A Walk Across Afghanistan
Harvard’s Rory Stewart on his 6,000-mile trek through South Asia
The images commonly associated withAfghanistan “show a stark, brutalized landscape — photographs that make you think in terms of violence and ofvictims," Rory Stewart, director of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, told a BU audience recently. Basically, he said, Afghanistan is seen as a country lacking aninfrastructure and filled with drugs, violence, poverty, andinternational consultants — and it’s true that 70 percent of the populationcannot read or write, there are insufficient roads, and the countryproduces 93 percent of the world’s heroin, but still receives $5billion in international aid.
In 2002, following the collapse of Taliban rule, Stewart set out on foot to see another side of the country. He eventually covered 6,000 miles across Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Afghanistan. Stewart, the founder and chief executive of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving Afghan communities, has shared the story of his walk across Afghanistan in his New York Times best-selling memoir, The Places in Between.
Stewart found that there’s another, often not shown, side to the country. Afghans seekjobs and skills and have a renewed pride in their national culture. Theinternational community needs a highly visible, permanent symbol in thecenter of Kabul, Stewart said, which is where the Turquoise Mountain Foundation comes in.
The foundation is dedicated to serving Afghan communities by investingin the regeneration of the historic commercial center of Kabul,providing basic services, saving historic buildings, and constructing anew bazaar and galleries for traditional craft businesses. One of thefoundation’s projects was building a school that now educates more than165 children. The program has been successful, Stewart said, becausethe community wants it.
Stewart spoke about his journey, his book, and the foundation at the Castle on January 29, sponsored by the College of Arts & Sciences Core Current Affairs Association.
Click here to watch Rory Stewart on BUniverse.