ICNA Relief Blog

The Other Side of the Sky: Best-selling Author Farah Ahmedi, a Testimony to the Strengths of Refugees - Part I

By Naazish YarKhan

At 17, Farah Ahmedi, a refugee from Afghanistan was the author of The Other Side of the Sky: A Memoir, New York Times bestseller; a visitor to First Lady Laura Bush; and a guest of Heather and Paul McCartney who presented her with a Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2005. At 19, was on a full scholarship at North Central College in Illinois. Featured in Teen Magazine as one of “20 People Who Can Change the World,” Weekly Reader called her a modern day Anne Frank.

Meet Farah Ahmedi, the then seven-year-old who took a short-cut to school, only to step on a landmine, in Kabul, Afghanistan. She was to spend two years, away from her family, recovering in Germany.

When ABC News’ Good Morning America, in collaboration with Simon and Schuster, asked its viewers to write for “Story of My Life” describing their life experiences, the network was deluged with 6,000 entries and more than twenty thousand pages of inspiring stories. A panel of best-selling authors and editors chose three finalists, and viewers voted one from among these, to be published. Farah Ahmedi’s story was that book.


Moving Readers to Gratitude

Rarely does a book move one’s soul the way The Other Side of the Sky does, forcing us to reconsider our own good fortune, persuading us to be our brother’s keepers. Farah’s story is shaped by war, and Taliban rule, in her home country. The Taliban also conscripted young men and boys into their army; coercing many. Fearing for their sons, Farah’s well-to-do parents sent their sons to Pakistan. That was the last time Farah and her family saw the boys. Weeks later, Farah and her mother, Fatima, returned from a shopping trip to find rubble and death where their home had once been. Farah’s father and sisters had been killed in a bomb blast. Farah and her mother joined the thousands of refugees fleeing Afghanistan for Pakistan. Unlike Iran, which had closed its borders to Afghan refugees at the time, there were millions streaming into Pakistan.

In Pakistan, even if they were refugees, freedom from the constant gunfire and bombs was like finding heaven on earth, says Farah. “When we finally made it, we couldn’t stop laughing and praising God from sheer relief.” Once there, Farah’s trials included servitude to children her own age, and becoming caretaker to her asthmatic mother. But despite these setbacks, Farah was sustained by her faith in Allah.

Look out for Part II next week inshaAllah!