I am ashamed to say that in all my years of living in Germany I never went to Berlin and visited the sight of the Berlin wall. It is one of the things I kick myself for not doing while I had the chance. Why didn’t I take the time to check out one of the most historical landmarks in the world? The closest I ever came to Berlin was when I went to Dresden. Dresden is about 187 kilometers (116 miles) or about a two-hour drive from Berlin. Now today is the 25th anniversary of the wall coming down and I drawn to a conversation I had about it with a German friend.
At one time Berlin was split in two, East and West. I’m not going to get into the whole history because there are plenty news article or books you can get it from. However, I’ll just summarize. The wall was built, and guards walked the border making sure that East siders did not try to head over to West where freedom lay. Finally the power of the people, as well as East Berlin’s recognition that their government system was not working as planned, opened the doors for Germans to leave if that’s what they wanted. Many stories tell of how people fled to freedom, and to families and loved one separated on the West side. But for some freedom is not just about being free but being free to make your own choices.
Not everyone left East Berlin once the walls came down. While living in Germany, I met a friend whose grandmother still lived in what was once East Berlin. When the time came to leave and be with her family on the West side, she opted to stay. Many might think why would she want to stay when she could be free? It’s easy to assume that everyone would want to leave a place that had oppressed them for many years. But that assumption would be wrong. Regardless of how we might feel or think about those who stayed when it came down to it this was their home. For some, it was the only home they ever knew.
For my friend’s grandmother, it was a life she had lived for many years. She was used to the separation of her family, but the new independence was too much for her to take in. Besides she had a simple life in East Berlin, and that’s how she wished to keep it. Now that the borders were open, and the wall that symbolized Germany’s darker history in the world was down she could visit her family whenever she wanted, or her family could visit her. I asked my friend if her grandmother was glad the wall was down. My friend replied that although her Grandmother was glad she still felt more comfortable where she lived. That’s understandable. There are many people in America who have never even left the city or state they were born and raised in, and they have always had the freedom to do so.
So the fall Berlin Wall is more than just a symbol for freedom it is a symbol of choice, and the wall coming down represents the right to make that choice. It gave many the opportunity to follow what their hearts desired, whether that is being able to leave or just making the choice to stay in the only home you’ve ever known.
Can a foreigner ever understand the harsh reality of the constant struggle of the Afghanistan people and their culture?
Omar Farhad’s début novel gives readers a closer look at what it takes for people to survive in a world where chaos has become the norm, but where deep cultural rituals and habits are kept alive.
While Farhad’s story is fictional the novel sheds light on real living conditions in a world constantly torn apart by war. Honor and Polygamy shows Afghanistan’s plight from a different perspective.
Nicholas Blake, a UN diplomat from New York is assigned one last deployment to Afghanistan. However, Nicholas does not realize how much this deployment would change his life. He never planned on getting kidnapped, and used as a tool for the very Taliban he is trying to help remove from Afghanistan. Nicholas takes readers on his journey of hardships, and the terrible decisions he must make to stay alive, and return home to his wife and children he left behind. Farhad describes both Nicholas’ American world and his Afghanistan world with the relatable interactions of his characters. Will Nicholas’ knowledge of Afghanistan culture, and his nearly perfect Pashtun help him survive his captivity? How far will he go to save his life?
“What if I had done it differently? Would I be in the same mess? If I explained it to Lisa, would she understand? No . No matter how good my intentions were and how bad my circumstances are, my wife will never understand. She will always feel betrayed by and disappointed in me.” –Nicholas Blake in the novel Honor and Polygamy by Omar Farhad.
As a spouse, mother, sister, aunt, and friend of men and women who have deployed to Afghanistan. I am very aware of the dangers that can occur for people on deployment military or civilians. I also think much about Afghanistan people and how the war must affect their way of life. Honor and Polygamy stirs the hearts of readers to empathize with Nicholas’ actions to survive. Readers are left to reflect on how Nicholas’ survival may conflict with their own cultural beliefs and moral values. How far would you go?
We speak briefly with Omar Farhad about his novel and what brought him to tell us his story.
Budom: Were you concerned how recent current events might affect feedback from your readership regarding the political nature of the story?
Omar Farhad: First, I want to thank you for allowing me this opportunity to express myself and at the same time explain the nature of my début novel.
Honestly, I am very concerned with the recent US government’s reckless behavior in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Looking at the recent government changes that the US made or encouraged starting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, and now in Syria, the political situation in mentioned nations have become more dangerous. The new weak and corrupt governments are not able to defend their nations against the new created fundamentalist ideology. Therefore, “one dictator is better than many corrupt official”. That in mind, the US experimentation of forced-fed democracy in the Middle East must stop at once before the entire world is pulled into a world war III.
Budom: As an Afghan-American man writing, a reader might assume that the book is very one side. However, I found it was not. Was it difficult emotionally for you to write the story?
To answer the first part of your question, every reader will judge my point of view according to his or her level of understanding. As a writer, the very first thing I have learned in writing is to be honest and truthful. I will never deviate from stating the facts directly or indirectly.
I used to work as a contractor in Afghanistan for a little over two years. After the end of my second year, I realized the US efforts in Afghanistan will ultimately have fruitless ending. In Afghanistan and the rest of the Middle East where the United States has been involved politically, the US government simultaneously failed to recognize the cultural distance, societal complexities, and change political practices. One size does not fit all.
Budom: Could this have really happened in Afghanistan if someone like Nick should request “Nanawatai,” which means “asylum” in Pashtun’s culture, and the language of the southern and eastern Afghanistan people?
Omar Farhad: The honor codes that I have mentioned in my book does exist in reality and yes, if someone like Nick who needed asylum “Nanawatai” would have been taken in by a Pashtun family. These codes of honor are many thousands year old. In a tribal uneducated society like Afghanistan, these codes of honor are still good as gold to bring order and to keep peace.
Budom: What do you want ‘Honor and Polygamy’ to accomplish as a novel? Do you find it is getting good reception with readers and critics?
Omar Farhad: Yes, the book is received warmly. Feedbacks from Amazon and goodreads.com are all positive.
I as an Afghan born had many hopes for Afghanistan. However, “seeing is believing” and what I have witnessed in Afghanistan did not give me hope for a better future.
After 14 years of US involvement in Afghanistan, after many lives lost on both sides, and after billions of dollars lost to a created corrupt system, the American public does not understand why we are involved in that war. The most typical and basic perception of the American people is, the spread of democracy. Well, that is a great idea but, did every American woke up one morning and realized they were born free? The answer is no. Democracy in the United States was achieved over a period of 300 years with many sacrifices made by those before us. The same is true about other nations and the same process and time is needed to achieve democracy.
With Honor and Polygamy, I am hoping to point out missed opportunities, cultural distance, and cultural complexities that were first missed by the British invading Afghanistan in late 1800s, the Russians in 1980s, and the US since 2001.
Budom: Will you be writing more on this subject on a future novel or do you have something else planned?
I am currently working on my own memoir, which also have a political side to it. My journey as a child begins right before the Russian invasion and I grow to a young man in war torn country and as a refugee in Pakistan.
Thank you Omar for giving us a look into another world and culture. I look forward to your next book. Honor and Polygamy can be found on Amazon.com.
About the author:
Born in Kabul, Afghanistan Omar Farhad move to the United States over 27 years ago, and now resides in California. Farhad holds degree in Aviation from Spartan School of Aeronautics as well as a degree in Global Economics from the University of Phoenix.
I enjoy traveling because learning becomes interactive. My visit to Jamaica revealed that poverty is real. In the United States people can go most of their life without seeing or meeting homeless. However, that is getting more difficult as economies remain unstable.
I was impressed with the Jamaican people, that no matter the difficulties of their struggles, the Jamaicans are a positive and resilient people. In Montego, Jamaica stands a statue of Samuel Sharpe,a revered freedom fighter against slavery. Sharpe, a leader in abolishing slavery in Jamaica, and aided towards eventual independence from Britain.
“…Jamaica slaves won emancipation in 1834…”-Photo with History of Jamaica.
Learn How Net Neutrality Will Affect You Personally. WordPress blogger Paul Sieminski, reports on how the Internet, as we know it will never be the same, if we let it. Read the article, and express your feelings on net neutrality. #netneutrality #brouhahaaccess
“Net Neutrality” is the simple but powerful principle that cable and broadband providers must treat all internet traffic equally. Whether you’re loading a blog post on WordPress.com, streaming House of Cards on Netflix, or browsing handcrafted tea cozies on Etsy, your internet provider can’t degrade your connection speed, block sites, or charge a toll based on the content that you’re viewing.
Net neutrality has defined the internet since its inception, and it’s hard to argue with the results: the internet is the most powerful engine of economic growth and free expression in history. Most importantly, the open internet is characterized by companies, products, and ideas that survive or fail depending on their own merit — not on whether they have preferred deals in place with a broadband service provider. Unfortunately, the principle of net neutrality, and the open internet that we know and love, is under attack.
In the wake of the domestic violence reports with Ray Rice, former NFL player for the Baltimore Ravens, DomesticViolence Month is just around the corner starting in October. It is sad to see that domestic violence still a common occurrence, and that many are so surprised by the violent act.
Janay Rice has released an apology for her part in the “cringe” worthy scene caught on the elevator surveillance video released by TMZ. In hindsight it cannot be easy for the abused to leave an abuser. Knowing this, I was still shocked she should defend her man so adamantly to the point of being upset with the media, NFL, and the horrified public who sympathized with her plight. I must admit that I became angry, and suddenly became unsympathetic. However, after thinking about it, and seeing some images of Janay Rice walking eyes down I realized I had no room to judge. Then there was the article published by Huffington Post titled, #WhyIStayed Stories Reveal Why Domestic Violence Survivors Can’t ‘Just leave’, which explains why the abused tend to stay or seemingly support their partner’s behavior.
For many, domestic violence is behavior hard to accept, and hearing an abused person downplaying it and attacking others for punishing the abuser is even more confusing. Domestic violence leaves emotional and psychological scars along with physical reminders of abuse. According to the National Network To End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), a 24 hour study in 2009 showed that domestic violence programs served around 65,000 daily along 23,000 phones calls answered by crisis hotlines daily. Imagine these are the incidents reported and acknowledged. NNEDV has a FAQ to help people understand what occurs in a relationship filled with domestic violence, and the stigma that still exists with it today.
Domestic violence touches everyone regardless of sex, class, education, or race. A 2001 study by the US Bureau of Justice Statistics showed, that while 85% were female victims at least 15% included gay and lesbians relationships and men who were abused by female partners. In many cases there are signs leading to an abusive relationship, but they can be so subtle a person may not realize it until it’s too late. The best way to avoid an abusive relationship is to be aware of the signs. Some examples from NNEDV are:
They insist on moving too quickly into a relationship.
They can be very charming and may seem too good to be true.
They insist that you stop participating in leisure activities or spending time with family and friends.
They are extremely jealous or controlling.
They do not take responsibility for their actions and blame others for everything that goes wrong.
They criticize their partner’s appearance and make frequent put-downs.
Their words and actions don’t match.
Domestic violence does not have to be a part of your life. If you or anyone you know is in a domestic violent relationship call for help. Give yourself a voice again.
Hotline advocates are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year to provide confidential crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Assistance is available in English and Spanish, with access to more than 170 languages through interpreter services.
His return to his homeland Iraq gives Abu cause to review his life past and future. Abu’s story tells heart-wrenching stories of the different people in his new place of residence in Iraq bordering on Kuwait.
Abu feels like a foreigner among his own people. It doesn’t help that he is new to the a city that is stuck in limbo.
With the Americans still using their roads to continue a war in the distance, yet so close. Abu’s days are disrupted unexpectedly by a young girl, whose penchant for all things American, borders on blasphemy in their Muslim world.
But as the story unfolds we wonder if people are right to be skeptical of Abu. Abu’s is a stranger with secrets and a mission. The question is whose side is he on?
It is 9/11 and my thoughts and prayers are with the friends and families who have been left without the ones they cherishes the most. Regardless who caused the tragedy the outcome remains the same. The tragedy was not prejudice in who it took only that it did. Remember their lives and celebrate it.
Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them. George Eliot