Every day as I wake up, I take a shower and put on nice clothes and as I comb my hair I look in the mirror. At the cost of sounding a self-praising narcissistic person, I find myself to be a good man who provides a good living for his family and also looks damn good.
This picture perfect sense of being is sometimes shattered when I'm reminded of my past. I am from Afghanistan, a country that has been in a war since I was six months old, and today I am 42.
Like myself, millions of other Afghans have lived through the war and its ugly by-products their entire lives. For me, the year 2004 seemed to be overwhelming enough and I had to abandon my home and friends and moved to Sweden together with my family in the midst of an ongoing war with no ray of hope of it ending.
Since my move to Sweden, I try my best to avoid thinking about my past; however, very often the question of my origin comes up. I try to dodge the question by making a joke, but sometimes I have to answer. “Afghanistan!”
My answer almost always is met with an eyebrow lifting gesture and a 'hum!' “Afghanistan!”
“How is the situation down there now?” is a question I am very often asked. I try to shorten my answer by either saying that we are just doing fine or sometimes I simply say that it is still a dangerous place.
When Afghan young boys and girls staged a sit-in protest in central Stockholm to demand the deportation of Afghan asylum seekers be halted, the question of my origin and the situation of the ongoing war came up more often.
“It is a dangerous place,” I would answer.
A protest against deportations to Afghanistan in Stockholm last year. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
In a few months' time, Swedes will go the ballots to chose a new government. One of the most controversial questions hurled at the candidates will be where they stand on the matter of refugees. Recently in the German elections Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, paid a heavy price for her gesture of open arms towards the refugees fleeing the senseless wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
Although the official view by the Swedish Foreign Office is that Afghanistan remains a dangerous place, the Swedish Migration Agency and some politicians believe that there are parts of the country where relative safety prevails, amongst them the capital of the country, Kabul.
“In the capital, Kabul, the number of suicide bombs and complex attacks has decreased,” says a report by the Swedish Migration Agency. It also notes that the risk of civilians suffering from conflict-related violence in the city is considered relatively small.
Far from the assessment of the Swedish Migration Agency, in the past week alone Afghanistan has witnessed at least five major terrorist attacks, most of them with heavy casualties among civilians.
Last week my wife and I wiped our tears when we saw the tragedy unfold in one of the capital's heavily guarded five-star hotels, which was under attack. Five militants managed to breach several layers of both human and technological security apparatus and smuggled enough ammunitions and bombs to fight for 17 hours against the Afghan Army and Special Forces.
We saw with pounding hearts and tearful eyes as a man, in an attempt to flee to safety, jumped from the fifth floor of the hotel and eventually lost his life.
Our tears were barely dried when the news of yet another attack broke. This time the terrorists targeted an aid agency working for the welfare of the children in the east of the country.
On Saturday afternoon residents of Kabul were shocked again by a heavy blast. A suicide bomber with an ambulance filled with explosives approached a heavily guarded area of the capital among other housing the country's interior minister, police headquarters, a big civilian hospital, the directorate of intelligence, the Swedish and Indian Embassies, and the country's High Peace Council, which is supposed to pave the way for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
As the police got suspicious, the suicide bomber detonated his bomb and according to the official reports claimed the lives of 103 people and injured at least 250 others. Hospitals were filled with victims. In the midst of winter the beds filled quickly and patients were placed outside in the open air. Thousands of Kabul's residents poured into the hospitals searching for their loved ones.
The face of social media posts from Kabul and Afghans across the world quickly changed to the bloody scenes of tragedy.
In a video posted on Facebook, a man is shown holding a foot trying to find the rest of the body and a voice in the background commands him to put it next to a body of lifeless person, claiming that the foot belongs to him. In another photo, a distorted body of a woman is shown with her face unrecognizable from the burns. In a third photo an elderly man is shown holding a baby with bloody face and hands crying in pain and fear.
One of the most heartbreaking statements came from a coffin salesman who claims that in the past few days he has sold 320 coffins of all sizes.
Read more opinion pieces by Faisal Khan:
- 'Honour violence is a crime, there is nothing honourable about it'
- 'Sweden has come out of every challenge even better than before'
- 'I witnessed the Stockholm attack three years after terrorists killed my brother'
I remember the first time I experienced a bombing and its immediate aftermath:
As a bomb explodes an ultra light fills the whole area, followed by black, so dark that it penetrates the closed eyes and fills the brain. As the eyes gets used to the darkness your surroundings are filled with a smell so distinct and not found in any other substance in the nature; a stinking mixture of burning flesh, burning blood, burning cotton and plastic reinforced with the smell of gunpowder followed by the smell of urine. Human urine. The eyes look, open mouth, but the ears hear nothing but a beastly silence. The mouth becomes dry and bitter. You get thirsty, your legs shake, the heart pounds, as if it wants to tear the chest and flee the beast.
On Sunday, a day after the latest attack, as the country's security officials were holding a press conference, they warned that unfortunately, this is not going to be the last tragedy to unfold in the country.
Officially terrorist groups have declared Afghanistan as “Dar Ul Harb”, a term used for countries which are not under Extremist Islamic rule. In their own twisted interpretation of Islamic theology everybody in a Dar Ul Harb is deemed an enemy, making them a legitimate target irrespective of their age, gender, political and religious belief.
Afghanistan has turned into a geopolitical smörgåsboard of bad acts, attracting criminal and terrorist elements from all over the world. In the name of religion, terrorists kill my people for a falsely promised reward of the afterlife as if the gates to the paradise, this fabulous place with a never-ending buffet of wining and dining in the company of beautiful virgins, lie within the geography of my little and tired nation.
I am not so naïve as to think that the entire population of Afghanistan could be relocated to a safe country, however, those who have managed to get themselves out should be given the benefit of the doubt and be offered a second chance. This week several hundred innocent civilians lost their lives in Afghanistan and 35 million people were injured. Afghanistan is a dangerous place.
Give me some sunshine
Give me some Rain
Give me another chance, I wanna grow up once again!
This is an opinion piece by Faisal Khan, an entrepreneur with a background in media. He moved to Sweden in 2004 and has lived here ever since. Follow him on Twitter.