Independent reporting on human rights, environmental and conflict issues


The national Afghan football team practices at the infamous stadium where Taliban performed executions in Kabul. © Anne Holmes

I arrived in Kabul two days ago. My first impressions are nothing like what I expected. The city is calm, the people are extremely friendly, and it’s easy to forget that at any moment anything could happen. It’s all a bit surreal. I met a woman at the airport who gave me a lift to my hotel in her armored car. Shortly after my arrival a friend who had just returned from two weeks with the troops in Helmand, came to fetch me for lunch. We drove around the city running errands in the afternoon. I stared out the window in a daze, watching the people go about their daily lives; women in burkhas, women without burkhas, markets full of people, men looking at me with a curious smile just at the corner of their mouths, children begging at the windows. I had just arrived from Delhi where I spent a week securing my Afghan visa. The street scenes didn’t seem all that different, just friendlier, different clothes and faces, and a whole lot calmer.

It’s strange. Everything appears normal, and then suddenly you see an ununiformed man in the back of an unmarked vehicle with a machine gun, a truck with a rocket launcher on the bed, a convoy of UN vehicles surrounded by security. The parking attendant helped us find a spot with a smile and a Kalashnikov. I got a full body search before going in to buy a sim card for my mobile, but everyone was so nice about it. I’ve never been to a country where the immigration guy started laughing at my photo and making jokes while barely glancing at my passport. Welcome to Afghanistan!

I spent the second day with a friend wandering about the city on foot. We visited the famous stadium where the Taliban used to execute people, and watched the national football team practicing. We climbed up one of the hills that surround the city and surveyed the remnants of the 2001 conflict between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban: half buried tanks, walls full of bullet holes, children playing in the rubble. But mostly, it seemed everything was under reconstruction and people had a very positive attitude. It’s difficult to imagine that not far outside the city, a brutal war continues to rage on. The Taliban are making a strong comeback and NATO troops are making very little, if any progress in rooting them out. The south is so dangerous that there are no aid organizations operating anymore. I met with a former BBC journalist this morning who is here to help get an Afghan news channel off the ground. He told me that if there are any journalists in the south, they are either embedded with the troops or kidnapped. It’s totally lawless territory. The north and northwest are still relatively safe.

I will be here for one month covering the refugee crisis on the border with Iran, and many other stories on the side. While I was in Iran this past May, the government rounded up an estimated 85,000 Afghan refugees and sent them back to their country. It is alleged that 2,000 of these had proper papers for living in Iran. Iran plans to return an estimated 1 million Afghans by the year 2008, who presumably are living there illegally. Some suggest this move on the part of the Iranian government is an attempt to destablize US efforts in Afghanistan as the massive influx of refugees may prove to be fertile ground for Taliban recruitment. Iran’s interior minister made statements in May suggesting that they were not willing to absorb the Afghans who had come there as a result of the US led war.

If you like what you see, please feel free to make a donation by clicking on the button in the left-hand side bar. Fixer fees are $100 USD a day, not including transport, and the cost of living is about equivalent to the average western city. I am hoping to remain independent and reader-funded for as long as possible in order to tell people’s stories the way they want to tell them, instead of letting newspapers use my photos however they see fit. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Addendum: Please see comments for a correction in reference to aid organizations operating in the south.


6 Responses to “Kabul”

  1. Hyun Caronna says:

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  2. admin says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Kabul can be pretty dangerous at times, but not unmanageable. Just make sure to stay vigilant and keep good relations with people who can give you advice about the current situation there. Good luck.

  3. Jeff says:

    Hi, I have been offered a job to teach at a music school in Kabul. Is it really dangerous? Or is it the media that is making too much of every bombing?
    Thanks Jeff

  4. Wahoo says:

    Thank you for sharing!

  5. admin says:

    Thanks Allison, for clearing that up….and glad to know there are brave people wanting to help.

  6. M.Allison says:

    We are actually still in Kandahar, building a high school , with many security delays etc. I have also been in contact with an Afghan American who helps destitute women there through a handicraft project. Another organization is still running a eye clinic down there. I’m sure many others are still there, just quiet about it. I thought I’d let you know that good works go on…

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