Ever since the art lords started this campaign Afghans from every sphere of the society; from Govt employees, Policemen, Doctors, road sweepers, school kids, security guards, college goers et al almost everyone picked up a brush and painted their way to expression on those otherwise insipid walls on the streets of Kabul. What’s more, this form of public expression was not just rare, but unimaginable until Afghanistan’s recent history. In a nutshell, the rise of graffiti culture signifies the rising urge of the Afghans for self-expression!
On the brink of a Musical Revolution
The Afghanistan National Institute of Music, a Ministry of Education institution, based in Kabul is much more than music. Believe my words as I write that this is the only public institution in Afghanistan that has common classrooms for boys and girls! Interestingly, it’s optional for girls to wear hijab while attending classes. The head of the institute Ahmed Naser Sarmast, who survived a Taliban suicide bomb attack couple of years ago, hands out weekly stipend for kids from the poorer families. Apparently, the stipend amount is good enough to convince the Poor Afghan parents to not to send their kids for work or begging on the streets of Kabul. Despite of strong opposition from the Taliban and various death threats issued to Ahmed Naser Sarmast the institute has made massive strides not just in Afghanistan but globally as well. So far the kids from the institute have performed in New York and Sydney apart from winning the UNESCO award for innovation in education. While it’s true that hundreds of thousands of Afghan kids work as labours throughout the country this initiative nevertheless gives hope of a welcome change as far the fate of the Afghan kids is concerned.
The ascent of sports
Afghanistan is a country of heroes. Those war loads and Mujahedeen who fought valiantly against the Soviet Army in the 80s and then the Taliban in the 90s are the heroes of Afghanistan. For a change Afghanistan now has some sporting heroes too. The national cricket team recently gate-crashed into the top ten ODI ranking after defeating Zimbabwe 3-2 in the ODI series. Players like Gulbadin Naib, Mohammed Shahzad are the new and emerging cricketing heroes of Afghanistan. What’s more, even the national Football team has made tremendous strides in the past couple of years. The Afghan Football team showed their calibre and skill when they beat India 2-0 in the final of South Asian SAFF 2013 tournament.
The Afghans played with great vigor during the recently concluded 2016 SAFF tournament too. On the way to the finals the Afghans hammered 11 goals in the league phase bulldozing Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Maldives. During the semis the Afghans were at the top of their soccer prowess as they drubbed Sri Lanka 5-0! However, India proved to be too good for the Afghans in the finals as they lost to India 2-1. Nevertheless, it was a hard fought battle and they made India sweat it out real hard.
The rise of the sporting culture in Afghanistan is a welcome development. There was a period when Kite flying was the only popular game in the country apart from the national game of goat-dragging, known as Buzkashi.
Building the Afghan consciousness
Afghanistan for a very long period of time has been a victim of stereotypes. Despite of its ancient credentials for most people Afghanistan’s history begins from the 80s when the Soviet tanks rolled over the Afghan soil. While massacres, bloodshed, conquests and invasions have been an inalienable part of the Afghan history, then so has been its creative identity. For instance, in Herat City, a city in the Western Afghanistan province of Herat bordering Iran, the Afghans jokingly say “If you stretch out your feet in Herat, you kick a poet.” Herat is known for its poems and rich Persian literature. So is the province of Balkh in Northern Afghanistan, which is where Zarathustra is believed to have laid the foundations of Zoroastrianism. Mazar-I-Sharif, which is the capital of the Balkh province, houses the Blue Mosque or the Shrine of Imam Ali.
Besides, although the women in Afghanistan are yet to taste the fruits of democracy the ongoing progress is nevertheless encouraging. As you are reading this article the members of Afghanistan’s Women National Cycling team are working hard to achieve their dream of representing their nation in Tour De France under the auspices of Abdul Sadiq Sadiqi, the coach and president of the Afghan Cycling Federation. On the other hand, the First Lady of Afghanistan Rula Ghani is working hard to create more women technocrats in Afghanistan. During a recently conducted Twitter-powered tech conclave in India’s Benguluru on Tech Women Afghanistan, the participants in India were rather stunned to see the digital and mobile Apps built by the young Afghan women. The event duly underlined the potential and caliber of Afghan women to excel in the technology sector. Furthermore, on the political front, 27% of the Parliament seats in Afghanistan are occupied by women which are the second best in the world after Rwanda’s 63% women participation rate.
Afghanistan is a nation of kite flyers, poems, music lovers, sports aficionados, athletes, technocrats and artists. The Soviet occupation and the subsequent ripple effects were a series of bad dreams in a country that is over 5000 years old. We recognize ourselves with our own promising and glorious dreams, why then are you recognizing Afghanistan with their old and fading nightmares? Make an attempt to bash your stereotypes about Afghanistan. Once you do that you will only see the changes that are revolutionizing the society. I am seeing it. Are you able to see it?