Monday, December 1, 2014

Life is strange in Afghanistan (video)

Caves of former Kapilavastu now Bamiyan, Afghanistan, the Buddha's hometown (CPL).
Bamiyan, Afghanistan, with Himalayan range known as the Hindu Kush behind (wiki)
The Spaceman of Afghanistan

Shirin Jaafari
The only Afghan to ever fly in space almost didn't make it back to Earth. It was 1988, and the Soviet Union was to end its disastrous war in Afghanistan. But Soviet officials still wanted to leave the country with a bit of positive spin.

Afghan Buddhist art
"[They were] trying to stress that what the Soviets had brought to Afghanistan was not just war, but that they had also brought science, modernity and technology," says Jenny Norton, producer of a new BBC documentary called "The Spaceman of Afghanistan."
So what better way to show that than sending an Afghan into space? None, apparently. That's how Ahad Momand ended up spending a week at the Mir space station.
Momand is the first and still only Afghan to ever fly in space. He was born in the countryside of Afghanistan and always dreamed of flying. Living in rural areas meant there was no street lighting, so Momand would get a stunningly clear view of the night sky.

Crew and back-up team for Ahad Momand's mission. He is third from left (Roskosmos)
"He said he would often be out on the fields with his dad, looking at the stars and dreaming of maybe one day flying," Norton says.

When he was 16, Momand moved to Kabul and ended up training at a Russian flight school in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. "It was a very interesting flight academy," Norton adds. "Other people who have trained there were the former President of Syria, Hafez Assad."

After his training at the academy, Momand went back to Afghanistan and was selected to train for a Russian space mission. Yet he wasn't the only Afghan who would go through the training. More

Afghan Thanksgiving?
Two Afghan interpreters, targeted for betraying Afghanistan and helping the U.S. military, finally make it to America to celebrate Thanksgiving American-style

Laila, do Afghans in Canada celebrate "Thanksgiving" the way these two new Afghan-American families did this year?

Laila Re, Wisdom Quarterly's Afghan poet
(WQ) Laila: Afghans in Canada are as diverse socially as any other nationality. Some of us celebrate the national holiday blindly because it is another tradition to help us feel more integrated into this society. Some, like me, know that the history behind "Thanksgiving" day is that it is a a colonial nightmare for the Natives of this land, the First Nations people. So I don't celebrate it, but I do embrace the fact that for some it is a time to get together with family, friends, and like Buddhists cultivate gratitude. Some Afghan expats are religious, so they do not practice any holiday unless it is respectful to one's faith. Others do not have a chance to celebrate it because they do not have a family or friends to celebrate it with.
Afghan security forces inspect the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Friday — one of several in recent days that appears to signal a major upsurge in Taliban violence in the city.
Afghan security forces inspect site of attack in Kabul on 11-28-14, one of several in recent days that appears to signal an upsurge in CIA/Taliban violence in the city (Rahmat Gul/AP)
Kabul's Police Chief out amid stepped up Taliban attacks
Scott Neuman (, Nov. 30, 2014)
The Eurasian children of Afghanistan, where worlds East and West meet (RAWA).

Kabul's police chief is stepping down after a series of deadly militant attacks on foreigners that have shaken the capital in recent days.

In a news briefing today, Gen. Zahir Zahir said that four people had died in an attack on a compound of Partnership in Academics and Development on Saturday that was blamed on the Taliban. He said the director, his teenage son and daughter -- all South African nationals -- were killed when one of the attackers blew himself up. Reuters says the family had lived in Afghanistan for the past 12 years. An Afghan was also killed in the attack.
At the end of the briefing, Zahir announced he would step down as police chief in the capital. He did not elaborate and a police spokesman has also declined to comment on Zahir's resignation. On Friday in a similar attack claimed by the Taliban no one was hurt, but earlier in the day a suicide bombing of a British vehicle killed 5.
Two American soldiers and two British embassy workers have also been killed in attacks in recent days. The BBC notes: "Gen Zahir was himself the target of an attack in early November, when a suicide bomber infiltrated his offices -- supposed to be one of the most secure buildings in Kabul -- and killed his deputy. Gen Zahir was not there at the time of the attack."

"This week, Taliban militants also attacked the camp formerly known as Camp Bastion in Helmand province, one month after it was vacated by British forces.
"The militants launched an attack late on Thursday night and fighting continued into Friday and on Saturday." More
Afghans celebrate revenge?
An Afghan mother's revenge attack on the Taliban makes her a national hero
First Afghan in space -- did you know about him, Laila?
"Star Signs"
, Wisdom Quarterly's poet in residence
Twinkle twinkle distant star.
Twinkle twinkle little star
how deceptive you really are
the light of death is your mark
just like our dreams they say
but i still stare into the dark
that's when the stars are brightest
waiting for a answer to your lies
for a shooting star a sign
wondering will i be here much longer
in this place, in this mental state
i’m in loss and despair
what is the universe saying
cause i'm here deeply listening
in the silence of this room
all i have now is a suitcase
and a house full of other healing women
who came from homes too broken
to look out for us
don’t forget about us
we are waiting for a dream come true
in every twinkle of hope
we’re waiting for a sign from you. More
Laila Re at the beach in Los Angeles, August, 2014 (

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