My first time wearing mask in 2020 (and in ever) on a flight to India in February! Took it off when I landed in Bombay and attended a wedding (!!!) because Covid threat had yet to register

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!)

The view from our house.

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.

On field.

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:

I also wrote about how Covid19 changed our part of the world:

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.

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.

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. ❤

Writer. Journalist. Humanist. Based in #Afghanistan. Words @ForeignPolicy @Guardian @AJEnglish @WashingtonPost @Vice Earlier: Web producer @dna @TimesofIndia