Afghanistan Homecoming

Ariana Delwari and her father chose to fight for peace in Afghanistan, with two very different weapons. Check out Ariana Delawari's film, We Came Home.

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GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:

Now our next partner in crime story - this is a family tale, but one member of this family, she didn't know whether she wanted to be part of the partnership.

ARIANA DELAWARI: When I was a little girl my grandmother, she would always tease me and ask me if I was an Afghan girl or an American girl. And I always said I was an American girl.

ANNA SUSSMAN, BYLINE: Ariana Delwari was named after a country she had never seen - Ariana is the ancient name for Afghanistan, but she grew up in California, 8,000 miles from Afghanistan. As a kid, she didn't know about the decades of wars that began the year she was born - the Soviet invasion and then the Taliban.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS REPORTS

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: This is one of the deadliest attacks of the war.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: Soviets dug in at the edge of the...

SUSSMAN: But her father, who grew up there, he was heartbroken watching his country fall apart from so far away.

NOORULLAH DELAWARI: My name is Noorullah Delawari, Ariana's father. As much as I enjoyed living in America, my concern and thought was for the people and my parents in Afghanistan.

SUSSMAN: Growing up, Ariana knew her father had a singular mission - bring peace back to Afghanistan.

ARIANA DELAWARI: So as a child, you know, my father's commitment to Afghanistan was, I mean, beyond. It was beyond 100 percent, it was his whole passion.

SUSSMAN: Ariana's father, Noor, is an international banker. And when she was going up, he organized Afghans across the world to lobby and protest and plead for peace.

NOORULLAH DELAWARI: They found it very hard to remain silent. Thousands of Soviet forces came to the country carpet bombing and killing a lot of children. So it was very hard for people like me to stay outside.

ARIANA DELAWARI: My dad was constantly going to Washington, D.C., meeting with congressman, you know, he would hold all of these peace protests.

SUSSMAN: Noor's wife says the mistress in their marriage was Afghanistan.

NOORULLAH DELAWARI: She usually stated that during those days of struggle because I was involved so much, I don't recall if any weekend I was free to spend time with our children, with the family.

ARIANA DELAWARI: I have to say I really didn't understand what he was working so hard toward because no one seemed to be paying attention. It seemed like, you know, this country that no one even knew where it was on a map.

SUSSMAN: Like other Americans, Ariana didn't get what her dad was so worried about in Afghanistan. She was more interested in art, theater and music. She started a band in LA.

ARIANA DELAWARI: I didn't really understand the magnitude of it until 9/11. So when 9/11 happened it was like everything changed. I just knew innately that we were going to be called on to be part of whatever it was going to take to create peace in the region.

SUSSMAN: Noor saw his opportunity to go back and help. So he and his wife sold the family house. They had a yard sale and gave away everything they owned and they moved to Kabul.

NOORULLAH DELAWARI: I was there for over 10 years, I was preaching peace and encouraging people to go back, particularly the educated ones. So when it came the opportunity to come back to Afghanistan - and I got involved in the rebuilding in the of the banking system.

SUSSMAN: Noor worked with the Ministry of Finance stabilizing the country's volatile economy. And with her parents in Kabul, Ariana went to visit the country she was named after for the first time.

ARIANA DELAWARI: And the second that I saw the mountains from the plane, I fell in love with Afghanistan, like, more deeply than I could ever have imagined. It became my muse, it became my passion.

SUSSMAN: She got there in 2002, just after the Taliban fell.

ARIANA DELAWARI: And the people were so full of hope. I mean, they were flying kites, men were able to shave their beards and go back to work. You know, people were allowed to play music again. There was just so much hope and I felt it. I really believed that that moment was this moment of peace in Afghanistan forever.

SUSSMAN: But the hope for peace was short-lived. Then the violence began to creep back in.

ARIANA DELAWARI: One of my mother's friends was killed at the Kabul Serena Hotel. There was even a bomb that went off close to my parents' house and it broke all the windows and took the doors off their hinges. There was a bombing close to my dad's work. I mean, like, these things just kept happening.

SUSSMAN: Peace was slipping away. Her mother moved back to California, it was just too dangerous. But her dad stayed. He had work to do and Ariana understood.

ARIANA DELAWARI: I felt a responsibility right away. You know, if I was a doctor at that point, I would have gone to help, you know, women deliver babies, but I am an artist and so I had to do what I could do. And I had been making music about my experiences in Afghanistan.

SUSSMAN: She wanted to make music and she saw a window of opportunity that was closing. The Taliban had banned music before, it could happen again. She tracked down old traditional Afghan musicians, men who'd actually had to bury their instruments during Taliban rule. She was determined to make an album with them. So she brought her American bandmates to Kobal despite the bombings and the violence. And they recorded an album together with three traditional Afghan musicians.

ARIANA DELAWARI: I wanted to do this to preserve their music.

SUSSMAN: And together they sing songs about the war, the rise of the Taliban and how difficult it is to build peace.

ARIANA DELAWARI: If the Taliban were to take over, music could be banned again.

(MUSIC)

SUSSMAN: Ariana's music has started to get attention in Afghanistan.

ARIANA DELAWARI: I'm becoming more so of a public figure in Afghanistan.

SUSSMAN: But recognition comes with a price.

ARIANA DELAWARI: There have been death threats against Afghan actresses. And Pakistan's famous singer, this woman was killed for being a singer. So there's definitely a strong stance against music. Sometimes it scares me a little, you know, sometimes I think about the danger of that.

SUSSMAN: But she kept singing, she kept making music. And then she was invited to sing at Afghanistan's first rock festival. She sang her songs for crowds of young Afghans, mostly men.

ARIANA DELAWARI: I wrote a song called "The East" about a young boy who becomes a member of the Taliban. He's a refugee and his mother is a widow. And he's offered money and boarding to become a member of the Taliban. And he looks back on his life as an adult and sees his own son and realizes he's been killing his own people. And at the end of the show, I had young men coming up to me on the verge of tears and saying I was a refugee, I had an experience like that, your song touched my heart. So I feel like it if it can do that there, you know, my hope is to be able to take that into the provinces and reach the hearts of young Afghans who may be more on the fence.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE EAST")

SUSSMAN: The provinces are where the real threat of Taliban controlled lives. They're dangerous for a musician and a woman. But it's also where her songs might do the most good. And like her father, Ariana feels a calling.

ARIANA DELAWARI: I think my dad - sometimes he says things like you can't go to the provinces and play shows, like, are you crazy, its Taliban-run, you know. But I think he understands I have to do it. He has the same cause and he cares about the same people for the same reason.

NOORULLAH DELAWARI: To be honest with you, I'm more worried about Ariana around here because she's a woman - art, and particularly music, they do not appreciate. But I don't discourage her because I do believe that her music and her songs and lyrics about peace and unity in Afghanistan are valuable.

ARIANA DELAWARI: My father and I are now kind of working together.

NOORULLAH DELAWARI: Banking and music are very different. Her contribution is more enjoyable, more - I wish I would've been an artist like her.

ARIANA DELAWARI: But the beautiful thing that's happening is together we're covering different bases.

NOORULLAH DELAWARI: We have serious challenges and problems. I have a legacy to follow, I think Ariana also will have the same - to follow a legacy of making contribution to where ever we live. I think that's wonderful.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE CAME HOME")

WASHINGTON: You can find out more about Ariana Delawari's story, along with her music, in a documentary she's made on our website snapjudgment.org. You're listening to SNAP JUDGMENT, the "Partner in Crime" Episode. And don't go anywhere because when we return, the uber-producer is going to take us for a ride in the way-back machine. Stay tuned.

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