Afghan family finds continuity with past in US home
He speaks slowly, carefully matching the still unfamiliar English words to the grim picture of a country under occupation: ''In every place - bridges, government buildings - there are Russian tanks. They stop everyone and ask for the identity card. If you don't have anything, they just put you on the bus or truck and go to military service.''
This enforced service in an Army under Soviet leadership drove Tooryalai Gul from Afghanistan soon after he completed 12th grade. For two years, he lived in Pakistan, returning only to fight with the rebels.
Last summer his family of two brothers and three sisters found a sponsor and refuge in Lincoln, Neb., where his father, a professor, had studied at the University of Nebraska.
Mr. Gul is of small build with a dark mustache, a soft-spoken young man eager to conquer English and get on with his studies. In a recent interview, he looked forward to a time of peace when Afghan engineers would again be needed to rebuild his country - if and when the Russians withdraw.
If there had been no invasion, Mr. Gul says, he would have enjoyed the gardens of his Kabul home, excursions to the park with his family, and visits to the family farm in the village of Kama. He would have studied agriculture at the university in Kabul where his father taught.
Instead, he and one brother had to leave their family, who suffered increasing surveillance. Since his father had studied in the United States, he was suspected of having Central Intelligence Agency connections. Refusing to join the Communist Party, he saw his home searched five times, sometimes at night, for ammunition and evidence of complicity with the resistance. In fact, he was secretly sending money, clothing, and medicine to the fighters. ''Every day,'' says Mr. Gul, ''we received a call from the KGBs to make sure my father is at home, what's he doing at home.''
Meanwhile, the brothers, like most other young Afghan exiles, got restless with simply sleeping and eating at the refugee camps and longed to fight. So when their uncle, a resistance leader, asked them to join a commando group, they eagerly trained for two weeks with stolen Russian weapons, then made night raids on communist-held villages and convoys.
Communication between the brothers and their family in Kabul was very meager. Merchants from the neutral tribal area on the Pakistan border would sometimes carry messages from the camps in Peshawar. For a close family, this separation was hard to endure, Mr. Gul says, but it is becoming a way of life in his country.
Most painful to Mr. Gul and his family is the breakdown of traditional Muslim values under occupation. The Soviets have introduced alcohol to an abstaining culture, prompting rebels to bomb at least eight Kabul restaurants where it is now served, he says. In schools, politics and Russian have replaced study of the Koran and English.
''Our people can pray in the office'' before the occupation, Mr. Gul says, ''but when they come, if someone prayed, they just catch him and put him in prison.''
In Lincoln, life for this devout Muslim family has some continuity with the past. They worship at home now and still enjoy walks in the park. Their father, as before, does all the family shopping.
But although Mr. Gul finds Lincoln hospitable, he still prefers the company of seven other young Afghan men, also recent emigres. And he dreams of returning to a ''real Muslim'' homeland, led by someone like Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini who will unite the country, rebuild the mosques, and ''remember God'' again.