Kabul

Photographs and stories from December 2015 and January 2016.


I met Khan Mohammed at a camp for internally displaced persons on the outskirts of Kabul in January, 2016. He and his family had just fled Sangin, Helmand Province, after his father was killed during fighting between Taliban and government forces. The situation they described was hellish; bodies decomposing in the streets, a woman who drowned her starving children, friends and relatives killed in the crossfire. A teenage boy showed us a video he made of the torn apart bodies of Afghan Local Police, all killed when Taliban fighters dug a tunnel under their outpost and blew it up. He said his uncle was among those killed. Government forces, backed by western fighter planes and special forces, had been attempting to repel a Taliban siege of the district for months. Several hundred Western soldiers have been killed in Sangin over the years, as well as a much larger but unknown number of Afghans. The district finally fell to the Taliban in March of 2017.



On January 1, 2016, a Taliban suicide bomber detonated a massive car bomb outside the Le Jardin Restaurant in Kabul, Afghanistan. The blast leveled the the restaurant and shattered the windows of surrounding buildings. Twelve year-old Ahmad Baset was at a nearby shop buying groceries for his family when the blast occurred. He was hit in the head with shrapnel and pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. The restaurant's security guard, forty-year old Baseer Ahmad, father of four young daughters and his  family's sole breadwinner, was killed instantly.

Ahmad and Baseer are just two of the tens of thousands of civilians killed in the ongoing war in Afghanistan. A report released by the UN in February, 2016 documented 11, 002 civilian casualties in 2015, the highest number since they began recording in 2009.


Since the fall of the Taliban opium production has skyrocketed and Afghanistan now produces approximately 90% of the world's total supply. Both insurgent groups and officials at the highest levels of government profit from the booming industry. In 2015, the United Nations estimated that the opium trade accounts for up to 15% of Afghanistan's GDP. As a consequence, opium addiction has ravaged the country; more than one million Afghans are believed to be drug dependent.

At the Mother Trust Camp, a small rehabilitation center in Kabul run by a woman named Laila Haidari, about 300 addicts receive treatment each year. For thirty days they live at the center and participate in Narcotics Anonymous inspired sessions lead by former addicts. The men and boys come from different parts of the country and different backgrounds; a teenager who started using at the age of 15, a former Afghan Border Police officer who lost his legs in a Taliban IED attack, a carpenter who ran a successful business before losing everything to his addiction. 

One of the young men, 18 year old Zaman, was living under a bridge with hundreds of other addicts before he was admitted to the camp. He told me that he finally decided to get help because he wants to be with is family again, to be happy. "I have hope," he said.



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