Sometimes it takes a while to see.
If you are in the middle of something, you’re focused on the immediate, the things happening, the ever evolving and changing. To see the patterns while unfolding is a difficult one. It needs distance. Timewise or geographically, but mainly inner. For months I didn’t want to write, or rather, it didn’t occur me even to sit down and write. Too many other projects, work, people were surrounding me. And there was a major disappointment in me, which I didn’t want to give space, but which was always present and shaping my perception.
Kabul is not a city to stay. I can just speak about this particular and peculiar place in Afghanistan, as it is here where most of my experience and interaction has centred (another reason for being depressed as of not being able in my current setting to go out and explore beyond the capital). Expats come and go, put the ‘experience’ on their resume, they leave without leaving an institutional memory behind to others. No lessons learned from one generation of expats to the others. Just desperation of not knowing what to do, gets handed over. And if they do come back, the city is just the backdrop for their sheltered bubble-life in which they live. I don’t blame them solely, it is a structural issue of security and insurance companies telling you where you can go and where you can’t, companies giving you a life behind high walls and organizations kicking you out if you don’t follow the strict rules of when to be back –and how to get back- into your compound. There are the exceptions, the freelance journalists, the rare couchsurfers, the people with dual citizenship and the ones that came for idealistically building something else. But they are the rare exception.
And the phenomenon of the transient is not only bound to the expats that describe themselves romantically as the new generation of nomads, it can also be found in the dreams of many Afghans. Most young and middle aged people try to leave the country. And thereby I don’t mean for travel or business, I mean for good. The US offers special immigration visas for Afghan Nationals who have worked for / on behalf of the US Government. All you have to proof is that you’re being persecuted against in your home country and that it would be dangerous for you to stay.
‘But what happens, if everyone leaves?’ My work colleague asked me the other day. ‘Who is left and who will build up a sort of civil society?’
In fact, I rarely encounter people who want to stay in the coming years, if the situation doesn’t improve magically. The passport office that issues the new Afghan passports has long lines in front of it. Some young boys ask Adnan in the shops, whether he knows a way to emigrate to Canada.
Not all and everyone wants to go of course. But the ones who could go (as it is not so easy to get visas, permissions or immigration cards), are being pressured by their families. As Fareed told me: “I don’t want to leave Afghanistan. I have travelled, that was ok. But I like it here and we should build a better Afghanistan. But because I have worked for the Americans, I have good chances to get a visa and go. Every time I talk with my family it is the topic number one. And if I tell them that I don’t want to leave, they pressure me and tell me, that if I don’t want to leave for myself, then I should consider to leave for my family.”