Living in exile: Am I alone in how I feel about Afghanistan?

Every day, I wake up with Afghanistan on my mind. It infiltrates my dreams at night. I think about Afghanistan, and I breathe Afghanistan every second.

My curiosity deepened as I wondered whether I was alone in feeling this way about my country. I wasn’t.

I often seek answers in casual conversations with colleagues from our industry, media, and among artists and actors. I also look for them while watching their interviews.

“I live with Afghanistan. I live with my beloved countrymen. My soul is in Afghanistan, but I’m not there physically, while my soul is,” explained an emotional Najibullah Musafir, a veteran painter and photographer, from his residence in Canada, during an interview with Amu TV.

Musafir – his Persian last name, meaning passenger – celebrated his 62nd birthday this spring. He resides in Canada, but as he describes, his body is in Canada while his soul remains in Afghanistan.

Turning to my story, I left Afghanistan on August 24, 2021. I never intentionally think about that day, but it often invades my thoughts unbidden. Nine hundred and ninety-five days have passed. I’ve never managed to convince myself, even for a minute, that I am out of Afghanistan and whether leaving was the right decision. I haven’t been able to enjoy the beauties of Paris or the wonders of other European cities. At times, I curse myself and reflect on the fact that my departure was not by choice but forced exile. Yet, I have not come to any satisfactory conclusion.

Why it feels this way

I met a government employee who was forced into exile from Afghanistan four decades ago. “I raised my children—two in Europe, one in Canada. I’ve built a successful life, but I’ve never felt at peace even for a minute over the past four decades. Wherever I go, the feeling I get from visiting the Paghman district in the west of Kabul City and its valleys is irreplaceable,” said the former official, whom I consider among the first generation of the exiled.

As he spoke, I envisioned myself in his shoes—30 years from now.

In March, on a trip to Frankfurt, Germany, I was walking along a famous road when I stopped upon seeing various countries’ flags. Instead of being painted on the roadside, Afghanistan’s flag was hoisted. Tears streamed down my face as I watched the flag, my mind racing through Afghanistan’s trials and tribulations. I tried to hide my tears from others though. I attempted to conceal my tears from those around me, however.

The truth is, those of my generation—especially from the media, arts, or public sector—can never cease thinking about Afghanistan while living in exile. I have endured the highs and lows there. I’ve seen friends sacrifice their lives for the values we fought for together. We have mourned our losses and shared our triumphs, making it difficult to let go. My hope is to return there one day and never leave.

As the famous Persian poet says, “We are here for safety, not for glory.”

Siyar Sirat is a journalist and editor with experience at various media organizations in Afghanistan. He has been living in exile for nearly three years.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Amu website.