Come from the Shadows: The Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan

Come from the Shadows: The Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan

by Terry Glavin
     
 

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Come from the Shadows is not about the Afghanistan we may think we know. It is not about the country depicted in urgent dispatches from embedded reporters; it isn't about the country evoked by anti-war protestors or the one that figures in heated political controversies over the treatment of prisoners. Instead, this is a book about the Afghanistan thatSee more details below

Overview

Come from the Shadows is not about the Afghanistan we may think we know. It is not about the country depicted in urgent dispatches from embedded reporters; it isn't about the country evoked by anti-war protestors or the one that figures in heated political controversies over the treatment of prisoners. Instead, this is a book about the Afghanistan that lies "outside the wire," far from the Taliban's grim desert strongholds. The country we visit with award-winning author Terry Glavin is a surprisingly welcoming place, hidden away in alleys and narrow streets that bustle with blacksmiths, seamstresses, gem hawkers, cobblers and spice merchants. This Afghanistan is reawakening from decades of savagery and bloodletting, and its people are deeply thankful for the aid from foreign soldiers. In the voices of the people he meets on his journey, Glavin reveals how events have unfolded in Afghanistan since September 11, 2001. In the life story of his friend and travel companion—writer, translator and activist Abdulrahim Parwani -- we learn of Afghanistan's agonies over the past thirty years. Come from the Shadows is a passionate challenge to the usual depiction of the war in Afghanistan.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"[Glavin] provides an alternative to the usual Western media portrait, particularly of Afghan women, who rely on foreigners for security while boldly rebuilding their society." – Ms. Magazine, "Great Reads for Fall 2011"

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781553657835
Publisher:
D & M Publishers
Publication date:
09/16/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
240
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt

III. Into the Light

Arriving in Kabul on an Indian Airways flight from Delhi will bring you in low and slowly over the Kabul Plain from the east, allowing a glimpse of the architectural, social, and aesthetic context that spirals outward from its epicentre at the Murad Khane. The first thing you notice when you come out of the clouds is that the bleak and barren Hindu Kush mountains form a ragged wall that appears to nearly encircle the sandswept landscape of the Kabul Plain. The country below appears wholly empty of life. But then you notice occasional rectangular fortresses, and they look long abandoned, half covered in motionless waves of dust.

Soon, there are more fortresses, and in between them the land becomes green in places, and sometimes there are trees. The plane continues to descend, and the fortresses quickly multiply in number, and you see they are really mud-walled compounds. Nearing Kabul, the compounds begin to shrink in size and almost merge with one another into the erratic Kabuli jumble of flat-roofed rectangles and jagged streets. Then comes something almost like modern cityscape, with a stadium here, a glass hotel there, boulevards and traffic-choked thoroughfares, and yet rising up out of it all are forbidding, steep-sided hills. Dense and byzantine slums climb up their ramparts. Grand tombs and ruined castles straddle their summits.

The plane touches down on the runway of a sprawling airport with huge military transport planes and fleets of troop-carrying helicopters in orderly rows, and it taxis past two parked fighter jets and comes to a stop on the tarmac. It's just a short walk to the decaying terminal, but a bus comes to fetch the passengers, and everyone stands in lines for the brief mayhem of security checkpoints, and visa checks. There's a similar rigmarole just to get out of the place. Beyond two more security perimeters, beside a chain link fence and a guard post at an outer-ring parking lot, is my friend and collaborator Lauryn Oates, and our driver, Shuja.

There are the usual embraces, and we're soon roaring through traffic to get me settled in at the Park Palace, a comfortable little compound with a nonetheless ostentatious name in the Shar-e-Now district, by the Dutch Embassy. I've come to help with a research project for the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee and to do a bit of freelancing, and I've been well advised about all the necessary security precautions. But as one day bleeds into the next, while I'm filling up my notebooks and zipping around town with Shuja in his Toyota, there's a thought I can't get out of my head. It didn't really crystallize until Zabi Majidi talked to me about the notion of hidden places that day in the Murad Khane.

This is a metropolis of nearly four million people, ten times what it was only a generation or so ago. It's a very real, flesh and blood, ancient and glorious city, and its name is Kabul. The thought that struck me in the Murad Khane is that there are times when it's as if all of Kabul is taqunya, that the real city, the whole city, is hidden from the outside world. It's hidden behind the headlines and between the lines of the interminable reports of every English-language daily newspaper in the world.

The Kabul you read about is a dreary, white-knuckle dangerous Central Asian backwater where the locals are crazy, they're all just itching to slit your throat, the people hate our guts, and it's all falling back into the hands of the Taliban anyway. This is the city "as dangerous as Baghdad at its worst," from the screaming Telegraph headline. But spend some time in the backstreets, buying naan and bananas at the bazaars, popping into bookstores, getting invited in to tea in mud houses and half-collapsed buildings, sitting at tables in pleasant offices and coffee shops, and there is the other city. I can "pass" as an Afghan easily enough, but up close, with my Afghan shawl and Mahsoud hat, I'm not fooling anyone, certainly not when Shuja and I are chatting in English and shambling down the street, or wandering the markets on some errand. Everyone smiles and nods, salaam.

This is not to say it's not perilous. But Kabulis tend to regard foreigners with a sympathetic affection, especially the lower-tier workers and the non-governmental-organisation employees who actually spend time with ordinary Afghans. And though you might not know it from your newspapers, six years of polling data shows that most Afghans also consistently express support for the presence of foreign troops. There is a range of opinion on these subjects, of course. At one end there is bemusement, and at the other was fury, with a great deal of worry and dread in between.

One of the most furious Afghans I've met is Fatana Gilani, the head of the Afghanistan Women's Council. Gilani yearns for an Afghanistan that eventually stands on its own without foreign soldiers, and she's a leading voice for a traditional, nation-wide "jirga" as a possible way forward to disarmament and reconciliation. But she is emphatic in her disgust with all the talk filling the pages of the foreign press about drawing the Taliban into some sort of negotiated power-sharing arrangement. "Anybody who does this is not a friend of Afghanistan," she said.

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