5. “Look here, look at these hills. There has been far too much dying in these hills. Every rock, every boulder that you see before you is one of my mujahadeen, shahids, martyrs, who sacrificed their lives fighting the Russians and the Taliban. Now we must make their sacrifice worthwhile. We must turn these stones into schools.” Sadhar Khan
Sadhar Khan makes this statement toward the end of the book, in Chapter 23, as he looks at the boulder fields near Baharak. As a leader of the resistance that fought against the Russians during their occupation of Afghanistan and battled the religious extremism of the Taliban, Sadhar Khan has a different perspective on Mortenson’s work than most people. The majority of men with whom Mortenson started projects in Pakistan were leaders of their villages, anxious to create better lives for their people. Although he has received assistance from some members of the military, and even met with some Taliban leaders, Mortenson has focused on peace and largely avoided becoming involved with political and military issues in the region. Sadhar Khan, however, is not only a veteran of armed conflict, but still engaged in a struggle for the safety of his country. His words, with their grief over lost lives and support for Mortenson’s vision, are unexpected.
The quotation captures the painful and often violent history of Afghanistan. It ends on a hopeful statement, however, as Sadhar Khan suggests the possibility that education can change the future. Mortenson is so affected by Sadhar Khan’s words that he sees his own part in that future become suddenly clear. The commitment he feels toward this man’s hopes reminds him of his first meeting with Haji Ali. Although Sadhar Khan differs in many ways from Haji Ali, both men are leaders prepared to sacrifice for their people. Coming at the very end of the book, the scene offers a reminder of the journey we have taken with Mortenson and announces the new direction he will take. It shows once again the potential good of Mortenson’s work, and Mortenson looks ahead with excitement to the enormous and invaluable project of building schools for the children of Afghanistan.