Portraits of Atlanta immigrants 

9 men and women share their voices, their stories

Page 9 of 10

Name: Nassrin Ghani

Age: 48

Job: Full-time mother/freelance producer for CNN International

Country: Kabul, Afghanistan

Describe Kabul.

I have two versions of Afghanistan. One from my childhood. I lived there from age 7 until 11, so that was more of a, you know, a green, sort of blue-sky type of place. The weather was incredible. We have the spring, the very hot summer, and then a beautiful fall and then extremely cold winters. That's when we're off school, during winter, because it's a poor country and they can't really afford to heat the schools. So I remember just being outside playing in the snow all the time. I was born in Afghanistan, but my father was a diplomat so we left and went to France until I was 7.

Your father was a diplomat in Afghanistan?

My father was in the Afghan Foreign Service. He was an Afghan diplomat.

In 1973, the king's cousin [Mohammed Daoud] overthrew the king and had him exiled, him and his family, and he decided to be the first Afghan president, and then soon after my father was assigned to go to Iran. So we were actually in Tehran. And during that time, while we were in Iran, there was another coup by a communist-backed group of people in Afghanistan so they overthrew, basically killed Daoud and all his family in 1978, and then that's when the country started spiraling downwards. We were, at the time, in Iran just before the Iranian revolution and then we immigrated to the states.

Have you been back to Afghanistan?

Yes. I went back in 2003 and then 2006. So yes, it was different. Completely. There were no trees. And the way my brother described it, and it was very sad. He said, "The Taliban took color away." Because it used to be a very colorful place. That makes me sad.

Did you experience any life under the Taliban?

I didn't, nor under the Russians. Most of my relatives left and I don't have any direct stories from my relatives about the Taliban.

Do you have any connection to Afghanistan now?

A lot. My parents returned to Afghanistan in 2002 after the Americans came in 2001 and Karzai became [interim leader]. My father went back to work for the foreign service. So he's still there and my mom is there and my brother's there. They go back and forth. They went back to their old house. And my father, I mean they get like no salary at all, but he just wanted to go back and help his country. He's in his late 70s but he feels that he's needed.

Does he have any connections to the Afghan government?

Well, actually, my cousin's running for the presidency right now. They just had a run-off between my cousin [Ashraf Ghani] and Abdullah Abdullah.

I'm having a surreal moment.

Me too, actually. Every Afghan who voted for him should count. Abdullah Abdullah's making accusations of fraud, which are, so far, unproven. I mean, he's campaigned so hard. He has worked really hard. I know he's my cousin, but if he is a crook, I would not be having this conversation. He's just brilliant. He's amazing. He's a really good guy. He has a plan, you know?

Do you remember leaving Iran and suddenly being in D.C. when you were very young?

I was 13. We were really excited. We were just kids, and at the time we used to watch all these American shows like "The Six Million Dollar Man" and "Eight is Enough" and "The Osmonds." We were just really psyched to go to the states.

So what about "The Osmonds" would've made you want to come to America?

I think everyone liked them, you know?

So why did you come to America?

We came because they, the Soviet-backed coup that happened in Afghanistan basically assassinated all of Daoud's family and my father was working for that government and they arrested every male member of my family, including all my uncles, my father's uncle, who is a general who never appeared again. So they just put everyone in jail. So my father, who was at the time in Iran working for the Afghan government, decided to leave. First we went to France and then we went to the states. I don't remember it very much. We never thought we were going to stay in the states for thirty-some years. Every day my father would listen to the BBC radio for years just waiting for the Russians to leave. My father was always worrying and walking around. He was upset for years, so that was hard.

And what was he upset about?

I mean everything had fallen apart, you know? The Russians moved in. Everyone just started leaving the country. Just losing everything, basically, and no one doing anything about it and just waiting for someone to do something because he couldn't do anything. So then we started getting on with life. Going to high school and then college. But just my dad had a really hard time because he couldn't go back. He was always a diplomat so it was hard for him. He couldn't get the jobs he was used to. He didn't speak English well. He started driving a taxi for years and just wasn't very good at handling it. So it was hard for all of us.

Do you remember how that was on you and your family?

Well, for me, because I was a kid, I just wanted him to be happy. So that was the hard part. You know my parents they were from an influential family but they were very humble. They always sort of taught us to be humble, so I wanted him to just be fine with not having much, which I think that wasn't it. It wasn't about money. It was about how he felt about himself. He didn't feel good.

So then 9/11 comes.

9/11 was very devastating especially because we couldn't believe that Afghanistan would have anything to do with something like that. Which we didn't. It's hard for Americans to understand the people, al-Qaeda is not Afghans. I'm not defending the Taliban at all — I'm a big feminist here. When the Taliban came into Afghanistan that's when my parents decided to get their American citizenship finally. We lost our country. And then 9/11 was definitely very shocking for us. But then later, when the Americans talked about going and getting rid of the Taliban, that's when everyone was like, "Finally someone's doing something." So that's when they went back in 2002. So a whole bunch of Afghans who were living overseas went back to help out so that they could just help build their country. I remember in January my son was born and my parents left, and I was like, "Wait! I just gave you a grandson." I mean the Bush Administration shifted their attention to Iraq and that's when everyone in Afghanistan was trying to tell the U.S., "Look, you've gotta come back." And then the focus shifted to Iraq. Unfortunately, we all know that this was not a good thing. Perhaps the Afghan War would have ended sooner had the U.S. not gone into Iraq.

So do you feel like your country's in better shape now than it was?

I think it's made a huge amount of progress. I mean just having an election, you know? And the president who's willing to step down. I mean come on! We've never had a leader who's actually willing to step down. No matter who wins, this has gone through a sort of a huge change. There has been a process, so it's really hopeful.

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