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And, yes, I DO take it personally: A Mujahideen and Taliban commander turns to the light
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Monday, May 26, 2008

A Mujahideen and Taliban commander turns to the light


i will report this little anecdote with as little identifying information as possible, for what will be very obvious reasons...

yesterday, a former mujahideen and taliban commander came and visited one of my office mates... a big, burly guy in full traditional dress with the full, black, traditional beard, he would have been intimidating in any setting, but i can only imagine encountering him in the open, rugged, afghanistan landscape when he was leading his former combat force of 500 men...

when he walked in, we introduced ourselves in the very formal and polite way that is the custom here, saying "As-Salāmu `Alaykum" (السلام عليكم), followed by a handshake, and then placing the right hand over the heart... i smiled and he returned the smile... now, believe me, when you see someone like that smile, it's not only startling, it's also quite delightful... the wattage of a smile shining out of the the middle of a full, dark beard is positively intense...

he met for almost an hour with my office mate... it turns out that he owns many, many hectares of land southwest of kabul, on which are many, many pomegranate trees and grapevines... (not many people realize - and i was certainly one of them until quite recently - that not only are pomegranates native to afghanistan but are also prized throughout the world for their size, flavor and general quality...) he wants to find a way to distribute and sell his harvest and was seeking help finding the right contacts... but, here's the kicker...

he said that he's tired of fighting and killing... he said it's time that people started coming together to make their own lives and the lives of others better... he wants to give jobs to the people of the area helping with the picking, grading, packing and distribution... he knows that they desperately need income to feed their families... he is contacting many of the people he knows who have fled the area and asking that they come back and join him in this effort...

when he left, we again shook hands, only this time both of us used both hands in a full clasp, and then placed our respective right hands over our hearts... to say that i was moved by the encounter would be a serious understatement...

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