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The soul of Afghanistan

Kabul | Day 4 – I’m all about eyeballs. There’s something truly beautiful about them. If you give me a good eyeball, I’ll stare at it for hours like it’s a sneak peek at the next big movie.

The beauty doesn’t stop on the surface, where the rich blues, browns and greens reside. The beauty continues below the surface and if you let yourself go, you will be carried on a journey into their owner’s soul.

I was taken on such a journey by two Afghan college students today. Their words were interesting and informative but they shared something deeper with me, and I felt honored.

Manizha, 21, was a little girl when coalition forces started liberating the Taliban from her country. For years, the Taliban had prevented her from going to school, forcing her parents to home school her. As she spoke of her past there was sadness in her eyes but as she talked about the future of Afghanistan, they lit up.

Mohammad, 23, and his family fled to Iran during the Taliban’s rule and came back when they heard coalition forces were here. Three months after their return, the Taliban showed up and cut his hair off. They also kidnapped one of his brothers and forced him to fight within their ranks. His eyes were angry when he talked of them and burst with happiness as he talked about the first time he waved at a coalition soldier, and the soldier did his best to wave back while wearing all of his armor.

I didn’t approach the interview with the sole purpose of finding out whether they liked coalition forces though. I wanted to find out who they were, where they came from and what their everyday lives are like. I was surprised at the similarities were between their lives and ours.

Manizha wakes up at 5 a.m. every morning, she goes straight to school, then goes to work in the afternoon. After work, she goes home to study, read and on occasion she watches a Bollywood movie because they make her feel good.

Mohammad, says he’s lazy, so he wakes up at 5:30 a.m. every day and goes straight to work. He works all day and then three days a week he tries to hit the gym. Afterwards, he goes to school at night and before bed studies a bit.

As they both described their lives, their voices and their eyes, made special note when they mentioned they prayed five times a day.

The biggest difference I found was they were living these lives amongst a level of poverty and hardship many in the world have never seen firsthand. They both live in a world where a rocket attack or explosion could devastate their lives, yet they continue fighting for what means most to them, education and to make a difference.

They understand they’re the future of Afghanistan and their country needs them but they also understand the road ahead is pot holed with challenges, which will take the world’s best road engineers to repair.

In the meantime, I asked Manizha what she did for fun. Her eyes dimmed a bit as she explained there was nothing fun to do here. She said this while knowing other college age students are out and about in a world full of adventure and experiences. There are no cinemas here, there are no parks, and there is no recreation.

Mohammad’s life is no different, nothing fun to do except for read, study and watch movies. He mentioned how he can’t watch many of the Western movies because they are immoral.

Perhaps there’s some good to be had in the fact college students across Kabul are stuck reading under the flickering lights of their mud and straw homes. Perhaps their dedication to reading and studying everyday is exactly what Afghanistan needs, a generation of talented, intelligent and dedicated young adults who are aware of the truths here.

I was accompanied on a journey today by two youths of Afghanistan. A journey that not only took me to the surface of their eyes, but down a path to their souls, and I learned the only thing the world needs to do is maintain the same level of hope and dedication for Afghanistan as Manizha and Mohammad have. Because if the world gives up on them, and the Taliban are allowed to retake power, they will once again take away the opportunities these two need to take what is rightfully theirs – the future of Afghanistan.


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