Looking For Happiness In The 3rd Least Happy Country In The World

Looking For Happiness In The 3rd Least Happy Country In The World

“Khosh amadee!” Omaid Sharifi, co-founder of ArtLords, an art collective, says as he invites us into his house in a fashion that displays true Afghan hospitality—with grace, a smile and open arms.

The phrase is in the local language of Dari. Used to mean “welcome,” it actually interprets to “come with happiness” – which is a bit ironic because within the newly released World Happiness Report, Afghanistan is ranked because the third least joyful country on the planet. Only the Central African Republic and South Sudan are deemed unhappier.

However on this specific night time, it is onerous to think about Afghanistan as an unhappy place. Our host welcomes us to his superbly adorned home with its giant garden. The home is older than the first wars that plagued the country 40 years ago and that always outline the nature and character of the nation.

Sharifi is internet hosting one in every of his well-known soirees. His visitors embrace well-known personalities like information anchors and politicians in addition to social staff, company staff and artists, among many others.

The invitees greet each other with a handshake and a kiss on the cheek as they take seats on the toushaks — Afghan cushions for flooring seating — positioned across the very giant front room. In Afghan structure, dwelling rooms are particularly designed to be large enough for crowded gatherings.

“In the West, people often go barhopping after a long day’s or week’s work to unwind, de-stress and spend quality times with friends, but in Afghanistan where we don’t have too many social public spaces, we go ‘house-hopping,’ ” says Sharifi, as he walks around the giant room, socializing and attending to the needs of the constant stream of people. There’s cheerful chatter and laughter – and a various playlist of Afghan music, Western pop and Bollywood songs.

Photographs Vs. Actuality

This scene is a stark contrast to the widespread image of Afghanistan as a war-torn country, typically imagined in the West to be gray and dusty, a spot of repression and distress. This image was further strengthened by the 2019 happiness rankings, produced by the Sustainable Improvement Solutions Community and based mostly on knowledge gathered from stories across 156 nations on how pleased their residents perceive themselves to be.

While there are a selection of things determining unhappiness, the report targeted on how info know-how, governance and social norms affect communities. “There has been a widespread recent upward trend in negative affect, comprising worry, sadness and anger, especially marked in Asia and Africa, and more recently elsewhere,” the report notes, observing that nations with a decrease happiness ranking also “suffered some combination of economic, political and social stresses.”

The report is what introduced us to the social gathering this previous Monday night time. We needed to interview Afghans to listen to their perception on their relative happiness and unhappiness.

Most of the individuals we interviewed did not dispute that Afghanistan has its woes.

“The last few years have been extremely difficult for all Afghans. We have suffered so much, and so many personal losses, it is understandable that there is a sense of frustration,” admits Maryam Atahi, an Afghan social activist and communications manager at Save the Youngsters. Atahi lost an in depth good friend and a member of the family in insurgent attacks over the previous yr.

Asked to recall her most up-to-date unhappy reminiscence, she choked at the thought of the loved ones she misplaced — after which in the same breath insists that Afghans aren’t an unhappy individuals: “Afghans are resilient, not by choice but by need. We know how to celebrate life despite the constant violence we are subjected to if we are to remain sane and happy,” she reasons earlier than she joins within the Afghan circle dance of attan together with her buddies.

Agreeing together with her, Sharifi provides that whereas Afghans are exposed to a number of negativity owing to the growing battle — Afghanistan had more deaths from terrorism than some other country in 2017 in accordance with the International Terrorism Index.

“There is so much negative energy that has been building around the country in a cycle of violence that has continued for the last 40 years,” he says. “Everyone is transmitting that anger and discontent — all Afghans including the children are angry.”

And but he doesn’t despair. “Afghans find spaces and opportunities to break that cycle of violence and anger,” he says, explaining why he hosts social gatherings. Sharifi holds no less than two such occasions in every week, which function traditional music and dancing, poetry recitation, bonfires and barbecues.

“Everyone is welcomed here, at any time, any day,” he says. “If they need to talk, listen to music, or dance, we are always hosting.”

Behind Closed Doorways

Sharifi isn’t alone in protecting the Afghan culture of hospitality alive. Since Fridays are a weekly time without work — the Afghan Sunday — Thursday nights in Kabul and other communities around the nation are put aside for socializing.

But the events are sometimes held behind closed doors and thick partitions. There is a lack of public area for celebratory gatherings – and there’s additionally concern concerning the robust disapproval from the deeply conservative Afghans who disapprove of such parties because women and men fraternize.

Indeed, there was a time in Afghanistan not that long ago, in the course of the Taliban regime of the late 1990s, when music, dance and entertainment of any type was banned. But even the worry of harsh punishment didn’t stop Afghans from celebrating back then, even when it meant doing so discreetly and underground.

Authorities’s Position

The World Happiness Report asserts that governments and the caliber of their social providers are instantly chargeable for a scarcity of happiness.

In Afghanistan, the change in the authorities because the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 has had little affect on Afghanistan’s relationship with happiness, at the very least in response to the report’s rankings.

The Afghans we interviewed stated that their authorities shouldn’t be providing the kinds of assets that result in happiness. However they are sympathetic to the state of affairs of the present government with its many points to deal with, like managing the continued battle with the Taliban and bringing the Taliban to peace negotiations.

And Afghans understand all too nicely that true happiness cannot be found in a fractured society. In a research on psychosocial well-being in Afghanistan presently being carried out by Martha Bragin, associate professor of social work at Hunter School, Metropolis College of New York, and Bree Akesson, affiliate professor of social work at Wilfrid Laurier College, spoke to 440 individuals from the provinces of Kandahar, Mazar, Herat and Kabul.

Bragin, an American who has labored on research and psychological well being tasks in Afghanistan since 2002, informed us that many indicators of well-being have been totally different for men and women, but there have been some commonalities. “Solh, amniyat, adalat — peace, security and justice were the most important points for both men and women to be psychologically and socially well.”

Bragin further noticed that the Afghans she has interviewed say they search to take part in group affairs to seek well-being. “Afghans get great satisfaction from religious and cultural participation,” she says, including that additionally they “no one is told how to practice his or her faith.”

Huge And Little Joys

Afghans informed us that they discover numerous paths to happiness.

“Happiness is strongly linked to satisfaction and the satisfaction I derive from the work I do in Afghanistan is incomparable to anything else,” says artist Kabir Mokamel.

Reflecting the findings of Bragin, he emphasizes the significance of group in helping Afghans keep glad. “Being part of the community is very important to Afghans. Solitude is a foreign concept to Afghans,” he says, including that sharing feelings — pleasure or sorrow— helps Afghans discover a sense of happiness.

“Even when you take a taxi, the driver will greet you like his own family,” Mokamel says. “The conversations can get very personal very quickly, and you will completely forget about your stressful day. I haven’t seen such interaction anywhere else I have lived,” he says.

Save the Youngsters worker Atahi agrees that current glad reminiscences have been made in affiliation with the group. “I was thrilled when Rashid Khan [the Afghan cricketer] played in all the big leagues around the world. I get so excited when I see my friend Farazana anchor a news segment on TV. A lot of my happiness comes from my connection to my community and my country,” she explains.

Mokamel also credit the unpredictability of life in Afghanistan as a purpose why Afghans stay to the fullest. “Surviving an attack, for instance, adds a sense of appreciation for being alive, a reason to be happy. I can’t describe it, but it is a feeling that elevates me,” he says.

There’s, to make certain, a toll taken by trauma. In their paper, Bragin and Bree observe that attacks and threats to life have turn into all too normal: “The negative effects of the unrelenting conflict on individuals, families, communities, institutions and the culture itself continue,” they write.

Hadi Rasooli, a psychologist from Herat, believes that most of the mental well being issues in Afghanistan are “direct or indirect effects of wars and conflicts.”

“Our people experience high levels of negative emotions such as worry, pain, stress and sadness, and also effects of “hidden violence” within families,” he explains. He counsels sufferers on such points however notes that looking for assist for mental well being points carries stigma across the country.

A Paradox

Afghans are conscious about this paradox of looking for happiness in occasions of warfare and conflict. “When we don’t get along with each other and fight with each other, [when] we face issues like terrorism and even poverty, as a result Afghanistan becomes an unhappy place,” Sangari says.

But that doesn’t hold individuals from having completely happy moments and reminiscences, even in the third least joyful country on the earth.

Mohammad Baqir Sangari is a 40-year-old Afghan taxi driver who lives in a small residence together with his wife and youngsters in the west Kabul. He recollects being happiest when he lived together with his extended household. “I was born in war and raised in conflict,” he reflects. “But when my father was alive, we used to all live together, had fun. [Those were] some of my happiest moments.”

Ruchi Kumar is a freelance journalist reporting from India and Afghanistan about conflict, politics, improvement and tradition stories. She tweets at @RuchiKumar

Hikmat Noori is an Afghan journalist based mostly in Kabul who covers the intersection of culture and politics in South Asia. He tweets at @noori1st Copyright 2019 NPR. To see extra, go to