Author Tries To Help Afghanistan Turn The Page
MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:
He's a goodwill envoy for the U.N. high commissioner for refugees and he's back in Afghanistan this week checking on progress there. He joins us now from the BBC studio in Kabul. Khaled Hosseini, welcome to the program.
KHALED HOSSEINI: Thank you very much.
LOUISE KELLY: I understand you've been there this week visiting shelter projects up north of Kabul in the Shomali Plain. Tell us a little bit about what you were able to see, what they look like.
HOSSEINI: So they also allow people to have - you know, there's a saying in Afghanistan that go hungry if you must but may you never go homeless. And that's why I've decided to focus on the issue of shelter.
LOUISE KELLY: I know you've been going there the past few years and trying to help move along this process. Are you able to see progress? Are you able to see that things look different, better than they did a couple of years ago?
HOSSEINI: And to me, that is such a symbol of the resilience of these people. And it would be such a tragedy if we abandon this country and don't continue this commitment to the Afghan people.
LOUISE KELLY: I know that there was a large number of refugees who returned right after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. Since then the numbers have slowed. But this year the rate of refugees returning to Afghanistan has gone up dramatically again. Tell us why. What's going on?
HOSSEINI: As you know, the government of Pakistan has made it clear that they want all the Afghans to return to Afghanistan. And some people have been - either become displaced inside Pakistan because of floods or they've returned to Afghanistan. So we're seeing a greater number of Afghans returning from Pakistan because - primarily because of decreasing security and economic opportunity inside of Pakistan.
LOUISE KELLY: When you go back today, in 2010, do you - are you still able to see glimpses of that, of the country, I guess, you remember from your childhood there?
HOSSEINI: Yeah. Afghanistan is gorgeous country. I was very fortunate to take a trip in 2007 from Kabul through the Salang Pass to northern Afghanistan, and I was struck all over again by just the natural beauty of the country. And I remember thinking, you know, I wish more people could see this and see what a beautiful country it is.
LOUISE KELLY: It just sounds like you still have hope that this country will find a path forward through all of the chaos it's endured.
HOSSEINI: Well, there's a lot of negative commentary about Afghanistan already, you know, and I don't feel the need to add my voice to that. I'm not naÃÂ¯ve. There is quite a bit to be pessimistic about. But I want to reflect the hopes and the dreams of the ordinary Afghan people, who despite everything are remarkably resilient and highly hopeful about their future.
LOUISE KELLY: That's the writer Khaled Hosseini, speaking with us from Kabul. He's visiting as a good will envoy for the United States high commissioner for refugees. Thank you very much.
HOSSEINI: Thank you for having me.
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