Mohammad Kharoti had just a moment. He was kindly dropping off a gift copy of “Stealing the Light.” It’s a documentary on his life growing up in a nomadic caravan, entering school at age 12, becoming a surgeon and then building a school in the roughest area in Afghanistan, the Helmand Province. Would he be amenable to a short interview?
Dr. Kharoti had participated with Capt. Lyle Gilbert, a US Marines public affairs spokesperson, in a political forum on the war in Afghanistan the previous week at the school where I work in Washington state.
Their presentations, politely not always in agreement, were intelligent, respectful and packed with revelations. While Capt. Gilbert explained the restrictive tactics of the Taliban, who have been regarded as our enemy, Dr. Kharoti divulged that the Taliban had in fact supported him in building the school featured in his film and even supported the education of girls in Helmand Province.
Helmand, the bread basket of Afghanistan and original home of the Taliban, is renowned as a narcotics production center and the deadliest province in Afghanistan. Copper wires booby-trap dirt roads and posted warnings read, “Do not help the Americans or you will die.”
This is the turbulent neighborhood featured in the Academy Award doc, “Restrepo,” filmed by Sebastan Yunger and the late Tim Hetherington and the location of Kharoti’s doomed school in “Stealing the Light.”
Without prior contact with Dr. Kharoti, a hopeful student film crew prepared the conference room and Melani Ortiz, Model UN member, practiced her cue cards. Even though he had spoken the previous day at the forum, there were just a few important questions students still wanted answered.
On schedule, Dr. Kharoti arrived with a copy of “Stealing the Light.” Luckily, he had time and consented to the interview.
Melani Ortiz interviews Dr. Mohammad Khan Kharoti
Asked why he wanted Mrs. Clinton see “Stealing the Light,” Kharoti responded, “I think she is one of the most important persons in this country to raise rights about education in Afghanistan — especially for women.” His hope is that Mrs. Clinton might also support educational funding in Afghanistan as a way “… to get rid of inequalities, smuggling, drugs, illiteracy …” and help establish and respect the rights of both women and men.
Melani’s last questions ask Dr. Kharoti to explain what his foundation, Green Village Schools (GVS), is all about and what is being done now to further its efforts. In prior conversation, Dr. Kharoti had indicated that he was returning to Afghanistan on June 14. In the interview, he explains to Melani that GVS is working on establishing an advanced education center (high school) with language and computer literacy as an integral part of its curriculum. He will be there for the next few months as project manager.
Kharoti’s message is that what “is needed in Afghanistan is education. That is the key to the society — to bring people together to sit in a classroom learning principles of humanity — how we can work together.”
Dr. Karoti’s mission and vision are reminiscent of Mahatma Gandhi whose country also endured foreign presence. Expanded women’s rights and increased economic self-reliance were Gandhi’s tenets as are Kharoti’s. However, the first step Kharoti encourages is education for women, who will affect a family and in turn affect a village and the development of his country.
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