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Life rolls on
Boy with wheelbarrow, Kabul, Afghanistan, 2021
Leaving Afghanistan I knew I’d come back. I don’t want to write that these people are or this place is amazing, Afghans are people like any other, in a dire situation but they’re people. It’s a landlocked country, dependent on aid for years, but it’s a country. You may have seen that aid is coming back. I’ve been to Iraq, Lebanon, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, UAE, Pakistan, I’ve found as many wonderful people there as I have in Manchester where last Christmas we volunteered with others making meals for the homeless and refugees led by a friend. The thing to highlight is their situation which is different from ours, largely (we still have our homeless) in the west. The Taliban took over. Many don’t like them. Many do. Women’s lives have changed, will the freedom that was experienced in the cities spread to the villages? Money was blocked by the US, that has not helped, and that’s changing now. Uzbekistan has said it will keep delivering electricity, Afghanistan needs it. It’s getting colder, the winters are bitter and can kill. As offices close up for Christmas there are still aid organisations working at full tilt, the Emergency Hospitals being an example, not the only one, but the one with which I’ve had the most contact.
I don’t want to paint a picture that is any less than the life many Afghans are living. It is for most cold, hungry, poor and hard. Leaving out all those who benefited from corruption, they’re doing just fine. Difficult questions we have to ask ourselves is how much are we going to do about it? Truly? Afghans tell me over the last twenty years they were hardly welcomed to the west, where they had to win education scholarships or be refugees to get in. Today, a few have been rescued, there are 39 million people in the country. Some still hanging onto the hope that the west is coming with its planes to get them out. Some smuggled themselves out and are on their way to France, the UK. For the safety that has been promised several times by politicians. Will that stand? It reminds me of Iranians in Calais who told me they were getting on flimsy boats into the world’s busiest shipping lane to get to the UK because the government kept saying the Iranian regime was terrible and so they felt they would be welcomed.
However hard it gets, people get on with it the best they can. Afghans are not here to show me how to live but their lives at times without hot water, electricity, shelter is a good reminder of how further the west is from the rest. One night I wore all the clothes I had including my cold weather gear and piled on as many things I could find over and under me in a building with no electricity and woke to no hot water, some Afghans have that each day. I know I have everything I need in Manchester. Even just in the bag I’ve packed. I’m no angel, I’ve bought too much stuff at times, have a store full of clothes and things I haven’t worn or missed in years now. They’ll be going to charity. And I’ll be back in Afghanistan when I can. Another set of people who showed me a way to live were the photographers, the journalists I met there. Moving from country to country to document the lives of people they met. At times earning good money and then using that to do the things they wanted. Leaving Kabul with some I knew I wanted to meet them again.
I have over a thousand photos to organise. That aside I’m revising my camera and medical kit, it’s been a good test of the things I took, to learn what was useful, and what not. I’ll post a kit list if you’re interested. Driving through Kabul one day in a taxi I heard a Punjabi song, many Afghans moved to Pakistan after the Russians invaded and came back with similar tastes in food and music. It made me think I don’t know enough about Punjab. I was fortunate enough to travel the length of Pakistan in 2017 but it may be the right thing to spend a good amount of time there. It’s an idea. Have a good break where you are.
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I’m looking for the next adventure. I’ll rest up in the UK, renew my visa, head back to Afghanistan or elsewhere. Thank you for following and supporting. This post was free. Paid plans are $6.99 (£5.20) a month, or $69.99 (£52.06) a year. You’ll receive three of these a week. If the lives of people are of interest, I’ll keep sending you pictures and words. Thank you, Adnan.