Mimi and I saw “Rock the Kasbah” Sunday. I don’t cover entertainment much here, so I’m not going to write much about the movie itself. For that, I recommend David Corn’s excellent piece in Mother Jones.
The movie took me back, though, to one of the most meaningful experiences of my career. The Bill Murray character in the movie, Richie Lanz, discovers and provides an opportunity for an Afghan girl with an enchanting voice, Salima Khan, played by Leem Lubany.
As I watched Salima pursue opportunity, at risk of her own life, in an oppressive culture, I remembered the courageous Afghan women I was privileged to cover, and spent most of a month with, back in 2002, when they came to Nebraska for a teacher training program. The women taught surreptitiously when the Taliban prohibited schooling for girls. They learned more English than I learned Dari, but through interpreters and their ability to communicate passion and courage across the language barrier, they touched me as deeply as any sources I ever worked with. I think of them every time I read of a bombing at a school in Afghanistan, and hope they are all safe and continuing to teach.
My editors at the Omaha World-Herald rejected my many suggestions that they send me to Afghanistan to cover the many Omaha connections there. But the blown opportunity that bothers me most was my suggestion that I go to Afghanistan in 2003 or 2004 (I’m sure I suggested it both years) to find the teachers and report what and how they were doing. I’d love to know that they are not only alive but still teaching. And, if they are, I am sure they are inspiring a new generation of Afghan girls to pursue freedom and opportunity.
I’m sure as Mimi watched the movie’s depiction of the violence in Afghanistan, she was glad that I never got that assignment.
I was thinking of the Afghan assignment I did get. I was hoping the teachers I interviewed will be able to see “Rock the Kasbah.” I was hoping that Setara Hussainzada, the girl whose story inspired the movie, was taught, inspired and emboldened by one of those courageous teachers I covered more than a decade ago.