It’s so easy for those of us lucky enough to live in peaceful countries to sometimes forget what’s happening in other parts of the world — we are blessed! We live in countries where freedom of speech is a right, where we don’t live in fear of a regime of blood and tears and where our families are relatively safe. Of course, that is not the story of so many other people and there’s much bloodshed everywhere, with war in the Ukraine raging as I write this. Freedom is not a choice for so many, and I hope that one day, we do live in peace and harmony but sadly, it doesn’t seem likely in the near future. Afghanistan is one of those countries that continues to be ravaged. It is close to my heart because it is my birthplace and my real home.
The Afghan Emergency
Since August 2021, following the collapse of the old Afghan government, the country has been thrust into more disarray. It faces dire economic crisis — and that’s led to a horrendous hunger problem like no other. Unemployment is catastrophic and has skyrocketed to a staggering degree. Thousands of people have fled the country seeking safety and a better life. It’s heartbreaking for me because as I said, it’s still my first home.
The statistics tell us that “A record high of 89% Afghans surveyed said their local economies were getting worse. 75% surveyed reported not having enough money for food during the previous 12 months and 56% reported they did not have enough money for adequate shelter.” (This is from SIGAR – The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.) Imagine that! No job, no food, and nowhere suitable enough to call home. It is a devastating situation, and while for so many there doesn’t seem to be any hope, there is one beacon of light that still shines in Afghanistan.
That beacon is the ancient craft of rug weaving.
Artisanal Rug Making
Despite more than 40 years of war ravaging the country and smearing its rich and colorful history, Afghanistan’s rug craft has survived. Artisanal families continue to pass on their skill to new generations of artisans. The modern artisans are innovating exciting designs, enhancing processes, building on quality and materials and producing the most fabulous looking rugs that are a blend of durability and luxury in unmatched ways. In fact, as a result of the newer artisan’s talent, major luxury brands such as Restoration Hardware (RH) are using premium, Afghan wool to produce their own hand-knotted rugs. Furthermore, most of the artisans behind today’s exceptional Afghan rug designs are Afghan women.
Afghan Women, Strong, Determined and Talented & Part of The Rug Mine Family
Since I started The Rug Mine in 2020, Afghan women have been top of mind. I am proud and humbled too that I have had the privilege of providing work for over 2,500 Afghan women and counting. These women hail from all over Afghanistan's 34 provinces; much like the diversity of patterns and colors in the rugs they weave, these women represent almost every ethnic group too — they are Hazara, Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, Baluch, among others (there are at least 14 recognized ethnic groups in Afghanistan). Most of these women do not know and have never seen each other, yet they are all part of the diverse weave of The Rug Mine family that bring authentic, hand-knotted, and premium quality Afghan rugs into your home. If you have one of The Rug Mine’s rugs, next time you admire it, perhaps you will think about where it’s come from and who weaved it for you! It’s had quite an exciting journey.
Supporting Afghan Artisans
Although I have faced many logistical challenges in bringing over hand-knotted rugs from Afghanistan (mainly due to the slow shipment of rugs and the collapse of the banking sector), I am committed to supporting Afghan artisans through these difficult times. I am in touch with the weavers on a daily basis and work to ensure that they have sufficient equipment, materials, and resources to produce the finest quality rugs for you.
Enhancing Sustainability and Fair Trade
More importantly, I am always exploring ways to enhance sustainability and fair trade within the rug-making craft, which has historically had a shaky reputation through forced child labor and unfair wages. For example, I pay my artisans much more than my competitors do and I am always exploring new ways to support Afghan women and their local communities. I also put money into working with artisans who are, like me, dedicated to ending child labor and supporting female artisans.
Education and Technology For the Long-Term
Part of my long-term vision is to provide artisan children access to education through technology. For example, there are brave Afghan women who teach Afghan girls the art of design and computer coding. My wish is to collaborate with them to provide the children of these artisans in rural areas the same opportunities and give them a future.
Strong, Ethical Values
I have taken great care to choose my values for The Rug Mine and believe that no other rug-seller holds as much impetus, commitment, or dedication as I do when it comes to beliefs and ethos. As an Afghan woman who grew up in Afghanistan and has great love for her home country, there is nothing more that I want than my values to flourish across the rug industry. It’s for the better of Afghan artisans, especially women, and to help the country move forward positively. I realize that my efforts are only a small step in the right direction, but every step counts.
When you shop at The Rug Mine, please remember that The Rug Mine isn't like any other rug shop. Within the pages of my website, not only are you buying a superior, handmade rug, but you are purchasing an heirloom that has a back-story and will make you feel good in your space. Each rug is made with sustainability, fair trade, and ethical sourcing in mind. You will also know that you purchased from a female-owned shop that is committed to reinvesting profits into artisanal communities and uplifting future generations.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and believe me when I say that I appreciate every, single purchase.
Love and peace,