Khyber Space

Afghanistan: It's what's for dinner. (side dishes include Iran and Pakistan)

I Wanna Mohawk (Mom Won’t Let Me Get One)

Over the weekend American artist Yazmany Arboleda executed a project in Kabul that culminated in the release of 10,000 pink balloons, each with a message of peace inside.

This was done in an effort to make a large scale statement for peace in Afghanistan.

Was it a success? (Insert lead balloon joke here).

Of course releasing balloons in Kabul won’t bring peace. But you know, art and stuff.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of such displays. I think most people look up and say “Oh, balloons” not “Wow, we should really stop fighting each other, these balloons have suddenly made that clear to me!”

However, I was surprised at some of the backlash that came from some Afghans as a result of the display.

More on the backlash here:

Naturally there have been some stupid, half-baked, and wasteful projects in Afghanistan during the duration of the US military presence there. Most, if not all, initiated by foreigners.

However, as a result, many foreigners interested in Afghanistan are painted with the same brush as the progenitors of these unsuccessful projects.

Take for example, me: Foreigner? CHECK! Interested in Afghanistan? CHECK!

While I would never profess to have intimate knowledge of Afghan culture, politics, norms or the situation on the ground in Kabul better than any Afghan, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t WANT that knowledge. I don’t profess to be an expert on Afghanistan, merely a student.

However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t know SOME things or that I am not entitled to my own opinions on Afghanistan. However, it seems that in many of my interactions both in person and on twitter with Afghans, I feel that I have to prove myself. Prove my credibility. Prove that I’m up to scratch. And am met with rife skepticism and the shrug off ‘You just don’t get it’ or “You don’t understand’.

It’s not my fault that I didn’t know ‘burqa’ was a Pakistani word until about a month ago.

Ironically, it reminds me of high school.


At the beginning of my freshman year, I began listening to punk music, changed my clothes (good bye Pac Sun, hello Hot Topic!), and began to rebel against any and everything (parents, teachers, store clerks, bits of lint in my pockets).

When I attempted to chat up the fellow punks at my schools about the newest Bad Religion record (Process of Belief) and how I felt it was a return to their roots with a modern twist, I was met with similar derision and skepticism as I am when I speak on Afghanistan today. I was the new kid on the block, I was told I didn’t know anything about punk and that I was simply a poseur. I took the ‘poseur’ jab to heart and was determined to be a punk as I could be. I decided something drastic would prove I was punk. A mohawk. That was it! But, just as the AFI song goes…Mom wouldn’t let me get one. Spoiler alert: I never broke into the punk circle. Despite the fact that I went and educated myself on the Misfits, TSOL, Minor Threat, etc., claimed straight-edge, and learned to play the bass guitar very poorly, it was just never to be.  At the time, I didn’t realize that I was just new. There was no way I could know everything about punk, I was just excited to be part of something. But, eventually I realized that I would never be as punk as those who found out about it before me. My cred would just never be that high.

Just like I’ll never be more Afghan than an Afghan. I’ll never know as much about the culture, the politics, the needs of the country.

Should I be excluded from the conversation because of that? Am I destined to be labelled a poseur when it comes to Afghanistan?

I would hope that instead of speaking out against foreigners who want to begin projects in Afghanistan, instead of deriding them or making them feel as though they are not good enough, that Afghans instead take them under their wing, advise them, correct their misconceptions gently, and fill the gaps in their knowledge.

Mistakes are often born out of ignorance. Don’t chide us for our ignorance, don’t make us feel less than, instead, help us overcome it.

Just because we’re foreign, doesn’t mean we’re poseurs.


One comment on “I Wanna Mohawk (Mom Won’t Let Me Get One)

  1. VanceAV
    June 6, 2013

    Great article- it is always so hard to be a new person in any group- the pressure to prove yourself is much higher than it seems to be for people who seem to have always bee in the group.

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This entry was posted on May 29, 2013 by and tagged , , , .
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