Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Khaled Hosseini talks Afghanistan

Khaled Hosseini, the author of The Kite Runner, left his native Afghanistan in 1976, but for readers outside the Middle East, he is one of the most knowledgeable sources for insight into the country which has dominated the news for the past few weeks. Now, on the day the United States has completed the official military troop withdrawal, it's important to consider the country left behind. 

Last week, Hosseini gave an interview to CNN with "A Message for Anyone Worried about Afghanistan." In reading his thoughts, laments, hopes, fears, and memories, I was struck by the image of an Afghan world not torn about by war, occupation, religious extremism, and revolutionary fervor. That was the childhood memory he had from 1973 when his country was different:

It's surreal how different it was. [There were] hippies lounging in tea houses and women smoking in public and wearing short skirts and driving cars and working in the government as lawyers and doctors and so forth. It was a very different society. Kabul was a thriving city and by the standards of a conservative religious country, it was quite liberal.

That just seems like an almost unfathomable image of the country we've only known in the past forty years as troubled, even dangerous. Clearly, the problems can be traced to the Soviet invasion and the rise of the mujahideen as a defensive counterforce, seeking only to expel foreign invaders. Many subsequent conflicts, many not the work of the Afghan people, led to the repressive Taliban regime now ruling the country against the will of its majority.

As far as the future holds, Hosseinni says he has "no idea" what comes next. He's not alone.

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