Category Archive for: ‘Blog’

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Pitch, Don’t Bitch

How do you make an impact as a journalist? Many of us dream that our work will push institutional change for justice, and that happens sometimes. But as a freelancer with little to no support from any one big media outlet, I’ve focused on making an impact on individual lives. I’m putting this out here not because I want a …

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Turkish kindness kills the imaginary thief

ISTANBUL – The first heavy snow glistens in the darkness of the city I’ve fallen in love with in the last year. We are six, three children and three adults, who pile in the station wagon to head home. Umesh, our Indian friend, neighbor and fellow journalist, clears the snow from the windows and turns on the engine. The car …

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A mystical space

On the northern edge of the Silicon Valley in Fremont, tucked behind a narrow suburban road is a mystical space open to anyone who wants to connect with God, even Salaffis. Taleef Collective launched in 2005 has become a thriving hub for young Bay Area Muslims of different sects, genders and identities. Unlike many mosques, women can wear a headscarf …

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When a Pakistani meets an Afghan in Istanbul

I was giving a talk about the drug trade in Afghanistan based on my book Opium Nation with the Istanbul Book Club when Yamna, a member of the club and a graduate engineering student from Pakistan, burst into tears. “I’m so sorry for what my country has done to Afghanistan,” she said, wiping her tears from under her glasses. “Now …

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Bathhouses and chai from Herat to Istanbul

Four days after a suicide bomber killed 10 tourists and injured 15 at the most popular tourist destination of Istanbul, I took a good friend visiting from Kabul and my two girls to Sultanahmet Square for a Turkish bath and then dinner with chai. Tourism is suffering because foreigners are afraid to visit Turkey. Tours have been canceled and vendors …

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How a child learns to accept differences

My 4-year-old sat on my lap as I massaged my broken leg in a cast on the Istanbul Metro train. In front of us sat a woman wearing a black niqab with only slits of her eyes showing. My daughter could not see her expressions. She wasn’t used to the garb. She stared at her with childlike innocence but there …

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Why I value my wrinkles

As I was packing for our long-awaited move to Istanbul, one of my college friends paid a visit to bid me farewell. I was on the floor surrounded by boxes and suitcases, and my college albums spread open. I smiled at her and shared our photos from 20 years ago. We were a group of attractive Afghan-American men and women …

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Your tomorrow is my today

On November 3, my little family of four packed eight years into five suitcases and flew from San Francisco to Istanbul. Our temporary apartment was just right with a panoramic view of the city. We enrolled our two girls in an international school, walked the hilly streets and avoided traffic by taking the metro. We had to tackle Turkish bureaucracy …

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Rock the Kasbah co-opts stereotypes to reveal truths

This blog was first published in my HuffingtonPost blogspot. I was 9 years old when my family fled Afghanistan and sought asylum as refugees in the U.S. during the Soviet invasion. It was surreal to watch Rock the Kasbah, a movie about Afghanistan — a country I later visited as an adult and reported from for seven years during the …

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Muslims donate without doubt

Amal, a Syrian in Fremont, said her cousins, uncles and aunts had all died in Raqqa, Syria. The elderly woman sighed repeatedly and spoke in quick Arabic without pause, squeezing her prayer rug between Farida, an Iranian refugee, and me. It was Friday prayers at Fremont’s Islamic Society of East Bay, and Amal was one of 50 women in a …

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