To say that this year did not go exactly as I planned may be an understatement. But all things considered, for me, 2020 was not as bad and, if I may, an opportunity for learning and growth in an unexpected way.
But most of all, this year, forced me to slow down, and prioritise myself. I wasn’t constantly on my toes, reporting, interviewing, transcribing, writing.
Instead this year, I read. a lot. books articles, stories, poems, blogs, other people’s rants. I explored the world with their words.
This year, I talked. to many many people. about their fears, hopes, ideas, experiences, things they had learned. I learned from them.
This year, I wrote. slowly. stories I had heard, thoughts, and even letters. I did, of course, as usual write news reports for work; but I took more time to write about the people. I tried to put strength in my words.
I admit I was privileged to be able to turn the unfortunate circumstances of the past year into something useful for myself. I had the support of an amazing family, caring friends, a strong sisterhood and a loving partner.
Unlike many who struggled this year, I had no responsibilities, and no one depending on me, other than my two little kitties. I did not even have rent to pay because I bought a tiny apartment a few months before the pandemic took over our lives. (It was tight quarters but the view is breathtaking, and very calming!)
This year, I also accepted an award — the Khaled Al khateb Award for Best Written Journalism from a Conflict Zone. I am so grateful and proud of this achievement. And needless to say, it wouldn’t have been without the support of the brilliant support system I have in Afghanistan.
This award was for a story I worked on with Hikmat Noori for Foreign Policy on Afghans who are deported from Iran.
Why Iran Is Deporting Scores of Afghan Refugees
It had been more than three decades since 48-year-old Zahra, who asked to be identified only by her first name, left…
That said, despite the slowdown, I still did get plenty of work done — produced nearly 65 news and feature articles! Many, I am sad to say, were news stories about the awful things that have been happening in Afghanistan, but some were stories of inspiring people, especially many amazing women doing amazing things.
Below are some of these stories featuring strong women that I am most proud of:
'Peace where rights aren't trampled': Afghan women's demands ahead of Taliban talks
arahnaz Forotan was three when the Taliban had arrived in Kabul. It was 1996. "I have this memory of a snowy day, I was…
'I am not afraid to fight': the female Afghan colonel who survived the Taliban's assassins
t was just after 7am when the car carrying Colonel Saba Sahar, one of Afghanistan's most senior female police officers…
The woman convincing the Afghan Taliban to give up arms
Three years ago, Salima Mazari knew very little about the violence that has plagued her country for decades. Born and…
I also wrote about how Covid19 changed our part of the world:
Domestic abuse: 'Women in Herat may survive coronavirus but not lockdown'
very morning Marzia Akbari, a 25-year-old psychologist from the western Afghan city of Herat, wakes up, picks up her…
In Afghanistan, a Drug Sparks Hope - and Charges of Quackery
A lam Gul Alam's symptoms had been steadily worsening for weeks when he decided to visit an herbalist named Haji…
In Afghanistan, Bringing New Life Into the World Is Deadly
KABUL-For a woman in the last few weeks of her pregnancy, 24-year-old Sohaila walks surprisingly quickly as she invites…
Covid-19 Pandemic Drives New Cases of Polio in Afghanistan
W hen Saidgul was around 6 months old this past March, his parents decided to take him to Herat, a city about 80 miles…
This was undoubtedly a historical year for Afghanistan, a country close to my heart, with political major upheaval and growing violence that has been closing in. With the help of many brilliant and learned Afghan colleagues, I explored areas beyond the war , to see how the conflict and peace negotiations had altered and was impacting lives.
Afghan Doctors Cultivate a Grim Specialty: War Wounds in Babies
R afiullah Sharifi was sitting outside the Dasht-e-Barchi Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, on the morning of May 12…
'Join the Taliban or Isis?': Afghan deportees forced to join insurgent groups see hope in peace…
When Aziz Amir was deported from the UK back to his native Afghanistan in 2011, he faced a choice: defy the Taliban and…
Afghanistan's Gen Z Is Fighting Back
KABUL, Afghanistan-There were few things that scared Fatima Khalil, a 24-year-old human rights activist who torpedoed…
From Kerala to Kabul prison: widow of Indian ISIS fighter tells her tale
Sitting in a dimly lit cell, Mariyam described her journey from growing up as a Catholic in the south Indian state of…
Afghanistan: more than 500 assassinated by the Taliban in only six months
Fifteen Taliban members thought to be responsible for a spate of assassinations in Kabul and beyond were captured on…
'The educated are being killed': Kabul killing highlights Taliban's campaign of terror
The deputy governor of Kabul was killed when a sticky bomb attached to his armoured vehicle detonated in the centre of…
Aside from all the serious, albeit some inspiring, stories, I did get to write about food and culture — two of my most favourite subjects to write about.
The Afghan artefacts that survived Taliban destruction
Located in the far south-western corner of Kabul, nestled between the distant snow-capped peaks of the Hindu Kush…
Herat's restored synagogues reveal Afghanistan's Jewish past
Locals back government efforts to preserve heritage sites in Herat - once a hub for a vibrant Jewish community. Herat…
The Ultimate Comfort Food of Afghanistan Is Served From a Teapot
Chainaki is a warming stew for harsh winters and tumultuous times
That’s all for this year!
For those who have had it hard this year, I really hope that 2021 brings with it some relief. Here’s wishing the world is able to overcome all the chaos, madness and conflict in the coming years. ❤