Of course, I don’t know what all Afghans think, but I have been surprised by the political views of one Afghan friend, Peer Nazar Turkman. Peer Nazar is a successful businessman who buys and sells beads, jewelry and other Afghan things both in Afghanistan and in Peshawar, Pakistan.
I have dealt with him for a number of years via email and have found him frank and perceptive.
Peer Nazar took the pictures here in Balkh Province, Qultaq Village, of north-western Afghanistan. Looking at the map of Afghanistan on the opening page of this email, see that this village is north of Mazar-e-Sharif, closer to the border with Uzbekistan. It is south of the Amu Darya, the Oxus River of
antiquity. Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh Province, is the 4th largest city of Afghanistan, with a population of more than 300,00 (2006 estimate). By its location, you can see that this village is far from the areas of strongest Taliban influence in the south.
Peer Nazar has described the lives of the people who work here to us. These Afghans are all beadmakers, and they are all ethnic Turkmen. They make small beads of lapis lazuli, turquoise and agate… in the sizes of .05mm, 2mm, 3mm, 4mm, tube cylinder beads and round facet-cut styles.
Peer Nazar explained that during the Taliban occupation these people suffered under terrible living conditions, but that now 80 percent of them are doing well. They are able to sell their products to people such as Peer Nazar, who exports to shops, including Music for the Eyes in Washington State.
Peer Nazar says that the Afghans he knows–including all in this village–are supportive of the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan…”because now there are no killings, no thieves and no weapons….
and now everyone has a job.”
The men shown here in the top picture—Hakim, Bay Murad and Asad—are hard workers and earn from about $150 to $300 a month, which allows them a good life. The three men support 16 people in total.
Panjagha, in another picture, is about 50 years old. In addition to being the security guard, he makes small statues from lapis lazuli such as those shown in his photo.
The young boy is Door Mamad. He is the son of the bead-maker Hakim. Door Mamad is 10 years old in Class 4 at school, and helps his father at work after school.
I learned also that Qultaq village benefits from help from a German foundation called GTZ, which provides emergency aid and sustainable development assistance to Afghanistan. GTZ gave the Afghans their machines and tools, rent a house they use for their work and provided a tent they use for lunch and instruction.
Even though I would not try to predict the future, I can conclude that in this one small part of Afghanistan, NATO troops have surely changed these lives for the better. These people have hope and have learned how to support themselves.