MarySmith’sPlace – #Afghanistan #Friendship # Family

In my last post I said my next one would be about the discussion with the oncologist. I’ve changed my mind. I’ll put up a cancer update soon, but in the meantime, I want to introduce you to a special person who is part of my extended Afghan family. In fact, I’m going to let her do the introduction herself but before she does, I’ll fill in a bit of our shared family history.

I met Sausan’s grandfather, Jawad in the Jaghori district of Ghazni province in 1989, the year the Soviets left Afghanistan, when he came to work as a driver for the leprosy/tuberculosis NGO (non-government organisation) for which I was joint co-ordinator. Later, he moved to an administrative role in Quetta, Pakistan, which was, at the time, our operational base.

His family joined him in Quetta. They were among the first visitors when my son was born. I remember looking at Jawad’s wife as she held him and seeing the longing in her eyes. I was pretty sure another addition to their growing family would be coming along. Jawad didn’t think so – I was right!

Shahnaz, Jawad’s daughter, holding David soon after he came home from the maternity hospital – 30 years ago!
David’s birthday – 21st March – is also the Afghan New Year. This embroidered cloth was a gift to him from Jawad’s wife on his first birthday.
Exquisite embroidery in each corner of the cloth.

It became clear we had to move operations to Afghanistan or risk being robbed every time we shipped medicines and supplies across the border. In 1993, Jawad went ahead, finding a suitable building in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and I followed with David/Daud, who was then two years old.

The children playing together on a picnic in Balkh, described by Marco Polo as a ‘noble and great city’.
Jawad being used as a climbing frame! The noble and great city was renowned, in our time, for its delicious kebabs.

You can read about the following three years in Mazar-i-Sharif and my work teaching health volunteers in rural Hazara Jat, or Hazaristan, in Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women.

When I returned to Scotland, there was no Facebook – very few people even emailed – and keeping in touch wasn’t easy but we always managed. Taliban came to power and the family escaped to Pakistan. The DH, David and I went to Pakistan several times to meet up.

After Taliban was pushed out (temporarily as it turned out) Jawad and family moved back to Afghanistan, to Kabul. Mustafa and his sister Shahnaz won scholarships to India and we visited Mustafa there (regretting we didn’t have enough time to visit Shahnaz as well). We also returned to Afghanistan for an all-too-brief reunion.

Time together in a recreation park near Kabul when we visited in 2006.
Farid, Mustafa and David in Kabul, opposite the museum.

Mustafa later did his Masters in the UK. His parents looked forward to seeing him graduate and we looked forward to a grand reunion over here. However, when the hoops the British government made his parents jump through for a visa became unsurmountable we went to Bristol to be there for him.

Mustafa’s Graduation day in Bristol

Jawad’s son Murtaza was the first to be married and he moved to America where he and his wife Soraya live in Connecticut. It is their daughter who adds the next link in the family chain. She and I ‘met’ when she visited Kabul earlier this year for her aunt’s wedding and we chatted on a video call after she’d read my book and had some questions for me.

Here she is:

“I am Sausan Farhnaz Jawad. I was born in Hartford, Connecticut USA, July 2nd 2010. Originally I am from Afghanistan, Jahgori District where my father, Murtaza Ahmadi, was born.

My grandfather, Jawad Ahmadi, was running an international NGO (LEPCO) to treat leprosy and tuberculosis in the very remote area in central highlands of Afghanistan.

I live in Simsbury, CT. I have gone to Afghanistan two times, already. Kabul the capital of Afghanistan is surrounded by high mountains. My last visit to Kabul was in May 2021 to attend the wedding of my aunt which was held in a very nice wedding hall.

Unfortunately, I could not attend the wedding of my uncle which was held on August 8th. It was celebrated in Kabul’s famous garden, Bagh-i Babur (a very old and famous garden, where the Mogul Emperor Babur, one of the Genghis Khan’s descendants, is buried.) The reason I could not attend my uncle’s wedding was because Afghanistan was having trouble with the Taliban and the flights were cancelled. If I went to his wedding I would be stuck In Afghanistan. Luckily, my grandparents and the newlyweds left the country. But sadly, some of my grandparents’ relatives are still stuck in Afghanistan.

My family nation is Hazara. This is a tribe mixed with Mongol and Turkish which is living in the centre of Afghanistan.”

You may be wondering, why this post now? Since Taliban once again took control of Afghanistan earlier this year I’ve turned down several invitations to speak in public about the situation and I’ve not written about it on my blog. I couldn’t. I was too angry and heartbroken to find a way to talk about it. Taliban’s takeover and the plight of those desperate to leave the country were on the front pages of our newspapers until the day the last soldier left Afghanistan. After that Afghanistan stories were found half way through the paper – scarcely newsworthy.

Jawad’s family and mine have been friends over many years and across many miles. I really hope people reading this will see individual people not a faceless mass of ‘refugees’ or ‘asylum seekers’ – real people.

Our friendship will last as long as I do and be remembered for even longer and I look forward to more conversations with the youngest (for now) in the family – the delightful Sausan.

And I hope with all my heart that one day Jawad’s family will reunite in Afghanistan, an Afghanistan free from Taliban.

104 thoughts on “MarySmith’sPlace – #Afghanistan #Friendship # Family

  1. The bonds of friendship are strong, a thing to be cherished, and a blessing that you’ve been able to stay in touch with Jawad and his family for all these years. I share your hope for a truly free Afghanistan, may it be so. _/\_ ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Our government should be ashamed of its actions in the withdrawal. Our old, flinty President refuses to even acknowledge his sloppy humanitarian mistake. So nothing will be done to help those trapped and under the boot of the Taliban I’m afraid. I fear Biden’s next move will be to recognize those thugs and start diplomatic relations. Thank you for the warm story, Mary. It was lovely meeting Sausan.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Glad you enjoyed meeting Sausan.

      I am truly astounded by Biden’s determination to ignore what he’s done and I fear you are right about the next move being to recognise Taliban as the ‘government’ – and it won’t only be Biden who does so.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I am so disappointed in his lack of understand of how things should work. I hope our allies finally get a belly full of his ignorance and ignore him. The citizens here when gathered at football games and other events chant “You go Brandon” which is a cover for “F*ck you Biden.” Well they say that too. His approval rating is under 28%.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing this story and further lovely Family photographs you generously shared. Your heart is huge. Afghan families are being resettled here in Dumfries and Galloway now, under the home office scheme. As always, too few but it’s a start. MOOL is supporting them. Cllr Dougie Campbell is doing a good job keeping our council ‘up to the mark’ and I think these families are benefiting from the learning we gained resettling Syrian families. I hope so.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Barb. I’m pleased you enjoyed ‘meeting’ Sausan. I feel my post was a bit muddled but your comment makes me feel maybe I did manage to let readers see my friends as real people – not faceless asylum seekers.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s lovely to meet Sausan and read her story.. it’s great that you have kept in touch over the years friendships are so special and it must be heartbreaking for you, Mary knowing families personally and knowing how real the dangers are to them and others 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with everyone else. Really, everything these ‘world leaders’ do leaves me speechless. Where is the humanity in them?
    Thank you for sharing the story, Mary. The next stage of your own story can wait as long as possible, in my view. ❤
    Love from all of us. Sadly Neville went across the Rainbow Bridge on Thursday to join his best buddy, Roscoe. xxx It's my #writephoto story today.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve given up trying to fathom what our leaders think/do. I just wanted to show that behind the headlines are real people – people we know – not faceless statistics.
      I’m so sorry to hear about Neville. I read your #writephoto story, which is sad but lovely. So pleased Roscoe was waiting across the bridge.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Drunken Chickens changed my mind about a great many things, and I’m thrilled that at least some of your friends have made it out and are now safe. Fingers crossed that the country will become permanently safe one day too. -hugs-

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Mary I am so delighted you shared part of you history – and especially such a very interesting part. Afghanistan was not on my itinerary – I did the ME and my sister was with the UN in India etc. but it is a country and people that are fascinating and I grieve that the Taliban have returned. Such a tragedy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Barbara. Sorry you didn’t make it to Afghanistan – it’s a country which gets under the skin and never lets go, which is why what is happening – for a second time – is so devastating. It really is a tragedy.
      You and your sister must have many fascinating tales to tell.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This is a real joy to read Mary, the work you have done through the years and the friendships you have made and keep shine like a beacon to us all.
    It was so lovely to be introduced to Susan , I feel I know her and her family, thanks to your books and your blog…. I pray one day that Jawad and all his family can reunite in their homeland.
    I am appalled at our Government and the US government how could they think the problems in Afghanistan will ever be solved evil begets evil.
    Take care Mary and I hope when you feel like giving us a cancer update the news from the oncologist will be good💜💜💜

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Willow, I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and ‘meeting’ Sausan. I’d love to think one day Afghanistan will be free again and at peace but I fear it might never happen.
      I think the western governments – ours and America’s – may be in for some nasty surprises when terrorist organisations finds themselves at home in Afghanistan.

      Like

  9. Thank you for the update on your friends from Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni. The picnic in Balkh looked like such a good day, just friends enjoying each other’s company on a sunny day. It’s hard to fathom that the Taliban is once again in control of the country.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We went to Balkh quite often as it was not far from Mazar-i-Sharif. Sitting under the trees was several degrees cooler and an excellent place for our kebab picnics. One time, my son ate all the little pieces of fat (from the dumba, the fat tail Afghan sheep have) including any other children didn’t want. He was horribly sick on the way home and never touched the fat again for a very long time 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  10. This post, as all of your other ones, touched my heart, Mary. In your lifetime, you’ve had so many unique experiences and did so much good for other people, especially Afghan women. It’s disheartening that the Taliban has regained control in Afghanistan, despite 20 years of much loss of life and struggling to rebuild the country. A devastating outcome, indeed. At any rate, thanks for sharing these stories and introducing us to your Afghan friends. Thankfully, young Sausan is here in America, where she can live free and pursue her dreams.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thank you for sharing both your cancer diary updates and your rich life beyond cancer. Your words elevate the humanity of all the people trapped under rule of the Taliban. I shudder when I think about the kind of “leadership” that makes decisions to act as the US has done. As I make my way through the early days of treatment for advanced ovarian cancer, I am finding a deeper connection to my own and others’ humanity. I hope the next steps for you are well supported and include good news.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Right now, all world leaders’ decision making makes me shudder – and not only for allowing Taliban to return to power in Afghanistan.
      I read your post about your own cancer diagnosis and I wish you all the best as you move forward. It often feels we have entered a surreal world 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  12. This is quite simply a beautiful post in every way imaginable, Mary. It made me feel warm inside.
    And your ‘swinging sixties’ outfit in Bristiol was very much the ‘icing on the cake’! 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It is lovely to meet Jawad, and having read some of your adventures, I can only imagine how you feel about the situation, and how terrible it is for all those who have seen their country and families torn apart by war. You are right, Mary, we must not forget the terrible situation so many people have been left in. Thinking of you all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Olga. I’m pleased you enjoyed the post. As well as reminding people of the terrible situation in Afghanistan, I wanted to let people see those who are affected by it are real people, not simply statistics.

      Like

  14. What a special moment it must be every time you think about your time in Afghanistan ~ the adventures at the time, and perhaps even more inspiring is how those you were able to keep contact with through adventures of their own. Something about seeing the generations grow and develop over time, and love this introduction and background to Sausan. The history is so heartbreaking, especially recently, so touching upon this now is also so very timely. Wishing you the best ~ take care.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Remembering my time in Afghanistan means such a lot although at the moment there is more heartbreak than joy, especially seeing families being split apart, not knowing when they will see each other again. I think it’s wonderful to see how much Sausan cares about her heritage – although born in America she very much identifies with her Afghan background.

      Like

  15. I do feel angry and helpless. The situation is worse now than it was when it was on the front pages. This post does a brilliant job of showing the human reality behind the statistics. Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni is one of my favourite books this year and it opened my eyes to the real Afghanistan. I recommend it to everyone. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Trish, your comment makes me happy as it says what I’d hoped to show – the human reality behind the statistics. Thanks for your kind words, both here and in the reviews you’ve written, for Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni.

      Like

  16. I agree with John Howell’s comments – people do not understand the enormity of being unable to visit or see loved ones and our President has blinders on. I loved this post because it brought world events down to a family level. My son served in Afghanistan and made some real friends there. He is beyond angry at what the Biden Presidency has caused to that country. I will pray for a resolution.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have been taken aback by some of the things Biden has said and his seeming refusal to recognise the human suffering in Afghanistan – though I can’t lay the blame entirely at his feet. Predecessors over the years have been been involved and not always acted responsibly or in the interests of Afghanistan. And that’s true of other nations, too, not only America. It’s a mess and I really wonder how things will be resolved in a way that’s meaningful to the people of Afghanistan. I suspect it’s going to take a great many prayers!

      Like

  17. All your writing about Afghanistan I always found fascinating, but, as destiny would have it, it has really been helpful since I’ve started teaching unaccompanied minors in a shelter in Athens (on line) a lot of whom are Afghans. I’ve become close to one boy, who was relocated from the shelter since he officially turned 18, although he is a little more than 15. He is Hazara, too. He is alone and I’ve been trying to help with papers etc, also trying to keep him from despairing, since his parents and siblings had to leave their village as it was taken over by the Taliban, and are now stuck in Kabul. It’s hard to know what to say, and I live in dread of awful news…He’s a lovely kid.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m pleased my posts on Afghanistan have proved useful in your teaching, Marina. I’m sorry to hear your Hazara student is alone and worried about his family back in Afghanistan. So many Hazara people have been driven off their land and out of their homes by Taliban and I fear it will become much worse. And, now, there is the very real risk of famine. I think being there for him and providing a listening ear is much more important than anything you might say.

      Like

  18. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily 12th November 2021 – #Remembrance Roberta Eaton Cheadle, #Afghanistan Mary Smith, #Ceramics Rebecca Budd, #Review Olga Nunez Miret | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  19. Mary, what an amazing friendship spanning generations and the warmth and care between you all shines through. No wonder you found it difficult to speak / blog what is happening in Afghanistan… a place so close to your heart with so many people still living in such danger. I join you in your wishes that Jawad’s family will one day be reunited in a free Afghanistan.

    It was lovely to read Sausan‘s moving piece, a wise young lady and I wish her well.

    Btw. The cloth is exquisite and a precious gift, one I imagine David still treasures.

    Wishing you a peaceful weekend. Hugs xx ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a pretty special friendship, Annika, and we’ve shared a lot over the years. Sausan is a lovely young lady and I’m sure she’ll grow up to something important for peace.
      The cloth is lovely and I’m sure David will treasure it. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Thank you also from me, for you efforts on keeping uns informed about Afghanistan. Since the Taliban had overtaken the country, there is very less of information about in our media. Be blessed both for the strong bond of friendship. Most people in the Western sphere always forget how fast circumstances can make one to an refugee. Less than a century ago, we also had this in Europe. Thank you again, Mary! Be blessed, and enjoy a nice weekend! xx Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    • It makes me angry the way the media cover a story such as Taliban taking over in Afghanistan and then, suddenly, it’s not news any longer. They switch their attention to something else but the people continue to suffer. Now, as well as the horror of living under Taliban rule, many Afghans face famine.
      It’s odd isn’t it, how we in Europe forget what a short time it is since there were so many refugees here! All the best.

      Like

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