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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Things They Carried: The Afghan Field Medic

Propellers whir in a desert outside Kandahar, Afghanistan, taking off and landing to transport Afghan soldiers to and from the battlefields of the almost 16-year war against the Taliban.

Waisuddin, 22, who, like many Afghans, goes by one name, serves as a medic when he’s not fighting on the front lines. From under the sleeve of his Afghan army uniform, a long burn scar stretches toward his wrist.

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After a bloody month in Afghanistan, demonstrators demand security reforms

Protesters returned to the streets of Kabul on Monday waving pink flags and demanding the resignations of top security officials in the wake of the deadliest month in Afghanistan in years.

The demonstration was a continuation of weeks of sit-ins and protests in Kabul after a massive truck bombing killed at least 150 people on May 31. Days later, security forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing at least seven, and eventually dismantled the protest camp by force, resulting in another death.

At least 230 people died during the holy month of Ramadan, which ended last week. But the protests are only one manifestation of a political crisis that is threatening President Ashraf Ghani’s government.

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Facing Death Threats, Afghanistan’s First Female Conductor Plays On

At 12 years old, Negin Khpalwak decided she wanted to study music. Then, her uncles threatened to kill her.

Khpalwak, now 20, is from the restive Kunar province in Eastern Afghanistan. I meet her in a classroom in Kabul, where she sits behind a grand piano surrounded by young women and girls clutching violins, clarinets, and cellos. Khpalwak listens to Lauren Braithwaite, a woodwind teacher originally from the UK, as she leads a rehearsal session of Zohra, Afghanistan’s first women’s orchestra, which is a project of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, or ANIM.

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Cycle of violence continues in Afghanistan with bombing at funeral; at least 7 die

The mourners were standing in silence by a freshly dug grave Saturday as a mullah recited verses from the Koran. The deceased was a young man who had been killed during a protest against violence in Afghanistan.

Suddenly, a series of three explosions shattered the peace of the day, sending some of the mourners running in panic and leaving others motionless on the ground.

The blasts in the Afghan capital killed at least seven people and wounded 119, the government said, in the latest spasm of violence in the country. Local media reported higher casualty figures, with the number of dead as high as 20.

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Violence breaks out in Afghanistan’s capital during a protest about a deadly bombing

At least five people were killed in the Afghan capital Friday when security forces opened fire on protesters calling for government accountability after a bomb blast this week killed at least 90 people, workers at the nonprofit Emergency Hospital and witnesses said.

The violence occurred as the protest in Kabul moved from the site of Wednesday’s bomb blast toward the presidential palace, according to media reports and witnesses. Although protesters were largely peaceful, witnesses said some were throwing rocks.

Among those killed was Mohammad Salem Izedyar, the son of Mohammad Alam Izedyar, the deputy speaker of the upper house of parliament. Izedyar was not immediately in a condition to comment on his son’s killing, his secretary said.

Ahmad Sayeedi, leader of the committee that organized the protest, said presidential palace guards, not police, started firing at the protesters. “The police only fired in the air,” he said.

Protester Muhammad Najib Rahman, 18, said he saw the confrontation between guards and demonstrators.

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