There is More to Afghanistan than Bombs

 (Courtesy of Asma Nemati)

(Courtesy of Asma Nemati)

Ariel Messman-Rucker

 

Pick up a newspaper on any given morning and you will find at least one story about Afghanistan that tells of road-side bombings or a kidnapping or the murder of an international aid worker.

It is a litany of horror to which we’ve become accustomed, and one journalist Asma Nemati wants to change.

“Afghanistan is not just about people dying every day and bombs being blown up here and there,” Namati said in an e-mail interview from Kabul. “Afghanistan is a rich land with a diverse people, language and culture, and there’s beauty here, despite the differences in language, ethnicities and even despite the violence.”

Nemati, 22, a former DVC student and UCLA graduate, returned four months ago to the country of her birth after growing up in California since age 9.

She got her start in journalism in 2005 while working as a staff writer for The Inquirer and currently works as a freelance journalist, blogging for the Huffington Post and creating news and feature segments for the independent radio news program, Free Speech Radio News.

While living and reporting from Kabul, Nemati hopes to change the negative perception of Afghanistan and its citizens, through her work as a journalist.

“I’m trying not to paint another picture, but just present a reflection of what I see,” Nemati said. “To see the real Afghanistan, one must come here experience the simple things every Afghan experiences here: its atmosphere, beautiful weather, amazingly hospitable people, rich history and sometimes sad realities.” In addition to her work as a journalist, Nemati is also program director for a non-governmental organization, Trust in Education, where she helps to support schools and teachers, brings aid to villages, and teaches an English pronunciation class.

“My love for this country and for its people compel me to come here and contribute to its rebuilding, even though it may be in a very small sense,” she said.

Having lived in California, for so many years, Nemati said it was difficult to get over some of the cultural taboos she encountered upon arriving in Afghanistan.

Although she has always worn a hijab, a traditional head covering, Nemati was surprised by the idea that women should not go out at night, hang out with the opposite sex, or “boldly speak one’s opinion.”

She also misses some of the comforts of home, such as fast speed Internet.

“Internet is absolutely horrendous here and can be very frustrating, especially since all of my work depends on it and since it’s the only way sometimes to keep in touch with family and friends,” Nemati said.

She has also grown accustomed to getting electricity only once every two nights and “even then for a few hours when it would turn on.”

Nemati said she has found great beauty in Afghanistan, but also “corruption, lack of proper educational institutes and proper teacher training, lack of development – problems as simple as lack of roads – and lack of motivation.” Nemati says that she had discovered that the lifestyles of those who live in Afghanistan’s big cities differ greatly from those who live in rural areas. But the biggest disparity is in income.

“You’ll find the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich, and all those in between…all in Kabul,” she said. “Morever, you’ll meet people from all over the world and that diversity gives it life and richness despite the situation this country is in now.

“I’ve learned so much about this country just by talking to people in taxis, while I’m walking in the streets, or otherwise.”

Nemati believes the United States government could do more to help Afghanistan, if it was respectful of the people living there.

Accidental bombings of civilians and military convoys pointing large guns at ordinary citizens must stop if the United States wants to create change in Afghanistan, Nemati said.

“Afghans are very hospitable people, and they welcome anyone as long as they are respectful and not trampled upon,” she said. “[This] is something the U.S. military here has to come to grips with if they want to help Afghanistan as much as possible.”

Nemati plans to remain in Kabul until June, after which she will return to the United States for law school. She wants to return to Afghanistan to train and work with lawyers on social issues related to women and children.

For more about Nemati’s experiences in Afghanistan visit her blogs:

Across The Universe  www.kabulem.blogspot.com

The Huffington Post www.huffingtonpost.com/asma-nemati