Saima Wahab

  • Aired:  08/07/12
  •  | Views: 19,286

Saima Wahab, author of "In My Father's Country," shares stories of growing up without equal rights in an Afghan village and later escaping amid the Soviet invasion. (9:13)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

>> Jon: WELCOME BACK.

MY GUEST TONIGHT, A NATIVE OF AFGHANISTAN, A FORMER ADVISOR TO THE EYES ARMY.

HER BOOK IS CALLED "IN MY FATHER'S COUNTRY: AN AFGHAN WOMAN DEFIES HER FATE."

PLEASE WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM,

SAIMA WAHAB.

(APPLAUSE) HOW ARE YOU?

>> DOING GOOD.

>> Jon: THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING HERE.

>> YOU'RE WELCOME.

>> Jon: AND SHARING YOUR STORY WITH US.

"IN MY FATHER'S COUNTRY." MAN, YOU KNOW, I'M NOT CRAZY ABOUT MY CHILDHOOD.

(LAUGHTER) BUT WOW.

WHAT YOU WENT THROUGH AS A CHILD IS REMARKABLE IN YOUR ABILITY TO PERSEVERE OVER THAT AND TO FIND

PURPOSE IN YOUR LIFE.

IT'S SHOCKING.

SHOCKING IN SOME EXTENT BECAUSE OF THE STRENGTH YOU HAVE TO SHOW AND SHOCKING FOR HOW IT

APPARENTLY COMMON IT IS FOR N YOUR COUNTRY FOR YOUNG GIRLS.

>> YES.

>> Jon: YOU WANT TO EXPLAIN WHEN YOU LEFT AFGHANISTAN.

>> WHEN I LEFT AFGHANISTAN I WAS SO YOUNG I DIDN'T EVEN REALIZE I

WAS WHAT I WAS GOING THROUGH.

WRITING THIS BOOK WAS IN N A WAY GOING BACK AND RELIVING YOUR CHILDHOOD AND IF IT WASN'T

FOR... FUN THE FIRST TIME IT WASN'T THE SECOND TIME WHEN YOU'RE WRITING AS AN ADULT BUT

AS I WROTE IT I REALIZED HOW COMMON IT WAS AND THAT BECAME HARDER BECAUSE I GOT LUCKY.

I WAS VERY LUCKY TO HAVE THE FAMILY THAT I DID AND SOME OF THE MEMBERS IN THE FAMILY, THEY

WERE ABLE TO SUPPORT ME AND MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR ME TO COME OUT.

>> Jon: THIS WAS... YOUR VILLAGE WAS ATTACKED DURING THE RUSSIAN INVASION.

>> YES.

>> Jon: AND SO... AND YOU LIVED... DESCRIBE THE LIVING ARRANGEMENT FOR THE FOLKS WHO

HAVE CONDOS.

(LAUGHTER)

>> THE LIVING ARRANGEMENT WAS BASICALLY A BIG BUILDING WHICH IS CALLED... THE LITERAL MEANING

IS CASTLE AND BASICALLY THE WALLS ARE EIGHT FEET TALL AND YOU'RE STUCK IN THE WALLS AND

YOU DON'T COME OUTSIDE... AS A FEMALE YOU DON'T COME OUTSIDE

THOSE WALLS AND YOU LEAVE THAT HOUSE WHEN YOU ARE A BRIDE, GROW TO YOUR HUSBAND'S CASTLE AND

YOU'RE IN THOSE WALLS AND YOU LEAVE THAT WHEN YOU DIE AS A DEAD BODY TO GO TO THE CEMETERY.

FOR ME TO COME OUT OF THOSE WALLS A LOT HAD TO HAPPEN AND ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT MADE IT

POSSIBLE IS THE RUSSIAN INVASION BECAUSE IT MADE IT POSSIBLE FOR MY FAMILY TO LEAVE THAT CASTLE

AND GO TO PAKISTAN.

ONCE YOU GO TO PAKISTAN YOU START THINKING ABOUT THINGS THAT COULD HAPPEN, THAT... SINCE

COMING TO AMERICA AND THAT BECAME A POSSIBILITY AND THAT ONLY HAPPENED BECAUSE MY

GRANDFATHER, HE REFUSED TO LET THE BOYS IN MY FAMILY COME TO AMERICA WITHOUT THE GIRLS.

AND THAT'S WHY I'M SITTING HERE TODAY.

>> Jon: BUT THIS IS... IT'S VERY UNUSUAL IN MANY RESPECTS YOUR GRANDFATHER OR YOUR BABA

WHO IS A MULLAH, ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN THE TOWN.

>> HE WAS THE VILLAGE ELDER,

YES.

>> Jon: THE VILLAGE ELDER.

HE HAD VERY PROGRESSIVE VALUES WHEN IT CAME TO WOMEN.

YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR FRIEND WHOSE FAMILY WAS NOT THAT WAY AND SHE HAD AN ARRANGED MARRIAGE AT A

VERY YOUNG AGE, HER BROTHERS BEAT HER.

HOW DID YOU COPE WITH KNOWING YOUR FRIEND IS DEALING WITH THAT AND YOU'RE IN THIS OTHER SITUATION?

>> A LOT OF GUILT.

THERE WAS A LOT OF GUILT.

I'M LIVING WITH THAT GUILT TODAY, TOO.

IT'S VERY HARD FOR ME TO ENJOY NORMAL DAY LIFE IN AMERICA BECAUSE I KNOW MY FRIEND, MY

BEST FRIEND, IS IN AFGHANISTAN AND SHE LOOKS 30 YEARS OLDER THAN I DO AND IT MAKES ME VERY

SAD BECAUSE SHE WAS A BEAUTIFUL PERSON AND HER BROTHER USED TO BEAT HER UP AND MY BROTHER WOULD

TEASE ME AND SAY "YOU BETTER WATCH OUT OR I'M GOING TO BEAT YOU UP, TOO."

AND I WOULD TELL HIM YOU WOULD NEVER BE ABLE TO DO THAT BECAUSE OF MY GRANDFATHER AND MY MOTHER

AND THE REASON MY GRANDFATHER WAS THAT WAY WAS BECAUSE MY FATHER WAS TAKEN BY THE K.G.B.

AGENT HE MADE MY GRANDFATHER PROMISE TO MAKE SURE HIS DAUGHTER WENT TO THE SAME SCHOOL

AS HIS SON DID.

>> Jon: THAT WAS INTERESTING.

YOUR FATHER WAS A VERY UNUSUAL GUY AND WAS TAKEN BY THE RUSSIANS.

THERE'S A TRADITION WHEN THEY SAY THE MALE CHILD IS BORN THEY SHOOT OFF GUNS BUT WHEN YOU WERE

BORN YOUR FATHER DID THE SAME.

>> YES.

>> AND HIS FRIENDS SAID ARE YOU CRAZY, YOU DON'T DO THAT FOR A DAUGHTER?

WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT?

AND HE SAID "MY DAUGHTER'S GOING TO BE BETTER THAN MANY SONS AND

SHE'S GOING TO DO A LOT MORE FOR SOME PEOPLE." WHICH WAS HIS OWN PURPOSE.

AND THIS WAS THE REASON WHY HE WAS TAKEN BY K.G.B. BECAUSE HE WAS A BIG ACTIVIST FOR PASHTUN

AND HE DIDN'T WANT ANYONE ELSE TO COME AND INTERFERE WITH PASHTUN CULTURE AND TRADITION.

SO HE SAID THAT AND A N A LOT OF WAYS THAT'S WHAT MOTIVATES ME

AND THAT'S WHAT MOTIVATED KNOW WRITE THE BOOK BECAUSE I FEEL LIKE THAT WAS SOMETHING THAT

CHANGED MY LIFE.

IF HE HADN'T SAID THAT I WOULD BE SITTING IN A VILLAGE AND I WOULD HAVE NO IDEA THAT YOUR

SHOW EXISTS.

(LAUGHTER).

>> Jon: AND WOULDN'T THAT BE THE REAL TRAGEDY HERE?

(LAUGHTER)

>> TOTALLY!tQ3

>> IT'S INTERESTING BECAUSE YOU... THERE'S SO MANY FRIGHTENING MOMENTS IN THE BOOK

WHERE YOU DODGED DEATH.

YOU HAVE THE STORY OF BEING HIT BY A BUS AND IN A COMA.

NOBODY THOUGHT YOU WOULD SURVIVE.

THE BOMBING OF THAT KHALA WHEN THE RUSSIANS BOMBED IT AND YOU EMERGED FROM THE RUBBLE.

>> I WAS SLEEPING INNING THE ROOM, YES.

I WAS SLEEPING IN THE ROOM AND THE BOMB DROPPED AND IT DIDN'T EXPLODE.

IT WAS JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS THAT I GUESS I WASN'T MEANT TO GO.

IT DIDN'T EXPLODE, IT MADE THE WALLS CRUSH DOWN ON ONE SIDE SO I WALKED OUT ALL DUSTY AND MY

MOTHER WAS REALLY SHOCKED AND SHE SAID "I DIDN'T KNOW YOU WERE SLEEPING THERE."

I WAS LIKE I KNOW, THAT'S HOW CHILDREN IN AFGHANISTAN�r ARE.

>> Jon: THE BEAUTIFUL WAY YOU ARE ABLE TO SMILE AND FIND LITTLE MOMENTS OF HUMOR WITHIN

THIS BOOK IS JUST WONDERFUL.

IT'S WONDERFUL TO READ.

THE PASHTUN ELEMENT OF SILT INTERESTING BECAUSE I KEPT WONDERING, PEOPLE DON'T IDENTIFY

AS AFGHANS.

THEY IDENTIFY MORE TRIBALLY,

PASHTUN BEING ABOUT 40% OF AFGHANISTAN.

>> MORE THAN 40%.

AND IF YOU GO INTO THE VILLAGES IT'S 100% PASHTUN.

IF YOU GO INTO KABUL YOU HAVE MORE NON-PASHTUN THERE IS BECAUSE THEY GRAVITATE TOWARDS

THE CENTRAL COUNTRY WHICH IS BASICALLY KABUL.

>> Jon: SO THAT WOULD BE THE CITIES, PASHTUN ARE MORE..

>> THE VILLAGES.

THE VILLAGES ARE MORE PASHTUN AND THAT'S WHERE I SPEND MOST OF

MY TIME BECAUSE THAT'S WHERE MY FAMILY IS FROM.

>> Jon: NOW THE PASHTUN CULTURE SEEMS TO MEAN EVERYTHING TO THEM AND THERE ARE VERY, VERY

IMPORTANT RULES OF PASHTUN CULTURE.

>> FOR EVERYTHING.

FOR EVERYTHING FROM THE TIME YOU WAKE UP IN THE MORNING UNTIL THE DAY YOU DIE.

THERE ARE RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR EVERYTHING AND EVERYBODY KNOWS THESE RULES.

IF I DO SOMETHING THAT WAS AGAINST ONE OF THE RULES BEFORE I GET HOME MY FAMILY WOULD KNOW

I DID SOMETHING I WASN'T SUPPOSED TO DO AND IT HAS HAPPENED QUITE A FEW WHERE

PEOPLE WILL TELL MY FAMILY "YOUR DAUGHTER DID THIS."

>> Jon: EVEN WHEN YOU CAME TO AMERICA AND YOUR BROTHER AND SISTER WENT TO A VIDEO STORE.

>> YES.

(LAUGHS).

>> Jon: AND YOU GOT BUSTED EVEN THERE, PASHTUN RULES IN PORTLAND, OREGON.

>> AND I DIDN'T SPEAK ENOUGH ENGLISH TO TELL THEM.

TO SAY "PLEASE DON'T TELL MY UNCLE.

I'M NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE."

>> Jon: (LAUGHS)

>> YOU WENT BACK WITH THE U.S.

ARMY AND HELPED THEM UNDERSTAND THAT CULTURE IN THESE VILLAGES.

>> UH-HUH.

>> Jon: HOW DID THAT PLAY WITH YOUR MIND AND YOUR LOYALTY?

WHERE DID YOU FEEL A PART OF?

>> I GOT A GOOD IDEA OF WHAT IT MEANS TO HAVE MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES IN YOUR HEAD.

A LOT OF TIMES I FELT VERY CONFLICTED.

I LOVED THE SOLDIERS, THE AMERICAN SOLDIERS.

I LOVED THEM BECAUSE I KNEW THEY WERE GIVING UP A LOT.

I WAS GIVING UP BY CHOICE I WENT THERE, THEY WERE GIVING UP BECAUSE THEY HAD TO DO IT.

AND SO I REALIZED...

>> Jon: I WOULD THINK BY NOW THEY'RE ALREADY STARBUCKS IS PROBABLY OVER THERE.

>> Jon: (LAUGHTER)

>> THERE IS SOMETHING LIKE IT BUT NOT STARBUCKS.

IT'S EQUALLY HORRIBLE.

(LAUGHTER) AND AS EXPENSIVE.

>> Jon: (LAUGHS)

>> AND MY SISTER IS GOING TO KILL ME!

>> Jon: NO, THAT PART OF THE WORLD, IT'S FINE.

LISTEN, IF YOU COULD SURVIVE THE RUSSIAN INVASION, STARBUCKS CAN'T TOUCH YOU.

(LAUGHTER) BELIEVE ME, THEY'RE EQUAL IN POWER BUT...

(LAUGHTER).

>> Jon: GET THIS BOOK.

I AM NOT DOING JUSTICE TO THE DEPTH OF IT AND TO WHAT YOUR PERSONAL JOURNEY IS AND ALL THAT

YOU HAVE GIVEN BACK TO THE PASHTUN PEOPLE AND THE UNITED STATES AND EVERYTHING ELSE AND

IT'S AN HONOR TO HAVE YOU ON THE SHOW.

"IN MY FATHER'S COUNTRY." YOU HAVE TO CHECK THIS OUT.

SAIMA WAHAB.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

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