Kabul Diaries: at the ministry of interior


by Princess

All foreigners who enter Afghanistan have to register with the Interior Ministry within 48 hours of their arrival, or so I was told. Because of the attacks to the UN-guesthouse on the second day of my arrival and the unpredictability of the security situation, I failed to meet the 48-hour deadline, but in the end it proved to be rather flexible.

My departure time was fast approaching and I worried that my failure to produce the proper paperwork at the airport might cause me unnecessary delays. So finally three days before I was scheduled to leave, one morning at 8:30 AM, I arranged to go and register. Sami, a local colleague responsible for helping us with the registration, was to accompany me.

Fortunately, we did not have to drive all the way downtown to the main offices, as there was a local branch not too far from the Qala. We arrived at the main entrance where two security personnel were holding guard. One of them started asking Sami some questions as he searched him. Sami pointed to a small cabin inside the courtyard and said, ‘That’s for the ladies.’ When I entered through a hung curtain in the doorframe, two women greeted me. They looked extremely bored. One of them asked me about the purpose of my visit. While checking inside my bag, the other one asked if I was Iranian. When I said yes, she said, ‘Are you here for work?’ Again I said, ‘yes’. ‘Are you a translator?’ she wanted to know. ‘No, I am an architect’, I replied. ‘Oh, an engineer! You have people working under you?’ I smiled as if I didn’t understand the question. Realising that the smile was going to be my only response she finally wished me luck and pointed to the door. I thanked her and wished her a good day as I walked out.

Sami was already waiting for me outside. He directed me to a small office to the side of the courtyard. Two over-sized desks and a couple of chairs over crammed the small space, leaving very little room for movement. A bearded middle-aged man was sitting behind one of the desks, preoccupied with some papers. Sami approached him and asked for an ID registration form. We both sat down on the two chairs as I filled out the form using my passport. Once completed, Sami took the form and my passport and handed them to the clerk who started filling out a small card with my details. He then gave Sami the card and told him to go and have it stamped. I was to wait there.

Shortly after Sami left another clerk walked in. Although he was clearly dressed as a man – a brown shalwar kameez with a black jacket and a brown Karakul on his head - I had great difficulty determining whether he was a man or a woman. His face displayed no trace of facial hair and he had drawn kohl around his eyes. He was short and bulky. He said Salaam as he entered the office and took his seat behind the empty desk. His effeminate looks were matched with a soft voice.

We sat in silence for a few minutes, but I could feel their gaze on me. I kept staring at a point on the ground, feeling awkward and hoping Sami would be back soon. The bearded clerk broke the silence, ‘Irani hasteed?’ (Are you Iranian?). I looked up. He was holding the form I had filled out together with my passport. ‘Yes’, I replied. He continued, ‘But you have a German passport?’ ‘Yes’. I said again. Undiscouraged by my monosyllabic responses he asked, ‘How long have you been living in Germany?’ When I gave him the answer, he said, ‘Oh, so not that long then! I thought your family moved there at least 150 years ago.’ His colleague roared with laugher and said, ‘Does she look that old to you?’ I casually added, ‘I probably wouldn’t be speaking Farsi to you now, if my family had moved there 150 years ago.’ Undeterred he continued with his interrogation, asking me where my family lived, what I did for a living, whether I was married, where I had got my degree… He was going through my passport and asking me questions about all the places I had been living, working, studying. I replied to his questions politely trying to divulge as little information as possible. I found the questions intrusive and couldn’t figure out if he was just being curious or if it was part of the process.

Meanwhile, the other clerk was becoming more interested in the conversation. When he heard that I had studied in the States, he leaned forward and said, ‘So you live in America?’ ‘No, I don’t’ I replied. Determined to get an answer he pressed on, ‘Where do you live then?’ . ‘In London.’ I said finally. He leaned back in his chair, narrowed his eyes and said, ‘So you have travelled a lot.’ ‘Yes, I am a mohajer (an immigrant),’ I said. ‘No!’ he quickly retorted, ‘An immigrant immigrates out of necessity, you did it by choice.’ He finished quite pleased with himself. I was not going to go into the details as to why I had moved around so much. By now I had grown a bit irritated by all the questioning, I decided not to say anything. Sitting there in silence, I began to think how often we see things we want to see; how often we just assume we know what other people are all about judging them based on how we perceive them rather than on who and how they really are.

My thoughts were interrupted again. ‘So, you abandoned Iran, you abandoned Germany, you abandoned America, an now you are thinking of abandoning England. Tell me one thing, after seeing much of the world, what have you learned?’ now the clerk with the long beard wanted to know. His colleague sat up in his chair and stared at me. I had definitely not expected this question coming. I hesitated for a few seconds to think before I said, ‘Just a couple of things really. I have learned that fundamentally human beings are the same everywhere. Ultimately we all want to live in peace. We might differ in how we think we can achieve peace, but essentially we all want the same thing. Another thing I have learned is that egos are the biggest impediment to peace...’

To my great relief, that is when Sami walked into the room with my ID card and said, ‘We are done. Let’s go.’ I got up and thanked the clerks, collected my passport and excused myself. I could not get out of that office quickly enough. As we were walking out I whispered to Sami, ‘What took you so long. They were interrogating me in there.’ Then as we got out I joked, ‘Thanks for coming to my rescue … actually come to think of it, probably more to their rescue. I was just warming up. I had begun to philosophize on life and the nature of human beings.’

I had to recount the whole session for Sami and the driver in the car. They laughed and were very apologetic, ‘Poor you, you’ll never come back to Afghanistan again.’ I smiled, ‘Na baba, man az oon beedaa nistam, keh baa een baadaa belarzam!’ (Persian saying, literal translation: I am not the type of willow that trembles in these sorts of winds, meaning I am not put off that easily.)

A few days later at the Kabul International Airport a young immigration officer looked up after leafing through my papers, ‘Zood darieed mireed!’ (Your stay was short!) I smiled, ‘Hopefully I’ll be back again soon.’ ‘Inshallah!’, (God willing) came the reply as I picked my passport up and walked to the gate.

Kabul diaries: First impressions -- The lock down -- The bar -- Friday hamam -- Istalif walk -- Photo essay: An Otherwise Peaceful Place -- Conversation with an ex-soldier -- Lost in translation -- Photo essay: Lights and Shadows of a Shattered City -- An honorary man --


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more from Princess


by Princess on

I did not take my camera to the Interior Ministry, so I don't have any photos of the clerks, so I think it is a bit unfair to talk about those two in the body of the blog and post someone else's photo. But I will go through my photos and see what I can find.



It is a bit more complicated...

by Princess on

In an extremely traditional country where only 20% of the population can read and write, and of those probably only 5% have a high-school diploma, sitting back and asking themselvs. "why are we so badbakht" does not necessarily take them far. 

Effective change will come very slowly, and with a lot of patience, only if the rest of the world does not abandon Afghanistan again, and by that I don't mean a military presence. They need to see positive examples of what is possible. The country is traumatized, it needs a number of delsooz, gentle and patient leaders to give them a real fresh start.



Bajenaghe Aziz

by Princess on

Merci az mohebatetoon! I will try to write again.



JJ jan,

by Princess on

It's been a pleasure to write these. Writing all these experiences down have also helped me process them better. 


Princess jaan how about a foto of men sporting shalvar kambiz?!

by Anonymouse on

Everything is sacred.


Isn't it amazing

by Faramarz_Fateh on

After removal of the Taliban from power, men and women are kept separate.

Don't these Afghans sit back and ask themselves the question: Why are we so badbakht?  What did we do wrong?  What can we do different now that we almost have a fresh start? 


bajenaghe naghi

Princess jan

by bajenaghe naghi on

Thank you for all the stories on your trip to Afghanestan. I hope you will not stop writing.  

Jahanshah Javid


by Jahanshah Javid on

Your detailed diary humanized the Afghan conflict in a way that has been missing in the mainstream media. You showed not only the extreme hardships caused by war, but also deep-rooted cultural and religious attitudes in a male-dominated society. Cannot thank you enough for helping us understand better.


Anonymouse-e Aziz

by Princess on

Thank you for your steadfast support. I am glad you liked this one best... :)

You are right, it is sad how much we intuitively distrust the governments of that region. You never know what they can find fault with. I am glad in the end this particular experience turned out to be harmless so I can now write about it.

I will try to put a photo up soon. Let me think what would best fit here.

Take care now.


Sima jan

by Princess on

Ekhtyaar dareed! Een harfaa chieh? These are not going anywhere. They are there for you to read whenever you have time. 

Thank you so much for showing interest and taking the time to comment when you can. I will try write if I come across anything interesting.


Very nice blog Princess jaan I liked this blog the best.

by Anonymouse on

All your diaries were very nice but this one touched me more.  I sometimes get some of the same feelings when I go to Iran and have to do some office work like get a medicine refilled for my parents or something for myself.

Depending on who my customer rep is, I sometimes get the fifth degree and in those moments I'm afraid of what I might say that may get me in trouble.  There are no real laws and customer service there!  Customer service is like AWHAT?

I really felt talking to short bearded men in their shalvar kambiz is a real pain in the neck! 

PS where is your blog foto?! 

Everything is sacred.


Princess jan I'm sharmandeh

by sima on

I haven't been able to follow your writing in a timely manner. Every once in a while I come here and catch up. I just wanted to add my voice to the other readers who wished to read more of your writing. What you write is so touching and gladdens the heart in this times of serious trouble. Thank you.


Irandokht jan,

by Princess on

Tashakor az lotfet.

I appreciate your kind words. 


Dear Princess

by IRANdokht on

Your diary of the trip and your photos were wonderful. Thank you for taking the time and putting so much effort into bringing us the interesting details. The subject was fantastic and your writing is impeccable. I hope to read more from you again.



Monda jan,

by Princess on

Thank you again for your kind words and for your continuous interest in these diaries. Going through your points:

1) This is the best compliment I could ever wish for. I hope one day - sooner rather than later - you do go. I hope then to read your journal entries. :)

2) I have a very good visual memory, but I also carried a small notebook/sketchbook around with me to jot down points that I found interesting. In addition, I have a habit of reviewing (almost like a film) the events of my day, just before I fall asleep. That also helps. 

3) No, I did not even know about these subs, but thanks to you, I do now. I might try taking them just as an experiment.

Thank you again for reading. 



Dear Ahvazi,

by Princess on

Thank you for bringing up an important point. I believe part of the reason Afghanistan is where it is today is partly because for decades the world has abandoned it. I would encourage anybody to go and visit Afghanistan any chance they get. That would go a lot further than any heavy military presence. 

Thanks again for your interest. 



MPD jaan,

by Princess on

Thank you again for your kind words and encouragements. 

Chashm, I will try to write about other things that catch my attention.


Just fabulous writing Princess

by Monda on

Thank you so much for letting us read your journey.

3 things in my head right now: 1) I really want to see most of the places you described in such great details  2)  How did you manage to retain all the delicate details of your travel? 3) Are you currently or have you been in the past on lecithin or any other memory strengthening homeopathic subs? 



by ahvazi on

Thank you for your diaries, i enjoyed reading them all. Funny enough last week someone told me "Afghanistan jaayeh sakhtiyeh na?" I used the same expression as you did, "‘Na baba, man az oon beedaa nistam, keh baa een baadaa belarzam!

All the best. 

Multiple Personality Disorder

I enjoyed read your diaries about Afghanistan

by Multiple Personality Disorder on

Please write more, about other things.  You are a good writer.



by Princess on

Just corrected the typo. Thanks, Yolanda for pointing it out!  

And thanks for reading and showing interest. It has been fun to write these. They have helped me tremendously in processing this experience.

Have a lovely sunday! 



by yolanda on

Hi Princess,

It is interesting that 2 people asked if you are Iranian. Wow! They can tell.

I love the answer you gave to the guy:

I have learned that fundamentally human beings are the same everywhere.
Ultimately we all want to live in peace. We might differ in how we
think we can achieve peace, but essentially we all want the same thing. 

It is just beautiful!

Thank you soooo much for all the English translation of Farsi words. It helps a lot! I love the Persian proverb: "I am not the type of willow that trembles in these sorts of winds!" 

I know you are tough. It is why you went there!

It is sad that this is the last one!

Thank you for all your stories and photos!I enjoyed all of them!

Take care!!

Delaram Banafsheh (Yolanda)

"Cactus in the Desert"