By Samia Karimi*
As night envelopes us in the land of the “free,” the sun bears witness to the loss of freedom in the land of my birth.
It is 8:45pm on Monday August 16th. This means that in Kabul it is 9:15 am. How does my today compare to the tomorrow that belongs to my cousins? How can I even ask this question? There is no comparison.
For hours I have been consuming heart-wrenching images—the movement of people without destination, few possessions— and tasting the bitterness of betrayal and impending terror.
Sadly, this is no new picture. These very people, the Afghani people, have endured this upheaval, already. And, those of us in the global audience have already witnessed such events as this one. The images we see from Kabul airport represent the complete absence of any respect for Afghan lives by both the United States as well as the Taliban – then and now.
I open my sister’s book Above Us the Milky Way (Fowzia Karimi) and read the section entitled “the immigrants”:
“And war in one place is like a wound in all. What are walls and borders, disparate tongues and dress, to the free flow of blood? When the throat releases the singular wail in each place wasted by the scourge, do not all ears, everywhere perk up? Do not all bodies shiver at once?”
Ours is a story of forced migration, ours is a story of multiple worlds. As a child we knew when a relative had died back home – it manifested in my father’s silence, or my mother’s many bodily ailments. We are familiar with distant loss and nearby silent suffering. Being an immigrant in a safe country does not fully equate to freedom. Over the years we had the privilege to choose how distant we wanted to be from the reality in Afghanistan but willful blindness can never cut the umbilical cord that nourishes our identity as Afghans.
In recent days I’ve gone from crying for Palestinian freedom to being completely immersed in tears for the thousands of Afghan lives lost or endangered by the carefully orchestrated takeover of my homeland.
I am part of the first wave of Afghan immigrants to the United States and we now witness a fourth or fifth wave (I can’t keep track anymore). Each wave made of children, women, men, the elderly fleeing terror on all sides. In fact, each time states, powers, interests “transition” after war, it is the most vulnerable members – the people that the government and the country vow to care for – that have no choice but to flee the homes and lives they’ve built and rebuilt and rebuilt.
How far must we go and how long must we search for home?
*Samia Karimi is an artist, educator and a member of ARTogether’s Board of Directors