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Category Archive for: ‘Blog’

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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Grief Walking

Dear Agha, You left me 40 days ago I haven’t mourned yet What is that anyway? You loved to walk and that’s what I’m doing Walking in the simmering sun, oblivious to the heat Walking during the black night, oblivious to the moon Walking against the wind, trying to breathe Feeling that dream That dream in which you scream But only silence …

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The trouble with Mother’s Day

Few harp on Mother’s Day. I have yet to hear holiday critics deconstruct the celebration as a consumerist ploy to further capitalism. But it is, and marketers will exploit every American holiday to boost sales. The question is why isn’t it critiqued in our national narrative like Valentine’s Day? I have an international group of social media friends and I …

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Justice for Farkhunda doesn’t stop here

Today, Afghans who cried for justice across the globe after Farkhunda’s March killing in Kabul were thrown a bone. Farkhunda, a student of Islam, was beaten and burned to death by a young mob in Afghanistan’s capital after she was wrongly accused of burning the Quran. The attack was captured on video and posted on social media, shocking Afghans in …

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