The soul of Afghanistan
Written by Nathan Gallahan   
Friday, 12 February 2010 07:12

Kabul | Day 4 – I’m all about eyeballs. There’s something truly beautiful about them. If you give me a good eyeball, I’ll stare at it for hours like it’s a sneak peek at the next big movie.

The beauty doesn’t stop on the surface, where the rich blues, browns and greens reside. The beauty continues below the surface and if you let yourself go, you will be carried on a journey into their owner’s soul.

I was taken on such a journey by two Afghan college students today. Their words were interesting and informative but they shared something deeper with me, and I felt honored.

Manizha, 21, was a little girl when

coalition forces started liberating the Taliban from her country. For years, the Taliban had prevented her from going to school, forcing her parents to home school her. As she spoke of her past there was sadness in her eyes but as she talked about the future of Afghanistan, they lit up.

Mohammad, 23, and his family fled to Iran during the Taliban’s rule and came back when they heard coalition forces were here. Three months after their return, the Taliban showed up and cut his hair off. They also kidnapped one of his brothers and forced him to fight within their ranks. His eyes were angry when he talked of them and burst with happiness as he talked about the first time he waved at a coalition soldier, and the soldier did his best to wave back while wearing all of his armor.

I didn’t approach the interview with the sole purpose of finding out whether they liked coalition forces though. I wanted to find out who they were, where they came from and what their everyday lives are like. I was surprised at the similarities were between their lives and ours.

Manizha wakes up at 5 a.m. every morning, she goes straight to school, then goes to work in the afternoon. After work, she goes home to study, read and on occasion she watches a Bollywood movie because they make her feel good.

Mohammad, says he’s lazy, so he wakes up at 5:30 a.m. every day and goes straight to work. He works all day and then three days a week he tries to hit the gym. Afterwards, he goes to school at night and before bed studies a bit.

As they both described their lives, their voices and their eyes, made special note when they mentioned they prayed five times a day.

The biggest difference I found was they were living these lives amongst a level of poverty and hardship many in the world have never seen firsthand. They both live in a world where a rocket attack or explosion could devastate their lives, yet they continue fighting for what means most to them, education and to make a difference.

They understand they’re the future of Afghanistan and their country needs them but they also understand the road ahead is pot holed with challenges, which will take the world’s best road engineers to repair.

In the meantime, I asked Manizha what she did for fun. Her eyes dimmed a bit as she explained there was nothing fun to do here. She said this while knowing other college age students are out and about in a world full of adventure and experiences. There are no cinemas here, there are no parks, and there is no recreation.

Mohammad’s life is no different, nothing fun to do except for read, study and watch movies. He mentioned how he can’t watch many of the Western movies because they are immoral.

Perhaps there’s some good to be had in the fact college students across Kabul are stuck reading under the flickering lights of their mud and straw homes. Perhaps their dedication to reading and studying everyday is exactly what Afghanistan needs, a generation of talented, intelligent and dedicated young adults who are aware of the truths here.

I was accompanied on a journey today by two youths of Afghanistan. A journey that not only took me to the surface of their eyes, but down a path to their souls, and I learned the only thing the world needs to do is maintain the same level of hope and dedication for Afghanistan as Manizha and Mohammad have. Because if the world gives up on them, and the Taliban are allowed to retake power, they will once again take away the opportunities these two need to take what is rightfully theirs – the future of Afghanistan.

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Comments (15)add comment
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Don said:

I could tell by this piece that God is blessing you through and with these experiences. Thank you for what you are doing. This piece touched my heart.
February 19, 2010
Votes: +2


civ clothes
After being an AF Dep. and active in the AF for 10 years. When I was overseas the best way to talk and get to know the people was to learn to talk to them or try first then some times they would talk back to you in English. The uniform was a big turn off.
February 13, 2010
Votes: +2

Alan Krutchkoff said:

What a great expedition (yes 30 days in AFG today must be an expedition - no small accomplishment for sure!) I was in Kabul for about 4 or 5 weeks back in 1971. We stayed at the Hotel Kabul every few days to take a shower. Was $5/day back then. Are you guys going to Ghazni? God Bless the Afghani people and curse the Taliban. Be safe guys!
February 13, 2010
Votes: +3

Donna Gallegos said:

I love this! I've read a lot about the Afghan people, but what I have really wanted is to hear their story in their own voices and see the expressions in their eyes. Every day I hope for success by the ISAF forces in Afghanistan in pushing the Taliban out and giving these people with so much potential the breathing room to succeed and to determine their own future. There seems to be a great hunger among the young people to get as much education as they can. That is so awesome and powerful. Education is a major key to lifting a people out of poverty. BTW - could not find the "Ask Afghan" forum.
February 13, 2010
Votes: +2

Lt. Col. Mike Waters, USAF (Ret.) said:

Fantastice job guys. I'm envious of your experience and extremely proud to have been a USAF PAO. You have my endorsement for a DMSM.
February 12, 2010
Votes: +1

Debbie said:

Wow, Thank you. This gives me hope for humanity as a whole. I see hope in their eyes that makes me happy and my heart ache at the same time. The photos allow you to see the beauty of once was and what could be. I am amazed what you are doing and hooked, a fan.
Thank you so much for the enlighenment.
February 12, 2010
Votes: +3

SSgt Atkins said:

AIr Force Journalist
I truly respect and admire a fellow journalist who puts himself in harms way to capture the true essence of Afghanistan. Most people only see and hear about is the war and how many people died. There is so much more than that! And this gives us exactly that! I love this! Keep up the great work!
February 12, 2010
Votes: +3

Pieter J. Krommenhoek said:

US Army retired (VN vet)
This is the first article I was able to read and I do not completely understand the previously given instruction to get back copies. I do not see AF Afghanistan. I tink it is a great idea for the two journalists to do this. I will follow their journey the best I can and with great interest. I will send it to interested friends and family as well. I am a strong supporter of the counter insurgency mission. I am a former member of 5th SFG, 1st SF, during two tours in Vietnam. I have high hopes that this mission will be accomplished if we stick with it and stay on the offensive.
February 12, 2010
Votes: +2

Jim Gallahan said:

Ellen, if you click on the "BLOG" link right under AF of Afghanistan at the top of this page ti will take you to all of Nathan's submissions.
Carmen, as nice as it would be for Nathan to do this, I hope he doesn't for security reasons. It's cool enough to know where he's been but we don't need to know where he's going, because then the bad guys would know also.
Good work Nathan.
February 12, 2010
Votes: +3

Ellen said:

Previous posts
Do you have a link somewhere on your site to see previous days' posts? Can't seem to find it ... thanks!
February 12, 2010
Votes: +2
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