HAMID STORIES |
December 05, 2007
Continuing to look through the archives now that I'm home, I found these Hamid stories:
The massive snows of the winter led to equally massive melting of snow in the spring. As a result of all this runoff, Hamid’s house was slowly sliding down the mountainside it was situated on. Apparently the walls were starting to separate, and the mud brick wall that surrounded his yard was also
suffering damage. I questioned him about his home at length. His house is over 100 years old, and made out of the inferior sun-dried mud bricks, so it leaks when it rains. The roof is flat and supported with wooden beams, so it is not in any danger of collapsing.
Talking about the house led to this conversation:
“Hamid, do you have any photographs of your house you could bring in?”
He shook his head. “No, sorry.”
“Too bad. I really wish I could come to your house and visit. I would love to see it and meet your family.” As I said this, it suddenly occurred to me that I would not be able to meet all of his family. “Hey, if I came to your home, would I be allowed to talk to your mother and sister-in-law?”
Hamid laughed. “But my mother doesn’t speak English.”
“I know that. But could I talk to her through you? Would I even be allowed to see her, or be in the same room?”
“No, she would have to go in another room.”
“And you only have two rooms, so she and your sister-in-law have to go hide in the other room while we visit. Is that right?”
“You are right. When my friends come to visit, they must go in the other room. If you are very close friends, you may speak briefly to the women, but just to give greetings, then they leave.”
I wish I could say this surprised me, but it doesn’t anymore. This is the Afghan way.
“If no one is visiting your home, and you are all home alone as a family, how may women dress? Are they still required to show only their face and hands?”
“No, if we are alone, they may dress as they wish,” Hamid replied.
“So does either of the women in your home like to wear western clothes?” I asked.
“My mother is very old, so she always wears traditional clothes. My sister-in-law likes to wear Indian clothes sometimes. She does not need to cover her head or face in the house,” he explained.
“So she has to cover her face when she goes out? Is this Afghanistan or Islam?” I was surprised to hear she had to cover her face.
Hamid probably thought I was being a bit dense. “Sir, as I have told you, Islam says a woman may show her face. However, many in Afghanistan only allow the women to show their eyes, as they do in Saudi Arabia. Actually, it is the husband’s choice.”
“So your brother requires her to dress like this?” I wanted to make sure I had my facts straight.
“Yes. He believes other men will look at his wife if she shows her face.” By this he meant “lustfully look at".
“If you were married, how would you let your wife dress?”
“She could show her face. I am not worried that other men would look at her.”
On another topic, we were reading the paper at lunch (two of my hutmates had joined us) and were discussing a recent suicide bombing. The AP story from the Stars and Stripes discussed the bombing and another attack, and then added a comment to the effect that the current government was widely regarded as more corrupt than the Taliban or the Russian-allied government.
Why would this sort of comment be added to an article about suicide bombings? It is dead wrong, at least based on what I’ve heard. I asked Hamid if the current government was more corrupt than the other two. He did not think so.
“Do most Afghans think this is the worst government?” I continued.
“No, not at all.”
“Of the three governments, which one do most people like the best?”
“The current one.”
“Well, this reporter says that most Afghans think this government is the most corrupt of all.”
Hamid snorted. “This is not true.”
This is hardly a statistically significant survey, but it does jive with what I’ve heard from others. Why would a reporter feel the need to insert such a comment? How would would a reporter know what "most Afghans" think about anything? I suspect that surveys around here, if they are conducted at all, are dodgy affairs at best. And if a reporter had, say, a liberal bias and hated the current administration, might they not want to put everything in a bad light? Luckily, news no longer needs to go through the media filters. Isn’t blogging grand?