Unfortunate Post Code: Afghanistan

(Click here for Malay Mail’s online version)

THREE YEARS ago, during a ghastly but compulsory maternity confinement, I sought solace reading anything ever written by J.R.R. Tolkien and Khaled Hosseini. Let’s talk about the latter and keep the former for future discussion when time and word-limits are kinder to us.

Hosseini, through his best-selling fiction (I have my doubts for I still think the book is a semi-memoir), The Kite Runner, conjured up a moving image of life in Kabul. Since then, I have longed to set foot on that history-rich desert where dust is considered a curse; it is a place so foreign that it invokes melancholia – and romance, even – in the deepest corners of our hearts, think you not?

I sought more and found numerous pictures, websites, write-ups and books on Afghanistan. Yet, my insatiable desire knows no bounds. So, I badgered my friend, who sits on Mercy Malaysia’s committee board, to send me there in the name of charity. She is still, as we speak, ignoring my desperate plea. Some friends I have!

Since I am not going to Kabul anytime soon, I seek your indulgence to listen to my story about Afghanistan – from my flawed perspective, of course. If you could spare a few minutes, that is.

Poor Afghanistan! For centuries – though arising from colliding continental plates and arid landscape – she has been geographically blessed to be at the crossroad of trade and migration between East and West.

But if you were to knock on the graves of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Timor Lang (Tamerlane), Persian Kings or even Turkish Sultans, to ask about Afghanistan, I think the answer from these conquerors would likely be something along these lines: “Frankly, my dear, this is a very unforgiving land.”

Great empires have fought futile battles to conquer this bereft land. None have ever succeeded in exerting their influence, let alone in leaving legacy for the Afghanistan spit out so unceremoniously. The British Empire, in a deluded dream to expand during the 19th century, still has rows upon rows of graveyards of the soldiers who died in Afghanistan to show for it – a painful reminder of their past mistake.

Even the great assault launched by the then Communist Russia resulted in defeat when their soldiers just refused to march on, singing phases like “even the tree hates you in Afghanistan”. So the story went. But a new type of conquest, heavily re-branded to avoid the nasty stigma of imperialism, is well under way in Afghanistan. Euphemisms like “the fight against terrorism” now replace more accurate (though less socially acceptable) words like “murder”.

Lest this new-age conqueror forget those failed attempts to conquer this unfortunate postcode named Afghanistan, history is bound to repeat itself. How cliché.

Poorer still would be the fate of the Afghans, who already have shorter lifespans due to things like lack of basic healthcare, education and amenities, and are now faced with the additional challenge of bombs falling on their rooftops.

Oh, did I tell that death now comes in a new form for the Afghans?

The last time the Russians came visiting, Afghans feared the deafening sound of flying bullets and bursting bombs that plied their skyline with the precision of a Japanese train schedule. Nowadays, with the advent of technology, death has been reengineered for them in the soundless serenity of the night using unmanned  aerial vehicles (or drones if you like), controlled hundreds of miles away from Afghanistan and her borders.To some, such senseless killing is in the name of curbing militant groups’ activities. I just wonder if the machines can differentiate between the militants and civilians – or children for that matter.

The poorest title goes to the children of Afghanistan. Conceived and born in a war-torn desert, their days are numbered. Poverty, a phosphorous environment, hunger and even stray missiles prey on them. Many have been turned into orphans and their basic needs of decent shelter, food and education are sorely neglected. Need I say more, really?

World War II American General Dwight D. Eisenhower had a message when he said: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those whose hunger is not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists and the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”

● Elviza Michele Kamal has always been fond of the road less travelled. She is now staring forlornly at her passport. She blogs at http://www.elviza.wordpress. com



11 thoughts on “Unfortunate Post Code: Afghanistan

  1. Pingback: Unfortunate Post Code: Afghanistan « Write Away | Afghanistan Today

  2. Just wondered if you were aware that the US military were using depleted uranium munitions in their bombing attacks on the Taliban? Depleted uranium is recycled uranium waste and has a half-life of millions of years. Although the Pentagon insists that DU missiles and bombs carry a “negligible amount”of radioactivity, independent researchers say the soil in Afghanistan and Iraq ((also Kosovo) will be contaminated for countless generations. This is indeed a great evil as yet unacknowledged by the US government.

  3. Afghanistan, Palestine…its`s the kids, Elviza,always the kids.When warring adults(since time immemorial)know of no better past time than to beat each other to senseless pulp(or blow them to dust, in the current context),it`s always the kids who suffer the most…those poor, innocent kids,who dare not even dream of a possibly better future.Why?Is mankind eternally accursed?

  4. Mish,

    Have you read “Three Cups of Tea”? It will further whet your insatiable desire to see the formidable land. Definitely.

    Can pass my copy if the plan to meet up next week materializes :p


  5. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini is a tale of women being wives under the Taliban rule. Sad, poignant and wistful. A must read.

  6. Hi Ms Elviza,

    Don’t know whether you have seen the ‘Kite Runner’ movie, heard from my mates it’d got very good review & worth watching.Hmmm it’s still on my ‘to do’list tho, so can’t comment much but I supposed like all movie adaptation, it won’t be half as good as the book.


  7. Hi Elviza,

    I had the same feeling after I read The Kite Runner. Yearning to go there… Such a beautiful country but plagued with such sad stories..

  8. ..a sentimental view of Afghan, lady…the Americans are not winning the war there, either..it is fast becoming another Vietnam..and as usual they are becoming irrelevant…but you missed another point…the heroin trade..Afghan contributed 93% of the world heroin’s supply…of which the Talibans are the major traders..but it is a hard country…I wont use that passport if I were you…


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