Mellissa Fung talk focuses of Afghan progress since 2001

Mellissa Fung, author of Under An Afghan Sky and former CBC journalist, was at Carleton on Nov. 11 to talk about the good that is happening in Afghanistan, where she is currently working on a documentary and freelance assignments.

The event was co-presented by Carleton and the Aga Khan Foundation Canada. It focused on the progress Afghanistan has made in education, health care, and freedom of expression since Western armies overthrew the Taliban government in 2001.

“All is not lost. All those New York Times and Al Jazeera reports about suicide bombings and how the Taliban are gaining ground, that’s only one side of the story,” Fung said to a crowd of more than 100 people.

In 2008, Fung was kidnapped while on assignment and held captive underground for 28 days.

Fung has been back to Afghanistan twice since her kidnapping, once in 2013 and again in 2014.

She quoted her friend Capt. Trevor Greene, a Canadian soldier who was hit in the head with an axe while deployed in Afghanistan, on why she keeps going back.

“When your blood has stained the Afghan sand, you can never truly walk away.”

She spent her most recent trip talking to women and girls in school, many of who would never have had the opportunity before 2001.

She credits her own optimism about the future of the country to these conversations. In 2001 there were only one million children in school and hardly any of them girls. Now there are over 10 million children in school and 40 per cent of them are girls, she said.

“Mellissa represents so much of what is the best in journalism,” said Susan Harada, associate director of the school of journalism and communication.

“Her curiosity, her compassion, her ability to connect with people, and her gritty determination to always get to the heart of the story, these are the qualities we foster in our students,” she said.

People came to see Fung’s talk for a variety of reasons, but a common theme was her bravery and experience in Afghanistan.

“The fact that she went back . . . It’s really an amazing mark of bravery to go back to a country where your were held captive,” said Tamara LaPlante, a first-year journalism student.

Fung said she felt uncomfortable taking up the media spotlight when she returned to Canada after her 2008 kidnapping. Putting the spotlight back on Afghans is a major reason she keeps going back.

“No journalist likes to be the story and I hated it,” Fung said. “I felt guilty because I knew there were Afghans who had suffered way more than I suffered in 28 days. Their stories need to be told.”

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