A New American on the Second Amendment

Obaid then and now.
| April 3, 2018
Categories: Op-Eds

My good friend Obaid posted this recently, and it needs to be shared. Obaid grew up in Afghanistan and has a very different perspective on the importance of the 2nd Amendment. Please read, please share, and please tell us what you think.

NOTE: English isn’t Obaid’s first language, so I’ve edited for clarity. Obaid has reviewed and approved the changes. – Chris Hernandez

I’m writing this because I feel compelled. I believe my life experiences as a United States Marine, who was born and raised in a different country and migrated to the United States due to life threats and persecution, will give you a different and hopefully better perspective on the importance of the 2nd Amendment and responsible gun ownership. I care deeply for the safety of our children, and the future of our country and its liberties, as we continue to grow as a nation facing constant new challenges, new laws and the regulations that come with them. I don’t wish what happened to my family upon any of you, but I’ll share my story with you in the desperate hope that it helps you see the other side of the gun argument.

In May of 1997, the Taliban briefly seized control of Mazar-i-Sharif, a city of roughly 600,000 people in northern Afghanistan where my family and I lived at the time. I was eight, my sister was six, my brother was four, and my mother was pregnant with my second brother. The Taliban lost control of the city and withdrew their forces due to a truce betrayal by the opposition forces. The entire city turned into a bloodbath for innocent Pashtun civilians who lived there, just because they belonged to the same ethnic group as most Taliban fighters. The violence didn’t spare my family.

Mazar-i-Sharif today

I’ll never forget it. It was late in the evening on the second day of the Taliban’s withdrawal, and we could still hear loud explosions of heavy artillery and small arms fire all over the city. Our entire family along with three other neighbor families were all bunched up in our house, as it was the only one with a big and deep basement. The basement provided safe, almost bunker-like protection from small arms and mortar fire.

As the gunfire continued to erupt intermittently throughout the city, we suddenly heard men loudly screaming my father’s name in the yard. The men poured into our basement and dragged my father outside by his collar. They belonged to Hizb-i-Wadat, an ethnic Hazara and Shia Muslim fundamentalist militia, who were and still are directly supported by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Iranian Hezbollah.

Obaid and another Kapisa Province veteran in my house in Texas.

There were only six militiamen, three of whom lived in the same area as us. They knew my father, a military officer who became a commodities businessman during the civil war to avoid the bloodshed. The men were there to kill my father and rob us of any cash and valuables they could get. They were ordinary men before the war but now had an opportunity to kill a Pashtun and gain some money, only because we belonged to an ethnicity that had the most enemy fighters. They didn’t bother to consider that we had absolutely nothing to do with their enemies or them. They were determined and didn’t need justification for what they wanted to do.

They beat my father in front of my and my family’s eyes as we cried and begged them to stop, and it didn’t bother their conscience. As they got ready to finally execute him, something happened that was nothing short of a miracle. One of the neighbors had run to inform an older militiaman who lived in our neighborhood and had a lot of influence in Hizb-e-Wadat. My father had helped the old militiaman’s family in desperate times whenever they needed commodities. When the old militiaman arrived at our house, he convinced the militiamen to spare my father’s life and just take whatever valuables they wanted.

That night, there were four men and six women in our basement. We outnumbered the militiamen but didn’t outgun them. My father, unlike other Afghan men, didn’t believe in owning assault rifles such as AK-47s, until that night. DO NOT BE LIKE MY FATHER!

I was only eight years old but can never forget the urge I had, to get my hands on a firearm and help my family. That was a natural reaction even though I wasn’t born a killer, and hadn’t even once thought of hurting anyone until that night. I understand some of you may not be able to relate to this, simply because you never had to be in such unfortunate circumstances. But just because you were born and raised in privilege doesn’t mean you can ignore the existence of real, actual threats from evil people.

Mass grave near Mazar-i-Sharif

Evil people exist in every country and every city. Unfortunately, my friend and fellow SIV (Special Immigration Visa) immigrant Maqsood Ramesh did not share the same sentiment; Maqsood was shot and killed inside his car in a parking lot in southwest Houston on 21 Jan 2016. All I have left of him are a few pictures, memories, and a GoFundMe for his funeral expenses. Maqsood was killed just because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. The man who shot him wasn’t a white NRA member; he was a black gangbanger from southwest Houston, a man Maqsood would have perceived as “systemically oppressed.” I don’t know what Maqsood’s final thoughts were as he was getting shot, but I promise you, he would have done anything to prolong his life.

There are no guarantees in life! You can isolate yourself in hipster inner city areas, you can bash those with different opinions on gun ownership based on their lifestyle or life experiences, and you can carry on with your compulsive obsession about “peace.” I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if peace is all you’re used to you’re going to have a hard time when the reality of life hits and you have to deal with conflict.

I believe in being the warrior in a garden rather than the gardener in war. So I’ll do my yoga and meditation, cuddle my cats, and continue to live in Houston’s hipster Montrose neighborhood. I’ll keep my mouth shut, have a smile on my face, and make sure my mind and eyes stay open. But I’ll always stand ready to defend our great country and constitutional rights because I know war, and therefore I know peace.

– Obaid

Afterword – Obaid was with Hernandez during what he describes as the worst firefight of his life. Several years later, on the very anniversary of that battle, Hernandez and others who were there that day stood by while Obaid became a United States citizen. As Chris described it on March 14th of this year,

Nine years ago Karl Madetzke, Chris Fritz, local Afghan translator Jason Essazay and I (along with a tiny bit of help from Barth-Ashton Di Massalia,Laurent Lucchini and a couple battalions of French and Afghan troops) singlehandedly defeated ONE MILLION Taliban in the Alasai Valley, thus ensuring an American victory and the end of the war in Afghanistan (honest!). This morning, on the anniversary of that battle, Lance Corporal Jason Essazay took the oath of US citizenship. 

Fuckin’ A, says we.



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1 Comment

  1. Dale Rockett

    First, thank you for your service. I wish all our natural born citizens were as passionate about our freedom and our country as you are. I hope we never have to go through what you went through, but like you I believe we all need to be alert and ready. When we joined the military we took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; and that we would bear true faith and allegiance to the same. When I was discharged it separated me from the military but not from my oath. Continue to stand for our rights knowing you are not alone.


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