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Thoughts and reflections on literature, culture, society, religion and politics.



Updated: 2017-01-16T11:48:57.303-05:00

 



50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. & Mrs. Kraus

2017-01-16T09:28:34.966-05:00

I usually don't watch TV or movie, if I do, I would prefer to watch documentary films. Recently, I watched 50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. & Mrs. Kraus, by Steven Pressman, which is the story of Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus, a Jewish couple who, in 1939, decide to travel to Vienna to save the lives of 50 children. The couple are Jewish, but the mission that they take is not out of religious passion, it is rather a benign version of self-sacrifice and humane action, something that we now rarely hear or know.

Their journey to the Austria, which is under the control of Nazi is not easy. They encounter numerous government bureaucracy and discouragement from people who afraid to have Jewish in their communities, event Jews - who afraid of increasing anti-semitism - tried to persuade the couple to give up on their plan.

The couple eventually travel to Berlin and then to Vienna. There, the Kraus met with hundreds of families who are willing to send off their little ones to thousands of miles away in hopes that if they would die, their children will be alive. This is a heart-wrenching story, specially when some of those children who are now in their 70s or 80s narrate their own stories about abandoning their parents. This is the story that is relevant to our time and it also teaches us what we can do to make this world more beautiful and more tolerable for each other.

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="312" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/gmwAt0-oRME" width="510">



From the Stans: Yulduz Usmonova and Loiq Sher-Ali

2017-01-14T10:26:35.527-05:00

Earlier in one of my blog post, I translated a poem of Loiq Sher-Ali, one of Tajikistan's famous poets. Today, I was reminded by a Tajiki friend that the exact poem that I translated here is adapted into a song by a famous female Uzbek pop singer Yulduz Usmonova. I have been listening to this song for the past five days. Usmonova's voice has masterly echoed the sentiment that is lurking among the lines. The striking part of this song is the mesmerizing choreography of dance around the vault by the lake.

I don't think the vault is natural, but the just the embodiment of imageries, allegories and overall the concept of the poem into sentimental corporeality is extraordinary beautiful. A famous female Iranian singer Googoosh has copied the exact song with little alteration though in the lyric (it seems to me that the lyric is appropriated for this song, which is artistically does not sound very ethical), the music is quite the same but the dance choreography is dully in tawdry fashion - yet still beautiful with Googoosh's voice. Googoosh's version is titled "Nemidouni" (You don't know). Usmonova's song is called "Namekuni" (You can't). Here is the song. The lyric that I translated from Tajiki into English and Persian is copied below.

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="310" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/DWb3KjoIZZQ" width="510">

If you can’t make me laugh, don’t make me cry
If you can’t help me, don’t hurt me

If you can’t make me happy, don’t remind me of joy
If you can’t make me joyful, don’t make me tearful

From the four corners of life to the pathway of life
If you can’t be a protector, don’t be an invader

If you haven’t been befuddled, don’t try it
With vaunt and flaunt, don’t try to fool me

Your body is free of any pain of being in love
Your hands are empty, don’t make mine empty

You haven’t seen the world, don’t promise me the world
You haven’t seen the sea, don’t make me thirsty for the storm


In Tajiki
Хандон агар намекунӣ, гирён макун маро,
Обод агар намекунӣ, вайрон макун маро.

Хушбахт агар намекунӣ, аз бахт дам мазан,
Шодон агар намекунӣ, нолон макун маро.

Дар чорсӯи зиндагӣ то кӯи зиндагӣ,
Раҳбон агар намешавӣ, сарсон макун маро.

Ҳайрони дил набудаӣ як лаҳза худ ба худ,
Бо лофу бо газофҳо ҳайрон макун маро.

Ҷонат тиҳист аз ғами ҷонсӯзи ошиқӣ,
Дасти тиҳӣ ту ин ҳама дастон макун маро.

Дунё надида, ваъдаи дунё мадеҳ ба ман,
Дарё надида, ташнаи тӯфон макун маро.

Лоиқ Шералӣ
[1986]



Lolita and Morality

2017-01-03T12:43:08.503-05:00

The immorality of Humbert Humbert and his actions towards Lolita tell us how far one can get from his or her righteous conscience, the very inner quality of guiding to the rightness. It raises questions related to our understanding of ourself in our modern time, like to what extend has the human conscience lost its moral judgement. This is a chronic affliction that a reader might experience in reading Lolita and this is exactly what Humbert Humbert suffers from.

Lolita is a testimony to our pain and suffering in our modern day that is defeated by an indiscernible joy. We do not understand what Nabokov really says unless we put aside our preconceptions about the moral issues that the book raise.

I thought it is relevant to bring in Schopenhauer's input. In his essay on pessimism, Schopenhauer says in order understand this world’s suffering and misery is to accustom ourself with the fact that this world is a penitentiary, a sort of penal colony. If we do accustom ourself with such reality, we can locate ourself in front of a campus that would guide us through life and perhaps banish our doubts as to the right path to looking at it. If such authentic view is created, and if such desire has kindled a light in the darkness of our conscience, one can claim to understand what Nabokov means in Lolita.



Lolita: The Shocking Enchantment

2017-01-03T09:59:15.130-05:00

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta." From the book.

(image) For years, I have desperately been hunting the opportunity to read Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, and finally, the moment arrived. For the past few days, I spent my time sitting in the coffee shops reading this captivating book. It is disgustingly beautiful, and delightfully troubling. A reader must mentally be prepared to unseen, unheard, invisible, and unthinkable stories and events in Lolita.

It is definitely unsettling for people in this day and age to see a man, probably in his 40s, having sexual affair with a 13 year old young girl. As Humbert Humbert, in the beginning, explains that this is the age that marriage and cohabitation before the age of puberty is uncommon, but by doing so, he also tries to familiarize the reader with his perversion. As such he makes effort to mask his predilection towards Dolores as something natural, which has historically been a common fact, he says. He provides examples of those notable figures in history who have married (would be better to say copulated) girls as younger as 8 years old. For instance, he says, old men of Lepcha of the Himalayas copulate with girls of eight, Dante fell in love with Beatrice when she was nine. Since Humbert Humbert's purpose of giving such examples is to justify his own sexual conduct toward Dolores Haze, he could also add Muhammad and Aisha in his list. This is a fact, though it angers Muslims to this day when it is brought up, even though the Humbert's psychopathic mentality is rampant among certian cultures in different Muslim countries. I wonder why he didn't mention Muhammad and his child bride, since he brings in Rahab of Jericho from the Book of Joshua in the Hebrew Bible, who was considered to be a harlot at ten years of age, and she helped the Israelites in capturing the city.

Lolita was first published in France. American publishers refused to publish it and editors reacted with aspersion and admonition. Some Americans found the book an insult to all Americans while some others took it personally, in some cases, they became suspicious of the author himself over the whole story. Most of them indicated that they did not finish the book, some read the first few pages and disgustingly put it away, and some hardly read it through.

Nabokov has wonderfully mastered the use of language. The reader will be surprised how eloquent and how elegant the prose has turn out despite English being not his first language. The author often finds himself confined in using words in English that do not translate the heart of the matter, therefore, the reader will encounter with compounds that are abundant.

I will try to reflect on this captivating book of the story of protagonist Humbert and his enchanting nymphet further in the next posts.



Loiq Sher-Ali: A Notable Poet of Tajikistan

2016-12-31T14:47:26.714-05:00

(image) Loiq Sher-Ali (1941-2000) was born in a small village called Mazar-e Sharif (it shouldn't be confused with the city of Mazar-e Sharif which is one of the four largest city in Afghanistan) of the Panjakent district in the Sughd Region of Tajikistan. Shir-Ali was a notable figure in the Persian literary milieu of the twentieth century. He was strongly influenced by his countryman Abdollah Jafar ibn Mohammad Rudaki. Stylistically he was under the influence of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh (Book of Kings) and Omar Khayyam’s poetry. Themes in his poetry are diverse. Commonly he is believed to be a cheerful poet, one can scarcely finds sadness and sorrow in his poetry.
His complete works have been fully published in 2001 in both cyrillic and Farsi script. Here is a sample of his poetry that I translated from Tajiki into English:


If you can’t make me laugh, don’t make me cry
If you can’t help me, don’t hurt me

If you can’t make me happy, don’t remind me of joy
If you can’t make me joyful, don’t make me tearful

From the four corners of life to the pathway of life
If you can’t be a protector, don’t be an invader

If you haven’t been befuddled, don’t try it
With vaunt and flaunt, don’t try to fool me

Your body is free of any pain of being in love
Your hands are empty, don’t make mine empty

You haven’t seen the world, don’t promise me the world
You haven’t seen the sea, don’t make me thirsty for the storm


In Tajiki 
Хандон агар намекунӣ, гирён макун маро,
Обод агар намекунӣ, вайрон макун маро.

Хушбахт агар намекунӣ, аз бахт дам мазан,
Шодон агар намекунӣ, нолон макун маро.

Дар чорсӯи зиндагӣ то кӯи зиндагӣ,
Раҳбон агар намешавӣ, сарсон макун маро.

Ҳайрони дил набудаӣ як лаҳза худ ба худ,
Бо лофу бо газофҳо ҳайрон макун маро.

Ҷонат тиҳист аз ғами ҷонсӯзи ошиқӣ,
Дасти тиҳӣ ту ин ҳама дастон макун маро.

Дунё надида, ваъдаи дунё мадеҳ ба ман,
Дарё надида, ташнаи тӯфон макун маро.

Лоиқ Шералӣ
[1986]


In Farsi
خندان اگر نمی کنی، گریان مکن مرا
آباد اگر نمی کنی، ویران مکن مرا
خوشبخت اگر نمی کنی، از بخت دم مزن
شادان اگر نمی کنی، نالان مکن مرا
در چارسوی زندگی تا کوی زندگی
رهبان اگر نمی شوی,سرسان مکن مرا
حیران دل نبوده‌ای یک لحظه خود به خود
با لاف و با گزافها حیران مکن مرا
جانت تهیست از غم جانسوز عاشقی
دست تهی تو این همه دستان مکن مرا
دنیا ندیده وعدهٔ دنیا مده به من
دریا ندیده تشنهٔ طوفان مکن مرا

(Trans. Nasim Fekrat, December 22, 2016)

For further reading about Loiq Sher-Ali and his poetry, please visit this link



Christian Morgenstern: 'Das Wasser' from Gallows Songs - Farsi Translation

2016-09-02T23:41:46.310-04:00

I just read this short poem Das Wasser 'The Water' by Christian Morgenstern (1871-1914) in my textbook. The water that he talks about here has multiple meaning, and it could be, metaphorically, taken as 'silence' or, 'quietness.' It could also symbolically mean the fluidity of life, quietly, and yet persistently strong and smooth. My amateur impression is that Morgenstern who lived until the outset of the First World War, was to some degree under the impression of romanticism period - sometimes with a tinge of melancholy while drenched in humors  - which is not very apparent in the following short poem. I really like this poem and I tried to reach the marrow of its symbolic, metaphorical, and metaphysical streaks in order to exhume a meaningful translation into Farsi. I hope I am succeeded, and if there is any suggestions, please don't hesitate to leave your comments on the comment section. You can also appear anonymous by placing a check mark on "I'd rather post as a guest."

Das Wasser - from gallows songs 
-------

Ohne Wort, ohne Wort
rinnt das Wasser immerfort;
andernfalls, andernfalls
sprach' es doch nichts andres als:

Bier und Brot, Lieb und Treu,-
und das wäre auch nicht neu.
Dieses zeigt, dieses zeigt,
dass das Wasser besser schweigt.


آب - از ترانه های چوبه دار
------
بدون زمزمه ای
بدون کلمه ای
،آب
 آرام و بی صدا
،جاری است
ورنه
بیان کردن آرامشش
طور دیگری شگفت انگیز نمی بود

تخمیر و تبخیر
عشق و راستی
اینها تازه نیست
که کسی سروده باشد
یا گفته باشد
  این همه بیانگر این است که
سکوت
 دل جریان آب را تسخیر کرده است
Poet: Christian Morgenstern- Source
(Trans. Nasim Fekrat, September 02, 2016)



Candle Lighting: A Symbol of Nonviolence Against Darkness and Injustice

2016-08-14T01:25:58.982-04:00

In my earlier blog post, I alluded to candle lighting, but I did not elaborate on it. The candle lighting is important specially at the night of 40th anniversary of those 80 (or more) people who lost their lives and more than 250 wounded on July 23, 2016. In this post, I'm going to call your attention to some of its important aspects of lighting candles. I will explain why it is symbolically significant for Hazaras - and maybe others who sympathize with the cause - to simultaneously light candles in order to commemorate the lost ones' memories, while reemphasizing on their nonviolent movement against unjust and discriminatory policy of the central government.

Symbolically, candle lighting is intrinsic to the quality of life, the very matter that the movement has based upon. It directly relates with the nature of our demands, and with our struggle against an autocratic management, which does not only listen to its citizens, but tacitly allows terrorists to kill our nonviolent protestors.

At the night of 40th anniversary of those who perished in fight for their basic rights, and those who wished to bring changes in their country, let's light candles and remember them and their memories. With lighting candles, let the perpetrators and criminals, and those who blamed the victims understand that they perished our brothers and sisters, but their wishes and wills will not vanish from our hearts and minds and we will stand firm and steadfast in their/our ways and struggles together.

Candle lighting is a powerful tool to fight the evil, the inner heart of the devil that is doomed to darkness. With candle lighting, we all go to war against evil, which Afghan government is a perfect archetype of all malevolences and hostilities against its citizens. It is evil because its policy is against general good, against peace and prosperity; and its evil because it benefits at the cost of its citizens. Let's all stand up against evildoers and devils until they fear us and flea from us. At this point, we can light candles and burn their darken heart in order conquer them.

Let's all rise against injustice, and raise our voice against systematic discriminations, and with such a simply symbolic, yet powerful gesture, we send a powerful message to the evildoers that a sapling that is planted in the garden of our struggle for justice has watered with our blood shall never die.



Learning From Other Nonviolent Movements

2016-08-10T09:39:45.321-04:00

Now, it is clear that we are battling with a government that is facing a crisis of legitimacy, that its leadership has lost its ethical credibility due to persistent lies and deceptions. What the Enlightenment Movement, at this point, can do is to defiantly answer to government's demands and rules by using tools of civil disobedience. It does not have to be feigning illness to go to work, or resigning from a post; although these tactics are important, currently, it is unexpected and unacceptable for any Hazaras to resign from any government job in protest at its discriminatory policy. The Hazaras must stay in their posts in order to remain as a conduit of communication and information between people and government.

Afghanistan has not experienced nonviolent movements before, therefore we have to look at other nonviolent movements in other countries. One of the most recent nonviolent movement took place in Iran in which the pro Green Movement turned their demands and angers against injustice and usurpation of power into a historic grass roots battle against autocratic and repressive regime. One of the tactics that was used by the Green Movement was to scream out 'Allahu Akbar' (God is great) on their rooftops.

Since everyone is equipped with mobile devices and most people in Kabul have access to the internet, this kind of nonviolent protest can be easily organized and implemented. Nonviolent protestors can also light candles on their rooftops for 10 minutes, and simultaneously scream out 'Allahu Akbar' and then followed with some regular slogans such as 'no to discrimination' and 'no to injustice.'

There might be some other effective ways to raise our voice, but to scream out during the night, sometimes before people go to bed, would definitely make headlines, and it would definitely reach the deaf ears of our unresponsive president and CEO. Your voice will reach the palace and will disrupt their sleep, and eventually will create fear in their hearts (if they have any) that epitomize cowardice. 



What Could you do When Your Government doesn't Listen to You?

2016-08-09T10:10:41.055-04:00

At this point, we all know what happened with the nonviolent Enlightenment Movement on July 23rd, 2016. The government is obstinately resistant to hear the movement's demands, not only that, but its security apparatus did not cooperate with peaceful protestors, and in some way, it showed a tacit green light to terrorist to kill the peaceful protesters.The numbers of casualties have increased, there are now over 90 dead and over 200 individuals fatally injured. Some are in critical condition and need to be flown to another country for better medical operation. The movement's leadership has recently announced and warned the Afghan government that if there legitimate demands won't meet in near future, they are going to come back to the streets again. This time their tactics could be different than before, where government's tactic to block the streets with containers will not be enough. While coming back to the streets is one of the options to raise our voice against the corrupted and autocratic management of the current Afghan government, there are ways and tactics to initiate in order to mount more pressure on government to listen our demands. What are they, and what can we do to protract our struggle against injustice? Well, there are numerous ways that the Hazara people can do in order increase pressure, to the point that the government can feel the devastation and finally come to the negotiation table. It's in fact the longevity of the Enlightenment Movement struggle that can wear down the irresponsive government, not the expedient or shortsighted solutions to the problem. The corrupted and disreputable warlord Mohammad Mohaqiq who shamelessly siding with the government blames Hazaras for fomenting and creating rift among Afghan people and despicably accuses Hazaras for demanding too much, has already tried to find solution but failed. Actually, he did not want to find solution, he rather dealt on Hazaras' rights and demands by securing some top level posts for his cronies. This is not new though, Hazaras are familiar with such deplorable games he has been playing over the years. It is recently that people decided to transition from a traditional corrupted and misusing pubic trust on his own advantages. One of the reasons that the Enlightenment Movement has taken root is as a result of years of mistreatment and misrepresentation of people by their own leaders like Mohaqiq and Khalili, who not only did no good to the Hazaras, but exploited them in various ways.We all know what we can do and how we can do. We need to prolongate our struggle through various ways, which I will be writing some tactics in the next blog posts. We have to oppress our doubts in order crush the discriminatory attitudes of the government against the Hazaras with sheer bulk of civil disobedience, including writing our stories, criticizing, publishing pamphlets, organizing public events where poems could be read and songs could be played. In different stages, we have to change our strategies and even we should question our service to the current government, including serving in the Afghan National Army. We should ask this question from ourselves: Why do we have to serve a government that doesn't listen to us? Why do we have to fight for a government that unleash its terrorist to kill us?We have to call all our services for this government into question and we should calculatedly decide which one is feasible and what would be the impact on ourselves and what would be an immediate blow to the government. We also have to be aware that the current government is about to fall apart, the Hazaras should not be blamed for any disastrous events that would lead to the collapse of the government in the near future.[...]



Gefunden: A Goethe's Poem Translated into Farsi

2016-07-18T10:21:29.185-04:00

I have been reading Goethe's poems every once in a while, and I found most of his poems, in symbolic form, mystical and transcendental, like the one below. I finally decided to translate the following poem from German into Farsi. I am not sure weather it is translated into Farsi already or not. I put it on my Farsi blog and asked my reader to comment on the translation, and I'd like to extend the same request here. I would welcome any comments and critiques.
Gefunden
Ich ging im Walde
so für mich hin,
und nichts zu suchen,
das war mein Sinn.

Im Schatten sah ich
ein Blümchen stehn,
wie Sterne leuchtend,
wie Äuglein schön.

Ich wollt es brechen,
da sagt' es fein:
Soll ich zum Welken
Gebrochen sein?

Ich grub's mit allen
den Würzlein aus,
zum Garten trug ich's
am hübschen Haus.

یافت شده
در جنگلزاری قدم گذاشتم
نه اینکه دنبال چیزی باشم
همینطوری
برای دل خودم
نیتم چیزی جز این نبود

ناگاه
دیدم
،در سایه ای
گل کوچکی ایستاده است
درخشان بسان ستاره ها
براق همچون چشمان ریز زیبا

هوای چیدنش به سرم زد
:ناگه، با ظرافت و نرمی، گفت
من پژمرده میشوم
اگر چیده شوم

با ریشه اش
از دل خاک بیرون کشیدم
بردم اش به باغچه ای
در مجاورت
خانه ای که دوستش دارم

در گوشهء دنجی
نشاندمش
از آن روز تا حال
از شکوفه هایش
در وجدم
Poet: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - Source
(Trans. Nasim Fekrat, July 13, 2016)



Eine Postkarte aus Deutschland

2016-07-08T16:09:01.360-04:00

Nothing compares to the happiness when you receive your first postcard from the country that you have love for. I have been to Germany a few times and upon every visit, I learned something new, something real and serious. I have heard stereotypes about Germans being austere in their mannerism. That may be true, not only about Germans but about a lot of people in the United States and around the world. But what I experienced and learned during the time I spent in different cities in Germany was unique. I found people who were serious in their promises, honest in speaking the their minds, forthcoming when asked for help, and beyond all that, sincere in their relationship. Germans also have stereotypes about Americans, and one of them is oberflächlich, which means superficial. It might be true to some extent, but again it could be said about any people or culture anywhere that we know nothing or know very little about them. Even that little information which is usually from TVs or the Internet can be misleading, unless we obtain firsthand experience.

Anyway, here is my first postcard from one of my great German teachers, Herr Schneider. If you read this blog post and would like to have a pen pal friend in Athens, GA, here's my address:
101 College State Rd
Apt A204
Athens, GA 30605





Eid with Mirza Bidel

2016-07-06T11:53:02.340-04:00

Eid is arriving
everyone is in preparation,
Everyone is taking pleasure
whether rich or poor

But me,
without you,
I look at my state
I see that Ramaḍān is still
ahead of me.

عید آمد و هر کس پی کار خویش است
می نازد اگر غنی وگر درویش است
من بی تو به حال خود نظرها کردم
دیدم که هنوز هم رمضان در پیش است

Eid āmad-o har-kas payī kār khish ast
mināzad agar ghanī wa-gar darwīsh ast
man bi-tu ba hāli khod nazarhā kardam
dīdam ki hanuz ham Ramaḍān dar pish ast

Poet: Mirza Abdul-Qadir Bidel
(Trans. Nasim Fekrat, July 06, 2016)

Ustad Sarahang has sung this lyrics in a very commendably touching sense. Here is the video that you can enjoy listening.

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="310" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5WytMKY0rds" width="510">



Pashto Love Poem

2016-07-03T15:27:17.020-04:00

Millions of people speak in Pashto language, but not many people around the world know how beautiful this language is. Today, I was searching for Pashto landei - literally means short, only two lines - I stumbled upon a four lines love poem, which I thought to be deserving translation into English.
---------
Lover,
Captivated and cries,
The pain of his own love
Day and night,
The unfeeling beloved
Spills blood from the heart

Her eyebrows,
Like bows of war
Shoot the eyelashes
Into my heart
O people!
Don't you see the wounds of her arrows in my heart?

مین چه آشنایی کا، شپه ور څ به گریانی کا
شهی، ده ستمگاره، خوشحال ز ړ و به زخمی کا
لندۍ لری د ورڅـیو، با ڼو غشی کاری‌کا
پرهار می گوره خلقه، دَ دلبر دَ تیر نبنان سو

In Farsi

عاشق، دردِ عشق خویش می‌گرید، شب‌ها و روزها
معشوقه‌، جفاکار است، می‌ريزد خونِ سرخ قلبش را
ابروانش کمان جنگی است و تيرهايِ مژگانش کشنده
ای مردم زخم‌های تیر كمان یار را در من ببینید

Poet: Unknown
(Trans. Nasim Fekrat, July 03, 2016)



The Mystique of Mystics: Spiritual Energy and Sufi Meditation

2016-07-03T14:36:15.156-04:00

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You can feel the spiritual power of this Sufis dancing in this video. You can feel the energy that emanates from their chanting, their circling, the clapping and pounding.
This kind of ritual is rare in the Muslim world, but still exist in some part of the world.

They are Chechen Sufis as part of a larger group of Sufi brotherhoods. Chechnya is mostly Muslim, and they relate to the Shafi'i school of thought. Their mystical tradition is mixed of muridism (according to Arabic Al-Ma'ani dictionary, murid means adherent or disciple) and in which a Murshid (spiritual teacher or guide) plays a central role in the spiritual journey. Some of Chechen associate themselves with different branches of Sufism. Mainly there are two tariqas (order) in the north of Caucasus region: Naqshbandiyah and the Qadiriyah.

The word that they keep repeating is 'Yahu or Yahoo (which in English means oaf or a lout person),' not the website though, it is an Arabic term and is a pronoun for God. In Hebrew language, it means God. You also here the chant, "La ilaha illallah," which means there is no deity but God.

I shared this video with someone who asked me, "where are the women?"
I wrote back and said: That is a question that can't not be answered so easily. There have been women Sufis but not many, and they were mostly secluded from public gathering like the ones you see in the video. The reason is very obvious. From religious and Sufi point of view anything that is considered distracting, or source of temptation must be avoided. This is a backward belief, which dates back to maybe one thousand years ago, but there are some changes made in recent decades. Let's hope that one day Sufis wouldn't think women as threat to their purifying spiritual endeavor, rather see them naturally a graceful and blissful companions.



Sultana's Story And Her Educational Aspiration

2016-06-14T11:32:52.682-04:00

If you haven't yet read this week's incredible about Sultana on the New York Time, a young girl living in southern Afghanistan who dreams to study in the United States, I highly recommend to read it. Sultana is definitely in of some attention for her future. If you want to donate money towards her education, there is a page made for her in which money goes directly into her account.
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Sultana at her desk, photo already published on the NYT.

Like Sultana, there are thousands of girls in areas under the Taliban control who can't go to school. It is unfortunate that Sultana and girls like her are forbidden to go to school, but there is always an incorrect perception that deludes our understanding of the nature of south, where Sultana comes from. ( It is not known where exactly she comes from. The impression that I have from the photos that she has provided to her supporters is that she lives in city).
Most of often people think that the Taliban are foreigners, they come across the boarders from Pakistan, while this might be true to some degree, it belies the sympathizing nature for the Taliban in the southern Afghanistan - mainly in Pashtun areas. Those that hold this kind view that the Taliban are not Afghans, they are either proponent of Ashraf Ghani and Krazai who have been calling the Taliban 'brothers' or they are those that are influenced by misconceptions on the nature of Afghan war and politics. If the Taliban would not have sympathizers among the people in the south, Afghanistan would be much safer today and girls like Sultana would be able to freely attend school.

I am also a little bit doubtful about the story of Sultana. It seems that exaggeration is a fun thing - especially that she is intrigued by dark matter and she aspires to solve its mystery - and Kristof has used it well in his article, though he states that he can't verify everything Sultana says. I hope everything is written there turns out real. There are many girls like Sultana who needs support, but not all can make their stories so theatrical to get American readers' attention. Let's wish her all the best.

Also, you can listen to Sultana's Skype short interview (pull the bar to the end of the program, the interview starts at 36.40) with her friend Emily Roberts, a student at the University of Iowa. 



Book Review: Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle over Islam is Reshaping the World

2016-06-08T11:51:55.388-04:00

I have been thinking to find a book, a non-academic one, to start my summer break; something that would refresh my knowledge and understanding of Middle East politics that I learned in college. As a student of political science with a great emphasis on Middle East politics and history, I keenly followed the news on uprisings that began in Tunisia and soon set off across the Middle East. The uprisings, which soon became known as the Arab Spring drove the entire region into a state of flux and consequence that have been far from predicable. It is now five years since the Arab Spring started; the turmoil that followed led into regional conflagration. For the past years, pundits and scholars alike have attempted to find an answer to questions: What went wrong? What do Islamists want? Can we generally consider the Arab Spring as a movement for regime change that is doomed to fail, or should we examine each state individually? Is the revolution over? And questions such as how and why some countries endorsed to employ heavy-handed security tactics, while others took delicate measures. Recently, I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of the book Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam Is Reshaping the World by Shadi Hamid, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. Hamid tries to provide some answers to these questions by (first) explaining chaos and violence of the Middle East, the rise to the Islamic State or ISIS, cultural divides over some trifling matters like cartoons of Mohammad and how much they really matter to Muslims. Hamid argues that in order to understand the current turmoil of the Middle East, we need to understand go back to the start of twentieth century when the last caliphate was formally abolished. “Since the caliphate’s dissolution, “Hamid says “The struggle to establish a legitimate political order has raged on, with varying levels of intensity.” At the heart of the struggle, Hamid believes that lies the most basic questions that remain unresolved: “what it means to be citizen and what it means to be a state.”At the outset of the book, Hamid makes it known that Islam is related to politics - though this is a familiar argument that has often been made by many - and he emphasizes that because of the distinctive relationship between Islam and politics, the separation is unthinkable. In fact he stresses that Islam should play a serious role in political community and strengthen where it finds the weak ones because Hamid believes that excluding religion undermines the social fabric of religious people and results into violence. On Islam’s reformation, Hamid argues that Islam, by its leniency offered accommodation for changes, especially “Western secular ideas, recasting them as authentic and Islamic.” He shortly illustrates this point in his previous chapter in which he says: “Islam has already had a “reformation” of sorts. Hamid refers to the nineteenth country Islamic modernism movement, which began during the Ottoman Empire. At the forefront of this movement there were three notable figures: Muhammad Abduh, Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, and Muhammad Rashid Rida. Perhaps, this is a reaction to those who might wonder why can’t Islam be reformed or when it would be reformed. The next three chapters are devoted to three case studies where Hamid investigates the inseparability of Islam and politics, and the irreconcilablity of these two with modern nation-state and secularism in general. These three cases are the 2013 Egyptian coup d'état, the Turkish model and domination of power by Turkish president Erdogan, and Tunisia’s Ennahda party to intentionally reduce its prominenc[...]



The "Beautiful" and "The Greatest" is Gone

2016-06-04T16:11:37.939-04:00

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Picture: Muhammad Ali Credit: Michael Gaffney
He was beyond words to be described. Muhammad Ali was the greatest of all time, the greatest who ever lived, and will be the greatest athlete who ever will be. Rest in peace, the beautiful man!

Here is a great quote of him:
"A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at 20, has wasted thirty years of his life." Muhammad Ali
Here is a video of Muhammad Ali on goodwill visit to Kabul, Afghanistan.

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Libraries Destroy Books

2016-06-03T22:35:33.660-04:00

Yesterday morning as I walked into the UGA science library, I saw huge stacks of red boxes ready to be loaded into a big truck. I passed by without paying much attention. I assumed that the boxes are filled with books that might be transferred to a new library.

Curious and maybe a little worried about the books, I walked to the main gate and approached one of the guys who was loading the truck. I asked him where the books go and how many truckloads do they make a day. He kindly explained to me that the boxes are filled with books and they are going to a warehouse, which finally will be destroyed. He added that for the next two weeks, they are going make one truckload every day. 

"How bad." I said to myself. I felt a profound sadness due to thousands of books are going to be destroyed one day. As I walked back to my desk, I thought that this is an indication of an ominous future that is looming on the horizon. I am worried that one day libraries' shelves are being emptied. In fact, it is already happening as the books are being digitized. It is an incontrovertible truth that we are living in a digital world where a small device can hold thousands of books and easy to carry around. I am worried about that one day libraries become irrelevant and the virtual library take over this valuable tradition.



How to Erase Desert Tradition?

2016-06-20T17:46:03.470-04:00

I have never seen this in my life until now. A group of men - who don't look to be students because they look in their 40s and 50s - just arrived in the coffee shop with their own thermos and cookies. I watched them carefully because they are sitting next to me. From their accent, I can tell that they are not from the Gulf. Surprisingly, only two of them bought coffee, the rest didn't. They even brought their own cups and sugar. I can't fathom the depth of this contradiction.

It is a fascinating social and cultural paradox to see this mingling odds from two different world. I asked myself whether people in the Middle East and North Africa take their food out to the restaurants and coffee shops to eat? I don't think so and I don't know it. This is an odd thing that I saw this evening at this coffee shop.

I am a regular coffee shop camper, especially in the evening because the library is closed at night. I also go to the coffee shop because I find my solace in drinking coffee and tea in a common place while doing my work. After a while - maybe two or three hours later - when I see my coffee has dried up, I usually start feeling uncomfortable because I feel I am leeching off the space, free Wi-Fi, and the spirit of the social harmony in a small space like the coffee shop.

With respect to all cultures and traditions, I think social etiquette, having sense of decency and awareness in a different environment is a primal value that can get us close.



Vergessen: Poem of the Month

2016-07-03T16:07:02.792-04:00

In March this year, I submitted a poem in German to a monthly poetry competition called "Gedicht des Monats" at the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies at University of Georgia. A few weeks later, I surprisingly received this message from the head of the department:
Dear Nasim,
Congratulations! The committee has chosen your poem “Vergessen” as the winner of the Poem of the Month competition. Please see Ms. Petti in the departmental office (Room 204) about your prize; she will need to get some information from you in order to put in a check request.

Is it OK for us to display your poem on a bulletin board in Joe Brown and on our departmental website or Facebook page?
I am not a poet, but I was glad to be the winner. I was also hesitant to share the news with my friends, because I wanted to avoid any boastful pretension. But finally, I thought, since no one reads blog posts anymore, it would not be harmful to share it here after all. So, here's my poem "Vergessen," which in English means forgetting. You can also read this on the department's Facebook page.
------------
Vergessen

Schließlich, entschied ich mich,
dich zu vergessen
Dein Name
Wo immer ich ihn gefunden hatte
In meinen Notizen
Postkarten
Briefen
Auch in meinem Tagebuch
Seiten, gelöscht oder zerrissen

Gestern, habe ich ihr Bild von
der Wand abgehängt
Und dann leerte ich die Rahmen

Mein Plan scheiterte
Als ich versuchte
Sie aus dem Rahmen meines
Herzens zu leeren
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Bidel: I Just Recalled my Love

2016-05-26T18:14:38.936-04:00


Dew is perished
as soon as the dawn’s veil has taken away
Companion!
I just recalled my love,
au revoir!

Tā sahar bi-parda gardad, shabnam az khod rafta ast
Al-widā' ay ham-nishīnān! delbaram āmad ba yād

تا سحر بی پرده گردد، شبنم از خود رفته است
الوداع ای هم نشینان! دلبرم آمد به یاد

Poem by Mīrzā Abdul-Qādir Bidel

(Trans. Nasim Fekrat, May 26, 2016)



From Afghan Lord to Insatiable Quester

2016-05-29T23:29:04.946-04:00

I finally decided to change my blog name from 'Afghan Lord' to 'Insatiable Quester.' I have blogged for almost 12 years under Afghan Lord. I recently realized that I have grown discomfort with the name. I chose it in 2004, back then, for some reason, I used to have a delusional conception of Afghan nationalism. In Afghanistan, the name 'Afghan' is associated with the dominant tribe, the Pashtun. Inside the country, we are all Hazaras, Tajiks, Pashtuns and Uzbeks. Though outside all citizens from Afghanistan are considered Afghan, inside the country, non-Pashtuns spurn the name.

Afghan kings and rulers tried to unite Afghanistan under one nationality, however, the notion of a nationhood or a sense of nationalism never took place to this day and it will never take root.

I personally realized that it I only carry the name, not the virtue, and not the spirit of what I once thought to be. Hazaras, the people to whom I belong are systematically discriminated against, looked at as second class citizens, and limited to resources. I have also thought that the previous name sounded too presumptuous and does not reflect my inner feelings at all. I am neither a lord, nor even close to be suitable for that name. I was born into a very poor farmer family that could hardly make ends meet.

Choosing a new title was difficult. I thought about it six months ago, but I was not sure to make any changes. We are all in quest of something in our lives. My quest has been in search of knowledge. Therefore, I thought the closest and meaningful name that I can use to continue blogging would be "Insatiable Quester."



Afghanistan's Economic Prospect: From Troubling to Bleak

2016-01-30T21:29:48.700-05:00

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has just released its quarterly report on Afghanistan to congress. The special project's report contains a list of reports that are highly concerning about Afghanistan's future. Among the many of concerns on the country is its economic prospect.

Despite more than a decade of reconstruction and development efforts, the Afghan economy remains in fragile and worsening condition. Intractable insurgents, cutbacks in foreign military personnel, persistent emigration of people and capital, and a slowing global economy are shifting Afghanistan’s economic prospects from troubling to bleak. Source: SIGAR Quarterly Report

Giving the fact that the country has been in turmoil for decades, long enough that the infrastructure eventually extirpated, it is considerably hard to measure Afghanistan’s economy growth on a global economic index, but there are some reports that give a good estimate of how has Afghanistan’s economy been doing in post-Taliban era. Since 2002, the slowest growth that Afghanistan economy has experienced was in 2014.

According to the CIA World Factbook, the highest GDP growth was recorded 14% in 2012. Then, in 2013, it surprisingly experienced a drastic decline which was recorded 3.9%. In 2014, it dropped lower to 1.3%, and in 2015, it even went steeper to 1%, which is lowest than it has ever exited. But now there is a report that came out just yesterday indicating Afghanistan’s GDP growth may drop even lower.

Considering all these facts about Afghanistan's economy, it is safe to say that Afghanistan's economy in 2016 may not change if there is not any improvement in its current political instability and violence that is overwhelmingly increasing throughout the country. Based on SIGAR report, Afghanistan has become more dangerous today than the years before. It reports that the Taliban now have control more territory than at any time since 2001. It estimates that roughly 71.7% of the country's districts are under Afghan government control, or influence.

In the end, the negative yield curve in Afghanistan economy could only change if there would be any outside help not only to fragile economy, but as well as to its security. 



Hazara Female Models on the Catwalk in Kabul

2016-01-26T11:48:39.086-05:00

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A decade-and-a-half after the end of Taliban rule, women in Afghanistan still face pressure to dress conservatively in their Muslim-dominated society. That makes holding a fashion show with female models a risky endeavor. But some young women are making a fashion statement, defying threats and social taboos to take to the runway. (RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan). Source RFE/RL

Here is another example of bravery that is presented by Hazara women defying the threats against themselves. However, there is just one caveat to remember. We must be careful and distinguish when we are talking about women in Afghanistan. Ethnic plays an important role in women's freedom. You won't see women from other ethnic groups among them. These young females are ethnically Hazara, the most persecuted and downtrodden people on earth. If chance given to them, and they receive support, these women can be an embodiment of courage and freedom that can exemplify it for others.



A Brief Review: The Last Thousand: One School's Promise in a Nation atWar

2016-06-03T14:33:38.880-04:00


I posted this on my Facebook page, then I realized that I must have first published it here to make it an official piece, but then I thought an official piece means that I have to do a thorough review of the book. Well, I might come back and do that soon, before my classes start, but for now, it is not a bad idea to share a glimpse of the book which contains inspirational stories of young Hazara girls at Marefat High School. Contrary to other books that so far have published on Afghanistan and have tried to give a grim outlook of the future, The Last Thousand is the opposite, it gives an optimistic picture of Afghanistan's future, while noticing the lack of insecurity and warning about the fall of the country into the hands of the Taliban. 

I just finished reading The Last Thousand: One School's Promise in a Nation at War by a renowned journalist Jeffrey E. Stern. The original version of the book will come out on January 26. I started it three days ago, and thought that my incremental reading would last for a week. I was wrong. When I started reading, it was hard for me to even take a break. It is so elegantly written, so masterly told that it feels more like leafing through the diary of a dear friend that one tries to discover the secrets, than an excursion through the current historical experience of Afghanistan that centers around the young Afghan girls who are thirsty for education.

The Last Thousand is all about hope, and happiness that Afghanistan needs for its futuer, like Najiba, a mother of four children who starts school at an old age because she wants her kids to be raised by smart parents; like Tamana who despite her loss and ordeal becomes a symbol of hope and strength in the school; like Yunos Bakhshi who brings his telescope to school to teach Marefat students about the universe, the other planets and our solar system; and like the Teacher Aziz Royesh, the main character who revolutionizes the minds of young girls, turning them into powerful contributors to social change and education.

These girls are the powerful determinants of their lives in Afghanistan’s future. The epicenter of all these changes is Marefat, and finally it tells the reader that the crust of the Afghan society must adjust itself to the nature of ever-increasing magnitude of change that is brought by young girls.

A deep and hearfelt thank you to Jeffery Stern for writing such a painstakingly beautiful book - of hope - which is full of inspirational stories!