Monday, September 24, 2001

Remember 9-11-01

Raofa Ahrary, left, with a photo of her husband,
Fazil Ahmad Ahrary. With her is her daughter,
Ariya Ahrary.

Isle Afghans
back U.S. but fear
for homeland

Recent tragedies bring
back awful memories

By Rosemarie Bernardo

For Afghanistan native Raofa Ahrary, the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon brought back the terror of the country she fled 19 years ago.

"Here we go again," said Ahrary, a Manoa resident who escaped the turmoil of the Russian war in fear her sons would be forced into military service. Her daughter, Ariya, translated Ahrary's words.

Like Ahrary, Nuuanu resident Akram Khalil remembered the wreckage in their homeland caused by bombs. "Every single building has been hit and destroyed," said Khalil.

Since the Sept. 11 attack, members of Hawaii's small Afghan and Pakistani communities worry about people's lives that are in danger after President George W. Bush declared he would use any means to capture suspects including terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden, believed to be hidden by the Taliban government in Afghanistan, has been targeted as the prime suspect and mastermind of the terrorist attacks in the East Coast.

Afghanistan, a country no bigger than Texas, sustained more than 20 years of bloodshed when the Soviet Union invaded in 1979 and occupied the land. Ten years later, the Russians were forced out of Afghanistan by anti-communist mujahaddin (freedom fighters) groups who were supplied by countries such as the United States, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. But suffering continued when the Taliban movement took control in 1996.

"When are they going to get a rest?" asked Ariya Ahrary, who was 5 years old when she fled from Afghanistan. Now 26, she remembers the sounds of bombs, machine guns and teenagers taken by the communist Afghan regime to fight against the mujahaddin.

During the Russian war, Ariya said, her father, Fazal, a professor at Kabul University, went to work one day and never came home.

Thereafter, Raofa Ahrary sent her two sons to Germany. Raofa's two other sons accompanied their mother and sister while they secretly traveled at night through Iran and Pakistan on large buses and mules. In 1983 the Ahrary family reunited in Virginia. Eight years later, Raofa and two of her children moved to Hawaii.

Ariya continues to write to Amnesty International and the American Red Cross in search of her father.

The Pentagon recently sent combat aircraft to the Persian Gulf area. But Ariya believes the act is premature.

"I understand their anger. But they just want to show that we're going to kill them, even though innocent people will get killed," she said.

Shekaiba Saidy, 27, a psychology major at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, supports the United States in its effort to locate the suspects but agrees with Ahrary that it will be at the cost of many lives.

"It's not right," Saidy said.

Saidy, who escaped Afghanistan when she was 5 years old, empathizes with the Afghans but said, "There's nothing they can do."

Farid Safi, a driver for Charley's Taxi who left Central Asia in 1990, strongly supports the Pentagon's decision to retaliate against the terrorists.

"War is war. They started it; they should pay for it," he said.

Saleem Ahmed, who moved to Pakistan from India when he was 11 years old, said: "They (terrorists) have done a great disservice to Islam. I don't think they have any basis to call themselves Muslims."

Before the U.S. military plans their strike, Ahmed would like Bush to play an active role in the organization of Islamic countries to target the terrorists.

"We need to crush terrorism," he said.

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