Academic Festival begins with Kite Runner author

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/28674084[/vimeo]

Video by Mitch Watson
Article by Megan Bristow

With a formal greeting by Cameron University President Cindy Ross and  21-year-old Accounting senior Barkley Kirk, Dr. Khaled Hosseini took the CU theater stage at 7:30 p.m. on August 30, 2011, to kick-off Cameron’s 7th Academic Festival: “Afghanistan: Its Complexities and Relevance.”

Previous to taking the stage, Dr. Hosseini hosted a question-and-answer session with both students and faculty. A discussion with President Cindy Ross centered around his life, books and his native country as well as a formal question and answer session with the audience unfolded.

Having spent a large part of his life in his hometown of Kabul, Afghanistan and writing two books, “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” Dr. Hosseini was able to introduce participants to the heart of Afghanistan that may not always be seen on television coverage of the war there

He said that even though the country was very poor while he was growing up it was still a wonderful place to grow up.

“It was very peaceful and very beautiful. I am very conscious though of the fact that even then Afghanistan suffered extreme poverty,” he said.

By paying attention to Dr. Hosseini’s book, “The Kite Runner,” readers can gain a sense of life in Afghanistan and how that life changed as the country fell to the hands of

Al-Qaeda.

Personal experiences inspired his writings during this change from peaceful Afghanistan to war-stricken Afghanistan. Dr. Hosseini went to the same school, liked to write short stories, lived in the same neighborhood, and flew kites as the main character in the novel is known to do.

“There are bits and pieces of me all over the pages even though the order of events and the portrayal of the characters is all fiction,” he said.

According to Dr. Hosseini, much of the idyllic society that was once found in Afghanistan has been destroyed by years of war. During a visit to Kabul in 2003, Dr. Hosseini personally witnessed the devastation of the war. A second visit in 2007 displayed a dramatic improvement in the rebuilding of the city but recent years have reintroduced some of the damage by the reorganization of the Taliban.

Although some lasting changes have been made, Dr. Hosseini fears that many of the freedoms that Afghan citizens are beginning to enjoy will eventually evaporate. Dr. Hosseini stated that this would certainly be a great tragedy when reflecting on the heavy price that has been paid and the better quality of life that would be possible for them. These freedoms include freedom of press, more humane treatment of women and advancing technology such as social media.

Hosseini contradicted the view of Afghanistan that is so popular today by explaining that although the country was very poor, even then, it was still a wonderful place to grow up.

“It was very peaceful and very beautiful. I am very conscious though of the fact that even then Afghanistan suffered extreme poverty,” he said.

By paying attention to Hosseini’s book “The Kite Runner,” readers can gain a sense of life in Afghanistan and how that changed as the country fell to the hands of Al-Qaeda. Personal experiences inspired his writings during this change from peaceful Afghanistan to war-stricken Afghanistan. Hosseini went to the same school, liked to write short stories, lived in the same neighborhood, and flew kites like all the boys in Afghanistan and as the main character in the novel is known to do.

“There are bits and pieces of me all over the pages even though the order of events and the portrayal of the characters is all fiction,” Hosseini said.

According to Hosseini, much of the idyllic society that was once found in Afghanistan has been destroyed by years of war. During a visit to Kabul in 2003, Hosseini personally witnessed the devastation by the war. Although a second visit in 2007 displayed a dramatic improvement in the rebuilding of the city, recent years have reintroduced some of the damage by the reorganization of the Taliban. Although some lasting changes have been made, Hosseini fears that many of the freedoms that Afghan citizens are beginning to enjoy will eventually evaporate. Hosseini stated that this would certainly be a great tragedy when reflecting on the heavy price that has been paid and the better quality of life that would be possible for them. These freedoms include freedom of press, more humane treatment of women, and advancing technology such as social media.

Hosseini explained that much of the trouble in Afghanistan began when countries such as the Soviet Union began invading. A civil war eventually broke out leading to rule by members of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban leaving the country in turmoil. Members of the U.N. and the United States scrambled to help after the events of September 11. Although great strides have been made in the fight on terrorism, the country is still in need of rebuilding. However, according to Hosseini, Afghans do not want someone to rebuild for them. They want assistance, but no handouts. They are a proud, but grateful people. However, if they could get enough civic and economic space the Afghans would attempt to rebuild their country on their own. Hosseini said this in explanation of the resistance that the troops sometimes witness as they try to help.

Hosseini also pointed out some areas in which the Afghan people could improve and help rebuild their county. He used the city of Kabul as an example.

“The challenge is to modernize Kabul and engage the elderly and women in the areas that they are not valued. A key question is what will happen to women if the Taliban comes back,” Hosseini said. “A country that does not recognize the importance of women will never succeed.”

The treatment of women in Afghanistan was a large focus of his second book, “A Thousand Splendid Suns.” Through his books, Hosseini is able to target areas of social injustice and, in a sense, combat the issues by making people aware of them.

Hosseini engaged the audience and described to them vividly how life in Afghanistan used to be, what war has done to it, and how it is changing even now.

As seen in the audience of this discussion, many readers are anxiously awaiting the completion of Hosseini’s third book. Hosseini explained that he has been working on his third novel for a year and a half without giving much of a hint as to the developing plot.

“I am working on it, and it is coming along,” Hosseini said.

President Cindy Ross most likely summed up the sentiments of many of the viewers as she thanked Hosseini for his insight throughout the evening.

“You were the perfect choice to kick-off our academic festival,” President Cindy Ross said.

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