Monday, February 27, 2012

Mina Wali, an afghan fighter

Mina Wali was born in Kabul in 1961. Daughter of Shaw Wali Khan, the first afghan commander of Air Force jets and adviser of the king Zahir Shah, she sees her life crumbling when, in 1973, a coup led by prince Daud overthrew the monarchy and established the republic in Afghanistan.

Shaw Wali Khan
Mina's family suffers retaliations and one day her father is taken home, never to return. (Even today, Mina seeks answers in mass graves scattered across the country.) Her mother, a teacher, starts to be threatened. Married and with a daughter in her arms - baby Dina -, Mina chooses to leave Afghanistan in 1979, the same year Soviet tanks invaded the country.

She lives three years in Germany - with the status of political exile. In Munich, her second child - Tareq - is born. It follows the decision to go to the United States, where some relatives were already living. On American soil, would born Yossef, her third and last child.

September 11 and the memories of the past

In the United States, Mina gets the comfort and tranquility that was deprived in Afghanistan. In September 11, 2001, she witnesses whatever she thought would be impossible to happen in that country. "It was a great pain to see mothers in search of missing children. I know what it is because I remember me and my mom looking for my father in Afghanistan." Since 1979, Mina had lost 37 relatives.

After the attack on the Twin Towers and the following US decision to retaliate on the Taliban regime - which harboured Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaida -, Mina fears for her people. "It was a feeling of devastation. I almost had a heart attack because of what happened on September 11 and what followed in my country. It made me relive old memories too painful." She decides to return to Afghanistan, despite protests from the rest of the family. The trip takes place in 2003.

On Afghan soil, she is thrilled to be back - "to my roots, my blood" - and she shocks herself to see the destruction of the country after decades of war. She feels she has a role to play in the future of Afghanistan and she dedicates herself to the idea of ​​building a school on her lands, in Nangarhar province, bordering Pakistan. "The children in Afghanistan needed me. In the US, there are very good teachers, but in my home country there was nothing. I thought I could make a difference there."

Quick response of an NGO called AMI

The dream begins to come true when Mina meets a portuguese military, Octávio Vieira, in Kabul. She was the manager of a company that distributed information leaflets, working for NATO. He was prominent in the department of psychological operations of ISAF (the NATO coalition in Afghanistan). Empathy has been shown. "I was amazed at the tenderness of that military, because my experience as a child and descendant of a military family had shown me how normally they are severe."

Mina tells him of his dream and Octávio believes it is possible to do so. On holiday in Portugal, the military presentes the project to Dr. Fernando Nobre, the president of the NGO AMI, [International Medical Assistance], who expresses his will to go to Afghanistan to assess the conditions on the ground. The visit happens in 2006 and AMI's decision to fund the project follows quickly. "I hoped an american NGO would support this project, but it came from Portugal," says Mina.

New uniforms for feast days

Classes start in 2007 (although the official opening of the school happens just in 2008). Students could be distinguished by their blue uniforms offered by the school. "When I returned to Afghanistan, I bought uniforms for everyone, but for a few weeks they did not want to use them. I did not realize why. I thought they were ashamed. But soon, after school starts, came Ramadan and the feast that follows, 'Id, a celebration when people like to wear something new. So they all came with the uniform, because it was the only new thing they had long ago."

As school starts working, Mina feels that her return to Afghanistan begins to be rewarded. "I was raised by a father who made history in Afghanistan, as the first commander of the fighter Mig 21 and direct advisor of our king Zahir Shah. My father was taken alive by the communist regime that invaded Afghanistan in the 1970s and I never saw or heard about his life or death. His last request to my younger brothers and to me was that we never turned our back to our nation. I promised, and I'm glad for that."

How it all began, by Mina Wali, 27/05/2011

Mina Wali's testimony, collected by the U.S. military, 13/01/2009

Additional articles:

Mina Wali Azim, Return the Future Scribd (in portuguese)
Mina Wali - A story of perseverance, AMI Notícias, 2nd Quarter 2008 (Appendix 1) (in portuguese)
The look of an Afghan who returned to the country, Diário de Notícias, 07/18/2008 (Appendix 2) (in portuguese)

Appendix 1

Appendix 2