Paperback: 240 pages

Publisher: Eye Books; 2nd edition (1st edition: 16 Oct. 2008)

ISBN-13: 978-1-78563-024-8

Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm

Good Morning Afghanistan

Waseem Mahmood

£9.99

By reading this book you realise that people,

regardless of ethnicity or religious heritage, are the same.

It is a time of chaos. Afghanistan has just witnessed the fall of the oppressive Taliban. Warlords battle each other for supremacy, while the powerless, the dispossessed, the hungry and the desperate struggle to survive. In these days and months of bleakness, suffering and want, a glimmer of hope emerges – in the form of a spirited little breakfast-time radio programme, Good Morning Afghanistan. This book is a true account of how an intrepid band of media warriors help a broken nation find a voice through the radio. Over the airwaves a land ravaged by decades of war starts to fight with words instead of weapons.

Extracts

Farida was of the generation that had never known peace. For all her twenty-three years, Afghanistan had been held to ransom by some conflict or another. First it was the guerrilla war against the Soviets, then the bloody factional fighting among the Mujahedeen themselves and finally the Taliban. She had become part of an underground movement trying to educate Afghan girls through a network of clandestine schools.

read more...

Extracts

Farida was of the generation that had never known peace. For all her twenty-three years, Afghanistan had been held to ransom by some conflict or another. First it was the guerrilla war against the Soviets, then the bloody factional fighting among the Mujahedeen themselves and finally the Taliban. She had become part of an underground movement trying to educate Afghan girls through a network of clandestine schools.

Bodybuilding was the only form of recreation deemed acceptable by the Taliban. Playing football, a traditional favourite of Afghan youth, had virtually died out since playing in the traditional baggy shalwar-kameez as ordained by the Taliban for whom wearing shorts was seen as “un-Islamic”- had proved an impractical proposition for most players. Cheering or clapping at matches, other signs of Western corruption would also land spectators in jail, often suffering severe beatings. Matches, when they were played, would be regularly interrupted by the Matawan who would herd the crowds and players into mosques for prayers. Playing an uninterrupted ninety-minute match often proved impossible. But the local clubs really lost the will to play football, when the Taliban commandeered the stadium they used for matches to carry out the weekly public executions and amputations.  They somehow found it difficult to play football using goalposts that would have to double as gallows every Friday.

Peshawar, the old garrison town near the border of Afghanistan, has been for centuries a centre for travellers, traders, smugglers and soldiers alike. The city of Alexander and of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, with its history dating back as far as Buddhist times has been inextricably linked with the Khyber Pass and through the ages the city has played host to the silk route, spice route and more recently the opium route. The old city still remains a remnant of those bygone days, a mosaic of bustling bazaars of every kind imaginable. Buildings with intricately carved wooden doors and balconies line the narrow, winding streets and kebab stalls, spice shops and perfume sellers fill the dry air with fascinating aromas. Media reports describe the city as a breeding ground for terrorism, drug smuggling,

It is true what they say, that you do see your life flash before you just before you die; I had definitely begun to see the first reel of mine as we hurtled towards what was imminent death. Then miraculously, with literally inches to spare, our driver bit the bullet, and swung our mini bus hard to the right, over the red rocks into the dusty field adjacent to the road. Over my shoulder, as I looked back I saw the slogan, “Trust in God” painted on the tailgate of one of the trucks as it rapidly receded, still racing, into the distance.  Then, I braced myself for the explosions. 

As the van careered to a halt, a good twenty feet into the minefield, there was silence, just deafening silence. 

As the dust began to settle around us, I just burst into nervous fits of laughter. 

“Welcome to Afghanistan, John!”

When I mimed a fishing rod on the river’s edge, the penny finally seemed to drop, “No, no Mr Pasha, we do not fish like that, very slow and very boring. In Afghanistan we fish with grenade!” 

As he spoke, he took the pin out of a hand grenade that had appeared alarmingly in his hand, stood up and tossed it into the river. The explosion echoed around the rock walls of the deep river valley and as Manocher had promised, dozens of dead fish appeared, floating on the surface. 

“See, Mr Pasha, much better. Many fishes. You want to fish also?” 

With that he handed me a grenade. 

Mission two began at Kabul Airport and not Bagram airbase, thus depriving us of the adventurous white-knuckle drive into town. This time the final approach of the small UN aircraft into Kabul Airport more than adequately compensated our lust for stomach churning thrills; flying over the mountains that surround the city, the pilot had to engage a missile aversion pattern, which basically involved putting the aircraft into a tight downward spiral and corkscrewing all the way down to the runway. The wingtips of the plane literally skimming the tops of mountains and buildings, combined with the “G” forces exerted by the fast spinning motion and the usual rough turbulence found over Kabul’s mountainous terrain, ensured that the experience was enough to give any theme-park ride a decent run for its money. As we reached for the sick-bags, John eloquently summed up my feelings, that the landing, however unpleasant, was “infinitely better than a SAM missile up the a**e!”

I returned to Kabul one last time, ostensibly just to facilitate the MTV team who were scheduled to be coming to Afghanistan to shoot a feature on “Good Morning Afghanistan” to be used at the awards ceremony. Admittedly, I also had to tie up loose ends for the ultimate handover of the project to Abi and the rest of the Afghan team. 

To celebrate the MTV award, I decided to sacrifice my principals and do what I loathed the most; throw a party inviting the entire local ex-pat crowd.

quotes

“A magnificent book. To read it is to be transported to Kabul and to share the dreams of the Afghans.”

Dr Rehan ul-Haq, author of In Alliances

“Good Morning Afghanistan was an important start in bringing fast and uncensored information to the war-stricken people of Afghanistan.”

Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

“For many Afghans the […] freewheeling style is an emblem of the improvements that have come with the end of the Taliban.”

New York Times

reviews

Waseem Mahmood, the youngest producer on BBC, has followed in his father's footsteps to become a journalist of reputation. In addition to his involvement in setting up various Asian media projects, Mahmood has most recently facilitated in areas that have needed help getting the media to impart information. Good Morning Afghanistan: The Crusade of Words Is based on the setup of the European Commission (EC) project, which Mahmood managed during the first year. Mahmood lived for three years in isolation from his family, friends, and colleagues. This book is a tribute to the individuals who later put their lives on hold to help rebuild a country which many hadn't heard of prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Good Morning Afghanistan only happened because several individuals from the EC in Brussels believed in the author's work and its concept. The time Mahmood spent working in Kabul on Good Morning Afghanistan remains the most rewarding of the author's career, spawning this inspiring story of the Afghans, a people who manage to smile through sufferings, wartime, tragedies, and losses. This is a story of the struggle and cruelty that afflicts the ordinary people of this land, but the ideals of hope and humankind's ceaseless quest for freedom shine through in the words of this book.  The author also provides an appendix of Afghan miscellany including vital statistics, ethnic groups, and housing-an invaluable resource for delving deeper into the tumultuous everyday lives of this amazingly resilient people. As this brilliant work states in a quotation by Margaret Mead, "Never doubt the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. That's about the only way it has ever happened in the past."

(Kaye Cloutman for San Francisco Book Review)

"This is a magnificent book documenting the building of Radio Kabul and how it has progressed economically. It is a land where women must become invisible, music is learned, films and televisions are burned, books are torched, the contents of museums are destroyed because they contain offensive remarks about God. Freedom comes in many forms - the most powerful is self-expression and by means of Good Morning Afghanistan, countless Afghan women and children teach one another how to be free. This radio program is filled with heartbreak and triumph, despair, tears and laughter, and, above all, endless hope."

(Claude Ury for Sacramento Book Review)

Waseem Mahmood has done a remarkable job considering this is his debut book. He has managed to create a wonderfully colourful and real picture of Afghanistan post 9/11. By reading the book one can relate to the Afghan people. You realise that people where ever, regardless of ethnic/religious heritage, are the same. We all have the same desires.This is a true story of a man who enters a country which has been torn apart by years of conflict. He embarks on a radio project which will help bring some normality to the Afghani people. We follow the problems he and his team face where danger can be just around the corner...

(5* review on Amazon)

I wasn't sure what I was getting into when I picked up this book. But after picking it up found it hard to put back down. Waseem Mahmood's account of setting up the first uncensored radio programme in Afghanistan after the liberation of Kabul and the defeat of the Taliban is a gripping and absorbing read. Written with a freshness not often found in these types of political/current affairs books/memoirs, Waseem recounts a story that demonstrates the real value that the media can bring to our world. The work he has done should not go unnoticed (well it seems he did get a notice from HRM in the way of an OBE) and the media around the world should take note of what was achieved with so few resources at their disposal.Good Morning Afghanistan is a great read and a compelling story which challenges the way we should look at the world.

(5* review on Amazon)

Good Morning Afghanistan follows Waseem Mahmood and his colleagues as they set up a public radio station in Afghanistan following the fall of the Taliban.I couldn't put this book down, it's well written, fast-paced, exciting, at times humorous and at others

(5* review on Amazon)

Could not put this book down. Waseem Mahmood colourful book following the events in Afghanistan is riveting and exciting. Written as a novel helps to really understand and get inside the minds of the people involved and makes it all the more real and all the more moving. A great book for anyone who doesn't mind giggles and tears!

(5* review on Amazon)

extras

Towards the end of Good Morning Afghanistan there is the story of a little girl called Shakeela, who bravely challenges then President Karzai as to why there are so few play areas for children in her country. It is a beautiful, touching and empowering moment. Since the book was written, Shakeela has learned English well enough to read GMA, and to write the following letter to the author:

Dear beloved kaka Waseem,

Thank you for your dedications to Afghanistan and our people. Thank you for giving us voice. We owe you a lot. I admire your sense of humanity, your tenderness and your feelings toward the wounded, weakened and despaired people. You are inspiring. I am very touched by the way you described me and the virtues of the stories and events in your book. I was very excited about the last part of your book and I finally had the pleasure to read it today. It helped me feel special about myself reading it in my downs. The attribution of your work is still serving the controversial Afghanistan to change for better.

Thank you.

Shakeela

...and Shakeela's story is one of the main points of the BBC feature on Waseem and Good Morning Afghanistan.

Watch it here:

 

The Good Morning Afghanistan interview

 

Waseem talks to BBC about his work in Afghanistan and beyond

 

Yeh Hum Naheen – (This is not us). The anti-terrorism song that has topped the charts in Pakistan (with Arabic subtitles)

 

ABOUT

Waseem Mahmood

Waseem Mahmood is a strategic communications expert having developed and managed several major projects specifically in Countering Violent Extremism and illegal migration. An award-winning broadcaster, he began his career at the BBC in the General Programmes Department, producing for both television and radio. He left the BBC to set up TV Asia, the first satellite subscription service for the British Asian community, where he was director of programmes. He has been instrumental in several and various strategic communication projects in Pakistan and Nigeria, most notably, the launch of a Hausa language TV station in Northern Nigeria. Stationed in Kano, he was responsible for setting up and running a US State Department funded free to air Hausa language satellite channel aimed at supporting the Counter Terrorism Bureau’s CVE agenda in Nigeria. As well as working very closely with NGOs and government bodies involved in CVE and interfaith relations, he also collaborated with bodies promoting education, girl’s rights, human rights, women’s empowerment and health issues.

Other highlights of his career include developing a comprehensive five year strategic communication strategy countering violent extremism in Pakistan. This included running a successful Pashto radio soap for young people, “Da Duniya Zamung Duniya” (Our World) on 4 FM Radio Stations in Peshawar/FATA and the “Yeh Hum Naheen” (This is not us), anti-terrorism foundation in Pakistan aimed at de-radicalising young Muslims. In 2008, developed and ran a major multimedia campaign which culminated with world record breaking 62.8 million Pakistanis signing a petition condemning terrorism. Other initiatives include a “We are the world” type song, PSAs on aircrafts flying to Pakistan, the production/distribution of video/audio vignettes featuring personal testimonies of survivors of terrorism from around the world, developing comprehensive social media strategy to engage potential Jihadist recruits and undertaking extensive outreach campaign visiting over a hundred colleges and universities in at risk areas.

Waseem was awarded an OBE in 2005 in Her Majesty’s New Year’s Honours List “for services to the reconstruction of Media in post war countries”, and received the KAPPA lifetime achievement award “for most outstanding contribution to media”.

selected works

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