Zaher Wahab has been living a double life for nearly a decade now. Since 2002, when the U.S. toppled the Taliban in Afghanistan, the long-time Lewis and Clark professor has been spending four months each year in his native country. He spent the first few years as a special adviser — or “handyman,” as he puts it — to the minister of education. For the last few years he’s helped develop a curriculum and program to teach Afghans how to teach. Zaher paints the issues facing his native country in stark language — its education system is still in the “middle ages,” he argues — but he’s hopeful that there is a way forward for a more peaceful, more equitable, more tolerant Afghanistan. (The first step, he says: the U.S. has to leave.)
Zaher’s younger brother Amin works for the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services. He, too, has been back to Afghanistan, most recently for a month-long trip in July. Amin basically gave himself a civil engineer’s tour: he drove around for weeks, checking out Kabul’s electrical grid and water systems, air quality and road conditions. He saw a city and a country in dire need of infrastructure investments, but he also saw an opportunity; rich or poor, he says, and regardless of language or tribe, everyone can agree on the importance of clean air and water.
Zaher and Amin joined us back in December when we last talked about Afghanistan, but now we’ll have them both for an hour.
What questions do you have for these brothers who have their feet in two worlds? What do you want to know about what they’ve seen and heard?
Do have similar experiences? What is it like for your adoptive country to be at war in your country of origin?