Our Journey to Smile

The blue Afghan skies I trusted and enjoyed

the blue Afghan skies I trusted and enjoyed

Please watch an Afghan girl talk about the blue Afghan sky and her wedding


Transcript of video

When you see the blue sky, what does your heart think?

The sky is very pretty & good. I become very happy.

The sky has a nice blue.

You’ll marry soon. What do you hope for the future?

I think we should live well, be happy & not be sad.

Do you have something to say to your mother?

I love my mother very much. She’s a good mother.

The Afghan blue skies I trusted and enjoyed

The blue Afghan skies I trusted and enjoyed

afghan blue wedding

I’m an Afghan girl. And ripe for marriage.

I don’t recall many pleasures in my childhood but I remember the blue skies.

I live near Kandahar. Most of you would have heard of this playground of war. But I don’t wish to describe the perpetual fighting. I wish to describe the perpetual sky.

You see, the pleasures which an Afghan child has, especially an Afghan girl, are few.

So whenever I could, I would sprawl on a secret green spot next to my mud house and stare at the blue beyond. Blue, blue, blue.

Afghan eyes, lakes and stones. That range of blue. Beautiful sky blues.

I’ll follow the clouds, magical pillows of comfort and tears. I’ll track the birds that paint and glide.

My mother used to tell me how the skies were divided into 7 layers and how when the dry lands were parched for help, everyone would look up to the heavens, often.

In the different swings of time, the sky would tease me by changing. Its blue changes. Real change in an unchanging war.

My mother would sometimes sit by my side knitting her shawl and I would sometimes lie on her lap looking up, safe, a true ‘refugee’, at peace.

The simple thing about the confidence of the skies was that it didn’t make claims. It didn’t need to say, “I am here for you.” It was there for me, even when it refused to rain in the harsh drought months.

I could hide under its generous freedom. I could shout complaints at it without being told ‘You are wrong!’, again. I could pour out my questions and hurts without being misconstrued as mad, as if I was talking with Allah, the sky’s keeper.

At least, the sky hears my voice.

It always helped when my mother whispered stories in my ears or better still, when she sang me the stories. She helped to seal the safety of earth below under a heaven above.

I’m lucky to be alive. Many mothers and newborns die early, despite hearts that hope. That’s just the way things are. It seems to be the best that life can do.

I remember the recent autumn when the leaves were turning yellow and the afternoons were beginning to cool a little. I watched the sky as its blue matured before the approach of dusk, as if coaxing me to rest, to cry if need be, but to rest.

The orange glow of our setting suns is wonderful too but that late afternoon, I did not want the blue to go away. I wanted it to stay because it was singing and dancing and twirling.

It made me surprisingly happy. Okay, maybe I was being childish, but I didn’t want to lose those colorful hues. I thought, “I’ll miss this blue sky like I miss my mum when I’m away collecting wood, too soon and too insensibly.”

A gust of wind came gushing by with a trail of dust, suddenly shielding me from the hanging sea view. My eyes shut instinctively, then, in the next second, needing to deliberately embrace the delight of the open skies, I forced them open.

Oh, the blue.

Thinking about such moments makes me smile many inner smiles.

People say that the Afghan smile is enchanting but there is nothing uniquely Afghan about that smile. It’s the smile of the skies. It arises from an ignored but dignified life.

That’s why this great expanse, drawn out like a cut blue ‘chadari’ ( burqa ) that flaps in the limitless winds, is worth the risk of a little dust. Dust may make my eyes smart and tear, but it’s worth it.

News of late hadn’t been good. Unrest. Insurgents. All sorts of shifty characters. And of course, killings. My mother says that Man and Woman have never been able to rid ourselves of what we don’t want, the selfishness and silence of violence.

Funny how both the perpetrators and spectators of this domineering violence are unaware of their own selfishness and silence. I really shouldn’t say funny. It’s not at all funny for the victims.

There are even rumours that strange planes have been spewing out remotely controlled bombs. And no pilots or humans in them! Ha! I usually don’t bother with such nonsense or make believe.

We shouldn’t have to cope with such cold possibilities; it’s just too unforgiving on our chronic grief.

It’s bad enough that people get blown to red pieces. People elsewhere hate us so much they say that even those red pieces are rotten, that we people are dirty.

Nowadays, we have to get permission even to bury those scattered, dirty pieces, just so others can quibble about the number who have been killed. And insist to each other, ‘You are wrong!’

Wrong not on the killing, but on the exact number killed.

As I mentioned, I was ready for marriage. Preparations had been underway and I was hopeful.

And please, don’t rob me of my hope, even if it were false hope. It can work out. I thought of my mum and how she had found and shown love in her family, my family.

The big, blue day had come.

My relatives and friends had gathered for my wedding. This was no make-believe! This was my wedding! My wedding!

That morning, my husband had received me into his village, and our future life. We had had gifts, food, dancing, and drums.

I was excited and nervous. My sisters were with me. The music was bright and homely. I was dressed to the glittering ‘brim’. J

I was all the time conscious of my mother’s joy and sorrow. All my life, I’ve never let that go.

Through my veil, I could see the rhythmic clapping. It was a noisy merriment to drown all worries. I was compelled to sneak a look at the sky, at which I felt all calm and clouded.

When the carnage began, I was still feeling excited and nervous.

Damn…it must be the Taliban! Things and bodies were spurting everywhere.

I wanted to see my mother.

My sisters and I ran. Illogically, I still thought about preserving that wedding dress while scrambling, about retaining some trace of honour.

Blue, blue. Red and red. More red than blue.

I looked up. The planes, drones? Oh…they’re not rumours…and as the dizzying bombs made their precise way to my heart and everything and everyone I loved, I needed to deliberately embrace the delight of the open skies.

A sucking wind came gushing by with a stench of death, suddenly shielding me from the hanging sea view. My eyes shut instinctively, then, in the next second, I forced them open.

Oh,…the blue. The now misty blue I trusted and enjoyed.

Associated Press Nov 5 2008

Villagers in the south said U.S. troops bombed a wedding party and killed 40 people, mostly children, and wounded 28 others, The New York Times reported.

The U.S. military said it was investigating, and a villager said American forces had given them permission to bury the dead, which he said included 23 children and 10 women. A U.S. spokesman added that “if innocent people were killed in this operation, we apologize and express our condolences.”

The bombing of the remote village of Wech Baghtu in the southern province of Kandahar on Monday afternoon destroyed an Afghan housing complex where women and children had gathered to celebrate, villagers said. Body parts littered the wreckage and nearby farm animals lay dead.

Nato head pledge on Afghan deaths, BBC 060809

New Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said he is determined to reduce civilian casualties in Afghanistan to an absolute minimum

UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan

Operations carried out by PGF [pro-government forces] have resulted in a growing number of civilian casualties since 2007. Whereas the overall proportion of civilian deaths attributed to the PGF has declined in recent years, mainly due to concerted mitigation efforts, the actual number of civilian deaths continues to increase.

Tom Hayden, Boston Globe, How many civilian deaths are acceptable?

IT WAS A CRYPTIC Pentagon answer to Senator John Kerry’s straightforward question, in notes from the Senate hearing on May 21:

Question. According to The New York Times July 20, 2003, Secretary Rumsfeld personally approved over 50 US airstrikes in Iraq which were expected to kill up to 50 innocent Iraqi civilians each. According to Pentagon policy at the time, any strikes expected to result in 50 or more civilian deaths as unavoidable collateral damage were to be approved personally by the Secretary. The media was informed of this policy in July 2003 when the chief US commander disclosed the sign-off policy. Does that policy continue today in Afghanistan, and, if so, in what form? Do White House or Pentagon officials sign off on bombing runs where civilian casualties are expected to be higher than 50? Which officials?

Answer. (DELETED)

If the policy continues, does Secretary of Defense Robert Gates personally approve? Is the president in the loop? Do they believe there is an acceptable level of unavoidable civilian casualties, and, if so, what is that level and who sets it?

That is why the Pentagon’s refusal to answer whether the 2003 policy requiring a sign-off for 50 civilian deaths is so significant. The classified answer was in response to a question by Kerry two weeks after the massive casualties from the May 4 air strike. The answer remains classified.

Majority of Americans : Hiroshima Nagasaki atom bombs was right, Huffington Post

A majority of Americans surveyed believe dropping atomic bombs on Japan during World War II was the right thing to do.

Among Democrats surveyed, 49 percent approved, while 74 percent of Republicans supported Truman’s decision.

Among women questioned, 51 percent supported the bombing, compared to 72 percent of men surveyed.

The poll showed about 70 percent of white Protestants, Catholics and evangelical Christians support the bombing, while 58 percent of Jews approved.

Zarlasht Hafeez, a female Pashto poet, author of Waiting for Peace

“The sorrow and grief, these black evenings,
Eyes full of tears and times full of sadness,
These burnt hearts, the killing of youths,
These unfulfilled expectations and unmet hopes of brides,
With a hatred for war, I call time and again,
I wait for peace for the grief-stricken Pashtuns”

Malalai Joya, Afghanistan’s ‘bravest woman’, author of Raising My Voice

“There are the occupation forces from the sky, dropping cluster bombs and depleted uranium, and on the ground there are the fundamentalist warlords and the Taliban, with their own guns.

If I should die, and you should choose to carry on my work, you are welcome to visit my grave. Pour some water on it and shout three times. I want to hear your voice.”

joya blue

Malalai Joya


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