The Naked Don’t Fear the Water: An Underground Journey with Afghan Refugees

Harper. Feb. 2022. 352p. ISBN 9780063058583. $27.99. POL SCI
Aikins, an award-winning Canadian journalist, started reporting from Afghanistan and the Middle East in 2008. Eight years later, he accompanied his Afghan friend, translator, and colleague Omar on a dangerous overland journey to seek asylum in Europe. Aikins could pass as Afghani, and together the two endured long bus rides, scrambles on foot over borders, untrustworthy smugglers, brutal police, unstable small boats, and overcrowded miserable refugee camps in order to reach a safe haven in the European Union. This is a magnificent book that skillfully conveys the hope, disappointment, physical hardship, and human connections of Omar’s endeavor. Even more impressively, Aikins integrates knowledge of modern Afghan history, the failures of American policy, and the complexities of Afghan culture, religion, and family relations. As Aikins depicts it, Omar never loses faith that he will build a better life, even as war forces him to leave his home and breaks up his family. Aikins writes an absorbing record of an amazing adventure, framed by sympathy with Afghan lives shattered by the arrogance and ignorance of the United States and the other nations that invaded Afghanistan.
VERDICT This is a beautifully written individual story made more meaningful by thoughtful and well-informed insights into a country ravaged by war and undermined by foreign powers. Highly recommended.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing