Browsing articles by " Hameed"

Zahed Missed His Garden All These Years

May 1, 2012   //   by Hameed   //   culture, Human Rights, Peace, Poverty  //  1 Comment

Zahed is a forty some­thing years old Afghan-German who lives in Ger­many with his fam­ily. He’s lived there for over two decades now. About two and a half weeks ago, he came back to Afghanistan to visit his home­town in Surkhrod area of Nan­garhar Province. He missed his rel­a­tives and friends and his gar­den. He had a beau­ti­ful gar­den near his Qalla or vil­lage house where he used to sleep under the shade of its trees in some peace and quiet back in the day. He took very good care of the trees and plants in his gar­den and he enjoyed check­ing on the trees in the gar­den almost everyday.

Sec­ond to his rel­a­tives and friends Zahed, of course missed his pre­cious gar­den. He went to visit the gar­den and he savored every moment of it. On his third day in Surkhrod he want to take a nap under the cool shade in his gar­den and enjoy the after­noon breeze. He arranged his lit­tle bed in the gar­den solo. Lying on his bed he enjoyed look­ing at these now-tall trees he called it very joy­ful moments of his life, says his cousin Rahim. As he was doz­ing off the moment was inter­rupted by a motor­cy­cle that parked near him. Two guys approached him and told him that the dis­trict gov­er­nor wanted to see him and make sure that there are no secu­rity threats for him while he is in town. The bik­ers did not let him tell his fam­ily where he was off to. He rode on the motor­bike with the two strangers who claimed to be secret police officers.

After rid­ing for a few miles on the motor­bike, one of the kid­nap­pers took out a cloth and blind­foled his eyes. Zahed doesn’t reme­ber any­thing after that. When he opened his eyes he was in a dark room with an chain in his ankle. The kid­nap­pers con­tacted his fam­ily here in Jalal­abad and asked for $1 mil­lion ran­som. After a luke­warm response from them, they con­tacted the victim’s fam­ily in Ger­many to send them $1 mil­lion for his release.
Zahed’s fam­ily in Ger­many said they hadn’t saved that much in their entire life Ger­many. After a lot of nego­ti­a­tions, they set­tled for $50000 (fifty thou­sand USD) for his release.

It’s not clear how they handed over the $50K to the kid­nap­pers but they did. About a week ago the kid­nap­pers brought him (still blind­folded) near Nazanin Jabarkhel High School in Surkhrod at around eight o’clock in the evening and let him go. “You can’t open your eyes until you can no longer hear the sound of our motor­bike. We’re watch­ing you!” Said the per­pe­tra­tors to Zahed. “The last motor­bike ride from a mud house where I was held for one week and the school where I was droped off that evening was five min­utes ride,” he said.
He was locked in a dark pit toi­let for one week where all he saw was one lit­tle child who brought him food every­day — the only per­son he could rec­og­nize he ever meets him again.

Zahed went back to Ger­many and I doubt that he’ll ever miss his gar­den or home­town again.

Are You from This Country

Apr 14, 2012   //   by Hameed   //   Peace  //  No Comments

Not a lot of peo­ple in Afghanistan know where Cam­bo­dia is as many peo­ple in Cam­bo­dia don’t know where Afghanistan is located. I was in Cam­bo­dia for a month and peo­ple would ask me where I was from. I would answer “Afghanistan”. Most of the peo­ple would ask “No, what is the name of your coun­try?” Well, that is the name of my coun­try. They thought it was a small vil­lage in some coun­try. I was rid­ing in a tuk tuk with my friend, Una, to the Cen­tral Mar­ket in Phnom Penh and this tuk tuk dri­ver who spoke very good Eng­lish asked me about my nation­al­ity and I said Afghanistan. To my sur­prise, he made a ges­ture and screamed, “boom boom boom” then asked said “are you from this coun­try?” Yes, sir. I am exactly from that coun­try, I confessed.

Afghan Security Forces to Be Reduced after 2014

Apr 11, 2012   //   by Hameed   //   military, Peace, Poverty  //  1 Comment

Afghan Defense Min­is­ter, Gen. Abdul Rahim War­dak said on Tues­day that the Afghan secu­rity forces (ANSF) will likely be reduced from its peak strength of 352000 to 230000 after the NATO with­drawal from Afghanistan in 2014. This will be a sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tion in the Afghan National Secu­rity Forces. Now, some might argue that these 122000 per­son­nel will be unem­ployed. No, they will not. The ques­tion is who will con­tinue employ­ing them beyond 2014? The Tal­iban is long­ing for an oppor­tu­nity like that. These ANSF per­son­nel will have the skills to fight in a time when they’ll be furi­ous at the Afghan gov­ern­ment for tak­ing away their jobs and career. What is the solu­tion then? “If some­thing is unsus­tain­able, either you have to find the resources to sus­tain it or you have to reduce the size of the project.” Quotes a New York Times arti­cle from a senior west­ern offi­cial in Kabul. Sooner or later, the inter­na­tional dona­tions will inevitably taper off and dry even­tu­ally. It’s extremely impor­tant for Afghanistan to bring about big changes, and I mean big, to pre­pare for 2014 and beyond and more impor­tantly to avoid a poten­tial civil war in the coun­try– now is a good time to start this since the inter­na­tional coali­tion forces will be there to inter­vene if any­thing goes wrong in the process of bring­ing these changes. Depend­ing on how large of an Afghan secu­rity forces the inter­na­tional alliance agrees to con­tinue sup­port­ing in Chicago Sum­mit next month, Afghanistan will have to make some seri­ous deci­sions. Just a few thoughts on this: First of all, Pres­i­dent Karzi should get rid of all those gang­sters in the min­istries of inte­rior, defense and com­merce along with oth­ers. It will be a chal­leng­ing task for the pres­i­dent but there’s no way he can move for­ward. It’s like run­ning hard but stand­ing still with­out mak­ing any progress with these cor­rupt offi­cials’ involve­ment in his gov­ern­ment. Karzai wants to keep every­one happy by giv­ing them what they want but that’s how it works. The pres­i­dent will have built trust between his gov­ern­ment and the pub­lic by doing so. Now, that the num­ber of ANSF has not reached 352000 yet, we should stop increas­ing it. Instead of wast­ing that money on train­ing, equip­ping and giv­ing salaries to them that can­not be sus­tained beyond 2014, the money can be used more wisely by invest­ing in the National Direc­torate of Secu­rity (NDS) or the Afghan intel­li­gence agency and the exist­ing ANSF per­son­nel. They should work on the qual­ity rather than quan­tity. A stronger and higher num­ber of NDS means less insur­gent activ­i­ties and with the help and coor­di­na­tion of our cur­rent well-trained ANSF there will be bet­ter secu­rity. And as a final point, I think it’ll be wise for the Afghan gov­ern­ment to focus on devel­op­ing strate­gies for eco­nomic growth and inde­pen­dence and cre­ate more jobs for peo­ple includ­ing bridg­ing any unem­ploy­ment gaps that the ANSF may have under­gone. Pri­vate local busi­nesses should be strongly encour­aged so that it cre­ates more jobs and it gen­er­ates and spends money locally. Improv­ing pri­vate busi­nesses is a good way of sus­tain­able devel­op­ment and it’s dwarfed by the inter­na­tional dona­tions in the long term. To con­clude, by remov­ing druglo­rds and cor­rupt offi­cials from the gov­ern­ment, train­ing the cur­rent ANSF and invest­ing more on NDS and focus­ing on pri­vate busi­ness devel­op­ment and eco­nomic growth I think we will sur­vive and the Cen­tral Asia doesn’t have to be afraid.

Special Announcement for Afghans

Mar 12, 2012   //   by Hameed   //   culture  //  1 Comment

I was fly­ing from Delhi back to Kabul after hav­ing been on a few flights in South­east Asia. Nor­mally, in-flight safety announce­ments for pas­sen­gers in air­planes were all sim­i­lar. Since the flight from Delhi to Kabul was mostly Afghans so the announce­ment was a bit more tai­lored to us. The announce­ment said, smok­ing in the air­plane is strictly pro­hib­ited. Then it added, “not even in the toi­lets”. They’d obvi­ously found cig­a­rette butts in the toi­lets before that and decided to change the announce­ment hop­ing that it’ll work. The announce­ment also requested us to switch our phones off but then there were my fel­low Afghans mak­ing phone calls for final good­byes after the announce­ment. They would to tell their family/friends how they were in the air­plane and fly­ing right then. I wanted to Tweet it but my phone was off ;) You know how short our tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions are here in Afghanistan. There was one Amer­i­can, one Briton and one Afghan and they were all in hell together. They missed their fam­i­lies and they wanted to call back home. The Amer­i­can called home and talked to his fam­ily for four min­utes and the Satan brought the bill and it was $20000. Then the Brit called home and talked with his fam­ily for three min­utes and he was billed $15000. Finally, it was the Afghan’s turn to call home. He called and talked to his fam­ily for three hours. Satan brought the bill and it was $3 and then the Amer­i­can and the the Brit com­plained to him why they were so ridicu­lously over­charged and why the Afghan was charged so cheap. Satan told them that it was a local call. From hell to hell is local price. I say this with a lot of love but we do talk a LOT most of us enjoy break­ing some small rules like the one on the airplane.

From Missouri to Nangarhar

Feb 18, 2012   //   by Hameed   //   military, Peace, Poverty, videos  //  No Comments

Video credit: AFAfghan

Mis­souri Agri­cul­ture Devel­op­ment Team has helped farm­ers in Kama dis­tricts and equipped some of them with advanced tools of farm­ing. They’ve also taught new approaches of farm­ing and how to har­vest more healthy crops.

Pul-e-Jawan: A Regional Peace-building Team

Feb 17, 2012   //   by Hameed   //   culture, links, Peace, university, videos  //  No Comments

Pul-e-Jawan, which lit­er­ally means “bridges of youth” in Dari, Urdu and Hindi, is a group of regional peace build­ing and active youth from Afghanistan, Pak­istan and India. In Sep­tem­ber 2011, Internews, Afghanistan took ini­tia­tive and invited five cit­i­zen jour­nal­ists with an inter­est in peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion issues from each of the above coun­tries (a total of fif­teen peo­ple) to meet in Kabul.
The aim of Pul-e-Jawan is to pro­vide an exchange for the youth and to bridge any gaps and issues between the three coun­tries. When we met in Kabul back in Sep­tem­ber (I am a mem­ber of the team) we took part in a forum on secu­rity and we met with pol­i­cy­mak­ers, NGO rep­re­sen­ta­tives, aca­d­e­mics, jour­nal­ists and other senior experts in the field. There were five groups of three (in each group there was one Afghan, one pak­istani and one Indian) and each group worked to make pre­sen­ta­tions on an issue of their inter­est. One of the pre­sen­ta­tions that my team worked on was a com­par­i­son of state uni­ver­si­ties with pri­vate universities.

Video pre­sen­ta­tion:

For prepar­ing this pre­sen­ta­tion, our team vis­ited Kabul Uni­ver­sity and Amer­i­can Uni­ver­sity of Afghanistan (AUAF) and we inter­view stu­dents from both uni­ver­si­ties. AUAF is a very expen­sive uni­ver­sity and not a lot of Afghans can afford going to there. After inter­view­ing, I asked a stu­dent there if the future lead­er­ship of Afghanistan will go to the sons and nephews of the cor­rupt com­man­ders and other offi­cials or to them (those who are get­ting the best edu­ca­tion in Afghanistan). He answered, “excuse me!?”. My father is a com­man­der. I was kind of expect­ing that answer but I still wanted to hear it from him. That was a Pul-e-Jawan expe­ri­ence. :)

In addi­tion to dis­cussing peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in the region, Pul-e-Jawan was a great net­work­ing oppor­tu­nity for us. We worked eight hours every­day and spent most of the evenings going out and eat­ing Afghan foods in restau­rants of Kabul. One evening we all went to a restau­rant called “Sufi” and sang every­one took turn and sang a song in their own lan­guage. The rest of the group would try to sing along.
Pul-e-Jawan has a web­site and a Face­book page where we post and dis­cuss issues that are com­mon in the three countries.

Pul-e-Jawan web­site:
Face­book page:

Support Afghan Female Boxers Fighting their Way to London Olympics

Feb 9, 2012   //   by Hameed   //   culture, Human Rights, links, Peace, Poverty, videos, Women in Conflict  //  2 Comments

In the base­ment of once noto­ri­ous Ghazi National Olympic Sta­dium of Afghanistan is where the Afghan national team of female box­ers train tire­lessly hard for the Olympics 2012 in Lon­don.
Once known as the sta­dium of death the venue was used for hold­ing pub­lic exe­cu­tions and ston­ing under the bru­tal Tal­iban rule, 1996 to 2001. Under the Tal­iban women were com­pletely for­bid­den from par­tic­i­pat­ing in any sports, not even as spec­ta­tors.
Refur­bished by the US gov­ern­ment, Ghazi Olympic Sta­dium reopened in recent years and thou­sands of young ath­letes train here every­day, includ­ing Afghanistan’s national female box­ers team. Beam­ing with hope, this group of 25 girls with a mis­sion, meet in this dark­ened train­ing club in the base­ment with cracked mir­rors, three times a week and run hard prac­tices to pre­pare for the upcom­ing 2012 Olympics. The team has been given a chance to par­tic­i­pate in Olympic games in Lon­don. They really have their work cut out for them.
Shab­nam, a 19-year-old boxer won gold medal in an inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion in Octo­ber 2011 in Tajik­istan. Her younger sis­ter also won silver.

In a coun­try where still a very insignif­i­cant num­ber of women are allowed by their fam­i­lies to par­tic­i­pate in sports and despite threats of kid­nap­ping and vio­lence, Shab­nam and her other fel­low box­ers con­tinue to fight thier way to the Olympics 2012 in Lon­don. “We work for the future, because the past is lost”, says Moham­mad Shabir Shar­ifi coach of the national female box­ers team in an inter­view.
These box­ers are the bea­cons of hope for Afghanistan and their vic­tory means hope and encour­ag­ment to mil­lions of other Afghan women. I admire their brav­ery and the noble love and sup­port these young women receive from their fam­i­lies and their coach in the pur­suit of their Olympic dreams. Their spir­its are high and with prac­tice and strong deter­mi­na­tion they will show the world that they too can be the con­tenders. The team that rep­re­sents Afghanistan in inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions has lit­tle sup­port from the gov­ern­ment ($1 a day per ath­lete).
Here is a peti­tion to the Afghan pres­i­dent, Hamid Karzai to give the Afghan women’s box­ing team more pro­tec­tion and sup­port that they truly deserve. Peti­tion to Hamid Karzai

That’s what I do

Feb 5, 2012   //   by Hameed   //   Children in Conflict, culture, Human Rights, photos, Women in Conflict  //  2 Comments

I was in Dara-e-Noor, a dis­trict far to the north of Jalal­abad city. My team mem­bers and I were there for a map­ping sur­vey for which talk­ing with a local res­i­dent helped us make bet­ter and more accu­rate maps for any given area.

Here, we ran into Baghcha Gul. We were talk­ing about the vil­lage and names of the roads, pub­lic build­ings, etc. and my col­league, Akbar asked this ran­dom ques­tion: “How many chil­dren do you have?” “I have only one son”, Baghcha Gul answered.
Then Akbar asked again, “What do you do, Mama?“
He said, “that’s what I do.“
Akbar: What?
Baghcha Gul: Mak­ing babies.

Later, we found out that the man had 10 chil­dren: Nine girls and one boy. Some peo­ple, espe­cially in rural areas of Afghanistan , shy away talk­ing about female mem­bers of their family.

No, There Is only One God!

Feb 5, 2012   //   by Hameed   //   culture, Human Rights, Peace  //  2 Comments

When I was tak­ing this pic­ture I raised my index and mid­dle fin­ger and parted them ask­ing the gen­tle­men to make peace ges­ture. The senior man in the back shouted, “No, there is only ONE God!” “There are not two Gods”, he added. I almost got into a big trou­ble. They prob­a­bly thought I was try­ing to con­vert them or some­thing. It was in my own city of Jalal­abad but these folks seemed alien. Some peo­ple in Jalal­abad know what the sign means.

Plucked from Garbage Scavenging, Sokha Becomes an Inspiring Girl Worldwide

Feb 5, 2012   //   by Hameed   //   Children in Conflict, Human Rights, Poverty  //  No Comments

When my father died, I lost every­thing: my edu­ca­tion, my strug­gling spirit and my parental love and even the love from my sib­lings because I had to go away and live with oth­ers,” she said.

If there is one les­son she’s learned, it’s that “you must never give up hope,” she said. “You must strug­gle and strug­gle until one day you see success.”

Arti­cle on VOA Cam­bo­dia: Plucked From Garbage Scav­eng­ing, a Girl Makes Good