Afghan Engineer Has Kalashnikov, Will Invent Afghanistan has a real-life version of Doc Brown, the kinetically hyperactive and clever inventor in the Back to the Future movies. Supporters say his gizmos — such as burglar and car alarms — could help fight crime in Afghanistan.
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Afghan Engineer Has Kalashnikov, Will Invent

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Afghan Engineer Has Kalashnikov, Will Invent

Afghan Engineer Has Kalashnikov, Will Invent

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now let's go next to one of the world's most lawless nations, which has a man who wants to change that. He's a real life version of Doc Brown; the hyperactive but clever inventor in the "Back to the Future" movies. Like his fictitious counterpart, the Afghan inventor is not widely lauded for his creations, but his supporters believe his inventions could help fight crime.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson visited him at a one-room home that doubles as his workshop.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: With its urgent ticking, the homemade burglar alarm in the wooden box almost seems eager for someone to try and break in to Hanif Molavizadeh's house. A simple wave of the hand outside the window triggers the motion detectors and sets off a song-like warning.

(Soundbite of Automated Voice)

NELSON: An automated voice warns there is an intruder.

(Soundbite of Cell Phone Ring)

NELSON: The contraption then calls the inventor's cell phone. It's an automated warning he says he can get up to four miles away.

(Soundbite of Hanif Molavizadeh speaking foreign language)

NELSON: He shouts, hello, who are you, into his phone, which is transmitted and then broadcast through the alarm box. Molavizadeh says if that's not enough to stop a would-be burglar, then remote firing the Kalashnikov attached to the wooden box should do the trick.

(Soundbite of Kalashnikov Firing)

NELSON: But sometimes inventors, including this Afghan one, have to work the kinks out of their creations. There's a hole in the window, why did it - what happened? How did it go off?

(Soundbite of Hanif Molavizadeh speaking foreign language)

NELSON: The 60-year-old inventor says that last month he forgot to unload the gun while testing the alarm. A bullet broke the window and ricocheted off the neighbor's wall. His neighbor, a police officer, wasn't amused. But another neighbor and friend, Afghan lawmaker Aref Nourzai was so impressed with the device that he had the inventor make one for his home, without the Kalashnikov, that is.

Mr. AREF NOURZAI (Lawmaker): (Through Translator) I'm going to give him a workshop, provide him with materials. We've got a lot of undiscovered talented people like him and if they see this guy being supported and motivated, maybe they'll step forward.

NELSON: A homemade burglar alarm may not be very exciting to American home owners with their pick of alarm companies, but in Afghanistan where there aren't any alarm companies, nor a responsive police force, the armed talking red box could well become a blockbuster.

Molavizadeh is an unemployed electrical engineer bursting with nervous energy. He also has invented a car alarm. He says it sends out what he describes as a painful but non-lethal electric shock. Don't heed the automated warning and the owner can, by pressing a button on his cell phone, punish a would-be thief with a jolt.

The car alarm was requisitioned by the local police. The inventor says he delivered it to them four months ago, but a police official tells NPR it still hasn't been tested. Molavizadeh is not surprised. He says Afghan authorities don't take him seriously.

Mr. HANIF MOLAVIZADEH (Inventor): (Through Translator) If they gave the official permission to build these things and funded it, I'd be able to do so much.

NELSON: Lawmaker Nourzai says it's a shame that the government isn't paying more attention to the inventor, who has been featured on local television and in Afghan newspapers. He likens him to Afghanistan's untapped mineral wealth, which the government has done little to exploit.

Mr. NOURZAI: (Through Translator) If nobody extracts them, nobody makes use of them, we won't progress.

NELSON: Nourzai said he'll keep funding the inventor as best as he can, giving him 200 dollars or so a month to keep him afloat.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Kabul.

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