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A shepherd boy from the mountains of Afghanistan, Najaf became a rugmaker of genius but was forced to flee his homeland under the onslaught of the Taliban. He painstakingly rebuilt his life in Australia and rescued his family from the despair of Pakistan’s refugee camps.
I was born in the village of Sharshar, northern Afghanistan, near the mountains of the Hindu Kush.
I have followed only two occupations in my life. As a boy, I was a shepherd. At the age of twelve, I became an apprentice rugmaker in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, close to the border of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. I became a master rugmaker after long training. In Australia, I still follow my profession of rugmaker, but I also sell rugs from the tribal areas of my homeland.
At a certain age as a young man, I chose peace over fighting. I had seen enough bloodshed to turn me away from war forever. In my writing, I try to show how peace calls for more imagination than war. Once you can imagine peace, war seems very primitive.
The thing I most enjoy is talking to audiences –particularly young audiences – about the struggle so many people in Afghanistan endure in order to survive, and the gratitude I feel when I walk down a street in Australia and think, “No bombs, no guns, no need to run.”
Peace – and how much better it is for your health than war. I am also passionate about the new book I am writing with Robert Hillman, “The Honey Thief”. This is a book that tells the story of my people, the Hazara.
I have talked to audiences all over Australia with my co-writer Robert Hillman, and I have featured in a number of articles in newspapers and magazines.
The year 11s and 12s that attended the talk were very excited and I think they got a lot out of the talk. It was good for them to put a face to the words on the page of Najaf’s book and it was great to have Robert there to facilitate the talk. The students enjoyed Najaf’s ironic sense of humour and both speakers took time to sign books and meet the students afterwards, which was great.