|Kabul: 2:00 AM      |
Welcome to Kabul:Reconstructions. You can follow the information below, which has been gathered from a
number of sources by a number of participants (click on the names at left for bios), to reconstruct your
own picture of events in Kabul since this site was launched on March 8th, 2003 and, in a sense, since the
reconstruction of Afghanistan began somewhere in the winter of 2001-02.
Some of this information has been provided in response to specific questions submitted by visitors like you. Please note that this section of the project is now maintained as an archive and has not been updated since 2005. Click here to ASK A QUESTION.
Arian Mouj Sharifi
Stories of return journeys from Queens to Kabul (NYTimes)
Back to Kabul, With a Queens Accent By ROBERT F. WORTH Published: November 3, 2003 ikria Nazamy lost almost everything when he fled Afghanistan. Born into a wealthy family with houses in Kabul, Logar, and Kunduz, he left at age 9 with his parents and seven siblings, and spent his adolescent years working the checkout counter in a supermarket in Flushing, Queens. But recently Mr. Nazamy — known as Jack in this country — began a reverse journey few immigrants ever undertake. During a trip to Afghanistan in August and September, he and his father were able to reclaim their houses from squatters after a 23-year absence, along with the family's farm and fields in Logar. He married an Afghan woman in a ceremony attended by hundreds of his relatives. Now he is facing the surreal prospect of moving back to Kabul and assuming his father's old life. "I never dreamed this would happen," said Mr. Nazamy, a stoop-shouldered 32-year-old who speaks with a strong Queens accent. After American-led forces drove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan two years ago, Afghans in Flushing began rediscovering a country many thought they would never see again. Some are renting out or selling their reclaimed houses in Afghanistan, some have started businesses there and many are making money as they shuttle back and forth. "It's been a great opportunity for us financially," said Ahmad W. Afzali, who runs a Muslim funeral parlor in Flushing. Not all the news is good. Many returning Afghans find relatives dead and houses destroyed or taken over by squatters. The country is still relatively lawless outside Kabul, and most Afghans in Queens are hedging their bets until the government gains a firmer control. Still, outside the marble facade of the Masjid Hazrat-i-Abu Bakr, the largest Afghan mosque in New York City and a gathering place for many of the city's 20,000 Afghan immigrants, tales of loss and redemption can be heard every Friday after prayers. Hashmat Farooqi, 32, opened a cement-mixing plant in Kabul last month, and now divides his time between Flushing and Afghanistan. Ghulam Yousufi, a 52-year-old taxi driver, returned to his home in Mazar-i-Sharif in September and became engaged for the first time. Akbar Yunusi, 27, a short-order cook, finally got his old Kabul house back after a three-month search for the profligate cousin who had run off with the deed. But few reversals of fortune are as sudden or as complete as Mr. Nazamy's. Growing up in Flushing, he thought of Afghanistan only as the place in the photographs on his parents' living room walls. As a student at Intermediate School 25 and Francis Lewis High School, he quickly mastered English and refashioned himself as an American, worshiping the New York Giants and working at Waldbaum's. After high school, he decided not to go to college and took a job at a hotel reception desk in Manhattan. He had only dim memories of the family's regal life in Kabul, where his father had run the city's only ice factory and an import-export business. A business owner and religious man, his father, Ghlum Nazamy, was an obvious target when the Communists came to power. On the advice of a Russian trading partner, he left for the United States in 1978, bringing his family two years later. None of the Nazamys thought they would ever see Afghanistan again. Even after the Taliban were forced from power in late 2001, Mr. Nazamy and his father hesitated. "I was scared," he said, sitting in a coffee shop in Flushing. "You hear a lot about how dangerous it is over there." Mr. Nazamy and his father finally left in mid-August, after assurances from relatives that it was safe. Mr. Nazamy's mother has died, and his siblings were busy with their own families and could not come along. The day after the men arrived in Kabul, several cousins accompanied them to their two-story concrete house, which, amazingly, was still in good condition. But they found a man living there with his own family and brothers, about 15 people in all. "We said to him, `Are you the owner of this house?' " Mr. Nazamy recalled. "He said no. My father said, `It's good you're honest, because I am the owner, and I want to come back.' " Far from being angry, the man said he was grateful for being able to stay so long without paying rent. He agreed instantly to move out, and asked for 10 days, Mr. Nazamy said. Stunned at their good luck, father and son went on to Logar and Kunduz, where they found sweet melons ripening in the fields. The people the family had entrusted the land to were still working it, and they said the Nazamys were welcome to return. Even the ice factory is still there, though it is not yet clear whether the family will be able to reclaim it. Tribal connections helped: Mr. Nazamy and his father belong to the Ahmad Zai, an influential Pashtun group. So did the fact that Ghlum Nazamy had held onto his title deeds, and that no one challenged them. The Taliban issued new deeds, making life more difficult for many returning Afghans, said Nisar A. Zuri, who published a news bulletin in Queens called "Agenda for Afghanistan" until he returned to Kabul last year. Back at the house in Flushing that he shares with his father, Zikria Nazamy still looked incredulous as he leafed through photographs of the family's houses, lush fields and flocks of relatives at his wedding. Mr. Nazamy grew up expecting to marry an American. But after a few relationships that ended badly during his 20's, he was willing to listen when his father offered to set him up with an Afghan woman last year. He saw videotapes of her and spoke to her a few times by phone. His Farsi is rusty, and her English is poor, but they managed to understand each other. "I wanted to get to know her better," he said shyly. "But I took a chance." Now, he says, he finds himself unsure whether he is American or Afghan, or both. Since the trip, his job at the Manhattan hotel has begun to seem onerous, the hours long. He dreams of the melons growing in his family's fields in Logar, and imagines a new life as farmer or factory owner. And he misses his wife, whom he is trying to bring to the United States before they decide whether to move to Afghanistan for good. He still hesitates. "It's not easy over there," he said. "They need a lot of rebuilding, and the roads — forget about it." "But we want people to know these thing are ours," he added. "We are coming back."
Posted By: mariam   November 3rd 2003, 2003 11:32 AM
Kabul: Partial Reconstructions is an installation
and public dialogue project that explores the multiple meanings and resonances of
the idea of reconstruction -- as both process and metaphor -- in the context of present-day Kabul.
www.kabul-reconstructions.net is an online discussion forum, information resource, and medium for the communication of questions and answers about the reconstruction between people inside and outside the city of Kabul itself.