Under the protection of foreign forces, a special place has flourished in Afghanistan. The Marefat School is an award-winning institution in the western slums of Kabul, built by one of the country’s most vulnerable minorities, the Hazara. Marefat educates both girls and boys; it teaches students to embrace the arts, criticize their leaders, interrogate their religion, and be active citizens in a rapidly changing country. But they are dependent on foreign forces for security. When the United States begins to withdraw from Afghanistan, they are left behind, unprotected.
Acclaimed journalist Jeffrey E. Stern explores the stakes of war through the eyes of those touched by Marefat: the school’s daring founder and leader, Aziz Royesh; a mother of five who finds freedom in literacy; a clever mechanic; a self-taught astronomer; the school’s security director; and several intrepid students who carry Marefat’s mission to the streets.
We see how Marefat has embraced the United States and blossomed under its presence---and how much it stands to lose as that protection disappears.
The Last Thousand tells the story of what we leave behind when our foreign wars end. It shows us up close the promise, as well as the peril, of our military adventures abroad. Stern presents a nuanced and fascinating portrait of the complex history of Afghanistan, its American occupation, and the ways in which once community rallies together in compelling, heartbreaking, and inspiring detail.
American journalist and aid worker Stern immerses himself in the slums of Kabul that surround the Marefat School, one of the most successful private schools in Afghanistan, to provide a glimpse into the lives of everyday people grappling with the effects of war. Stern frames the narrative with a troubling question: how will the school change when the American troops leave Afghanistan? Using a countdown to build tension, the book closely follows select students, workers, and the famed principal while exploring the complex history of Afghanistan, Islam, and the Hazaras, one of the country's most vulnerable minority groups. Though at times the narration can be clunky, it makes intricate issues accessible. At its best, Stern's prose can be quite lyrical and poetic, and he goes to great lengths to explore the nuances of religion, education, women's rights, and foreign diplomacy in present-day Afghanistan. This book is a good primer for anyone interested in modern Middle Eastern politics.