Voices from Afghanistan: From Hearts to Vines
Roots of Peace has had the privileged opportunity to work with many unique and incredible people around the world. We are honored to have a different kind of veteran, an Afghan interpreter, bring his valuable experience to Roots of Peace to further our mission of removing landmines to provide economic empowerment for peace to those in need. Spoken from the front, this is the story of how Ahmad Siar came to bring his success story to Roots of Peace.
We were on patrol on the highway of southern Afghanistan in Zabul Province, an area that was awash with instability and insurgent activity. The patrol was led by the Afghan National Police (ANP) and supported by a U.S. Army National Guard unit. Our mission: mentor the Afghan National Police, provide security on the Kabul-Kandahar highway, and patrol in local villages to search for threats. That day we had already visited three villages where we interacted with the local population with the goal of winning their trust and bringing them on the side of the government in Kabul. We worked with the local population to protect them from insurgents and make sure the schools and infrastructure could continue to serve the local population.
As our convoy drove to the fourth village the vehicle I was in was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED), a deadly homemade landmine of sorts used by insurgents to attack coalition forces. I wasn’t a battle-hardened soldier; I was a young interpreter unaccustomed to the extreme danger and pain of combat. I was so distraught by the IED attack that as soon as we returned to base I decided to quit this job and head home. It wasn’t until I remembered the economic situation of my family, who relied on my income to survive, that I decided to stay the course. I had also heard on the news that the insurgents blew up a local school and tortured and mutilated the teacher. I realized then that I’m not here for myself; I am here to serve my country, my family, and the people of Afghanistan.
My name is Ahmad Siar, I served as an interpreter for the U.S. military in my home country of Afghanistan for five years. I was born in Kabul and grew up happily there with my family until the Civil War in 1991. We were forced to flee to Jalalabad Province, and in 1996 we fled once more to Pakistan because extremist ideology was being forcefully implemented throughout the country. My family and I made our way to Nasir Bagh, a refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan where we would be forced to endure poverty to the extent of not even being able to attend school for several years because we couldn’t afford the fees. My father eventually found ways of working much harder to bring in more income and he would say to my siblings and I “Dear kids, I might not be able to afford to buy you new clothes and new shoes for a while, but I will make sure I get the fees for your schools on time because I want you to grow up and be educated. We all have to deal with difficulties in life right now, but your education will change things for us in the future.” Nearly every rupee (Pakistani currency) my father made went to my education where I studied English and Computer Science. When I graduated from High School in 2007, we returned to Afghanistan where I intended find a job to support myself, and my family.
Before we headed home, I remember my father telling me, “Now we should go back to Afghanistan, you can get a job with the education you have, and make sure your brothers and sisters get higher education.” I didn’t quite think that being fluent in four languages would land me in a job where I would face IEDs, firefights, and assassins dispatched all the way from the tribal regions of Pakistan, to murder my colleagues and I, after my identity had been compromised. Regardless of the danger, wounds, and loss of friends I endured in my job as an interpreter for the U.S. Military, I always remembered the hardships of my family and I as refugees, and vowed to do whatever I could, so the next generation of young Afghans can grow up in peaceful and stable country. I also met my incredible wife in Afghanistan, an American soldier whom I would have to wait what seemed like an eternity to be with in America. Today I reside in Marin County, California with the woman I fell in love with and I’m grateful to be volunteering at Roots of Peace to continue helping the people of Afghanistan.