Afghans who read my article “How Iran controls Afghanistan” for Foxnews.com in January critiqued the piece, and the Hazaras took particular offense. I promised a response — it took awhile due to health issues I’ve been struggling with, but here it is.
My article is a short opinion piece focused on how Iran influences Afghanistan based on my own travels and experiences. I discuss how Afghans returning from Iran have culturally changed Afghanistan as well as touch on Iran’s political meddling in my homeland. It was not meant to be an academic analysis or documented study of the issue. I traveled for seven years through Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan and spoke to people from all echelons of society. That is my evidence, my eyewitness accounts.
My words were taken out of context and misunderstood in the critiques, and this was partially my fault for not being clear in my writing. This is the paragraph that was in my head but not written, and it should’ve been included: “One of the positive outcomes of the last ten years has been the advancement of the Hazara people in Afghanistan. Despite the hardships they faced in Iran, they persevered to become a success once they returned home. They are now politicians, performers and businessmen. Their women are brave enough to stand up to conservative clerics as TV anchors and singers.”
That graf might’ve made the big difference in how this article was perceived. I wrote this with that intention but it was perceived that I’m prejudiced against the Hazaras. I meant no prejudice or harm against any ethnic group or religion.
Also, some readers mentioned that I called these returnees counterfeit Afghans. This is a complete misreading of the English language. An internal tension between those who stayed and those who have returned to Afghanistan exists and some of those who never migrated call the returnees derogatory names because they are resentful. I do not call the returnees anything negative. My critics ignored parts of the article that gave it context. I mentioned that I was not comfortable with the cultural changes, like my mother’s not comfortable with a digital camera or Facebook. Change is imminent, but we have to confront that change and I write about my own internal struggle to do so. Yet, I explicitly say that the returnees should NOT be punished for bringing this change to Afghanistan. I was clear that the cultural change was a natural and fluid process, and that Afghans need to accept it. I have also written about how Afghan-Americans are treated and how those who never left Afghanistan resent them. This article was about Iran/Afghanistan and that’s why I focused on the Hazaras and returnees in general. If you read the article, I mention that my husband, who’s a Tajik, was one of these returnees.
I write about various issues as a journalist. I do not discriminate. Pakistan trains and harbors radical Sunnis. We Afghans are the pawns — we’re being used and influenced — and that’s why the article ends with Afghans need to stand united against the meddling of their neighbors. I’ve been critiquing Pakistani meddling in Afghanistan in all of my book interviews but I feel like Iran’s role has not been sufficiently discussed.
Iran plays a key role in supporting radical elements of Shiites in Afghanistan and I have witness accounts to back this up. The New York Times as well as the premier Afghan newspaper Hasht-e Sobh have written about the specifics of Iran’s clandestine and harmful interventions in Afghanistan. What I failed to mention is that Iran doesn’t only support Shiites but any group that may contribute to the instability of Afghanistan.
I do not call anyone a spy, as one irate critic who dedicated an entire blog to slandering my name, wrote. Indeed, I mention in the article that “few” of the returnees have political connections to Iran. It would be irresponsible to dismiss that these few Afghans are aiding the neighboring countries divide their homeland. I do not “hate” Iranian culture as this blogger suggested. Our two countries share a rich history and language that I treasure, but I like the cultural nuances in the region and it’s those variations that are disappearing or morphing into an unfamiliar culture for me.
Ignoring the tensions that exist inside the country doesn’t solve any problems. For those critics who said I was dividing the country … the country’s already divided. I believe in raising awareness about divisions and unity, and I will continue to do that in my writing.
Lastly, I was blasted for writing for FOX. I understand the distaste for FOX. I’m not fond of FOX, but it’s an outlet of information and the most popular source of news. It fit the network’s agenda to attack Iran — I realize that – but it also served my purpose, which was to condemn the Iranian government for causing havoc in Afghanistan.
Thank you for your interest in my work and writings. I welcome constructive criticism and will respond to that. Any verbal attacks and false slanders I will duly ignore.
Below are links to articles I mentioned above:
How Iran Controls Afghanistan
Farsi/Dari discussion of the New York Times article
Farsi/Dari Hasht-e Sobh articles on Iran-Afghanistan