From Afghanistan To Israel To Palestine: What The People Say.
The high street in Barakey, one of the poorer sections of Kabul, is now called Ajmal Naqeshbandi Road. Its whirling and chaotic traffic circle is called Ajmal Naqeshbandi Square, and in the nighbourhood's old cemetery, the most prominent shrine is devoted to the same Ajmal Naqeshbandi.
Naqeshbandi was executed by the Taliban in the spring of 2007. He was 26 years old. The inscription above his raised stone coffin reads, in Dari: "He was kind to his people, and was intolerable to the enemies of Afghanistan. Ajmal Naqeshbandi will always be remembered with honour by the people of Afghanistan."
Ajmal was kidnapped along with the Italian journalist with whom he was working -- Daniele Mastrogiacomo of La Repubblica -- and Mastrogiacomo's driver, Sayed Agha, in Helmand province, on March 5, 2007. A few days later, Agha was murdered on charges he was "spying for foreign troops." To ransom Mastrogiacomo, President Hamid Karzai agreed to release five ranking Taliban prisoners. But Karzai refused to ransom Ajmal, who was beheaded on April 8, 2007.
There was an uproar. The Naqeshbandi family says the Afghan government ended up paying a ransom of $30,000 and a Toyota land cruiser for Ajmal's remains, which had been left in the desert for three days. The body was returned to the family, in Kabul, with its head sewn back on.'Troops Out' Not A Slogan You'll Hear From Afghan Feminist Shamsia Sharifi:
. . .Like so many Afghan feminists, Sharifi is mystified by the persistent calls for troop withdrawal that are so frequently voiced in the rich countries of the world by people who imagine themselves to be champions of women's rights.
"We need to have the troops in Afghanistan," she said. "If the Taliban come back, the target will be us again."
Sharifi laughed out loud at the idea of Taliban peace talks. "Maybe your country should make a visa for me," she joked. "It is very hard, even now," she said, referring to the severely conservative imams and hard-line Islamists who still wield such influence throughout Afghan society. "It is a risk for us to do this, what we do, teaching women about their rights. But we are very scared of the Taliban coming back. And the Taliban is also always attacking NGO persons.
"So we are very scared that they might come back, and we pray to God that they don't come back."
Those are snippets from the two most recent instalments in the Afghan Heroes Series.
Meantime, I've been pursuing similar questions lately in Israel & Palestine, and will be turning to the results of those inquiries before returning to Afghanistan later this month. In the meantime, here's me, goofing off, going for a camel ride in the West Bank, on the outskirts of the ancient city of Jericho:
And here's what it looks like passing through a checkpoint from the West Bank back into East Jerusalem:
Still on the road. Writing this from an airport. Must. . . sleep. . .