Guernica Magazine

The Border Merchant

On the remote border between Afghanistan and Iran, an enigmatic smuggler makes a living selling hope. The post The Border Merchant appeared first on Guernica.
Photograph by Aliyeh Ataei

Even under the full moon, the red revolving floodlights along the border between Iran and Afghanistan are easily visible. My guide is asleep in the next room. I wake him up, so we can get a head start toward the border village of Gazik. We are going to meet Mohammad Osman. “I’ll be up and running at 5:00 a.m.,” he’d said. “Be there before me.”

Mohammad Osman Yusefzai has been arrested three times by Iranian border police for trafficking undocumented immigrants, and every time they’ve had to let him go for lack of evidence. His area of operation is the South Khorasan province of Iran, which borders Farah in Afghanistan. “I have no idea where this guy is from,” an Iranian Border Police colonel told me later. “He’s got both Iranian and Afghan papers. The illegals we catch never testify against him. Even when we lock them up, they still won’t testify. We know for a fact this man is moving people, but without witnesses stepping forward our hands are tied.”

I grew up near the border, on the Iranian side. In these in-between regions we have an entire vocabulary for the geography of our lives. Some places we simply call the border, some we call border-plus, some are called this-side-of-the border and some that-side-of-the-border. It is a vocabulary that can be exhausting, and dangerous. Gazik is border-plus. It is on the very cusp.

Our aim is to meet Mohammad Osman early, before he dashes across to retrieve his human cargo. There’s no sign of him in the designated parking lot, just a lone gray Peugeot. He shows up right before dawn, looking fearless and sure of himself. He is tall and has the tan of the desert. I’ve been told he’s about 35, but he looks ten years older. Loose pants taper at his ankles

Stai leggendo un'anteprima, registrati per continuare a leggere.

Interessi correlati

Altro da Guernica Magazine

Guernica Magazine13 min letti
Shannon Pufahl: Queering the Western
Everyone knows the signifiers of our national American myth, the western: Dusty boots, horses and cowboys, saloons and gamblers, manifest destinies. But those well-worn iconographies—and the heroic fictional figures who bring the myth to life—obscure
Guernica Magazine4 min letti
We Need to Talk
As part of my teaching life over the past dozen years, I’ve gathered with between ten and fifteen undergraduate students twice a week to talk. What we talk about depends somewhat on the subject of the course: the essays of the writer Zadie Smith, say
Guernica Magazine10 min letti
The Problem with My Dachshund
I shouldn’t leave her alone in the trailer with the dachshund when she’s just threatened to kill him, but I can’t stay; I just can’t. I push past her, out the door, keys still in hand, and start to drive.