frozen by Citibank, not the Department of States. We in fact are talking to the State to get our Bank accounts released through them.

2.      The rent for the house that Ambassador Raz is living in is not $12,000. Following the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, we negotiated with the landlord and signed a new contract for $4,200 monthly from November 2021 to June 2022. Furthermore, no one at the embassy has received money from any entity. Our new year message published on 30 December on our website and social media accounts clarify that we are continuing to provide our services in the absence of funding from any source.

We have documents to support the above and should the documents remain confident, we could share them with you. We hope that you will revise your post and reflect our comments.

With regards,
--


EMBASSY OF AFGHANISTAN, WASHINGTON, D.C.

+1 202-483-6410 Ext 1033AFGHANEMBASSY.US

This message is intended only for the named recipient. If you are not the intended recipient you are notified that disclosing, copying, distributing or taking any action in reliance on the contents of this information is strictly prohibited.

Jan 3, 2022

Afghanistan's Diplomatic Mission Under Pressure from U.S. State Department

Afghanistan's flag flutters outside the Afghanistan embassy in Washington, DC. (Photo Source)
The collapse of Afghanistan's government was a catastrophic event for all Afghans, but for perhaps no one more so than for staff of Afghanistan’s diplomatic missions in the United States whose employees are not only distressed financially but also oppressed politically. For months now, Afghan diplomats and staff have not received their salaries and recently, the U.S. State Department has pressured them to limit their diplomatic activities and asked them not to speak to the media.

After the sudden fall of Kabul to the Taliban on August 15, the US decided to freeze nearly $9.5 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank. In addition, it froze all accounts belonging to the Afghan government, including those belonging to Afghanistan's diplomatic missions, its embassy in Washington D.C. and consulates in New York and Los Angeles.

The Afghanistan embassy recently shut its consulate and resumed its services through the embassy in DC because it lacked sufficient funds to pay the rent and utilities, according to an embassy employee who asked to remain anonymous. Dozens of diplomats have not received their salaries, local staff at all Afghan diplomatic missions are laid off. The embassy and its consulates in New York City and Los Angeles remain for now, though employees are not mandated to show up for work. 

Afghan consulates are still trying to offer a range of services to Afghan citizens, such as passport renewal, issuing birth and marriage certificates, and document validation but with their account frozen, it cannot cash money orders. The embassy has recently started asking its customers to pay fees for these services in cash, but the amount they collect each week doesn’t cover the the inutility bills. 

Worse, the U.S. State Department has recently begun demanding the Afghan embassy limit its diplomatic activities, since Afghanistan is now under the control of the Taliban. Afghan diplomats have also been asked to abstain from speaking about the US withdrawal from Afghanistan or complaining about their frozen bank accounts. The anonymous diplomat told me that when asked, the State Department has repeatedly said they are in talks with the US treasury and the Department of Justice to release some funds, but so far, the embassies and consulates have had to try and operate without access to funds or bank accounts.

Adela Raz, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States, has also been under pressure from the State Department. According to Afghan diplomats, the State Department has urged her not to criticize the Biden administration, after she told Axios that "President Biden doesn't care about the fate of Afghan women and girls."

Desperation over embassy's account closure and pressure by the State Department has led to internal conflict. The diplomats and staff at the embassy are also at odds with Adela Raz who is still claiming to be leading Afghanistan's diplomatic mission. [This part that claimed Raz received cash gifts from other diplomatic missions is being removed after a cross-check for accuracy.] The staff at the Afghan embassy are preparing a press release to declare that the Afghanistan embassy has not received any cash gifts or donations from any entities.

According to employees, the Afghan embassy in DC and its consulates in New York and Los Angeles may soon close. It is now nearly for months staff have not received their salaries; the embassy has not paid its utility bills since its accounts were frozen in mid-August. Outside the embassy, diplomats struggle to pay their rent, utility bills and even buy winter clothes for their children. Those who lived with their families in government-sponsored housing have been forced to move out because they could not afford paying their rents without government support, and some families with sick members have been unable to afford doctor visits, since they lost their insurance when Kabul fell to the Taliban. I was told by several diplomats they are considering shutting down their diplomatic missions at the end of January if the US government does not unfreeze its employees’ salaries because they cannot afford rent, and some may apply for asylum in the U.S. while others are planning to escape to Canada.

Jan 2, 2022

The importance of using VPN in Afghanistan

Now that the Taliban have taken control of everything, privacy and safety on the web is more important than ever. This is especially important to those who are civil society activists, journalists and writers who want to avoid censorship and harassment from the Taliban. These two VPNs are working perfectly without putting too much constraints affecting the speed and quality of accessing the Internet. These are not free though but with one subscription you can connect five devices.

expressvpn*
nordvpn

It is important to shield ourselves against censorship and and control. One of the ways is to find alternatives to common Internet browsers we often use. Tor is a powerful browser, but it is also a VPN. You should first download it to your device and make sure it is connected. Then, everything you write or search while using Tor will bypass you local ISPs. For example, let's say you are in Kabul and you want to connect to the Internet via Roshan and Afghan Wireless or any other Afghan telecom, these companies give you a specific IP address. The IP address that is assigned to your computer or mobile phone by your local ISPs is your identification, you could easily be traced, recognized and whatever you search and see on the Internet can be seen. If you use VPN, you will taken to another region of the world and a different IP address will be assigned to you. Now all your information is encrypted and only the servers are able to know where you connected from, not the local ISPs.

Now, Tor connects you directly to its own servers, which is almost like a virtual world. Then you will be connected to the Internet. You can use Google, email and social networking sites. Local ISPs do not know that you are connected to the Internet through them because you are connected to the Internet from a third party. 

The advantage of using this browser and other VPNs is that it provides safety to you by providing you a detour, meaning it bypasses your local ISPs that might be in control of tyrannical governments whose will is to control and track down their citizens.

The disadvantage of this browser and VPN in general is that it slows down the Internet search because it bypasses the local ISP and connects to the Internet through a third party.

A Farsi version of this post with a little difference was already posted here on my Farsi blog.

* I was recently told by friends in Kabul that Roshan telecom has blocked expressvpn.

Dec 29, 2021

Afghanistan's women fighting back

One of the convincing and yet stereotype narratives of war on terror in Afghanistan has been linked with liberation of women. Afghan women have always been portrayed as oppressed, helpless, and always in need of help. Since the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, the only group who has dared to take the streets in protest against the Taliban's violence and oppression are Afghanistan's women.  Here is a clip I saw on Twitter today. You can google or go on twitter to find more about these courageous ladies who stand up against gun-wielding Taliban. 


This video was sent me today and I download, I can't remember where but it is also circulated on twitter

Dec 28, 2021

the illusion of homeland

I was talking to a forlorn friend of mine the other day who talked sadly about her country, a place she called home. I totally understood her feelings. Years ago, I was in the same situation as she is now. But the reality is that there is no such thing as a "home" or "homeland" but an illusion. This illusion is being made by the political demarcation of the modern world created by European nationalism in the last two hundred years. In every way, they sewed clothes for their communities to monopolize the culture, language and, most importantly, the people.

Until the early twentieth century, there were barely a few demarcated boundaries as a nation or country in the Middle East and Asia and many of the borders that exist today. I write this to say that we humans have always been and will always be immigrants. Our ancestors traveled from Africa, went to Asia, the Middle East and some went to Europe. For whatever reason, we will be migrants or refugees today and tomorrow, either because of wars and conflicts, or because of the lack of resources resulted from the global climate change which is created by the industrial countries that are responsible for the refugee crisis as a result.

Obviously, this feeling is personal and I'm also speaking to my fellow Hazaras. We have been driven out of our lands several times in the past 200 years. We have been driven out of low lands (like Kandahar and Helmand) to high lands (Hazarajat). I see Afghanistan as just a physical place for us. We take the rest of our belongings with us wherever we go. Afghanistan will be a difficult place for Hazaras to live a peaceful life because we have never lived in peace for the past 200 years.

Dec 12, 2021

legal scamming by airlines

I bought a one-way ticket through Alaska Airlines the other day but soon realized I need to change it but when I tried, it didn't work. I contacted the customer service and here is my chat with them. Airlines like Alaska are using customer's vulnerability to sell cheaper tickets within a limited window of time for travel (which they know that often people can't make it) and if costumers want to change, they can't because it is designed to ensnare customers for profit. Let's say you bought a ticket for Saturday but on two days into your flight, your house is obliterated in a tornado or flooding and you can't travel, you contact Alaska Airlines to change or refund, you can't change it and you can't be refunded either, your money is gone because they come up with jargons for their deceptive scheme to swindle you. This is thievery but in a capitalist world like the US, this is a good mechanism of harvesting profits (capitalist thieves call it smart business), which I think should be called legal defrauding.  

Lisa
 
02:47 pm
Hi this is Lisa in Seattle, How can I help you?
dav
 
02:48 pm
Hi Lisa, how are you?
i need to cancel my flight, i wasn't able to cancel it myself
i'd appreciate if you can help
Lisa
 
02:48 pm
What is the confirmation code? I can take a look.
dav
 
02:49 pm
here it is
LVHXBP
Lisa
 
02:54 pm
This Alaska flight is a saver fare ticket. This can only be canceled in the first 24 hours of purchase otherwise it is a use the ticket or forfeit the ticket amount. This will not be able to be cancelled if not flying then you will loose the value of this ticket.
dav
 
02:54 pm
that is a shame
i'm a student
how can that be possible
Lisa
 
02:56 pm
I am sorry this is our most restricted ticket. There is not a way to get the credit back. It will be flying or loose the ticket amount. In order to not have this again it will be choosing our main cabin fare ticket for some flexibility in your travel plans.
dav
 
03:00 pm
that is not right! that is literally theft. why do you use consumer's vulnerability to scam for profit?
Lisa
 
03:02 pm
When making the reservation the fare rules are no changes or cancelation. You are outside of that time. You agreed to these terms at time of check out. There are no change or cancelation can be made to this reservation.
dav
 
03:03 pm
i mean why do you create such vulnerability to your customer in the first place?
Lisa
 
03:06 pm
This is a restricted ticket. I am sorry this is not the answer you wanted to hear. At this time we will not be canceling the reservation due to the restrictions of your ticket. If there is nothing else travel related. Thanks for choosing Alaska. Have a great day.

Dec 5, 2021

Replacing the Taliban with the Taliban

What did the US do in Afghanistan in the past 20 years? It depends on who asks and who answers but as we all know that our understanding of the current situation is formed historically, meaning that we know what empires did and do. And when it comes to Afghanistan, the same form of thinking could be considered. A few days ago, I saw a post on social media, someone said something splendidly accurate. The post said that you should not feel miserable and depressed, it took 20 years for the US to deploy hundreds of thousands of troops, spend trillions of dollars, dragged in four US presidents to replace the Taliban with the Taliban. 

Ironically, this is, of course, an over-simplification of the whole issue but in a very ironic and bitter way, this is a very accurate illustration. In a sense the US eventually did nothing but bringing back the Taliban to power that they ousted 20 years ago. 

But wait, there is something deeper and bitter nuance in it and that has to do with Afghanistan and its people. It exposes a very dreadful reality and that is that Afghanistan cannot be changed, and perhaps, it applies to its people as well. It is sad but true to some degree, unlike other nations that upgrade, Afghanistan retrograde, its people (not everyone though but some) undo their own civilization and culture.

Dec 4, 2021

The rejection of humanitarian parole cases

I don't know how credible this news that the USCIS is about to deny most Afghan humanitarian paroles cases is but it sounds pretty outrageous if it is true. I heard from other sources that some people have already received rejection letters from the USCIS. The categorical denial comes after receiving thousands of application fees, each $575. Apparently, the USCIS have received more than 30,000 applications which amounts to $17,250,000 in application fees that is a lucrative scam by the Biden administration. 

Dec 1, 2021

Clash on the border of Afghanistan-Iran

There is some sporadic news coming out of western part of Afghanistan that the Taliban militants have clashed with the Iranian soldiers on the border of Nimroz province. It is unclear what has caused the confrontation but one thing is clear and must be understood by the Iranian government is that the Taliban will not be their friends--the thing that they hoped. It is known that Iran aided the Taliban in taking over districts and provinces across its eastern border, and even convinced government officials in Herat to give in to pressure mounted from the Taliban. No one expected the swift fall of Herat had it not been the help and pressure from Iran. 

Now this short skirmish is the beginning of a bitter and difficult future for Iran to deal with a terrorist group it helped to take over Afghanistan. The Taliban see Iran and its people as Rafidis, a derogatory term used by Sunni Wahhabi and Deobandi followers to delegitimate and dehumanize Shiite adherents as Muslims. Iran was not alone in helping the Taliban, Pakistan was another neighbor that provided significant support throughout the past two decades, which may experience the consequences of their actions since the Pakistan Taliban are getting motivated and bolder to fight the army.

Nov 27, 2021

the state of turmoil

The Taliban are constantly bombarding people with propaganda through all sort of media, most effectively through the Internet because they know how to lie to the world (if the world really cares about Afghanistan and its people any longer) about the situation they have created since mid-August when they took full control of Afghanistan. The Taliban prime minister, Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, in his first public address, said that they have brought security to the Afghan people and blamed the current state of turmoil to the previous government ran by Ashraf Ghani. Apart from all these lies, he said that the Taliban government has granted amnesty to everyone who aided foreigners or worked with the previous regime, but the reality on the ground debunks all his/Taliban's claims and promises. 

The Taliban members have been breaking into people's homes in broad daylight, arresting them, taking them to unknown places, some were summarily killed at the spot. This morning I talked to someone from my village who fled to Kabul, the Taliban, he told me, have taken away his car that he used for hauling passengers and now he doesn't know what to do since there is no job and money in the country. He is a Hazara and the Hazaras are the most vulnerable people who suffered during the Taliban regime in the 1990s and are suffering now.

As the fall quarter begins to wind down and the shock and trauma of Afghanistan's mess gradually fading away, I feel I need to return to routine blogging. I hope short post like this one becomes routine.

Sep 1, 2021

Why did Kabul fall so easily into the Taliban's hands?

They came, yes, the Taliban came at last, the vampires to drink the human blood, they are still thirsty though they have spilled too much blood for the past 20 years but it seems not enough. 

People were expecting this calamity but no one expected it to such a degree that overnight everything fell apart. The political turmoil in the months of May and June featured a doomy future. It became a reality in July when the Taliban's offense metastasized across the country. This catastrophe should be blamed on the stubborn and arrogant Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, who did not want the army to take the offensive.

I heard Biden saying that the Afghan Army did not fight. That is not true. How to fight with your hands tied? The decrepit old man who was an illegitimate president and with his fascist team did not allow the Army to fight the Taliban. Most of those generals and senior ranks of Afghan forces who wanted to fight were ousted or replaced with lower rank officers. In some cases, some generals faced mandatory retirement like Lt. Gen. Murad Ali Murad. In the past two years, nearly 35 generals were forced into retirement.

Now they are trying to explain why the Afghan central government collapsed. Well, if anyone followed the events evolving in the past three months, it was certain that the government would collapse eventually, only the narcissist leader, Ghani, stubbornly refused to believe it. He intentionally did not allow the army to fight against the Taliban and when they asked for air support, they were left alone to die at the hands of the Taliban. This gradually eroded the morale of the Afghan Army fighters. 

Not only Ashraf Ghani did not allow the Afghan Army to fight, but he and his team in the government suppressed popular uprisings against the Taliban. So, any local resistant groups from non-Pashtun that stood up against the onslaught of the Taliban, Ashraf Ghani's government considered it a threat, but ironically, not the Taliban who were inching close to the capital as districts after districts and provinces and provinces were falling to the hands of the Taliban.

Jul 29, 2021

racial scapegoating

if you have ever wondered what would racial profiling or racial scapegoating look like, here is a classic example:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state troopers on Wednesday to begin pulling over vehicles whose drivers are transporting migrants who pose a risk of carrying COVID-19, escalating his hardline approach on immigrants and eliciting outrage from advocates calling the order a ticket to racial profiling. Read the rest here

this is sad and scary; sad because racist ideology is persistently targeting immigrants and minorities; scary because it doesn't only permeate the airwaves and social media sites, it saturates the power structure that can put their pernicious ideology into practice, like what the governor of Texas is doing. what astonishes me is not the practice of pulling over by state troopers because it has been mandated for awhile, but the malleability of racial scapegoating, specially when it's related to covid-19 and anything that would be align with partisanship.

Jun 1, 2021

traveling into the past through smell

Yesterday, I went on a hike on nearby hills that were lavishly covered by sagebrush, a familiar shrub with abundant memories of my childhood. In the Hazaragi vernacular, it's called butta, they are strongly aromatic and can be felt from a distance. Back in the village, we used to collect them every fall. Sagebrush is arid-adapted shrubs that grow in harsh habitats in the mountains, deserts and steppes. 

When I was very young I used to go with my mother to nearby hills and mountains for collecting sagebrush. We burned them to cook our meals or heat our house in winter. I remember, my mom used to wear a long colorful gown with velvet flowers, contrasting the pale greenish landscape. I often drifted away from her, following my own passion, running after marmots, stalking them at their dens or climbing  up on boulders and rocks until I heard my mom’s worrying call “where are you?” “Here, coming,” I would respond. Then I followed her through the sagebrush that some were taller than me. Occasionally, she would need my assistance, especially when her skirt stuck in bushes or needed help removing thorns and thistles from her long beautiful skirt that was decorated with delicate flowers. 

It was the first time to see sagebrush plants in this country. I was so excited as soon as I found myself among them. I walked off the trail to pace through a sea of sagebrush to feel them, to pick up the strong pleasant scent on my clothes while at the same time caressing the petals with my hands. As memories flew in, suddenly, a powerful sense of being removed overwhelmed me. I found myself back in the village, on the mountains and hills that were so immensely familiar. I felt my mother's hands, the fragrance of the sagebrush on her hands, on her clothes, on her homemade leather gloves that she used to wear when collecting shrubs and on the way back, I used to carry them. I sat under a sagebrush and wept.

If the war and its horrible consequences wouldn't have happened, I would have been in the village, in that pristine and healthy ecosystem, having a normal and peaceful life, walking on hills and mountains with my mother. Yesterday, ambling through the sagebrush and picking up its fragrance was a revisit to my childhood, a moment that harked back to the good old days that will never repeat.