Anna Badkhen's career as a foreign correspondent has taken her to war zones and conflict areas in Mali, Iraq, Chechnya and Russia. Her latest book, "The World is a Carpet," recounts her time in Oqa, a remote Afghan village.
She writes: "If one day Oqa were blown away, or a sandstorm buried it under a barchan, hardly anyone outside would know to notice."
And yet, when she wanted to tell the story of the inextricable link of Afghanistan's beauty and violence, she went to Oqa to watch the women weave.
"I want people who happen to own an Afghan carpet or who go in a dealership in New York, or Philadelphia, or San Francisco and examine and admire an Afghan carpet, I want them to remember that these were woven by hand in a village, that the entire village participated," Badkhen told NPR. "That this one carpet helps sustain the livelihoods of a lot of families, starting with the very poor weaver in Oqa to the slew of middlemen and traders who sell it each time at a markup larger than the previous markup."
More from Badkhen in Harper's Magazine:
My lodestar, my master narrative, is the friction between violence and beauty, between my hosts' heartrending candor and crushing disenfranchisement, between the ancient and the modern, between our penchant for bloodshed on the one hand and our inherent defiance of depravity on the other. The intricacies of life are shaped within such precarious balancing...
It was a distillation of everything that has gone wrong, is going wrong, with the West's war, but it was more than that: it was a village of survivors of millennia of war, which has been ravaging Afghanistan almost incessantly since the beginning of recorded history. It pierced me. I wanted to tell this story of human perseverance in the face of privation and mass violence.
LEARN MORE ABOUT "THE WORLD IS A CARPET":
• A Shameful Neglect
"Instead of fixing women's lives, our humanitarian aid subsidizes Afghanistan's kleptocrats, erects miniature Versailles in Kabul and Dubai for the families of the elite, and buys the loyalty of sectarian warlords-turned-politicians, some of whom are implicated in sectarian war crimes that include rape. Yet, for the most part, the U.S. taxpayers look the other way as the country's amoral government steals or hands out as political kickbacks the money that was meant to help Afghan women — all in the name of containing what we consider the greater evil, the Taliban insurgency." (Foreign Policy)
• Read an excerpt (NPR)