Through Their Eyes: Afghanistan: Female Afghan engineer helps rebuild Darul Aman Palace in Kabul, pushes for change
Today, we begin a special, five-part series about life in Afghanistan. In the first episode of "Through Their Eyes", we meet a young, U.S.-educated construction engineer. She's among the new faces of the country but is also facing a tense situation. Peace negotiations are underway between the government and the Taliban. The hope is to silence the weapons, but there are concerns that an army of bright, young women could be forced to surrender 18-years of hard-earned gains. CGTN's Sean Callebs reports from the capital Kabul.
In a way, the restoration of Kabul's Darulaman Palace represents not only a step toward healing but perhaps one toward peace and a real sign of change. The working conditions aren't ideal.
The building has been a long-term wreck.
AHMAD JAWID SENIOR STRUCTURAL ENGINEER "The result of war is devastation which turned Darulaman Palace, the best palace in the region to a ruin."
Rising out of a dusty patch of land in western Kabul, this longtime eyesore is being rebuilt even as the country's future remains uncertain. Among those working to restore the luster, long since vanquished is 23-year-engineer Fereshta Noori.
"When you look around this room, what do you see?"
FERESHTA NOORI BUILDING ENGINEER "I think about the history. I think about what it used to be in the past, and how it will be in the future."
Darulaman looked like this when we visited five years ago, the structure was originally built back in the 1920s. It was a constant target during fighting for a generation but the shell of the building somehow survived. Educated at Smith College in the United States, Noori didn't have to come back but she did.
FERESHTA NOORI BUILDING ENGINEER "If we don't build our country, who is going to do that? And if we don't return to Afghanistan, we don't have the right to complain about the situation. We have to fix it."
Noori represents what many hope will be the NEW Afghanistan. Educated and a working woman, in a country where men and women having tea in public is still taboo, Noori pushes for change. But at the same time, delicate on-again, off-again peace negotiations are making headlines with the Taliban taking a lead role.
FERESHTA NOORI BUILDING ENGINEER "I definitely have my concerns because if they want to turn Afghanistan back to where it was when they had power, that's definitely a big step back for a woman."
HAMID KARZAI FORMER AFGHAN PRESIDENT "She is right to be worried."
Former President Hamid Karzai is taking a lead role in fostering peace talks AND bringing the Taliban to the table.
"What could you tell her about her future?"
HAMID KARZAI FORMER AFGHAN PRESIDENT "We must also tell her that she should not be worried. That we will stand by her, and that we will make sure that Afghanistan is what she envisions."
For now, it's enough to keep Noori keeps going. She is proud, the work is 100-percent Afghan. But Afghanistan remains dangerous - a war zone and international bids for reconstruction went through the roof.
Afghan officials say Russia wanted 71-million dollars to do the job, Great Britain more than 30-million.
The U.S. wanted 100-thousand dollars a month for a project manager - the same job that pays Ahmad Jawid 400-dollars a month.
AHMAD JAWID SENIOR STRUCTURAL ENGINEER "I am proud to work with women shoulder-to-shoulder in Darulaman Palace."
Despite all the problems, all the setbacks in Afghanistan, Noori, and others working on Darulaman keep a "can do" attitude alive.
FERESHTA NOORI BUILDING ENGINEER "I think you are not alive if you don't have hope. If there is no hope, there is no moving forward, there is no feeling happy. What is being alive without being happy and without moving forward?"