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The Weekly Standard: Letters from Afghanistan

The Weekly Standard’s Victorino Matus mentioned RFE/RL’s Afghan service, Radio Azadi, in a blog post on the Standard’s website. Matus described one of his experiences while visiting RFE/RL’s Prague headquarters, in which he was given the opportunity to look through some of the hundreds of handwritten letters mailed to the radio each week by the station’s listeners in Afghanistan.


According to Akbar Ayazi, director of Radio Free Afghanistan (known in-country as Radio Azadi), some 300 to 400 letters are sent their way each week. In his office he has me lift the bags and rifle through the correspondence, mostly on loose-leaf paper. I can't make sense of any of it but Ayazi tells me the listeners tell the station they are fans of the show, their likes and dislikes, and pretty much whatever else is on their minds. And then he shows me one of the longest letters ever sent. Glued together and unscrolled, it came to about 6 meters. It was written by a 14-year-old Afghan boy and broken into sections about himself, his country, the drug problem, girls, and poetry. Radio Free Afghanistan is the most listened to of all the RFE broadcasts, with 52 percent of the market tuned-in to them (12 hours of talk, news, and music).

In my years at the magazine, I'd seen my fair share of handwritten letters. But none of them came to that length.
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