Thursday, September 26, 2013


© elissa bogos
"The photo of the woman with the white scarf is a special one to me. She worked in a small bakery in a remote part of Afghanistan, making cookies. The bakery was supported by an NGO, who I was on assignment with, and I took this photo of her inside. I'm not sure what has happened to the bakery, and I wish I knew her name. I didn't quite realize how beautiful she was until I saw the photo." 

Elissa Bogos is an American who has been living in Kabul for the last six years and, along with Gulistan Mirzaei, a native of Afghanistan, taking photographs and making documentaries.

From their website:

"Elissa Bogos and Gulistan Mirzaei are documentary filmmakers based in Kabul, Afghanistan. Their documentary, Stranded in Kabul, premiered on Al Jazeera in July, 2013.

Gulistan was born in Afghanistan and worked for 10 years at the country's only independent newspaper, Kabul Weekly. Elissa has been living in Kabul since 2007, and was previously a stringer for Agence France-Presse (AFP) television in Kabul, where she shot, edited and narrated news reports. She is also a photographer, and her images have been published internationally."

Don't miss the short "The Last Jew."

Interview with Elissa Burgos and pix of Afghanistan.

VJ Movement (for objective, behind-the-scenes journalism).

Click here for the trailer for "Stranded in Kabul"

"Promo for our film, Stranded in Kabul, which aired on Al Jazeera in July 2013.

Despite the billions of dollars being poured into Afghanistan to rebuild the country and boost its economy, more than 30,000 Afghans applied for political asylum worldwide last year.

Zekria is willing to pay $25,000 to an agent to make a visa application to a European country on his behalf.

If this visa is not granted, he will be stranded in Kabul facing the likely option to escape through people smuggling networks. At only 27 years of age he works for an international agency and is the sole supporter of his family of 16.

Fearing what will happen when the foreign forces withdraw, he secretly plans his own escape from Afghanistan."


I asked Elissa for reading/film suggestions to broaden my knowledge of Afghantistan. She responded:

'I'd recommend Rory Stewart's "The Places in Between" about his travels walking across the country after the fall of the Taliban; "The Sewing Circles of Herat" by Christina Lamb, about her time as a young journalist during the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan; "An Unexpected Light" by Jason Eliot. Have you read "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini or seen the film? I thought the film was really well done, and for being filmed in China (I think?) it looked a lot like Kabul! Also, "The Boy Mir" by Phil Grabsky is a documentary following a young Afghan boy and his family over 10 years; "Hell and Back Again" by Danfung Dennis about a US marine sergeant who returns from Afghanistan with PTSD, to name a few. [Both documentaries are available on netflix]."


  1. That statement about not being converted by ideology or philosophy is fascinating to me in part because we are such two-part creatures, having emotions and feelings as well as our brain and reason. We are neither Spock, nor anti-Spock. Some look at the glory of the human being is our rationalism, that which separates him from the animals. But the appeal to logic and reason isn't how most people go - John Henry Newman said most people go by their sympathies, not argument. In an article in Portsmouth Review we see Newman was no cold fish though: "Newman anticipates some of [the modern] reserve about scholastic philosophical theology when he says of the traditional demonstrations for the existence of God that they 'do not warm me and enlighten me; they do not take away the winter of my desolation, or make the buds unfold and the leaves grow within me, and my moral being rejoice.' For all of his zeal for doctrinal truth, Newman was a great friend of religious experience."

    One could say that Jesus never really answered too many of the difficult questions, such as why there is suffering, but instead appealed to our hearts via his own suffering. But the fact that he doesn't appear to us individually, via our own apparitions, suggests that maybe he wants us to use our reason as well.

  2. Oh absolutely, TS--it's not heart VERSUS intellect, good God no. It's the experience of Christ, which illuminates both our heart and our intellect, and puts them at the service of each other to do the highest work on earth: to minister to the least of these; to love one another as he loved us...

  3. "A man will not roll in the snow for a stream of tendency by which all things fulfill the law of their being. He will not go without food in the name of something, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness. He will do things like this, or pretty like this, under quite a different impulse. He will do these things when he is in love. The first fact to realise about St. Francis is involved with the first fact with which his story starts; that when he said from the first that he was a Troubadour, and said later that he was a Troubadour of a newer and nobler romance, he was not using a mere metaphor, but understood himself much better than the scholars understand him. He was, to the last agonies of asceticism, a Troubadour. He was a Lover. He was a lover of God and he was really and truly a lover of men; possibly a much rarer mystical vocation. A lover of men is very nearly the opposite of a philanthropist; indeed the pedantry of the Greek word carries something like a satire on itself. A philanthropist may be said to love anthropoids. But as Saint Francis did not love humanity but men, so he did not love Christianity but Christ. Say, if you think so, that he was a lunatic loving an imaginary person; but an imaginary person, not an imaginary idea. And for the modern reader the clue to the asceticism and all the rest can be found in the stories of lovers when they seemed to be rather like lunatics. Tell it as the tale of one of the Troubadours, and the wild things he would do for his lady, and the whole of the modern puzzle disappears."
    --G. K. Chesterton, St. Francis of Assisi

  4. Oh, wow, what a quote. Yes, not head VERSUS heart too, which is too often how I see things.

  5. I recommend Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia for a reminder of what life will be like in Afghanistan if the Taliban gain control of the country again.

    Good luck to that young man trying to get out of there.

    We should all pray for the poor suffering people of that country.


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