Asdolah Khierandish’s hand-woven rug tells a story of horror and hope.
It recounts his history, as well as that of his war-torn homeland.
Khierandish, a master rug weaver from Afghanistan, designed the artistic carpet on display at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery as part of an exhibit about the Central Alberta Refugee Effort. It was the best handiwork Khierandish brought out of his country when fleeing from the Taliban, along with wife and three young children, in 2008.
Like the family, the rug survived a long and perilous journey through Iran, Turkey and Syria before finally arriving in Red Deer in March, 2012.
Yet this one-of-a-kind weaving was the item Khierandish later chose to donate to a CARE fundraiser.
There’s an Afghan saying: When you donate something, give the best you have, said the rug maker, who wanted to express his gratitude through this gift for the assistance provided by CARE and other organizations during his family’s passage to Canada.
The tapestry-like carpet, purchased by the Allard family of Red Deer, was woven in red-dyed wool, symbolizing those fighting for freedom in his country. Slim, broken bands of blue denote hope for a better future, said Khierandish.
Arrow-like symbols represent people joining together, while a band of barbed-wire symbols represent Taliban oppression in Afghanistan. “It’s a jail,” said Khierandish, who nearly lost his life recording destruction in his village.
He was two years old when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
At age nine, Khierandish was sent to become a rug-weaving apprentice.
He practised his craft before and after school, often working from before sunrise to after sunset.
“My father thought it was a good future for me,” he said, since rug makers were esteemed, and could make a good living.
He became successful. By the time he was 20, Khierandish was employing other villagers to help weave his carpets on looms.
But life became harder after the rise of the Taliban. He recalled Taliban members would bring their own livestock herds to graze on the land of farmers in his village of Behsood, located in a green belt. If local farmers protested, their homes and mosques would be burned.
“The Taliban’s language is just guns,” said Khierandish.
He started a side business as a wedding videographer to help supplement the family income. At the urging of village elders, he eventually began making videos of torched homes, over-grazed farmland, and other Taliban acts of aggression in Behsood.
One day, Khierandish was told someone wanted to buy copies of these videos. He was met by a group of men who beat him and attempted to drag him into a van. Afraid for his life, he shouted for help, and a number of villagers came to his rescue.
Kierandish knew he would never be safe in his homeland. He and his family went into hiding.
“It was very difficult for me to leave my country, but I had to do that. I sacrificed… but it was worth it,” he said, with the hint of a grin.
The next three years were the most difficult of his life. Khierandish, his wife Fouzieh Hosseini, and children Mohammed, who was then 7, Shakila, 5, and Safora, 2, were refugees in Syria. They just managed to scrape by, selling items at a local bazaar. “It was very, very hard in a new country with a different culture, language and people,” he recalled. “There was no support.”
The family had to brace for another big transition after being accepted into Canada four years ago. But Khierandish, whose youngest daughter, Yusra, was born in Red Deer, said he thanks God for this chance to live in peace and freedom in a cold, but friendly land.
His children are now happy at school.
He works at a local coffee shop and remains grateful for CARE’s support in helping his family re-settle in Red Deer.
Khierandish eventually hopes to save enough to sponsor his brother and mother, who escaped to Pakistan, since he would like to be reunited with them in Canada.
Someday, he also hopes to make another beautiful rug that contains the threads of a more positive story.