Why We Love Afghanistan And The Lessons You Could Learn From Us

From the mark of Alexander the Great in 329 BC to the Asian culture in the 6th Century at Bamyan to the Sultans in 1194 creating a World Heritage Site at the Minaret of Jam, Afghanistan is an intersection of many of the cultures that formed our world. Long sought after for its natural mineral resources and geographic location, the country of Afghanistan has suffered at the hands of brutal tyrants for centuries. This weekend marks the Persian celebration of Nowruz which many Afghanis enjoy in a way similar to American Thanksgiving with special foods and time with family and friends. Yet, the Taliban does not consider it to be an authentic holiday to the Afghan culture, so they discourage the celebration of it. The following article written by an Afghan friend of mine shows the beauty of the country and what lies beneath the layers of war outsiders see. I think the pride he has in his country is something we all can identify with and learn from. Please continue to pray for Afghanistan and encourage American support of our allies there; it is not a safe country and won’t be till the Taliban are removed from it.

by Merzae

There is an innate sense in all of us to love the land we are in. It is the ultimate thought of beauty that exists for all human beings more or less, I do not think there is any human being on earth who does not love his land–even those of us who must live in lands plagued by bad economic times, bad politics, war, and natural disasters. Even when your native country is an unfavorable atmosphere forcing you to leave it for a season, there is still a love for that country beating from the depths of your heart that will not rest until you can return to it. It is the will of every Afghan–wherever we are in the world–to be buried in my land so that, after death, we may sleep peacefully in our land.

Afghanistan is one of the saddest countries in the world because of the suffering we see here. We see death daily through war and hunger. Jobs are hard to find and even harder to keep. We struggle to find safe places to live and raise our families, and we worry about the future we have to give our children. We have become the victim of wars fought by foreign empires seeking to control our land for its natural and historic resources. They come to take from us and leave us in the dark ages–unadvancing into the current opportunities for growth and technology.

Our country is strategically placed geographically to provide intelligence for other surrounding countries in the region. This has made us become the graveyard of all the empires that have tried to conquer us, yet they keep coming. As a people, we have become extremely xenophobic; we show love to strangers as our guests, but we don’t want them to become our lords and rulers.

You may ask why such patriotism has not been met with prosperity and development in Afghanistan. The answer to that is complex and goes through centuries, but it is also a simple one. We do not move forward because we are constantly held back by war. Those who temporarily conquer us don’t have the vision to develop us into a globally contributing country either. They seek to use us and move on from here to conquer more lands. The majority of Afghans do not know who to blame for this dysfunctional existence. The multidimensional and complex question we keep asking ourselves is: do we live like this because of something we have done, our conquerors, or both? Despite all of its problems, we Afghans still love our country.

We hold everything dear here. We enjoy a mild climate most of the year and have some of the best natural foods because of it. We love to pack picnics and escape to places like Band-e Amir National Park when the weather is nice, and we can safely do so. We are also deeply cultured and prideful about our roots. This has led us to nurture many scholars and poets such as Maulana Jalaluddin Balkhi, Ibn Sina, and Abu Rihan.

We are the land of fire and smoke, of antiquity, and of the war-torn. We burn to build. We love this ruin and mourning. We stay and fight to improve our situation, and we won’t give up till our country has its own path to prosperity. Problems will never stop us from loving our homeland. We Afghans are hardworking people with a rich, ancient culture and beautiful land to call our home.

There is no Afghan who has left the country because of loss of interest. Only the circumstances of the times they are living in can force them temporarily away. Still, when they go, their hearts are filled with the love of their country. There is a famous Afghan song when our people emigrate. It says:

I went homeless, I went from house to house
Without you, I always went shoulder to shoulder with sadness
My only love from you is my sign
Without you, my poem and song have no salt
My land is tired of persecution
My land is silent and silent
My land is suffering from incurability
My Land
When did my land make you sad?
When did my land open for you?
When has my land been faithful to you?
My Land
My Moon And Star My Way Again
My proposition is not everywhere
They stole your treasure for their own sake
Break Your Heart Whoever Turns
My land is tired of persecution
My land is silent and silent
My land is suffering from incurability
My Land
My land is like a waiting eye
My land is like a dusty plain
My land is like a heart of sorrow

Afghan Immigration Song

The love for our homeland is so great that we consider living and dying abroad as a disgrace. We love Afghanistan as one loves a child; it is a feeling that comes from the soul. It has nothing to do with the facilities and comforts that are provided. Though a tyrannical and terrorist regime (the Taliban) currently rules our land, we know their end is destruction. Though we struggle to live through poverty and economic problems, through war, burning houses, and a reign of darkness, still love remains. We are ready to sacrifice our lives for this great love.

Learn from us! America, you have the best country in the world in terms of facilities, sweetness, blessings, comfort, and standards of living. Enjoy your freedom and the light you have there. Create a stable and peaceful atmosphere and use the climate and resources afforded to you to enjoy your life. Love your country with all the gentle tenderness of a lover–it is your gift to steward and maintain for future generations.

Nowruz is the celebration of the start of Spring in the northern hemisphere. It’s exact date changes annually as it depends on when the Earth’s equator passes the Sun and day and night become equal in length. This happens between March 19th and 21st.

Specific foods and celebrations differ depending on where it is celebrated, but it is generally a shared cultural holiday observed by over 300 million people worldwide. To learn more about how it is celebrated in Afghanistan, read this article.

One of the primary dishes used to celebrate Nowruz in Afghanistan is a mixed dried fruit and nut dish called “Haft Mewa” or “Seven Fruits”. One of the seven ingredients in the recipe from my friend was not able to be sourced in America. I was not able to source the Oleaster (Lotus tree fruit or Russian Olives) to make this myself. However, Afghani Humaira Ghilzai uses another recipe that replaces the Oleaster with dried cherries. You can find most the ingredients at nuts.com including some pre-blanched nuts to save you that step. Here is a video touring Little Kabul in Northern California and showing you how to make the modified version of Haft Mewa.


Get Used To Different: The Pivot of Hope During Covid-19 and the Heart of The Bohemian Princess Journal

“Get Used To Different” by Mandisa

When Covid-19 happened, the world was turned on its head. People turned against each other and made a cause to fight even if there wasn’t one.

The buzz word everywhere became pivot. We all had to learn to think on our feet and be willing to change quickly to stay relevant. Our culture was evolving into a global one at levels of interdependence we had not experienced before. Instead of a few countries in partnership with each other, the entire world got hit with an invisible enemy and the need to work together to crush it.

In some ways, this was a good thing. People spent more time at home and got a reset on their values. Business increased as more people shopped online. The supply couldn’t work fast enough to keep up with the demand and now, going into 2022, we have shortages effecting every corner of the market. That means opportunities for work are opening across the globe in ways we haven’t seen before in years…perhaps even my lifetime.

We have seen the good and bad in humanity during Covid-19. While all these opportunities are presenting themselves, we also face them with polarized views about health-care, politics, race, and religion. Across the globe, human trafficking, domestic violence, and genocide have increased because of our isolation.

But hope still exists. International dependence also creates International awareness. We don’t have to struggle alone in the dark anymore. The world really is your oyster.

The Catfish Who Was Neither Cat Nor Fish

One morning I got a message through social media from a man I had never met before. I was used to men trying to catfish me on social media, so I had pulled my picture off all my accounts save this one. I approached the message a little guarded. What sort of person messages a lady at 2:00 in the morning that is NOT a catfisher? I thought. As it turns out, a married man on the other side of the world would.

E reached out to me from hiding in Afghanistan. He saw my connection to the Afghan Coalition and hoped I could help them get out. E was in the media during US occupation in Afghanistan, and he was actively promoting equal rights and democracy for his country. His wife, N, was a human rights activist helping women get legal protection from abusive marriages and education to start small businesses. If Wonder Woman were real, I imagine she would be like N.

I vetted my new friends, E and N, through channels of aid who could verify they were who they said they were and who could connect them to help evacuating the country. If I am honest, however, I was already invested in caring about them and wanting to tell their story to anyone who could help or make a difference.

We knew it was just a matter of time before the Taliban found and “detained” E and N. I feared the worst and worried that every word I wrote them in English risked their life. Thankfully, E was smart enough to delete the messages…but I still worry that our friendship is a threat to his safety.

After the Taliban assassinated his father-in-law and threatened him to stop advocating for western ideas in the media, E and N left their home and went into hiding. They have been living off their savings every since. This week, I asked E how much money he had left to live on and he told me: one month. One month before communication stops. One month before hunger becomes so real your body feels like it is eating you from the inside out. One month before two heroes fighting for the lives of their people cease to be.

Then E told me he had two gold rings he could sell to buy another month. I didn’t want to ask–I already knew–but he confirmed it. He would have to sell their wedding rings to buy more food.

Something about that just broke me. I couldn’t stop crying. For a whole day, I went to Christmas parties with my friends and shopping in the local stores all in a fog thinking about him. All the hustle and bustle of Christmas felt meaningless in the light of real suffering and loss on the other side of the world.

E never asks me for money. He blesses me and thanks me for my heart. Talking to me gives him a glimmer of hope in humanity. Talking to him reminds me why this blog exists.

Why The Bohemian Princess Journal Exists

There is beauty in multi-cultural awareness. God did not create us to live in silos or see the world through our own narrow set of lenses. There is so much more color in the world.

Like Jason Aaron’s version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel, there is greater richness and understanding of the heart of God when we embrace other cultures in love. Embracing cultures–trying different foods and traditions not other religions–is at the heart of what Jesus Christ did when he walked the Earth. He loved on people in tangible ways and called people out on their faults when it was necessary. We need to do that too. Loving like Jesus opens the door for conversations that will lead to change, but it all has to start with that intentional hand reaching down to the drowning Peter and helping him up.

What would it look like if all the world were your oyster not your cage?

What could you do for Christ if you thought about life with a Kingdom mindset on a global scale?

For me, those answers became my writing business and the heart of this blog. I chose to become more intentional in my writing and use this platform to make a difference and inspire change. So far, we have been able to reach into over 30 countries with our message, and we look forward to God using us to inspire others for many more years to come.

Women’s Rights: The Forgotten Fight in Afghanistan

Note: The following article impacts those still in hiding in Afghanistan. To protect them, all names and locations have been purposefully omitted from this publication unless already previously published by one of the articles linked herein.

On August 24, I broke over a year of silence to tell you the story of the Afghan refugees. It was a story that left a lasting impact on me and created bonds with people still fighting injustice today around the world. Following news that the Taliban closed education indefinitely for women, I knew we needed to revisit Afghanistan. What I found was a story that left me in awe of the amazing strength of women. It is a story that has me hopeful we can still see positive change in the world, but it is also a story that needs your help to make a difference.

In Afghanistan, women make up roughly half of the population, and it is for women that we went into war in Afghanistan in the first place. According to this article from Human Rights Watch, an image of Afghan women in flowing blue burqas helped sell the war, but we lost sight of that humanitarian purpose over time. Just before leaving the country in 2021, funds for women’s rights in Afghanistan had been cut to roughly one-fifth of what they were in 2010. Mahbouba Seraj, a longtime women’s rights activist in Afghanistan, says “shame on you” to the whole world for that because these funds were actively saving lives in Afghanistan.

But are American taxpayers really responsible for peace in the Middle East?

Providing aid for foreign countries has been a topic of debate over the years, but we generally believe it creates goodwill and diplomatic relations with other countries. According to this 2019 article, foreign aid has been a bipartisan policy in effect for over 75 years in America. Most Americans believe we give away around 25% of the federal budget to foreign aid. When polled, most of us consistently feel our foreign aid should be about 10%.

How shocking, then, is it to learn that what we actually give is less than 1% of our federal budget?

Since 2001, the United States spent over $787 million to promote gender equality in Afghanistan. During our 20 year occupation, great strides were made legally. A constitution was adopted that claimed women were equal to men. Additionally, the 2009 Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law provided legal protection for women and girls against domestic violence.  These laws were not perfect nor were they easy to get enforced by the predominantly male government, but their mere existence was progress. All that progress for women’s rights was halted when the Taliban returned to power this year.

Still, an entire generation of Afghan women have grown up believing the dark days of the Taliban were in the past with their mothers and grandmothers–not in the future for them. They refuse to sit and take this regression silently.

Not all Afghans caved into fearful submission to the Taliban. On the contrary, many are standing up in bold protest for the cause of human rights. These activists are being met with beatings, sticks, whips, tear gas, and gunfire. An example of that is the cover image of this story. Nevertheless, they fight on. One I know about is busy going into rural areas and educating women on their options for legal aid and entrepreneurship despite the fact that a close family member was assassinated by the Taliban. Another is committed to getting the truth out through media even though it has cost him personal threats that made him leave his home and go into hiding.

Afghan women who have stood up for gender equality, democracy, and human rights clearly face imminent risks.

In this context, the U.S. government and its NATO allies have a responsibility to ensure that Afghan gender equality activists, women journalists, and judges are considered a priority group for evacuation, emergency visas, and relocation support, and to mobilize humanitarian aid for refugees and those who are internally displaced.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, August 18, 2021 article

A Heart for Their Homeland

Most of the Afghan people left behind love their country and have great pride in where they come from. Here is what one of my activist sources had to say about being an Afghan and wanting to leave:

Afghans are patriots just like you. They never want to leave their homeland, but when your homeland is in the hands of an oppressive and terrible regime with no hope of it changing anytime soon, the only dim light that exists is to leave for a while.

(Under the Taliban), you can’t breathe. All rights and concessions are taken from you, and you feel like you are in a prison. Despair and frustration become your friend. You become afraid to even think about the future. You are (functionally) dead though you are still alive…The only hope that remains is a dream in itself: the hope to emigrate elsewhere for a while.

The people who came to us with lessons of freedom, democracy, and human rights want to forget us and leave us alone right when our country is slowly moving towards freedom.

Extremism grows by choking out education and every form of advancement until our country itself becomes a terror effecting other countries and nations. Forgetting Afghanistan is not the solution. We need help to push back against further setbacks.

An Afghan Human Rights Activist

The Dark Days of the Taliban Return

In the 1990s when the Taliban was at its peak in Afghanistan, you couldn’t be a woman in public without a male “guardian” and that public exposure was always limited and purposeful (for shopping, etc.). Modern Afghan women are beginning to see a return to those days. Stories of persecution are leaking out.

For example, one woman was a college professor with a Ph.D. When the Taliban took over, the university sent her home and told her she would be on “unpaid leave until further notice”. A highly educated single woman living alone, she found herself in danger with the Taliban because it is frowned upon for a woman to live alone. She has to find creative ways to provide for herself and hide the fact that she is living alone. 

Another woman was tricked into meeting a boy from a prominent family. When she met him, he raped her and got her pregnant. Though she was a victim, she was shunned by her family, prosecuted for having sex outside of marriage, and forced to give up her baby for adoption. When she tried to get justice against her attacker, he was able to pay off the legal system and avoid charges completely. She was only 17.

Summary and Call to Action

It’s hard to imagine living in a world so hostile to freedom. For those born after 2000 in Afghanistan, the baby America they were building was ripped away from them and a foreign culture was forced on them. Despite their touts of being a new, progressive party, the Taliban has not changed. They are still the same dictatorship that ruled by fear and bullying in the 1990s. The difference now is that they are bullying people who know better. Is it any wonder why so many Afghans try to flee? Would you not do likewise if it were your life, your family, being threatened?

For every Afghan brought to safety since the US withdrawal in September 2021, there are considerably more left behind still begging for a way out. The planes are still moving, but the documentation necessary to get on one is harder and harder to come by these days. Even border countries are closing to assistance because of their fear of Taliban retaliation. What options are left but protest?

We take this risk and protest to show the Taliban that we are not women of 1990 to be scared of whipping and forcing us to wear hijabs or forced marriage.

Taliban should win people’s minds and hearts through talks, not through the whip, beatings and extremism.

Hoda Khamosh, protest organizer, in an interview with CBS News

For lasting change to happen in Afghanistan, it has to start from within. If enough people stand up to the tyranny of the Taliban, maybe the tide will change, but that doesn’t remove the fact that they still need help from outside their country.

For those protesting on the streets today in Afghanistan, it’s not about getting attention, it’s about survival. Silence and compliance are no longer options.

So how can we help this fight?

1. Acknowledge that the fight exists.  US media whitewashes what happens in Afghanistan like it is some unavoidable casualty. Our fear fills in the gaps and makes up lies about the people coming here as refugees. These people are not terrorists or freeloaders. They just want an opportunity to work, make their own way, and live in peace. They don’t want a handout or special accommodations. If all we have for them is a tent in the woods, they will be grateful. It is our freedom they want, not our stuff.

2. Be vocal. Tell your friends, family, neighbors, and strangers about what is happening, and educate them on the truth you have just read here today. Call your government representatives and urge them to take action. If you aren’t sure what to say, consider sharing this letter sent by over 100 non-profit organizations to US National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan. Better still, sign the letter being compiled to President Biden right now. Public opinion matters and, yes, one voice really CAN change the world. Share on your social media accounts. Share in person. Share everywhere and in every way you can.

3. Get connected and serve. There are plenty of organizations still working to get Afghans to safety. Whether it is the logistics of moving them or resources to house them in safe countries, we need help in every area of the mission. Two missions actively working to help on both fronts are Operation Recovery and Task Force Pineapple. Another organization helping those at risk right now is the Human First Coalition.

To Those In Need of Assistance

Immigration options that work take time. If you are reading this and need assistance, reach out to Operation Recovery and the Human First Coalition. Be prepared to be patient, persistent, and cautious; if you get anxious and stop being vigilant about safety, you can jeopardize both yourself and the mission.

To Those In America With Freedom

If you are reading this from a place of safety–especially in America–be grateful. Realize people around the world are actively fighting to have what you get every day for free. Be thankful for the freedom others bought for you, and pray for the freedom and peace of our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan. 

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility–I welcome it…

The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

President John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961

The Boatman and the Humanitarian Crisis to Save Afghan Refugees

Updated: September 12, 2021

(The Lord your God) defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 NIV

Introducing the Digital Dunkirk Boatman

Recently, I met a traveler known as the Boatman (identity reserved to protect the mission) who was in active military service. When I met him, I was immediately impressed with his sense of poise and charisma. He was confident but not cocky. He was bold and secure with boundaries to protect his values. He kept his actions and intent pure. He was highly skilled: the kind of man who could read a room and know exactly how best to serve it. It was impressive how intuitive, wise, giving, and kind he was to strangers much less people he knew and loved. We sat over dinner conversing under the stars on a warm summer night in Florida.

When the Afghan refugee crisis 2021 happened, and I heard he was directly involved; I knew I wanted to help. This is more than his story; it is the story of the thousands of service men and women and innocent civilians that are or will be publicly executed if we don’t take action NOW.

The Taliban Takeover in Afghanistan

Since the War on Terror began under the Bush Administration in September 2001, American troops have occupied the Middle East in effort to stop terrorist acts and create a hostile environment for them in the areas where they were breeding. (For more on this history, check out this detailed article by Cato Institute.) 

This year, the Biden Administration determined that it was going to pull all US troops and support out of Afghanistan by 9-11-21. They thought they had enough steady support to keep Kabul as a safe port of entry, but they did not. As soon as the troops were gone, the Taliban reentered and took control of Kabul. When Kabul fell, President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, and the Taliban took over the government. According to this article from CNBC, the Taliban regime will allow foreign (US and UK) citizens to leave freely through August 31, 2021, but all Afghan nationals will be stopped at the gates. Furthermore, they say they will not allow any evacuations past the 31st, and any attempt to do so will face severe “consequences”. 

The Taliban wants to shift the narrative that US evacuation is a gift to Afghanistan. An article published by Aljazeera yesterday claims that the Taliban today is a powerful leadership that can negotiate with the skill of western leaders, but they were denied their rightful reign of power by US occupation. They want us to believe all of Afghanistan is excited to see the “new Taliban” come into power. If that were truly the case, why are there so many refugees stuffing themselves into cargo planes or strapping themselves onto the landing gear and risking falling from the sky versus staying behind in the “new Taliban”? 

Afghan citizens want to leave the country because they know they will be killed if they stay. This is especially true if they offered any support to US troops during their occupation. You can hear some of their stories first-hand in this article from the New York Times

With boots on the ground, here is what Boatman shared with me:

(Anyone left behind will) sadly have to stay and fight and hope they can defend their families from the atrocities the Taliban will unleash when we leave. Worst case scenario, the internet will be shut down, and they will begin murdering the innocent. These (people) are my family. I know their names, faces, and birthdays, and I will memorialize every one of them that doesn’t make it home because they are still my family. My children and grandchildren will know their names; they will not be stricken from the Earth like refuse. There are thousands of people like me living this nightmare right now as are the 6,000 service members having to bear witness to this human suffering because of the orders dictated to them by their Commander-in-Chief. We are already psychological casualties of this obscenity, but everyone can still stop this if they will email and call (their government representatives) until this is corrected.

How to Help Afghan Refugees

Because of the immediate need to get these people to safety, a grassroots effort is organizing to provide aid. Here are the top three ways you can help save Afghan Refugees today!

  1. Contact your representatives to urge the Biden Administration to protect Afghan allies.
  2. Volunteer your time, talent, and resources to organizations like Society76 to help those in need including refugee centers. As these families come out, they are needing housing for groups as large as 15-24 family members.
  3. Contribute financially to GoFundMe’s like Helping Afghans in Crisis and Flyaway that are helping to pay for transportation and housing to get refugees to safety.

How the Evacuation Efforts Continue Post Cutoff

In a recent conversation with The Boatman, I was updated on what happened with the evacuation process and, specifically, the cutoff period of the 31st. Here is what he shared.

Though the cutoff to leave Afghanistan was on August 31, 2021, the majority of US planes left on the 30th. Twenty-four hours were left on the clock, and the American government did nothing to help the crisis during that time.

Entire groups of people were denied exit because of paperwork. Families we promised citizenship in exchange for helping us were trying to leave with their families (parents, siblings, and children). If anyone in that group didn’t have a passport with a VISA stamp already on it or other acceptable documentation, they were denied asylum or exit from Afghanistan. In most cases, the people denied were children of our allies. The impossible choice was this: leave your children and come with us or stay and defend yourselves because we can’t help you here.

Press releases from the White House will never tell the truth on this, but these are the words from boots on the ground that had to carry out the orders.

At the time of this writing, US citizens are still able to evacuate with proper documentation, but it is much harder for Afghan allies. Neighboring countries are now refusing to help because of fear of Taliban retaliation. Nevertheless, we have not given up our effort to get every trapped Afghan ally to safety.

Afghan refugees stuck in Afghanistan now are living as slaves did along the underground railroad. Generosity of strangers and the protection of God is all they have right now.

When and if they get out, the next biggest need is housing. Afghan families are large and do life together. They will need housing near each other that can accommodate 15-25 people. Whether this is a temporary situation of people opening a room in their homes or a more permanent solution of offering places to rent, the refugees are prepared to be respectful and responsible tenants in their new host countries.

Another need they have is learning the English language. While many local community colleges offer this service for free in the United States, refugees may not be able to transport themselves to the location and/or may be afraid of how others perceive them.

If this cause moves your heart, prayerfully consider how you can be a help to these people. No one person can solve ever problem that exists here, but if you do what God leads you to do without fear, you bless yourself and others in the process. Being the hands and feet of Jesus in this broken world is a blessing and a calling we all have to fulfill.