Author Archives: Maija Liuhto

About Maija Liuhto

Maija Liuhto is a freelance journalist based in Kabul, Afghanistan. She covers Afghanistan for Los Angeles Times and the largest Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat. In addition, her writings have appeared in Foreign Policy, Al Jazeera English, the Christian Science Monitor and VICE among others.

Regional leaders are defying Afghanistan’s president. The latest is a police chief who was once a close U.S. ally

In early January, Abdul Raziq, the powerful police chief of Kandahar, issued a direct challenge to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Speaking to reporters, Raziq said Ghani’s government “cannot fire me.”

It was a typical show of strength by Raziq, a onetime favorite of U.S.-led coalition forces who rose to prominence because of his zeal in fighting Taliban insurgents. A survivor of multiple assassination attempts, he brought relative calm to his volatile southern province while dismissing accusations of torture and other human rights abuses.

But Raziq’s statement also highlighted the fault lines that have weakened Ghani’s Western-backed government.

 

Read the entire story here.

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The lone female prosecutor in Kandahar risks her life daily fighting for women’s rights

Every morning, 28-year-old Zainab Fayez puts on a blue burkha and walks through multiple checkpoints to get to her heavily fortified office in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan. Finally inside, she takes off the burkha but leaves a scarf on to cover her face and hair in the otherwise all-male office. Fayez is the first and only female prosecutor in the volatile province of Kandahar, working in the attorney general’s office of Kandahar’s appellate court.

In only two years, Fayez has fought more than 50 cases related to violence against women and has put 21 men behind bars in this conservative part of the country. On the day she’s visited by a reporter for Women in the World, two women have arrived to meet with her — a mother and her 18-year-old daughter, Nazia. They have come to file a complaint about Nazia’s violent husband who beats her.

Cases like Nazia’s land on Fayez’s desk daily. Seventeen years after the fall of the Taliban, an extremist regime particularly oppressive toward women, domestic violence is still common in Afghanistan, particularly in the conservative south.

Read the entire story here.

As war’s toll grows in Kabul, the dead fight for space with the living

The cemetery sits atop a hill, where the rugged walls of an ancient fortress partially surround nearly 250 acres of gravestones. Below, in a valley, is Old Kabul, the center of an expanding city of 5 million people.

 

Death is all too familiar here — in January alone, at least 174 people were killed in attacks in Kabul, the Afghan capital. But an odd thing has happened at Shuhada-e-Saliheen, the city’s largest and perhaps oldest cemetery. As more people arrive from increasingly unsafe provinces in search of security and jobs, land has become so scarce that people have built houses in the cemetery. The dead, meanwhile, are turned away — there is no more room for them.

 

In Kabul, the dead must now fight for space with the living.

Read more here. 

Ylen Kabulissa haastattelema hazara-poliitikko arvostelee pakkopalautuksia Afganistaniin

KABUL

Hazarat ovat Afganistanin syrjityin ja vainotuin vähemmistö. Shiialaiset hazarat eroavat sunnilaisesta valtaväestöstä paitsi uskonnoltaan, myös ulkonäöltään.

Hazaroita on Afganistanin väestöstä eri arvioiden mukaan noin 9–20 prosenttia.

Tutkimusjärjestö Afghanistan Analysts Networkin mukaan iskut hazaroita kohtaan ovat kiihtyneet viime vuosina, kun Isis on alkanut pommittaa shiiakohteita Kabulissa.

Lue lisää täältä. 

This Afghan Cafe Was Forced to Ban Men. Now, It May Have to Close.

On a busy afternoon in Bamiyan, Central Afghanistan, men in turbans and skull caps are returning from their prayers to their shops in a bazaar, while just around the corner, fast-paced dance music is blazing from the loudspeakers of a café where young women sit, giggle and take photos of their sandwiches, kebabs, and salads.

Bamiyan Women’s Café, a project of a German NGO called HELP, has been serving food, coffee, and snacks to Afghan women for almost three years now. Opened in 2015, the café has since become more than just a place to grab a quick bite: It has turned into a popular venue for young women and girls who would otherwise struggle to find a safe space outside of their homes to spend their free time.

Read more here. 

The Walking Dead

It’s a warm day in Kandahar as we wait in the parking lot of the airport on the whim of the Afghan army. We are supposed to spend three days at the Kandahar air base, in one of the most violent provinces in Afghanistan, documenting the plight of injured Afghan soldiers. In the long struggle for Afghanistan, the men of the Afghan army have borne the brunt of the fighting. But it has been an uncertain road to get here, not least because the government is reluctant to admit the extent of its own losses. Citing troop morale, the Afghan government stopped releasing official numbers years ago.

In January, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which monitors the use of U.S. funds in Afghanistan, reported that a staggering 6,785 members of Afghan security forces had been killed and 11,777 injured in 2016. With an army of around 300,000 soldiers, the losses are unsustainable. Comparatively, only 10 U.S. soldiers were killed in Afghanistan the same year. If the army were winning, these figures would be tragic but maybe justifiable. But the Taliban control more territory than at any point since 2001, and the drawdown of international troops has left Afghan forces practically alone in battle against an emboldened enemy…

Read the entire story here.

The coffin makers of Kabul

Kabul, Afghanistan  In northern Kabul, a mausoleum overlooks a sprawling cemetery on the dusty hills below it. The mausoleum belongs to Marshal Fahim, a former Northern Alliance commander; the graves to the countless victims of the four decades of war this country has endured.

The dirt road leading to this cemetery in Sarai Shamali is lined with shops that engage in an increasingly profitable business: coffin-making.

Not too long ago, there was only one shop that sold coffins here. But today, the coffin makers have not only taken over most of the shops here, they have spread out into other parts of the city, as well. Death is now such a frequent occurrence in Kabul that coffin-making is one of the few thriving businesses.

Read the entire story here.

In Afghanistan, preaching peace comes at a cost

On 17 May, a Muslim religious leader named Abdul Ghafoor was travelling from Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, to his home province of Logar when Taliban fighters ambushed his vehicle and shot him dead.

Ghafoor was returning from a conference held by an organisation called Nahdlatul Ulama Afghanistan, Arabic for “the awakening of the Islamic scholars”. The group works to counter extremism by instructing imams like Ghafoor in Islamic teachings, such as the importance of tolerance of other beliefs and of women’s equality.

But in Afghanistan, preaching peace can get you killed.

Read the entire story here.

Fatana Hassanzada, 23, perusti Afganistanin ensimmäisen naistenlehden – Abortista ei halunnut kertoa kukaan ja Tinder-jutun jälkeen alkoivat uhkaukset

TRENDIKKÄÄSTI pukeutunut, polkkatukkainen nuori nainen kävelee itsevarmasti toimistorakennuksen portista ulos Kabulissa ja sanoo kädestä päivää. Hän on Fatana Hassanzada, 23, Afganistanin ensimmäisen naistenlehden Gelaran perustaja ja päätoimittaja.

Toukokuussa aloittanut Gelara (kurdin kielen sanasta ”silmäterä”) ei ole tavallinen muotilehti tyyli- ja laihdutusvinkkeineen. Lehdessä käsitellään myös vanhoillisen afgaaniyhteiskunnan standardeilla uskaliaita aiheita, kuten Tinder-deittailua, aborttia ja ehkäisypillereitä.

Ajatus omasta lehdestä lähti Kabulin yliopiston kirjakerhosta. Nuoret opiskelijat olivat kyllästyneet tyyliin, jolla naisista kirjoitettiin Afganistanin miesvaltaisessa mediassa.

”Me päätimme tehdä jotain erilaista: puhua elämän positiivisista puolista ja sanoa, että te olette kauniita, teillä voi olla positiivinen rooli Afganistanissa eikä elämänne ole aina pimeyttä. Voitte loistaa yhteiskunnassanne ja tehdä jotain hyödyllistä”, Hassanzada sanoo.

Lue koko juttu täältä.

The Oldest Restaurant in Kabul: Where Tradition Trumps Rockets

In the Old City of Kabul, there is an area known as Ka Forushi, the bird market. Visiting this old, roofed bazaar with its tiny lanes, spice sellers, and dancing boys is like walking into a scene out of “One Thousand and One Nights.”

It is here, among the clucking chickens, crowing roosters, and cooing doves, that Kabul’s oldest restaurant, Bacha Broot, has been serving delicious chainaki — traditional lamb stew — for over 70 years. Bacha Broot, named after the original owner who had peculiar facial hair, is from the Dari, meaning “boy with a mustache.”

While wars have raged on the restaurant’s doorstep, very little has changed inside. The claustrophobic stairs, the sparse interior, the tiny door easily missed in the maze-like bazaar; all in their original state. While modern fast food joints lure Afghanistan’s younger generations with pizza and burgers, Bacha Broot stays loyal to its recipe for success. The famous chainaki — lamb on the bone, split peas, and onions cooked for four hours in tiny teapots — has drawn customers for decades, during war and peace, good times and bad.

Read the entire story here.