My Last Summer in Afghanistan

Kahel Kaschmiri

Ghazni, Afghanistan


…was hot; the rays of the sun burned so much
that I could barely work.
But is it possible not to work?
Not working means to go hungry and live on the street.
Where would my family and I have found shelter?
I sprinkled water on my face, put on a thin white shirt, and went to the bazaar to attend to the customers at the shop.

In Berlin, on the other hand, I didn’t even notice the summer. It was almost always cold. Only a few days were hot. And on those days, everyone walked in the streets naked. Or lay in the parks. Or went swimming. And I was astonished - how could it be that they nakedly walked in the streets or lay in the park and still found something to eat in the evening?

But the summer in Afghanistan was not just hot.
It hurt. There was the suffering of my mother. The poverty and desperation of my father. The hopelessness of my sister, forced to shield herself from greedy stares by covering herself from head to toe. In the end, she was married off, although she is younger than me. And now she already has a son. I ask myself, is that her son - or is it her doll?

During my last summer in Afghanistan, an armed motorcyclist shot a policeman on my way to work. He fled. The policeman had just been married. It was the beginning of his life. All he wanted was to do his job and earn money.
He died within a second.
By the time the police came, he had already parted from this world.

Do you want me to tell you more about my last summer in Afghanistan?

I loved riding my motorcycle, roaming around and speeding up.The air was blowing in my face and the sun was shining and I opened the throttle. I was only thinking of Ghazni’s beautiful nature as I accelerated.
Suddenly, a car overtook me. It was driving slowly. The driver gave me a sign. Stop!
I was afraid. I stepped on the gas and fled. I called my cousin: I shouted: “Open the gate, there are people following me. They want to kidnap me.”
It was the ones who are after pretty boys.
At incredible speed, I flew in his direction, towards his house. He opened the gate and I burst in. I took a deep breath and thanked God.

Do you want me to tell you more about my last summer in Afghanistan?

After a year away from home, I was relieved to finally have a place to stay, a room just for me. Four walls to myself, and a key for a door, which I could dispose of as I wished.
I sighed, opened the door, and fell asleep from exhaustion.
My eyes were not quite closed yet when a door opened and I felt the heavy presence of someone. I kept my eyes closed, the blanket over my face.
Suddenly I felt the heaviness of his body on my body, and I broke out in a sweat. I began to shiver.
I opened my mouth, but no sound came out.
I heard the being say: What are you doing here and why did you come here?
I began to scream so loudly that I woke up from the sound.

He was gone and I asked myself, who might it have been?


Brief portrait Kahel Kaschmiri

Michael Krasnov answered to this Text with »My last Summer in Berlin«.

Like An Arrow

Mahdi Hashemi

Ghazni, Afghanistan, raised in Iran


It took a month: the trip
That wasn’t a trip at all,
But rather a horror
Towards the land of hope.

Now I am waiting for a paper
That may contain bitterness and grief.
And I feel like an arrow.
Which should return
To its bow.

Brief portrait Mahdi Hashemi


Translation from German: Maxmarie Wilmoth


Samiullah Rasouli

Ghazni, Afghanistan


If you love me for my beauty,
Then love me not.
Love instead the sun and its rays.

If you love me for my youth,
Then love me not.
Fall in love instead with the spring,
For it comes again each year.

If you love me for my money,
Then love me not.
Love instead the Pari.*

If you love me because I am the right boy,
Then you should love me.
Love me as long,
As long as I can return your love.


Brief porträt Samiullah Rasouli

*mythological fish that carries rubies and emeralds in its mouth

Beginning of life

Mohamad Mashghdost

Bandar Anzali, Iran

The beginning of life was
That I did not exist.

There was a mother.
She was my God.

It was an unrequited love.
There was a father.
He was never there.

The body came to rest
But not the mind.
I was without solace.

The sister wanted to be a mother to me.
But she was tired.
I loved the mother.
She died.

I wanted to leave
And I stayed.
I wanted to stay
And I left.

Leaving was not important
And neither was staying.
I was important,
I, who did not exist.


Brief portrait Mohamad Mashghdost


Samiullah Rasouli

Ghazni, Afghanistan


When I say women, I mean real women,
Those with eyebrows, real noses, and shoulders.
Who belong only to themselves from the beginning,
Who are not selfish but proud of their gifts,
Who love themselves in their simplicity,
And want to be only themselves
And not resemble another.
These are the women I mean when I say women.

The light in her gaze is like the scent of Kobeko*
Her tender hand is incomparably precious.
Her wisdom shines forth from beneath her make-up.
She walks with beauty in public.
The watering mouths of the gawkers do not bother her.
The self-confident, strong woman pursues her gifts and talents.

Some women stay at home, they dissolve
And turn to water.
And the ones who go out turn to bread and food.
And when I say women, I mean these women.

*Perfume named “Mountain to Mountain”
Translation from German: Maxmarie Wilmoth
Samiullah Rasouli | Foto © Rottkay

Samiullah Rasouli (*1999)

Samiullah Rasouli grew up in Ghazni, Afghanistan. The region is highly contested today. His father died four years ago. Samiullah was on the run for four weeks. Now he has begun training as a trade merchant. His poems are about love and longing for his father. Photo © Rottkay


Mohamad Mashghdost

Bandar Anzali, Iran


I’ve left my home, my heart.
Now it is like sleep and dream
And burns in the depths of my body.
The weeping mother has sent me forth.

The troubles are over, I said.
I packed and went on my way.
Body and soul I left to the ocean,
God, I still exist, thank you.

May God curse the sea that devours bodies.
Prayer and love for my sister helped me arrive.
But my eyes have seen the colors of despair.


Brief portrait Mohamad Mashghdost

On security and the little freedoms in Germany

Shahzamir Hataki

Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan


Young women are allowed to have a boyfriend here
They can go out with them and do things together
Afghan girls can’t do that,
Except if they are old enough.

In that case, a husband is found
And there will be a wedding.
Until the wedding night, they will never see the husband.

Two cars had an accident in Berlin
Not even two minutes passed
And the police was there with blue lights flashing
In Afghanistan, the drivers would have gotten into a fight
And two hours later, the police would have shown up.
Although nothing happened, just a scratch.

People walk down the streets here in the evenings,
Not in Afghanistan. When a young Afghan leaves the house, he doesn’t know whether he will return. He says goodbye forever.
When a young Afghan leaves the house, he probably has money, he can be kidnapped. If he’s a bit prettier, they will do other things to him, or even blow him up with a bomb. It’s not like that in Europe.


Shahzamir Hataki


Samiullah Rasouli

Ghazni, Afghanistan


A hundred kisses I send to the dust
That your feet whirl up.
A hundred times melancholy you had to suffer to find bread.
If only I could become the calluses on your hand.

Not once did you complain, or say that you were tired
I bowed before your sacrifice.
Just like you circle the Kaaba,
I want to circle you.
But even that would not suffice,
To repay your hardship.


Samiullah Rasouli

Only You

Mahdi Hashemi

Ghazni, Afghanistan, raised in Iran


We now see times
In which you are there,
And only you.
You love and you are not loved.
You feel intimacy and nobody is there
To lean on.
You have everything, and yet you have nothing.
The wound hidden
Behind the veil of tears,
The secret remains unread.


more: Mahdi Hashemi

On Tehran

Yasser Niksada

Panshir, Afghanistan


I myself am only the story of a refugee in Iran.
I have burdened myself with the guilt of generations,
and am compelled to work it off.

Iranians, your lack of love is directed at me.
Because I am an Afghan.

Learn not to be tyrants,
to act not only as nationalists.
We have to know how to
view all people with one eye.

I taught myself not to let the injustices
that I experienced at your hands
seep into me as resentment,
so as not to become another tyrant.

Fate has not provided for all people to be happy.
As a refugee I became a character that you make fun of.

Would you like me to explain Iran to you in one sentence?
»For you, everything is forbidden!«


more: Yasser Niksada


Yasser Niksada

Panshir, Afghanistan


Compared to my pain, you are small.
You tell me I take everything away from you.
Perhaps I am bad.
Perhaps every breath I take annoys you.
I wish no evil to my worst enemy.
But be aware that you too
could possibly lose everything one day.

The dirt from the path of my escape still sticks to me.
But maybe I can save your life one day.
Maybe not.
It’s not your fault that I am alive
and eventually came here.
It’s a pity that my existence is inconvenient to you.
If I were in your position, perhaps I too would not want
to be friends with someone like me.
I sacrifice myself in order to make the world a better place
and you sacrifice yourself in order to destroy me.
A boy, fifteen years old, whose face is not yet lined
and whose hair is not white.
But whose heart has already been torn into a thousand pieces
by the egoism of his fellow men.
He has put everything behind him.
And now he will test your character.

My mother said:
When the people whom the world has disappointed lie sleepless, unprotected,
the man-eating wolves will awaken.


more: Yasser Niksada

The Only Son

Shahzamir Hataki

Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan


There were 65 people on the boat.
The smuggler gestured to a mountain,
There is Greece, he said.

The water fell around us like walls.
The motor stopped.
There were many kids on the boat.
It capsized.

I can’t swim.

I stayed under water for two minutes,
The red vest pulled me to the surface.
I was terribly afraid.

It was
Very cold.
Everybody screamed. Me too. There was a child in front of me.

I consoled him.
You don’t have to cry, but I knew better.

A mother sank before my eyes,
Her child in her arms.
Two hours, then the boat came to rescue us.
Twenty people survived.
All of the small children were dead.

One boy, he was my age,
Sat next to me in the rescue boat.
He screamed and screamed
»Mother, Mother!«
I asked him, why are you crying?

He said that his whole family, seven people,
Had died.
I wondered, who would have told my parents
If I had drowned in the sea?
I am the only son.

Doctors were waiting.
My legs couldn’t support me.
They recovered only eight of the dead.
We survivors went to the hospital.

Eight days and eight nights I slept,
And each day in the hospital passed before me like a year.

When I left Turkey I had 100 dollars.
They were lost in the water.

On the 20th day I called home.

My mother said, »Why didn’t you call?
I haven’t eaten in three days out of worry!«
I told her that I arrived safely,
But simply hadn’t had the money to call.

How could I tell her
that for 10 days, I could only drink hot chocolate,
because my body was so full of salt water?


more: Shahzamir Hataki


Samiullah Rasouli

Ghazni, Afghanistan


We sat on the flatbed of the truck,
In the desert of Nimruz, when we saw seven corpses.
Who had killed these poor people?
We got off to look at the dead.
The men were young, 20, 21 years old,
All dead, except for one.

He was still breathing.

The blood on his body had already dried.
We asked him, »what happened?«
He said, quietly, »thieves.«
They had been ambushed and robbed.
The dying man warned us: »robbers, robbers, take a different route.«
We fled and left him lying there.

Could I have done anything differently?


more: Samiullah Rasouli

Rules in the Institution

Mahdi Hashemi

Ghazni, Afghanistan


If you use the telephone,
I’ll take it away from you!

I want to go out!
You aren’t allowed out in the evening.

I want to watch a film!
Only until ten o’clock!

I don’t want to go to school tomorrow!
Then we’ll throw you out!

Can I sleep at a friend’s place tomorrow?
No, tomorrow you have to go to school!

Can I go back to Iran?
No, that’s not legal.

Can I die?
You’re crazy. No, you have no right to do that.

Can I live?
That’s a difficult question.


The Poetry Project | Foto © Rottkay

Mahdi Hashemi (*2000)

When he was an infant, his family fled from Afghanistan to Iran. There, he grew up as a refugee, close to the capital Tehran. Mahdi Hashemi writes about why Afghan refugees in Iran even apologise for breathing the air there. Photo © Rottkay


Rojin Namer 

Kamishli, Syria


How shall I describe Damascus?
How shall I describe paradise to those who do not know it?
Syria’s heart.
My soul.
Others’ hope.
That is Damascus.

Where there are wars.
Where bombs fall every day.
Where people are afraid.
That is Damascus.

What I dream of every day.
Where my roots are.
That is Damascus.

Where I ask the guilty one who is guilty.
Where no medicine stems the blood.
That is Damascus.

Where tourists went everywhere.
Where the streets are destroyed.
Where blood now flows.
My Damascus.

I miss your streets.
I miss your lights.
I miss your music,
which we hear every morning.
I miss your nights,
which are warm and full of life.
That is Damascus.

A city full of love.
A city full of blood.
turned into a battle.

Where people shed tears of disappointment.
Of fear.
Not of joy.
That is Damascus.

My Damascus.
I want you back.
Back to me.



The Poetry Project, Foto © Rottkay

Rojin Namer (*2002)

fled alone from Damascus three years ago. She originally comes from Kamishli, a Kurdish town. She came as an unaccompanied minor to Berlin, where she attended the Friedrich Ebert High School. Her parents, brothers and sisters are living in Iraq as refugees. Rojin is a successful participant in debating contests, loves photography and wants to study philosophy. Foto © Rottkay


Yasser Niksada

Panshir, Afghanistan, raised in Iran

Be next to me and see
What has happened to me.
It is over, the trace still in my heart.
No room for me to sleep on this bus.
Withered feet, the dream sunk into the eye.
The police said stop.
Go back, go back.
All then in the train car, just me alone on the tracks.
The rubber boat sank and my heart, hot for Europe, turned cold.
The world slept, only we were awake,
Hungry, thirsty, tired.
We left; it will be more difficult to return.
All this tearing oneself up for a little bit of rest.
Not my rest.
The rest of my family.


Translation from German: Maxmarie Wilmoth
Foto © Rottkay

Yasser Niksada (*2002)

Yasser Niksada comes from the Panshir valley in Afghanistan. Ten years ago, the Niksadas fled to Teheran, where the family live as refugees. But that's no life, says Yasser. That's why the family sent him on a journey to Europe. In Germany, Yasser misses his family. Photo © Rottkay

Without You

Shahzamir Hataki

Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan

Living my life here without you
Is difficult, father.
I am thirsty for your tears.
And to cry here among these people is difficult, father.
When you stride there and walk over thorns, father,
I feel the pain of your feet.
I wish to throw myself into your arms.
To kiss you from this distance is difficult, father.
I would tear my lips off to do it,
But to mourn without lips is difficult, father.

You are the most beautiful flower in a field of flowers.
You are the color of the sun, which bows at night.
You shine like the stars, my father,
And you are light as the moon.


Translation from German: Maxmarie Wilmoth
Foto © Rottkay

Shahzamir Hataki (*2000)

Shahzamir Hataki from Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, is his parents’ only son. They wanted to secure his survival and his future and therefore sent him away. On the passage to Greece, the boat sank and Shahzamir barely escaped death. Photo © Rottkay


Kahel Kaschmiri

Ghazni, Afghanistan

If only you were here,
I would kiss your feet.
I would bow before you
And kiss your face.

And everywhere you went and lingered,
I want to go and cry.

Translation from German: Maxmarie Wilmoth
Foro © Rottkay

Kahel Kaschmiri (*2000)

Kahel lived in Ghazni, Afghanistan. A Taliban commander was after him. Kahel fled his country, via Iran, in the trunk of a smuggler’s car. In Germany, he is confused by the lives of Europeans. Photo © Rottkay


Ghani Ataei

Herat, Afghanistan

They killed in the village before my eyes.
Four days I could not speak.
Four days I was mute.

Until I understood.
Nobody expects anything from anybody.
And anybody can do anything to anyone.

No matter how much older I grow,
How grown up I will be,
When I am uneasy and full of sorrow,
I will wish my mother by my side.
But I am hopeless
When it comes to the world.


Translation from German: Maxmarie Wilmoth
Foto © Rottkay

Ghani Ataei (*2000)

Ghani Ataei grew up in the old trading town of Herat, on the border with Iran. His father was killed during the war, his mother died in an accident. As an orphan, he went to Germany alone. Photo © Rottkay


Ali Ahmade

Bamyan, Afghanistan

Be calm, you say to me.
Reminding me that you are still there.
What will be tomorrow? I don’t know.
Forgive me, for I can not speak of tomorrow.
But today I am still here.

Translation from German: Maxmarie Wilmoth

Ali Ahmade (*2000)

The poem describes his thoughts about his mother before he gets on a boat in Turkey. He does not know whether he will survive the passage to Greece.

High and Madness

Shahzamir Hataki

Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan

Love is a high and madness
And strange to the world,
She sits there always, from dusk until dawn.
Love means a smile in eyes cried wet,
Love means to throw away one’s life.
Love means to shed tears.
Love means to be and thereby burn.
Love means to risk your life.

Did I not suffer this pain,
The expression of disappointment would not stay on my face.

If only the last page of love could be the message
That the rain will still stop.

Had I known that love does something like that,
I would have put love in chains.


Translation from German: Maxmarie Wilmoth
Foto © Rottkay

Shahzamir Hataki (*2000)

Shahzamir Hataki from Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, is his parents’ only son. They wanted to secure his survival and his future and therefore sent him away. On the passage to Greece, the boat sank and Shahzamir barely escaped death. Photo © Rottkay