The Taliban Don't Shock You Anymore, But This Will

People deserve to hear more about Afghanistan and Afghanistan deserves to be heard. For its hardships, and its accomplishments. I don't make a point of looking for incredible stories of positivity and perseverance in Afghanistan.
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I would be exhausted of hearing about Afghanistan if I didn't live here. Because how incredibly repetitive it must be to hear words like Taliban, war, failure, and now "fleeing" over and over... and never really hear much else. How sick I would be of hearing that troops should stay, troops should leave, funds are misspent and there was another bomb. I don't have to elaborate because keeping Afghanistan's bad news in the limelight is a job to many and sometimes, I suspect, even a passion.

People deserve to hear more about Afghanistan and Afghanistan deserves to be heard. For its hardships, and its accomplishments. I don't make a point of looking for incredible stories of positivity and perseverance in Afghanistan. I don't have to research to find resilience and determination. I just live here, beyond the media image, and I see it for myself on a daily basis.

Recently, I was sitting at a dinner table with a group of people, and realized every one of them has a job that nobody on the other side of the world would believe. What's normal to the people at this table, and to many of us in Afghanistan, shocks people abroad because it doesn't fit what they are instructed to believe. And so, as a break from the sad but true Afghanistan stories, here is an equally truthful account of what a few people I know do on a daily basis in Afghanistan.

Art & Activism

A group of Afghan citizens are trying to change the face of Kabul city. The city has lost much of its beauty to suicide bombs, kidnappings and coordinated attacks. And even when is there is no sound of sirens or explosions, the big ugly blast walls remind you that you are living in a war zone. As the founders and volunteers of ArtLords want to re-claim our city.

We paint the security walls with the messages of anti-corruption, peace and human rights. The citizens of Kabul - from street kids to Police officers and even the elderly are encouraged to paint with the team. Most of these people never had the chance to hold a brush in their lives. We paint in central areas of Kabul and are approached with so much encouragement. While we were painting a series called "Hero of My City", the street kids left their hard labour work to paint with us. They proudly showed their friends the part of the mural they had worked on. Seeing their feelings of ownership was inspiring and encouraging.

Omaid Sharifi - Activist and Co-founder of Artlords


Music and Culture

When you think of Afghanistan, the sound of galloping, thrilling music played by happy teenagers is maybe not the first thing that springs to mind. But there is loads of this music being played right now, every day, in the heart of Kabul at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM).

During the Taliban's extremist regime, music was forbidden: playing music, listening to music or selling cassettes was considered un-Islamic and was outlawed. Afghanistan's musicians were forced to flee from their homeland which severely damaged Afghanistan's arts and culture scene for many years.

Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, a visionary musician and the first Afghan to obtain a doctorate in music, alongside the supporters of the project, founded the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in 2010.

Students, girls and boys, orphans, street kids, starting at Grade 4 study regular academic subjects, with music alongside. At the beginning of Grade 5 they get to choose their instrument; they stand up, one by one, and choose their musical destiny - "My name is Fatima and I wan to play the cello." "My name is Hamed, and I want to play the violin.' "My name is Ahmad. I want to play the rubab." And on it goes, every year. Each year about fifty little musicians are created. When the students become really comfortable with their instruments, they join one of five ensembles. The pinnacle is the ANIM Chamber Orchestra. Where else in the world would you hear Waltzing Mathilda played by traditional Afghan and Western instruments side by side?

ANIM students are learning to be the future musicians in their country. They are learning what it takes to care for people's emotions, to comfort them in distress, to inspire them, to thrill them as they dance. Their workplace is the soul of Afghanistan.

So the next time you think about Afghanistan, don't think of bombs and soldiers. Think of joyful children, learning a universal language. The language of our hearts.

Emma Ayres - Music Instructor, ANIM


Children's TV and radio

Voice of Afghan Youth is a children's TV and radio series in Afghanistan. The show highlights children all over the country, including the 2000+ registered boys and girls Scouts of Afghanistan. Yes, the same kind you are probably picturing in adorable uniforms, standing at attention. Almost all of the Boys and Girls scouts of Afghanistan are orphans and half are girls. The show gives us a glimpse into their daily lives, their thoughts, their goals and their dreams. We show Afghanistan, and the rest of the world, the incredible potential of our future leaders.

In every episode we show the children serving their communities in various ways. They clean the streets, visit injured police officers, plant trees and even provide emergency relief to victims of natural disaster. These children are some of the most marginalized in the world. Yet they are resilient, proud and determined. These future leaders show us by example that civic engagement is our duty regardless of age or life situation. They don't feel sorry for themselves and work really hard to go to school, support their communities and become strong characters so they can one day serve the country they love so much.

Mina Sharif - Producer, Voice of Afghan Youth


University Education

The American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) is the only private, not-for- profit, independent and co-educational university preparing Afghans from every province to be the country's future leaders. AUAF is the only university in Afghanistan that offers quality education based on American model of liberal arts. More than 2000 students of full time and part time degree and short-term professional certification studies come to their classes with no disruption. The university functions in absolute normalcy despite all the problems the country is facing. Faculties from 15 countries appear in classes from dawn to late evening.

In the following few months, the university will celebrate the ceremony of laying down the corner stone of a female dormitory of 200 beds, a female mosque will be dedicated, a training program for hundreds of women across the country will be started, and many new faces in the administration and academic departments will be arriving to join this amazing institution. The semester is undergoing in full swing and soon the University will have the next class of graduates in line. The US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ambassador P. Michael McKinley, has called AUAF the most successful project of the United States in Afghanistan over the past 14 years, and we look forward to even more success over the next 14!

Rebecca Millar - Library Director, AUAF



Sports bring people together and Afghanistan, particularly when it comes to football (aka soccer), is no exception. Every year tens of thousands from across the country pour in to the Afghanistan Football Federation stadium to celebrate the country's biggest sporting event: The Roshan Afghan Premier League.

Launched by Roshan, Afghanistan's largest telecommunications company, in partnership with Moby Group, the country's largest media conglomerate, and Afghanistan Football Federation, RAPL is more than a sporting event. It has become an experience of national joy and celebration.

The most colorful part of the stadium is the women's section. Hundreds of young girls and women wearing the national flag, painting their faces with logos of the teams they support, clap and cheer readily at every moment the soccer ball gets close to the goal post. But women are not just in the audience.

In the last two years, women's soccer teams from various regions of Afghanistan have also been part of the league. Men's and women's games are broadcast live to millions of people across the country, something unimaginable more than a decade ago.

For Afghans, RAPL is one of the highlights of the year, and yes - one of the coolest things about Afghanistan that you probably didn't know.

Shafi Sharifi - Director of Corporate Affairs, Roshan


And now that you know Afghanistan has a world-class university, art activism, national sports leagues, Scouts and a music school, you're ahead of most people.There are so many more stories and we need to acknowledge them! You can support Afghanistan's success by sharing a bit of the positive content with people around you, wherever you are. And perhaps as you learn more about the other side of this country's story, you'll be less inclined to be sick of hearing about it.

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