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The Rugmaker of Mazar


									The Rugmaker of Mazar-E-Sharif

1 Singing in the Wilderness

Najaf Mazari is in the November section of the Woomera detention camp.
Remembers mother, older brother Abdul Ali, sister Latifeh. In the winter cold
surrounded by bars he sings a New Year Hazari song of hope. A shepherd’s song
although he is a rugmaker. He feels he makes a connection with the officials.

‘I think of the red flowers around the mosque at Mazar-e- Sharif. I think of how
they bloom each year, no matter how many rockets explode over them.’ p.6

Hope endures despite conflict.

2 Fire in the Night

Some history of conflict in Afghanistan. ‘Afghanistan has been a type of
explosion laboratory over the past three decades.’
Details of the move from the village of Shar Shar to town of Mazar-e-Sharif in
1980 after Najaf’s father’s death
Afghanis haven’t changed over hundreds of years – working on the land. People
can survive conflict.
The wisdom of Gorg Ali:
‘Anger is a hammer….It has only one task-to strike hard and strike again. And
your enemy’s anger is just he same.’…he could see how easily people argued
themselves into a situation that could only end with guns being loaded and
knives being drawn.’ p.11 – pointlessness of war
‘..feeling secure was never a long term thing..’ p.11

Bombing of his house in 1985. Younger brother Rosan Ali dies, as does brother
in law Hassan. Najaf felt sorrow for his mother losing another son after death of
Gorg Ali her eldest in the past.

Najaf feels sad at losing his younger brother – they had fought yet he loved him
and believed that he could have ‘become a brother I could be proud of.’ p.17
There can be constructive results of conflict.

3 Shoes

Life in the camp. Najaf only has one shoe. Powerless and separated from his
wife and baby he is sad. Conflict in the camp between different nationalities,
because people are bored and waiting and losing hope.

‘November is the Middle East crowded into a very small space. If they keep us
here long enough, there will probably be a war.’ p.25
‘The guards put you in another camp if you are violent …’ p.29 – the
pointlessness of violence and conflict.
‘…I’m not stupid enough to think that the only good people are Hazara….Even
though I know this, if somebody from another place said, ‘All Hazara are

donkeys!’ something inside me gets angry.’ p.29 . Reason can sometimes not
control violence.
‘If they get angry, they welcome it because at least they are feeling something.’
p.30. Conflict can sometimes feel necessary for people to feel alive.
‘Whenever people are impatient and will not wait, you can be sure there will be a
cost.’ p.32 Impatience – a cause of conflict.

4 Lambs and Wolves

Najaf’s father died when he was around 8 and possibly in 1979. Afghanistan has
been constantly invaded over thousands of years. Najaf says it cannot be
conquered because of many proud Afghanis who live to fight.
‘…I have seen men, Afghanis, who would be prepared if necessary to commit
themselves and a hundred generation of their family to battle, from now until the
end of the world. For such men, individual honour and the honour of their tribe
is so deeply rooted in their hearts that there is nothing on earth that they would
not do to preserve it.’ p. 36 For some people honour is more important than
peace – thereby engendering conflict.

Najaf’s childhood contained conflict – it was ‘a time of testing’ to ensure he
developed qualities of ‘fortitude, resourcefulness, loyalty and endurance.’ pages
36 and 37. Gorg Ali his older brother however is a man of peace. Perhaps the
experience of the tough conflict with his father tempered by the gentle approach
of his father helped him mature. Some conflict is needed to develop resilience
and identity and to cope with conflict in the future. But too much conflict can
destroy people.
Najaf’s teacher also tough ‘..boxing ears was his first duty and he never forgot it.’
p.40. The mullah at the mosque also tough – using fear of Hell to teach.

Najaf contrasts his childhood with the conflict free experience of his daughter in
school in 2006.

5 The Room of Questions

Najaf is questioned by Australian authorities about his town and family. He
becomes upset talking of his older brother.
‘Why should anyone wish to kill Gorg Ali? To make a good man, God has to use
all of his skill. Some of the goodness of God himself goes into such a man….I am
not God and I cannot forgive the man who killed my brother. It makes me weep..’
pp. 51 – 52. Conflict has far-reaching and profound effects – emotional, physical,
spiritual etc.

He welcomes the idea of Australia banning guns.

‘What can you make with a gun?....No. A gun has one purpose, and that purpose
will not build anything, but will only tear down what others have built.’ p.52

6 Kisses

Najaf tells of how the family was moved by Gorg Ali to Mazar-e-Sharif and how
they built their own home. He describes a wedding and a legendary story of a
dancer Kandhi Hazara who soldiers could not at first shoot – pages 62 – 65 –
showing how art and beauty can sometimes be stronger than violence and
conflict. Story of Najaf missing out on kissing the wedding dancer.

7 School

A feeling of being tested in Woomera – a type of conflict.
Najaf is co-operative and diplomatic. He understands how to avoid conflict and
create peace –he is given a leadership role in the new part of Woomera he goes
to – Mike. He gets Afghanis to serve food to Afghanis so conflict doesn’t result
because they suspect other countries of not being fair.

‘…I like peace. It is part of me, something that was inside of my brain and my
heart when my mother gave birth to me.’ p. 76 For Najaf at least conflict is

8 The King’s Son and the Canary Birds

We hear of the inner conflict Najaf feels when he hates being a Blacksmith’s
apprentice at Hallim’s shop and how he secretly goes to work for another Najaf
to make rugs. Najaf has inner hope and sense within himself of what he can and
can’t control in his life and this helps him be resourceful and find other work –
breaking some rules to do so.

‘ “Najaf,” I said, “God helps him who helps himself…’ p. 86

9 Main Camp

Najaf has graduated to Main Camp. The next place will either be Australia or
back to Afghanistan. He knows he will like Australia because they, like him don’t
like conflict ‘I can see that Australians don’t like people to be pushy, and I don’t
like it either, so we will suit each other, surely.’ p. 97

He dreams of a rug shop and a car with a picture of his wife and daughter in it –
Hakima and Maria.

The folk story of the camels is a great example of how to handle difficulty in
conflict. ‘”Come what may, we must climb those mountains. If you lament now,
what will be left when the real work begins?” ‘ p. 99

A man sews his mouth shut in Woomera in protest at his detention – a terrible
effect of his internal conflict at being denied freedom and sanctuary in Australia
and a form of conflict with the authorities. A cage of bird is freed which the

authorities say is criminal conduct – another protest and form of conflict as a
result of denial of freedoms.

10 Gorg Ali and the Watermelons

Gorg Ali is described.

‘ of those people who make the world possible….who holds things together.
Without people like Gorg Ali, we would be at each other’s throats all year long,
never knowing that anything else was possible….we would not understand that
bravery can be building and making and refusing to lift an axe over our enemies’
heads….he was free of much of the madness that drives other people to do bad
things, or things that are bad for the soul.’ pp. 105 – 106. He could defeat snakes
and heal those who had been bitten by snakes pages 107 – 108. Conflict can be
defeated by goodness and wisdom and the effects of conflict can be healed by
good people.

Gorg Ali is killed in Shar Shar in 1982. ‘The loss we felt was all the more dreadful
because we knew that a bad time was coming….we would be without the man
who had guided us through the awful times we had already endured.’ p. 115

There is discussion of how the balance of power works in Afghanistan and how
tribes conflict but in a way Afghanis can handle until the balance get skewed and
things get out of control – pages 115 – 117.

We learn of Najaf’s conflict with his brother. How he injured his arm trying to
get at his brother – risking his own livelihood as a rugmaker pages 118 – 119.
Demonstrates the stupidity of violent conflict – how conflict can often be self
defeating and destroy the aggressor too.

11 Love and Music

Najaf understands that conflict begins inside the individual
‘…in the human heart, such passions rage that the lightning and thunder and the
torrents of the storm would themselves stand back in awe. ‘ p. 120

Conflict with tradition. Abbas wants to marry the beautiful doctor, but she will
not defy tradition ‘She has two brothers in Sydney. It is they who will decide
whom she marries. ‘ p. 126 Najaf shows wisdom in deceiving his friend to help
the conflict within him – he tells the lady to continue to listen to Abbas’ music.

12 Two Red Pills

Najaf suffers conflict within his body as the wound in his leg from the explosion
that destroyed his home will not heal. After several operations and a year of the
wound failing to heal a taxi driver recommends a psychiatrist who gives him two
red pills that heal his leg.

13 Apple

‘..all the events that take place in the world outside Woomera happen here, too.’
p. 141

Leila is a widow ‘I can see in her eyes sometimes the wounds of widowhood. She
is lonely. She is unprotected. The husband she has lost she surely loved.’ p. 143 –

Leila wants to marry Najaf but he is already married and says,
‘” You force me to wound you. I hate to do so.”’ p. 145
His attempts to make things better by offering an apple and suggesting she
marry her cousin only make things worse for her.

Sometimes conflict can happen without either wanting it and sometimes there is
nothing that can be done to ease its effects.

14 Land of Armies

Najaf says of the conflict in Afghanistan, ‘It was a power struggle in which the
people in the struggle had forgotten everything about Afghanistan except their
desire to rule it.’ p. 150 A cause for conflict particularly unresolved conflict can
be a lust for power.

Najaf is scared of being recruited ‘It was the national sport of Afghanistan,
running away from the army.’ p. 152
‘It was worthwhile making a big effort to avoid being recruited into either army,
because once you were in, you were dead.’ p. a53.
Najaf realised war would solve nothing ‘”What you are doing can never return
this land to happiness, find some other job for yourselves.’ p. 154
Najaf even as a boy would think that all his joy at learning his craft was at the
mercy of forces outside his control and he would wish to live somewhere else. p.
154. Conflict can disempower people

15 The Other Side of the Fence

Najaf and his friend Nemat are told they have visas to stay and then there is a
mistake. Somehow Najaf keeps going – hope is strong in the midst of conflict
p.159. The visas do finally come.

16 Strawberries

‘…war had become normal in Afghanistan; it was peace that was strange.’ p. 163

To cope with this Afghanis have to pretend that life is normal and live as if war
may not destroy their lives.

Najaf copes with the uncertainty of war by dreaming of marriage and focusing on
the craft of rug making that he loves. At 21 he puts marriage out of his mind
after his mother says he cannot have the woman he likes.

‘Afghanis are the best in the world at close-range fighting, and because they are
the best, they keep doing it.’ p. 175. Some people are good at conflict and so keep
doing it because they enjoy it.

Najaf explains the history of the Taliban and their fervency, ‘They lived to fight
and they had no doubts at all about what they were doing. The mullahs had
taught them that God had no time for doubts.’ p. 175

The Hazara fight and defeat the Taliban in mid nineties making the Hazara all
enemies of the Taliban.

In 1997 aged 27 Najaf marries Hakima. Najaf is happy and feels that goodness
can exist within suffering. ‘It was necessary for me to …remember that life is
more and better than the dread it can cause you.’ p. 182.

17 The Miracle of the Wire Brush

Najaf moves to Dandenong and finds work in several rug shops in Prahran (after
kind explanations from a lady on a bus) and then in a carpet factory. He nearly
leaves the factory when he’s accused of being lazy but his boss persuades him to

People walk differently. ‘They are not looking about quickly in the way people
do in Mazar-e-Sharif. There is no danger in the air.’ p.184 The all pervasive
effects of conflict.

‘I complain to myself, of course, for complaining is one of the great consolations
for hardship provided by God.’ p. 187 One way of dealing with the effects of
conflict – complaint!

Najaf get two brushes for $5 after the shopkeeper reduces the price – conflict
and difficulty can bring out the best in some.
‘It is people like that man, and the lady on the bus….who make the world
possible…’ p. 189 (compare with p. 105.)

‘At times in my life, I have had nothing to my name but my pride. It is the last
thing I would ever give up.’ p.191 Inner strength and pride is what we need
sometimes to combat conflict and its effects. Sometimes conflict is what brings
out those qualities.

18 Massacre

1998 Mazar-e-Sharif is attacked and many Hazara massacred by the Taliban.
Najaf hides with his cousin in a secret room of a friend’s house for 15 days. He
goes home worried about his wife and is captured by the Taliban and taken to

The Taliban command post in Dasht-e-Shour. Najaf is kept in a room with 40
others. ‘…after a time, we did not look at each other, as difficult as that was.
People facing death are alone in the world, even when 40 of them are caged
together. You cannot look into another man’s eyes because you will embarrass
him by witnessing his fear, and he will embarrass you by witnessing your own.’
p. 200. He is repeatedly beaten with steel cables. ‘At first I prayed to God, but
only at first.’ p. 202 Many confess to a crime they haven’t committed but Najaf
does not and finally is freed.

See the fear and breakdown of community and trust that conflict and violence

19 Shop

Najaf gets a shop but then he is let down and has no stock. He prays. An Afghani
arrives and supplies him with rugs! He only has a temporary protection visa
and this makes him anxious. ‘…even in my happiness, I am anxious and
troubled.’ p. 206 He buys canaries and fish and sets them free to try to
compensate for his situation (‘I was full of fear for the visa fish’ p.207) – those
who have suffered conflict can develop empathy and act charitably. He gets help
with his business and gets an EFTPOS machine after wrangling with the bank.
He feels lonely but also grateful for the friends he does make.
‘If I had known that at the end of my journey, I would find such a friend as Robin,
I would have thought all the pain and fear was worthwhile for such a reward.’

20 Exile

Najaf tells the story of returning to Mazar-e-Sharif and then going on the run to
escape the Taliban and finally being sent by his family on the journey out of

Whilst on the run Najaf says he had no time to worry except about the next
minute but, ‘..I came to understand, this type of vigilance is wearing away
something inside, for the soul reaches a stage when it rebels and cries out to you,
‘Enough! You are a human being! I will not accept this life of an animal one day
longer!’ Fear and running from conflict is unnatural and dehumanising.

Najaf says he was chosen for practical reasons – level headed and lucky – to
rebuild the family with the hope of one day returning to Afghanistan. ‘…let one
male member of that tribe find safety in the world, and let him rebuild
everything from the start…’ p.221

‘To leave your native land is a terrible thing..’ p. 221. Conflict causes dislocation,

21 Home

Najaf is given permanent residency in Australia. His friend dies in a car crash.
He relies on Robin ‘ She has become a second mother in my life.’ p. 226

22 Journey

The story of Najaf’s escape – disguised as Taliban taken to Pakistan then flown to
Jakarta and then taken on a boat in terrible conditions that after a storm
becomes stranded on Ashmore Reef from where after more than 10 days they
are rescued by a boat.

Najaf reflects that it is more than just the boat that helps the refugees survive.
‘One thing was our longing for freedom, so powerful. But another thing was the
love of God. It was a force I could feel just as I felt he heat of the sun on my head
and my back. ‘ p.235 The human spirit and hope and sometimes faith helps
people survive conflict.

He witnesses a woman praying to God , ‘Allah the beloved, I have sinned in my
life but my child has not! Spare my child, I beg you!’ p. 236 A selfless love in the
midst of conflict.

23 Impossible Things

Najaf’s friend Colin takes him to the airport to meet Hakima and Maria. People
can survive conflict and know joy and build new strong lives. ‘I can think of
Maria studying her school lessons and growing wiser with each year. ‘ p. 247. He
takes time to thank God and remember all those not so lucky ‘ Not all of us were
able to survive the wars of Afghanistan. Let my good fortune do justice to them. ‘
p. 248


Najaf reflects that the Americans and other Western countries have a different
understanding of conflict than the Taliban, ‘They think ten years is a very long
time to be fighting. But the Taliban fighters think that ten years is nothing. Even
a hundred years is not a long time. The American soldiers have lives to return to
in America, just as the Australian soldiers have lives in Australia. But the Taliban
fighters have only their mission, which is victory.’ p. 251 He is now a citizen of
Australia and sad still for those without his luck but happy for his daughter.


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