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Khalid Nawisa: Dramatisk situasjon for afghanske forfattere

Situasjonen i Afghanistan er forverret etter Talibans maktovertakelse – ikke minst for forfattere. Den afghanske forfatteren Khalid Nawisa er nå bosatt i Norge og medlem i DnF. I en samtale med DnFs nettsted deler han sin bekymring for kollegene i hjemlandet. Han ber norske forfatterkolleger og myndigheter om å bidra med det de kan.

The interview is presented in English.

Av Tom Egeland

– Tell me about yourself and your authorship, Khalid Nawisa?

– I grew up in war. No matter which part of my life I choose to discuss, I will end up talking about bitter days and bitter times.  When I get asked about my birthdays, I tell everyone: I was 8 years old when the war started. Like some others in my generation, my childhood was at the times of military revolution in 1978, early adult life was around Mujahidin’s victory; in 1992 when Kabul was destroyed by them, we fled to Pakistan until the Taliban took over. My middle age life was timed with wars and the past 20 years of crisis. In general, war has been by my side along with its impacts. A massive part of these miseries has been echoed in my writings.

In 2011 until I moved to Norway, I was working with one or two local TV channels, press agencies, radio stations and few newspapers. My longest work engagement was with Radio Azadi, I was the manager of their education programs for 10 years. I studied International Relations. I published three story collections and one novel. I have some unpublished work too.

Some of my stories have been translated  to French, German, Dutch, Turkish and some other languages. A collection of my stories was translated to Norwegian in 2019 and published here.

– How is life as an Afghan author in Norway?

– For an author who starts his days with unfortunate news from his motherland, nothing is as difficult as writing. Our writings are being influenced by the current events. Even though I do live in Norway, I am fully aware of what happens in Afghanistan, therefore writing stories is, to me, documenting these misfortunes eternally. As an author I haven’t written much, but I always write pieces for the stories related to Afghanistan’s circumstances. When I hear about people’s sorrow and suffering, I think how these may take place in my stories someday. I am deeply concerned for those 35 million people who are caught up under the government who took over power by force. I am worried for those who do not have the chance and opportunity to leave Afghanistan; or at least have a job, rights and freedom there.

– How will you describe the situation for your Afghan colleagues?

– At times I put myself in the shoes of other Afghan authors who are trapped in Afghanistan living in horrifying conditions which they did not anticipate. Now, they have no idea what to do with their relics which understandably is not an easy thing to do.

Writing in Afghanistan is like walking on the edge of a sword. In Afghanistan writing has no reward nor any income. In every time and era the most sincere and honest writers have led unknown lives, died in difficultly or even faced being prisoner. Poets and artists are the most vulnerable, when it comes to social and political rapid changes, as they want to be the prime actors on such events. Opposite to a farmer, driver, industrial or civil employees, they do not respond to changes fast, that’s why their work and their lives are full of concerns and anxieties.

Les også intervjuet med Jawad Kawari:

–  Within Afghanistan’s recent events I believe that writers and artists are the ones who faced the fetal attacks, I am concerned about the disastrous situation for them there. I am always worried and mindful of their critical situations which is full of fear, suffocation, unemployment and poverty which makes it hard for anybody to be happy or satisfied with day to day life. Most Afghan writers fight for freedom of speech, democracy, social or individual freedom, but what they achieve in return is misery, misfortune and exile. The recent situation in Afghanistan caused a big number of writers and artists to flee to other countries. This is a huge tragedy as the country is losing its highly educated and elites to other countries but on the other hand these elites will face new challenges such as identity crisis, losing their social status, work, education and losing the principles and values which they fought for. The writers in Afghanistan are barely surviving. The ones I communicate with are desperate to leave the country, and this indicates how hard and unbearable the life has become for them. Most writers who were anti-Taliban have stood up to Taliban’s uptight values in the past. Obviously now they are fearful and worried about their own as well as their family life.

Also, we should be extremely concerned about Afghan women authors since they are not allowed into the education system and are banned from workforce.

Meanwhile it is very interesting and uplifting for them when I tell them about the lifestyle, security and legal rights of Norwegian writers.

– Are you in touch with Afghan authors in your home country, in other countries or in Norway?

– I am in contact with many Afghan writers in and out of Afghanistan either personally or on social media, and we discuss how can we preserve and save their achievements and what they worked so hard on for the past twenty years. At the moment the situation is unknown. Taliban’s first reaction is that they will not tolerate anti-Taliban writers.  The Taliban has no agenda or plan for art and culture or to publish any books in future. In general, the circumstances of cultural and literature is appalling at the moment. Their first reaction was to erase music from people’s life which is not a good sign.

Unfortunately, in Afghanistan art and literature have always been dominated by the political regimes and armed forces. Once the regime is overthrown, the literature goes down with it or it starts all over again. Now the literature also enters a new era and from being gentle and sophisticated it will take the road and direction of resistance and rebellious. The most important thing is the life of the writers itself. To the best of my knowledge there has been no significant publishing of any authors books except one or two. All their activities are limited to social media like Facebook or Twitter. Taliban has no plans for future of art and literature. They strongly believe that music is forbidden and illegal. Sculpting sculpture is against Islam. They have no interest in cinema, theatres or painting. With all above has being said poetry and literature will suffer.

In Norway, writing is considered a proper job, but in Afghanistan it’s not a source of living but only to live by.

– How can Norwegian fellow authors – and the Norwegian government – contribute?

–  Every now and then I am being contacted by fellow writers and journalists in Afghanistan. They seek my help and want to get out of the country. They tell me that their life is in danger, and they cannot write anymore. Many send their documents to me. They are practically in a very difficult situation. I am afraid I cannot help them and that is devastating for me; just like watching a person being drowned and you cannot lend a helping hand. I constantly think of my colleagues and their miserable condition. I think as a compatriot and being in the same profession as them and as a citizen of Norway, what can I do to help?

I urge the Norwegian Authors’ Society, Pen Associations and the government of Norway to assist and help Afghan writers in Afghanistan. To help those whose lives are in danger for a safe passage, and to assist and protect them in every possible way.

Authors and poets of Afghanistan are very committed people. Except for a few, none of them think of having luxury lives, big houses with loads of money or bodyguards. Most of them publish their books paying from their own pocket. The only thing they ever want is the basic human rights such as education, work, freedom and civil rights. Afghan women writers and artists require more support than anyone else. They are practically pushed aside by the new regime. Again, I urge the government of Norway to give a helping hand to the women writers and poets of Afghanistan. This may help them in some way!