Our Journey to Smile

Is life in Afghanistan tasty?‎

life in Afg is tasty

Life in Afghanistan is tasty to Salim

Please watch Afghan boy Salim at :


What’s your name?

Mohammad Salim

Is life tasty or not? Yes.

Did you understand my question?

What is tasty? Rice.

Rice? Yes.

What else?

Say something else..

Meat is tasty.

Meat is also tasty huh..

Is life tasty? Yes.

What else? What else do you like?

Huh? What else do you like?

‘Noon-tar’….’malta’ ( orange )?

‘Noon-tar’ ….‘Motar’…

‘Motar’ ( car )?

No, ‘noon-tar’( wet bread )

Don’t they say ‘noon-tar’ ( wet bread )?

‘Noon’ ( bread )? Yes.

‘Noon-e-tar’ ( bread that is wet by soup )…Yes.

What else?

What else? Nothing else.

Huh? Nothing else is tasty.

Thank you. Thank you.

Be well….be well.

Be alive….be alive.

Life in Afghanistan is tasty.


Afghanistan, A dying opportunity to free the waterfall


A dying opportunity to free the waterfall

In this dream of a kinder world, ordinary people from all races and nations take a dying opportunity to gather at the World Heritage Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan on International Peace Day 21st September 2009,

to hope for peace and reject violence.

And against all odds and dams, to free the waterfall.


I myself can no longer trust words, so you need not trust these thoughts. What I can trust, having lived and worked among Afghans as a Singaporean medical doctor, is that I’ve become more human and therefore in the words of my Afghan friends, more Afghan, and perhaps more ‘of any other nationality’.

I and my Afghan friends have a waterfall of humane dreams and wishes in which we are grieving, crying and hurting badly.

If we describe this waterfall to the ‘elected’ leaders of our self-designated ‘civilized’ societies, we’ll be told their version of the ‘truth’.

‘Justice’ when they mean revenge.

‘Help’ when they mean money.

‘Democracy’ when they mean power.

If we describe it to the self-designated ‘best’ religious people, we face a similarly rigid monopoly of ‘truth’.

‘Justice’ when they mean ‘no matter if you die or kill because justice is in the other world’.

‘Help’ when they mean ‘come over to our better side’.

‘Theocracy’ when they mean power.

So, we have had to let our dreams, grief and tears become an invisible, un-felt waterfall. A silence. A dying.

This country and our humanity are in need of a pause in the dying.

The dying of love, truth, hope and dear ones killed in violent war. Love, truth, hope and violence for WHAT?

If we look towards our self-designated ‘learned’ ones for possible solutions, they say ‘dam up the waterfall to give yourselves light’. Light for what, when what we badly need is the waterfall.

In present day Afghanistan, from where I’m writing, there may be a ridiculous and potentially painful opportunity to free this waterfall. At least, humour me as I pacify myself and my Afghan friends by imagining the opportunity presented by:

  1. The Global Great Game that is being played here ‘live’, a horrid ‘reality show’.

All major world players are involved.

  1. The contradiction of war and peace watched by the world

The ordinary world community is watching Afghanistan distantly but closely, wondering if war will reign or if ‘peace’ is possible, especially when Afg-Pak has become the military, political and economic focus of superpowers.

Hopefully, we’re not watching primarily for entertainment; I just read that violence is dominating at the Cannes Film Festival 2009.

3. The question of humanity in inhumanity

Does Mankind have enough of a majority populace keen to restore some semblance of humanity in the midst of inhumanity?

“Don’t be silly,” I’ve thought.

We’ll be misunderstood and laughed at as illogical and unrealistic or as anti-this or anti-that.

People will continue to ‘label’ us because the prideful intellectual development of Mankind can only understand human beings in categories so as to dispel fears and channel criticism.

In the current universal climate of distrust and soul-less herd behavior, hardly anyone would hear us.

What can ordinary human beings do anyway, ordinary humans who make up most of the world ( I bet many outside Afghanistan have forgotten that the majority here are also ordinary humans with wishes for a normal life ).

Or like many fellow international aid workers, I may become un-productively frustrated, harbouring the explosive un-resolved anger that’s in the hidden and open protests of conscience globally, even among ‘peace’ building groups.

Or worse, I could succumb to the ancient, distorted hunger for a Name, doing this selfishly merely for myself, defeating any sense of service I can muster.

Not to mention the almost complete self-deception, corruption, greed and the culture of war worldwide, perceived by some as perfected in Afghanistan.

But then one day, as I was riding my Chinese-made Tonda motorbike over the Afghan Hindu Kush mountain dirt pot-holes, I remembered that Man has gone to the moon, tapped atoms and bytes and modified genes and that countries are sending thousands of elaborately armed troops and billions of military dollars to this God-forsaken place for poorly understood personal and national reasons.

So I thought, “What the heck!”

I can try this for love of Khamad, Nasrullah and some others….

I can hope.

I can pursue those virtues every human soul dreams about and even if it fails, I hope that this experiment will not harm anyone.

I can test to see if uncomplicated love and undefended truth can free our ordinary, mundane wishes.

I can accept the ‘shame’ of rejection in asking peacemakers from all over the world to please join us at the Bamiyan Buddhas on 21st Sept 09.

I know. This may mean nothing to you. Or understandably, you do not believe that any sense or goodness can arise from what is condemned to be a very dark place.

But I wish to record this, so that, as my Afghan friends and I perish, first in our hearts, then physically, I can at least say that we voiced the opportunity and the opportunity died too.

And that if, one day, against all odds and dams, the waterfalls are freed, all Afghans and some of humanity may be encouraged to weep for life and death once again.

To record, that even in the ‘darkest and driest of places’, there exists waterfalls.


Our Journey to Smile


Playing soccer by the graveyard in Afghanistan


Please watch soccer in Afghanistan!

Salam (peace)!

Don’t be tired!

Be well (thank you)!

Came from school?


He’s Jawad.

And you?

I’m Qorban Ali.

Very good.

What grades are you in?

Grade 5


Grade 3

3..very good

Is schooling good?


Is schooling good or playing?


Playing isn’t good? No.

How about playing soccer?

Playing soccer is also good…

What’s behind you?

A graveyard.

What’s in a graveyard?


Inside are human beings.


Yes, humans who have died.

When will WE go to the graveyard?

When our time is completed.

Come on!

Don’t fight!

Hey..don’t fight!

Stop it, stop it! Don’t fight!

Playing soccer by a graveyard in Afghanistan.

The day the music died Laith Mushtaq Al Jazeera : the priceless price of violence?‎

the day the music died

Rashid Wali, an Iraqi working for Al Jazeera, was killed in Kerbala five years ago

Is the death of music and the death of friends the priceless price of violence?

Can such music and friendship ever be replaced once lost?

How many ‘songs’ perish violently every day?

Please read Laith’s full article at


Al Jazeera’s Laith Mushtaq was one of the few unembedded cameramen working in Iraq during some of the fiercest clashes between American forces and anti-invasion fighters.

In the early hours of May 21, 2004, both Laith and his assistant Rashid Wali were filming during intense fighting in the Shia pilgrimage city off Karbala.

I want to introduce you to my friend Rashid. Rashid Wali. Officially, he had been hired as a driver, but he soon did pretty much everything.

We had lots of CDs in the car and sometimes we would sing along. Most of the time, we listened to southern Iraqi music. Lots of sad love songs. Rashid was from southern Iraq and southern Iraqis are specialists for sad love songs

A layer of sadness covered the country; people were grieving, smoke rose everywhere, cars and tanks lay burned on the side of the road.

So Rashid played the kind of music that went with it. He chose the soundtrack of the war.

When I started working for Al Jazeera, I was nervous, but he put his hand on my shoulder and said: “I know you can do it. I trust you.”

I turned my face to his face and I suddenly felt this power inside me because, for the first time, I felt that somebody believed in me as a cameraman.

…………………………..Then I screamed: “Go down. Hide.”

He said: “No, I will never leave you alone.” And he put his hand on my shoulder.

The next moment, I saw bullets flying towards us. You can see bullets because they glow in the dark.

A second later, the wall falls down. I fall, try to hold the camera and see Rashid falling as well. I couldn’t move.

Then I saw that three bullets had hit his head.

There was a river of blood. I screamed, because all the others were downstairs. I screamed: “Rashid is killed.”

……….So, in his own car, I took his body back to Baghdad. I think it was the longest drive of my life. I remembered every single time we had travelled together. I heard him say: “Make the AC high, make the AC low, change the CD.”

But on that day, there was no CD to change. That day, I stopped listening to southern Iraqi love songs.

On fighting while on the road in Afghanistan

no to fighting

Please watch this video at


Habib Jan, good morning!

Good morning!

Habib, in your opinion, is fighting good?

Fighting? No ‘wallah’(in God’s name)

We are not happy with fighting anywhere in the world. There shouldn’t be fighting.

EVERY individual, under the effects of war, would react in a way that brings greater misfortune to that society.

What good is fighting. No, peace is good.

You..what do you think about fighting?

What good is fighting.

Fighting is good?

No, it’s bad.. fighting is not good.

Good morning, Jagbar.

Good morning. Jagbar, what do you think…

About fighting? Yes, about fighting.

Fighting is bad. It has no benefit. What’s the benefit in fighting?

Khamad, good morning.

Good morning.

Khamad Jan, what do you think about war? Is it good or not?

No, it’s not good.


It’s not good, it’s bad.

What happened because of war?

My father ‘left the world’ ( was killed in war )…….

No to fighting.


US raid ‘killed 140 Afghans’, each costing US$2000: Is US$2000 the value of one Afghan ‎life or one Afghan death?‎

Afghan price of life

Is US$2000 the value of one Afghan life or one Afghan death?

From humanity’s claims of equality, is it meaningful to differentiate between military and civilian deaths? Don’t soldiers and non-soldiers both want peace?

Why doesn’t our sadness and sorrow translate into anything practically humane or do security concerns over-ride all sorrows?

Security for whom? Internationals or Afghans?

If ‘an eye for an eye’ is the kind of justice that Mankind or Geneva approves, how many Afghan or Iraqi lives would compensate for the 6300 tragically lost on September 11th?

Al Jazeera, BBC and Yahoo News

An Afghan investigation has concluded that at least 140 civilians died in US air raids on villages in Farah province last week, the defence ministry has said.

The official announcement on Saturday came a day after the investigative team, headed by an Afghan army general, had presented their findings to Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president.

The Afghan government has paid the relatives of victims the equivalent of about $2,000 for those who were killed and $1,000 for the wounded, the defence ministry said.

Karzai demanded the military halt its use of air raids after the incident, but so far the US military has only agreed to review its operations to try to reduce the risk to civilians.

On Saturday, the defence ministry quoted Karzai as saying: “No other news makes me as sad and sorrowful as incidents of civilian casualties during military operations.”

Such incidents have brought repeated condemnation from the Afghan government, which says they are turning people against Karzai’s administration and foreign forces operating in the country.

President Obama’s National Security Adviser, Gen James Jones, said the US would “redouble” efforts to limit civilian deaths, but added that it could not hamper its forces in Afghanistan by banning air strikes.

President Barack Obama says he needs to see how fast Afghanistan can be stabilized and led toward a more democratic government before deciding whether more troops are needed.

A donkey’s new life and death in Afghanistan

a donkey's life in Afg

Please watch ‘A donkey’s new life and death in Afghanistan


Ainullah, where did you get it from?

This..from Andalip.

Where is its mother?

At Andalip’s house.

It bites.

How old is it?

I don’t know.

Or how many months old?

I don’t know.

It’s a foal.



It feeds on fodder and water.

One eye is blind.


Don’t know.. ‘a flower fell’ or what ( cataract )?

What will you do with it?

This..we brought it…

We’ll feed it water & fodder

Then, my dad will kill it for the dog

You’ll kill it?

Yes, he’ll kill it

Eh..don’t bite.

You’ll give it to the dog? Yes.

To eat? Yes.

Oh, why don’t you keep it?

Its eye is blind..can’t be taken care of.

It bites people.. ‘curse

Do you like donkeys?

I like donkeys..female donkeys.

Male donkeys will kick & throw off those who ride them.

This one is also so naughty..

Really? Yes.

Don’t bite. It bites.

Okay, ‘house’ it.

‘House’ it?

Come, Abdulai, to ‘house it.

You and I..


It ‘arr arr arrs’ ( brays )…

Now it isn’t ‘arr-ing’….

It misses its own mother.

Shamai…I’m closing the door. Get out!

This donkey was put down 4 days after filming, one week after Mother’s Day.

چهار روز بعد از فلمپوری و یک هفته بعد از روزی مادر , این خر حلال شد

This clip depicts a child’s fondness for this common work animal in Afghanistan and partly reflects the realities of life and death in Afghanistan.