Afghanistan Depicted Wrongly

By Gabby Alfveby

It’s been more than a year since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan after the U.S. pulled the rest of its troops out, leaving many of the Afghan people and the country devastated by harsh conditions, war, and an authoritarian regime. But Afghan-Americans, Madiha Zahir and her mother Sheema Zahir, say Afghanistan and its people face too many false and negative stereotypes, and that women’s rights are under attack. In this series of stories, the Zahirs offer insights to help others understand their country, culture and the challenges everyday Afghans still face. 

Many countries are depicted wrongly in the United States. Afghanistan is among these countries.

When Sheema Zahir sees the media depiction of her native Afghanistan, she gets frustrated. Too often she sees her people depicted as savages in the news, social media platforms and other media outlets driven by the biases that Americans have about Afghanistan.

Contrary to these biases, she said the Afghan people have a rich culture, careers and goals just like American citizens.

Zahir works at Lutheran Social services in Jacksonville and is the matching grant program manager. Zahir is an Afghanistan native who moved to the United States with her family in 1999. 

“Everybody thinks Afghanistan is a country like as you said, there’s nothing there, nothing there and that is not just in Florida [that people think this]. If you search, we have a lot of girls like Madiha, my daughter, that are all over the states in the United States. We have doctors, we have lawyers, we have engineers, we have people working in NASA. These people, Afghan people, they have talent, if they let them go and use that talent,” Zahir said.

Afghanistan is filled with great hospitality, loving people, and beautiful landscapes. Adam Rountree, a documentary photographer and photojournalist had the chance to visit Afghanistan during the most recent Taliban takeover. Rountree said he was trying to document the last moments of Afghanistan’s democratic state.

Afghanistan” by R9 Studios FL (Thanks to all the fans!!!)is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

“The people of Afghanistan are beautiful people who are warm and welcoming. Unfortunately I have a feeling not many of us will get the opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty and the amazing people,” Rountree said.

Zahir even had to confront a coworker about the way he talked about Afghan culture and immigrants.

“We have a culture. We respect people. Now the way he was talking about that [is surprising because] he’s a person who has a PhD.”

Madiha Zahir, 26, is an Afghan and moved to the United States at the age of three. Madiha Zahir is also the daughter of Sheema Zahir who is still strongly involved with Afghan refugees.

Zahir’s daughter said Afghanistan can be compared to the United States easily because of the depth of similarities.

“It’s just like America. Where if you go up North it’s colder and there’s like more Mountains than there is in Florida and then you’ve got valleys. So everything that you could imagine they have it,” she said.

Some people may not think of Afghanistan as having lakes, mountains, and other beautiful landmarks. 

“So, unfortunately, it’s depicted as a desert, but the climate is pretty neutral and obviously the winters can be pretty harsh and the summers can get hot but that’s just like any other place and there’s waterfalls It’s very very mountainous. I would always go back to that and it’s like they’re not covered in sand, you know, it’s real mountains like snow Peaks and stuff like that. So, it’s really really beautiful,” Madiha Zahir said.

The Wakhan region of Afghanistan is filled with white-peaked mountains. This region once contained part of the ancient silk road which was an important trade route that connected China to Europe.

Afghanistan has beautiful blue waters. The Wakhan River bright blue and crystal clear and forms from glaciers.

Lake Band-e-Amir, Afghanistan” by Carl Montgomery is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

“I think you know that stuff is available online. If people actually look, which I don’t think they do, but yeah blue waters, all of that, it’s there,” Madiha Zahir said. “I think my dad had a lot of stories. He’s from Panjshir Valley, it’s in Northern Afghanistan and there are waterfalls there and rapids like in North Carolina, and they just run through that entire province and the water is crystal clear. He grew up over there, vacationing there. We still have our ancestral home there actually. It’s beautiful, it’s absolutely gorgeous.”

Afghanistan’s location is even depicted wrongly.

“I think sometimes people refer to Afghans as Middle Eastern and that’s not true because Afghanistan is not in the Middle East. It’s in Central Asia. So it’s not even like Southeast Asia which would be like Pakistan and India. It’s literally the heart of Asia and it’s a very central location and that’s why it’s been such a contentious spot,” Madiha Zahir said.

Afghanistan is also rich in resources such as gems, gold, and oil.

“They [the media] don’t show the real true like just the natural elements of it and the cool thing about the mountains there is that they’re full of precious gems. So there’s trillions worth of gems in our mountains. And other like minerals and stuff. So if those gems are extracted, I think that that could be a huge economic boost. I mean that would change things completely. So there’s that side of it. A lot of people don’t know about,” Madiha Zahir said.

Blue water, Afghanistan.” by musa.musavi is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The location and abundant natural resources of Afghanistan make the country valuable. This has caused war on Afghanistan soil for a long time.

“Everybody has wanted it, every empire of the last so many centuries. They’ve been fighting over this piece of land because of its central location. It is very green, very Lush,” Madiha Zahir said. 

Afghanistan may seem like violent and dreadful a war zone to Americans but to Afghans, its home.

“A diamond in the rough. A beautiful nation full of amazing people who have endured so much. I hope someday they have the chance to be more than a country torn apart by conflict and death,” Rountree said.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Be the first to comment on "Afghanistan Depicted Wrongly"

Leave a comment