Alex Shams, Archives

Afghanistan: Touch Down in Flight + Dancing American Soldiers

Some years ago a cousin of mine went to Afghanistan for work. His company (a shoe manufacturer) was expanding its operations into a new mall being set up in Kabul and had asked him to head across the border for a week and help set up shop. On his return to Iran, he showed me a number of pictures he had taken of our neighbor state. Unfortunately for me, his pictures were mostly of the shoe shop in the mall (metallic looking in that typically Iranian architectural articulation of “modernity”), big dusty streets, and him posing with guns he had found in local markets (AK-47’s, not antiques). Disappointing, to say the least.

For a country so close to us and with such a long, shared history, it’s stunning how little most Iranians know of Afghanistan. The video below, “Afghanistan – touch down in flight,” offers an absolutely stunning view of a geography and a people even those of us who know it’s not all burqas-and-terrorists rarely think about. Solidarity isn’t just about political or economic cooperation; it must be based in a deeply rooted respect and understanding of our sisters and brothers wherever they may be.
One day, the occupations will end, the tyrants will flee and it will just be all of us living alongside each other. In that world, we will travel between Baku and Tabriz, Mashhad and Ashghabad, Esfahan and Samarqand, Tehran and Kabul, Herat and Dushanbe without the barriers of politics and economy and visa regimes that constrict us today. Videos like this are necessary preparation for that day.Look out for a few famous sights in the video- I noticed Babur’s Tomb and the Shah Do Shamshira mosque in Kabul.

And for a complete change of pace (since they’re not going anywhere anytime soon), check out this video of an American soldier dancing a pretty excellent Arabic/Persian combo dance- though she starts a booty shake and restrains herself! Otherwise, it’s a bit of her own stuff and some copying of the guy’s excellent footwork. Either way, pretty fascinating to imagine the kinds of cultural exchange occurring within the framework of an otherwise brutal military occupation.

About Alex Shams

Alex Shams is bacheye Los Angeles, a fact he has spent years trying to deny but eventually learned to embrace. Raised in the diaspora but with as many summers as possible spent in Tehran, he first became interested in regional politics after being chased out of a history class debate at his evangelical middle school during the Iraq War. After a few years dividing his time between Beirut, Istanbul and, most recently, Boston, he is now working in journalism and is based out of Palestine. His interests include feminism, urbanism and Islamism in Iran and the Arab World. Follow him on twitter: @SeyyedReza He is a co-editor of Ajam Media Collective, a blog focused on Iran, Central Asia, and Diaspora societies and cultures.


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