Fear from Kandahar

Kandahar is well known as the birthplace of the Taliban, beginning in Arghandab; the birth village of Mullah Muhammad Omar. His popularity increased during the late 80s when he led the Battle of Arghandab, which was an offensive led by Afghan and Soviet forces but ended in utter failure. Arghandab is a district within the central part of Kandahar province, known for its green and agricultural landscape. During my first day in Kandahar I visited Arghandab district and was astounded with what I was seeing within the first few minutes. The mesmerizing beautiful greenery weaving through the district, the calm and hospitable residents, and the river of Arghandab – which dries up during the summer but maintains a crystal clear demeanor through the rest of the year. On the outskirts of the river, next to a small waterway, we had a melon and saw a man who had a shop there - cooling himself off from the heat by immersing himself in the river.

My journey across Afghanistan has taken me to many different regions, including Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, Kandahar and Nangarhar. Each of them has presented some wonderful memories, people and experiences – but the one place that has surprised me tremendously is Kandahar. I found it unpredictably secure, friendlier than many other regions across the country (including some great camera posers), a mutual respect for the law but an underlying struggle for peace regardless. I am glad that my experiences from Kandahar can possibly change the mindsets of people whom are thinking that the entirety of Kandahar could be your graveyard - well yeah! You will find many graveyards in every corner of the city or around the villages. My local friend had asked me while showing me the city, ‘’How did Kandahar look to you?” I frequently answered: ‘’It was amazing and I never thought of such positivity around, but why are there so many cemeteries?” Feroz responded by saying, ‘’ Well, these graveyards are the price of peace in Kandahar.”

Even though you will not see any official license plates on cars (mostly being either from a Dubai plate number or without a plate completely), people drive very carefully, following the traffic lights, which would be rare in the capital. I saw a local man standing with his motorcycle at 11pm for the red light in a road which you will not see any other cars passing by. The nightlife among people is busy, many staying out and mingling, eating and chatting past midnight. They are people who love to enjoy life and not live under the shadow of fear. One of the nights I was in ‘AINO MEENA’ (The New Modern City of Kandahar, with beautiful fountains on the road, amazing boulevards and bright lights at night) having dinner with my fellow colleagues and just as we were about to finish the meal, we ordered tea with a hookah. Looking up, we saw three bullet proof cars parked on the roadside with 10 bodyguards around their boss. The restaurant we were having our tea had an open space beside the road so a policeman came and kicked on those cars not to park there and the bodyguards ran towards him. This was the first time during my trip in which I was scared and thought they will beat or kill this police man. The bodyguards had RPGs, Machine Guns and AK47Kalashnikovs. Surprisingly, they were begging the policeman to let them be there. “Once they are eating and finished, then we will leave’’ said one of the guards. The kindness and civility absolutely shocked me.

Throughout my time in Kandahar, a friend of a friend allowed me to use a car to drive around if I needed to get around the city. At every police checkpoint, questions were asked such as, "What have you got? A gun, a card?" If I said no, they would ask, "Mind if I check?" And if I agreed, then they would say I am good to go and to stay blessed. I remember my last day in Kandahar when I was asked the same questions at a final police checkpoint and the officer began again with, "What have you got?" and I answered: "I've got myself and this car." He replied: ‘’Then tell me you've got an iPhone and glasses as well!" I ended our conversation by telling him how proud I was to be stopped by such a young and strong police officer. His happiness showed through his face and he shook my hands and said, ‘’Allah De Mal Sha Zwana’’: which means, "May Allah protect you always, young man!" This is how mutual respect happens only in Kandahar. As I have mentioned earlier, every little second in Kandahar was filled with surprises and priceless memories. I can only share a few in this piece of writing but I can happily say that Kandahar is in a state of constant growth and peace. Change your perception and see it for yourself! 

- Qayce

Kabir Mokamel, the Afghan Banksy

On the blast wall surrounding Afghanistan's intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, the are two big eyes stare out at the city street with the message: "I see you", a warning to corrupt politicians.  

The murals credit goes to Kabir Mokamel, a 40 year old Afghan artist who takes aim at corruption with blast wall art.
After returning to Afghanistan from Australia, where he sought refuge during fighting in the 1990s, Mokamel's goal is to use the protective concrete walls that surround Kabul's most important buildings as canvases to beautify the city and inspire people with messages of social change. By painting the concrete slabs with richly colored murals addressing what he views as the ills of Afghan societ, Mokamel is giving a sign of hope and (r)evolution.

- Leyla

The essentials of rape culture

Rape culture is essentially a failure to acknowledge the human aspect of others, and curiously, it frequently happens to women. It discourages to realize that women are active beings with complex lives, they do have intentions, plans, attitudes, and they can make decisions for themselves. It cannot go beyond the stage where people take women as objects to look at, like or dislike, comment on, play or satisfy their needs with; and whatever is done to women will stick to the air, because there is no likelihood that women will live with the consequences of those doings.
What rape culture suggests is that sexual assault is something deserved, demanded, or within the power of all of the parties involved. It denies that women do not bear any responsibility in others disturbing them in any manner. It is often forgotten that assault is not something to ask for, if it was, it would not be disturbing. When an action is defined as rape, for example, it means that one of the parties did not consent it, for otherwise it would be called sex.
When it comes to the argument where perpetrators think that they could not hold themselves from doing it, we should remind these people that sex, if that is what they want, is for adults, who are well able to regulate their actions. Whereas rape is forcefully perpetrated to a living being, and this force emerges from the very first premise that that being did not request such an action against themselves. Another point to be mindful of is that request is not a complete opposite of rejection, it is not only saying no, or screaming, but it also subsumes reluctant behaviors, freezing, and crying. Moreover, one does not request sexual action by dressing for themselves, acting for themselves, or sleeping for themselves. This is unfortunately a common erroneous concept, though.
Thinking that women’s behaviors are the object of others’ gaze, admire, and words is the schema of the rape culture. They are not, on the contrary, they are the very ordinary things people do for themselves, and within the extent, which is set by the person themselves, one allows it. Therefore let’s stop thinking that a random person sitting next to you, walking down the street, dancing alone or with friends will mean that they are living for you. People are not the objects of other people’s entertainment, therefore, them having desires does not make them entitled to force others to fulfill those goals.


One of the many variations of hypocrisy

It is very true that the world is suffering from different kinds of terrorism. In the mainstream field of vision, we have been introduced to the names of Boko Haram, Taliban, ISIS, and Al-Qaeda. Being familiar with these issues is no entertainment matter, on the contrary, it is devastating. In the past few years, Europe and the Middle East have mostly been more and more acquainted with ISIS. This was the result of recurring shooting, bombings, and suicide attacks in major cities of the aforementioned regions. The nature of these attacks have been viral, but let’s be honest, the virus was recognized after the symptoms had been experienced in Europe. Otherwise, the impression was that the aches in the Middle East were humbly tolerated.

The point of my piece is to protest my fellow citizens, reminding them how offended they felt when Europeans actually cared and showed concern for what happened in Europe. Why were they just beginning to recognize terrorism as a problem, why would not they show this sympathy when it was already causing conflict in our country, why were they so Euro-centric? The questions asked then could be repeated, although it is debatable whether they are valid ones, given that humans feel threatened mostly when it is themselves, or their own group, that is facing the danger. I would like to direct a similar reproach now to the citizens of Turkey, after –I do not know how many- things happening in Kilis, a small city of Turkey bordering Syria. Why have not we talked about ISIS attacking there, with their elaborate deck of rockets? Why is it that not many people have been claiming that we are practically under the attack of a terrorist group under our nose? Is it because as Turkey is not of awful importance to Europeans, Kilis is as insignificant to the rest of Turkey?

The answers would be plentiful, if the questions were covered in the unanimous media that we have, to discuss the reasons, progress, consequences, and reactions to the attacks. Yet we know the power of single individuals in spreading the news with accuracy, intensity, and speed, based on our experience in 2013. Was this effort exerted then only because the incidents were in ─░stanbul? Was it because the bombs were exploding in Ankara and, again, ─░stanbul, that people feared for their security just two months ago? Are we seeing now a discrimination of big and small cities, that honors just the big ones with care, concern, and sorrow, even when similar scale of troubles disturb the rest? Then the sympathy we will generate in others is predestined to be only slight, because even we lack the solidarity to care about each other. It is called hypocrisy when one asks for something that he is not sparing for someone else.


Kenzo x The Jungle Book creates dreamy collaboration

Our favourite Parisian brand recently made some digging into the Disney archives, mining images from the classic children's story The Jungle Book for its new ready-to-wear collection. The newly launched limited edition collection coincides with the release of Disney's much anticipated live-action rendition which stars Bill Murray, Lupita Nyong'o, Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba and Neel Sethi.
The collection includes silk shirts, denim, dresses, jackets, trousers and shorts and flashes some fierce jungle-esque prints inspired by some of the flick's most beloved characters, including Mowgli, Baloo, Bagheera and more.
You can get your favourite pieces at Kenzo.com!

- Leyla

Ankara, 13.03.2016

The first one hit us off guard. I never saw it coming. I never knew the reason why anybody would want to kill people that marched for peace. That day, I learned how to count. Apparently, one to one hundred two takes a lot of time to complete when you count not by numbers, but by names, contemplating about each life that has now disappeared. The second one was surprising. It was a bit like a joke, given that the ones that are supposed to protect you have no clue about what could ever happen after we have already lost too many. I did not want to acknowledge the incompetence that has resulted in this extent of a disaster, let alone to attempt that maybe it was all on purpose, that it was not because of lack of skill, but it was actually elaborately planned to destroy everything left that resembled hope. From then on, I had got adapted to live with fear for my life, and those of my loved ones, and the thing that I was afraid of so much was just the one that made it to the headlines, the rest of what the outrage offered was only little newsworthy. The last one, I had it coming. I have been waiting for something to happen at last that is so tragic and traumatic that it could actually relieve me, because I would finally be over with it. I am desperately wishing something so big to happen that then I can confidently say that it is it, and what has to come next is only predictable. I have come to a point where I am not only ashamed of my life continuing as if nothing ever happens, but I also want everything to end one way or another. It might merely take just one shot to kill us all at once, so that we do not have to bear all the pain of what has happened and what will, and would.
But we cannot take the shortcut, we cannot know beforehand, because when we actually know, it is only a little effective. We have to carry the burden of potential danger, we have to see with our own eyes that a government across the seas is calling its citizens to awareness, because they are cared for. But the leftover we deserve is to see policemen standing outside the park, where you have a very nice view of explosions, checking ID’s of random street wanderers, but when there actually is a notice of threat, which almost only lacks the names of the attackers, it cannot be prevented. Our share is to swallow this fallacy.
May all this end one day.


The current Afghan generation

Afghanistan is a country simply known for suicide bombings, airstrikes, corruption, low security, skyrocketing unemployment rates, and overall, for being a low facilitated country. What everyone seems to disregard though, is the fact that we have a world of mysteries and hidden treasures within our nation. Quoting an Afghan proverb "Treasures are in the Ruins". If we look over the past decades before the civil war we would probably see Afghanistan and its people as the most modernized among Asian countries. What has brought us to the dark ages currently though, is the fact that we neither have good leaders, nor do we have good citizens.
Evidently, the twenty-first century is a socially, politically, economically and technologically evolutionary era for the world around us. However, our government is still busy with basic things like security and better governance; something that will perhaps take decades more to implement. I witness Afghans trying to flee abroad through illegal migration on a daily basis, most of whom belong to the younger generation. These are the very same individuals that can eventually strengthen our workforce, the one that we’re losing. Their reason behind migration is either insecurity or unemployment. 
On the other hand, youth groups have stood firmly to fight against the brain drain of their country and convince their countrymen not to leave, as Afghanistan needs them now more than ever before. Those fleeing are urged to invest their wealth on entrepreneurships or contribute in other similar ways instead.
It is vital to note that the young generation of Afghanistan is not comparable to the generation before the civil war or before the soviet invasion. We refuse to go backwards. We refuse to fight our own Afghan brother and sisters, regardless of whether they belong to the Tajik, Pashtoon, Hazara, Uzbek, or any other ethnicity. We are not going to fight against government, we will work with it. We are not going to be slaves of the warlords; we will not blindly follow their words. We are not going to destroy our homeland, but instead, we will have faith for a better future and we will work towards a more educated and sustainable developed country that will fulfill our children’s wishes. We are a generation that has had enough of struggles, and this is finally our time; our time to change an inconsistent history. 
We are a generation that will hold our government accountable. We are the generation that will reignite hope to our people in whatever way we can. Olympic medals, female cyclists and drivers, and simple things like publish display of affection may be the beginning of the smallest differences being made at the moment. But each and every day, we are getting closer to what ought to be normal and we will not let anyone stop us.
People travel to Afghanistan every day. When asked about their thoughts on Afghanistan, I have gotten amusing answers. When leaving, they long for everything and anything that is related to this country. From its organic food, to its culture and attractions. From its history to its nightlife---yes, nightlife. At the moment it may be a fantasy to some, but regardless of this nation still being labelled a “war zone”, and despite the atrocities Afghan citizens face daily, the young generation still finds a way to live what is arguably closest to a normal life. After a busy week of studying or working in their offices, the youngsters gather to spend quality time with their loved ones. The country has changed tremendously and is on its way to becoming a fully sustainable sovereign nation. The youth are committed to sacrificing all they have in order to serve and build their country. However, they need to be motivated more than ever before. And the key to that success, in my opinion, is through education and lower unemployment rates.

- Qayce 

Salone Del Mobile | Fuorisalone 14-19.04.2015

It's that time of the year again... Every artist/designer/architect/beautiful things lover makes a pilgrimage to Milan. As with each year, the Salone happenings are dotted around the city (Fuorisalone), so here's a briefl round up of what I personally can't wait to visit!

Via Stendhal, 35

Via Tortona, 58

Via San Gregorio, 39

Via San Gregorio, 39

Via Pietro Mascagni, 6

Piazza Affari

Piazza Arcole, 4