“Hope is not a dream but a way of making dreams become a reality”
by Niala Mohammad
Hope-that’s all an 11 year old Naseer Ahmed had when he worked as a child tailor in Zangal, an area located between Quetta and Chaman in Baluchistan Province. Naseer and his family were Afghan refugees from Kandahar and his dream was to make people laugh. He believes that the remedy to all illnesses is laughter. Since 2013 Naseer or Ko Agha his Pashtun comic persona, have been making Pashtuns laugh. California based Pashtun comedian Naseer Ahmed tells Voice of America, Deewa Radio/TV about his journey from Zangal PirAlizai to San Jose.
Q. Where are you from?
A. My parents are from Kandahar, Afghanistan but I was born in Quetta, Pakistan. Like many Afghans, my father fled to Pakistan during the mid 80’s when the Russians invaded Afghanistan, to avoid conscription, he migrated to Pakistan where he married my mother. My father passed away in 1995 from an unknown illness, and I became orphan at the age of seven. My three brothers, sister and mother remained with our uncle in Zangal Piralizai. I spent a great deal of my life between Afghanistan and Pakistan
Q. How and when did you and your family come to America?
A. We came to America in the year of 2002 and have been living here since. We came through a program that was run by UNHCR at the time and probably still is. It was for orphans so we applied and out of thousands of applicants we were chosen. That’s how we came to the states.
Q. How did you gravitate towards Pashto comedy?
A. To answer that question, I have to go back to my childhood where I was the subject of child labor, like many kids are in that part of the world today. I was a tailor. As a tailor, I had to work 12 to 16 hours a day and during the course of my day I would see and interact with different types of people. Some would say funny things and others were more serious. Since childhood, I always loved impersonating people, whether it was in school or on the street.
Q. Why Pashtun and Pashto characters like Ko Agha, Why not English comedy since you live in America?
A. First of all, I think it’s because we lack Pashto comedy in America. Secondly, because no one seems to be producing pieces of work that will bring Pashtun families together; comedy that older and younger generations of Afghans can both relate to. I want to give a voice to Pashtuns living in Afghanistan and in turn show them that their culture is being shared with the world. I personally refrain from English comedy because I think there is so much out there and everybody seems to be doing it. I wanted to create something different so I came up with the character Ko Agha and his son Khumar.
Q. What do your family and friends think about your Pashto comedy? Do they support you?
A. Everyone that has seen it laughs at it. My mother and everyone else are very supportive. Sometimes I’ll get a fan message from YouTube and Facebook swears at me out for no apparent reason, but thank God they aren’t my family members or friends.
Q. Which comedians are you inspired by in Afghanistan and in America?
A. I can say off the bat that I do not know of any famous Afghan comedians that I was or am inspired by. I was however inspired by random people that were funny. People who would sit along the street side and just make jokes amongst one another, the local Chaarsyan that would read funny news for a piece of bread or the daily shopkeepers that would crack jokes at customers who would purchase little. Those were the people I was inspired by in Afghanistan, and Pakistan. In America, I think, John Stewart and his political satire have had a great influence on me.
Q. What is your goal?
A. To always make people laugh, to create a bridge between the East and the West through comedy. To make people realize that Afghans aren’t what most perceive them to be, we aren’t terrorists, we aren’t destructionists, we are beamish individuals who hope to compete with the world one day. Just because we have few bad apples, doesn’t mean our whole tree is rotten.
Q. What message would you give to Afghan youth in Afghanistan and abroad?
A. I would give them a message of unity, and brotherhood. Let them know that Afghans are all Afghans and we are from one land and we exist as one nation. Let not tribalism divide us. Also let them know that the world is a beautiful place, open your eyes to it and travel through it, see different cultures and meet different faces, I can assure you, that you will not be disappointed.
Naseer Ahmed aka Koh Agha’s interview with Voice of America Deewa Radio/TV can be heard here:
Koh Agha’s Facebook fan page and YouTube links are here: