Saleh Mohammad is one of just a few silk weavers left in Afghanistan today. He was born in 1971 in the city of Herat in western Afghanistan and, although he grew up in the country's capital of silk production, arrived at this profession by an unexpected path. Living as a refugee in Pakistan during the civil war and during the Taliban’s occupation of Afghanistan, he met an NGO who offered training in traditional silk weaving. Many refugees had been weavers but they refused to use the new looms with the 'shuttle' system. At only 17 years of age, and with no prior experience weaving, Saleh asked if he could try it. He shut himself away and worked non-stop for three days and three nights. When the weavers came back to see what he had done, they said, "pushte dast", which means, "respect to your hand".
I met Saleh ten years ago in Kabul. From our very first meeting I knew that he was an exceptional person. Apart from being very handsome and elegant, he was worldly without ever having traveled far. In many ways I think he is what is best about Afghanistan - a classic person with respect for his country, its culture and history. His views on life and family are very modern and the way he lives with his wife and three daughters is not very different from how my family lives.
After having my first daughter five years ago, I did not go back to Afghanistan for a couple of years and had not been in touch with Saleh. One day his eldest daughter Maryam contacted me via Facebook. She was 12 at the time, and had used a computer donated to her public school in Kabul to find me. She wrote: “I am helping my father with the business and he asked me to get in touch to see if you wanted to buy some scarves”. I was impressed and a little surprised. But I shouldn’t have been because even girls from Afghan families with very little can grow up to be confident women when they are encouraged and supported by their families – and especially their fathers. If more girls had fathers like Saleh, the women of Afghanistan would forge ahead even faster.