Email to friends after 9/11
changed the life of Tamim Ansary ’70
By Nadine Fiedler ’89
For many people around the world, Tamim Ansary
’70 has become the voice of Afghanistan. It started with a single
email he wrote to friends the day after September 11, 2001. Almost overnight,
Ansary’s email made him famous with its heartfelt eloquence about
the country of his birth.
Ansary has been a writer for many years and has more than 70 textbooks
and several series of children’s books to his name. He writes mostly
about history and has an uncannily clear grasp of the way national and
international politics work. So when he heard a commentator on the radio
talk about “bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age,” he
did what he knew best: he wrote. He wrote to try and change what he saw
as a dangerous mind-set, and his words worked for many to instantly clarify
a new and strange international situation.
“ I thought about the issues being raised especially hard because
I am from Afghanistan, and even though I’ve lived in the United
States for 35 years I’ve never lost track of what’s going
on there. So I want to tell anyone who will listen how it all looks from
where I’m standing,” he wrote. “We come now to the question
of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble is, that’s
been done. The Soviets took care of it already. Make the Afghans suffer?
They’re already suffering. Level their houses? Done.
Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals?
Done. Destroy their infrastructure? Cut them off from medicine and healthcare?
Too late. Someone already did all that.”