jeudi 15 mars 2012

A Part of Life - Afghanistan

This part of Afghanistan will definitely freak the hell out of any normal person. It’s dirty, smelly and disgusting. There, no one will care of you and your life will cost nothing. Chaos, disorder and impunity – these words have never been that descriptive…

Approaching Kabul.
In the airport, there are a lot of military equipment and aircraft. Almost all helicopters are Russian.
An absolutely empty arrival hall – no taxi cars, no greeters. Nobody is allowed to enter the airport. It’s buses which take the passengers out of it.
In nearby shops, you can buy a local sim card with the GPRS Internet connection and even an iPhone.
The first impression of Kabul is that it’s either a big jail or a fortress. There are huge concrete fences with barbed wires along its streets. Weapon emplacements, sandbags and soldiers are everywhere. A lot of people with guns, all in different uniforms. The second impression can be described with only one word - dirt. It’s VERY dirty in Kabul.
The Kabul River flows through the city. This is the main city gutter. People throw garbage into the river. The water is not just muddy, it is absolutely black as ink. It smells really disgusting, but you quickly get used to it as well as to a great number of flies…
… heaps of crap and rotting under your feet garbage.
The embankment of the Kabul River. When this picture was being taken, the photographer thought that these people were probably praying as it was just the time for the evening prayer. But as it turned out later, they were just crapping…
The Kabul is a tributary of the Indus. Its length is 460 km.
The city itself looks something like this.
A street hairdressers.
The old city is almost completely destroyed by long-term wars, though somewhere you still can see the traces of ancient buildings.
Kabul is a big market. The traffic on the streets is rather dense. There are no traffic lights, no one follows the rules, chaos reigns on the roads.
A bird market.
A very nice restaurant with samovars.
At first glance, it may seem that this is just a dirty eatery, but in fact, it’s a decent cafe.
Its owner often asks the visitors to leave a few lines in a book of reviews.
The local bird market is very vivid and colorful.
Here you can meet some interesting and beautiful people.
Parrots and pigeons are the most common goods here.
Chicken is cut right in front of the client.
Not to attract attention one can buy a local suit here.
This is not a dump but the place where waste is sorted. Plastic, paper and metal are put into separate packages. Plastic bottles are sold to Pakistan for processing. 7 kg of bottles cost 30 cents.
Sorters live with their families right here, on the heaps of garbage.
A horse costs from 700 to 2000 dollars.
Kabul is also “famous” for a great number of drug addicts. They gather under bridges, on dumps and in destroyed by war buildings. Heroin is used right on the streets and no one gives a damn about these people. 5% of the population of Afghanistan uses hard drugs. The picture depicts one of their favorite places. Over the last 10 years the number of addicts in Afghanistan has increased greatly…
A drug addict prepares a dose. Here drugs are mainly used by Hazaras, the descendants of Genghis Khan. Shiites, they go to work to Iran where earn relatively good money.

Heroin is sold right here. It is cheap and available to everyone. There are no prohibitions against its sale and use. To buy a dose one steals and begs.
5 minutes after the shooting began aggressive drug addicts noticed the camera and made the poor photographer run. Some kind people helped him to get to the road and advised to find a safer and more appropriate place for shooting.
They told that addicts didn’t like photographers at all. 2 weeks ago they beat two German journalists who wanted to make a report about them.
The river…
Women wear blue head scarves which look very nice.
There is a network of ditches throughout the city which eventually flow into the main river. No water supply and sewage. Water is taken from wells. The local sewage is in the picture.
A typical urban landscape. Very dusty. Many people wear medical masks, some are wrapped in scarves to avoid breathing dust.
The local gay parade.
The locals often blame the Americans for doing nothing. “They built their own bases and just sit there. That’s all! And what do they do for people?” Aid packages are well used as a building material.
At dawn. Since Kabul is surrounded by mountains, the sun appears about 30 minutes after the sunrise.
A local school. Here children don’t get any marks – there’s just a special man with a stick who beats them.
The school director treats the American occupants quite negatively. He says the Afghans could easily drive the Americans out of the country, as some time ago they drove the Russians but people are too tired of the war and do not want to do this again. The director has a negative attitude to both occupations but believes that the Russian one was still better. He does not claim that the Russians are good and the Americans are bad. He hates the Russians too, but they seem to him more human, friendly, courageous and honest.
Yes, the Russians conducted operations and bombed villages too, but they warned people beforehand so that women, elderly people and children were able to leave the area. Besides, the Russians did not kill women and children, as the Americans do. As for the latter, the director’s thoughts about them are quite contradictory. On the one hand, he thinks that the U.S. military men are very arrogant, they humiliate people and have no respect for them and for their traditions. On the other hand, he says that the Americans seem to be afraid of their own shadows, they don’t go out of their bases and basically control only them.
In the end of the conversation the director said that the Russians killed about 1.5 million Afghans and it would be nice if they paid for these losses.
The person who beats the children. He has especially a lot of work in the end of each break – kids just refuse to enter the classrooms without the help of the stick.
And this is Bagram. According to the credible source, the trade of the ammunition and equipment stolen from the warehouses of the American army flourished near the Bagram base for a quite long time. Now the market is fully dispersed. This is because of the Taliban who bought here the American uniform and wearing it attacked the bases of the international coalition and local police.
Sellers refuse to communicate and are extremely reticent. As it turned out later, they were going to beat author of these pics as they took him for an American. Two weeks ago, the American soldiers came to the market and marked those shops that sold stolen goods. Then they returned with the police and seized all that they could.
It’s very dusty, hot and absolutely nothing to do in Bagram. The fences and fortifications are made of such grids filled with sand. In the photo, a boy shows what will happen if one throws a grenade at them.
Dust, heat and very strong hot wind. It’s like someone put a bowl with road dust in front of you and turned on a hairdryer.
Around Bagram there are many brick factories.
Large ovens are used for baking the bricks.
A lot of children work at these factories. Some of them are really young, 5-6 years old.
And such beasts can be found in the fields.
During the war, abandoned on the roadsides Soviet tanks became the symbol of the country. Recently, however, it has become really difficult to find any dumps of abandoned equipment. In the picture you can see one of them. It is located near the military base and it’s not good. The military men throughout the world are all very suspicious and the Afghans are no exception. Just on the way to the base, the photographer was arrested and carried to the base commander with whom he had a serious conversation.
Checkpoints are everywhere along the road.
The green and clean city of Kabul transformed into a prison-fortress. Who on Earth needs such huge fences?
The Land Cruiser is followed by the car with guards. If you have money, you can legally collect and equip your own army.
An old picture of Kabul against a background of a fresh one.
The shop of skins.
An old photographer makes pretty good pictures with this box. It’s a pity you have to wait the result for so long…
A local fake of RedBull.
A taxi to Mazar-i-Sharif (400 km from Kabul and 8 hours of driving) costs about $ 100. Some guy with a gun walks along the road and drives everyone away. A few minutes later the government’s motorcade drives down the road.
Shaheed soldiers are buried in the graves with green flags right along the roads.
It’s not so hot in the mountains as it’s downwards.
The traffic is very busy, hundreds of trucks slowly walk along the narrow roads.
One of the drivers shared his opinion about the Russian and American occupations. Comparing the two of them, he stands on the Russian side. He says that they were good fighters, and the 10 years of the Russian occupation gave Afghanistan incomparably more than the same 10 years of the American occupation. He gives the example of the employment system which was used by the Russians. According to him, there were vacant places for everyone, and even an elderly man could find a job. The Americans, on the contrary, never hire the locals or hire only the young people.
Comparing two occupation armies, he thinks that Russian soldiers were much better fighters. Not having all that equipment, which the Americans have, the Russians maintained the order in the cities. The whole country was against them, but they were firm. He knows how hard it was and under what conditions they had to fight and that’s why the Russians deserve much more respect.

Trucks leisurely overtake each other. The trip by car takes 8 hours, the trip by truck – two days.
Sometimes trucks cause traffic jams.
Salang is a strategic mountain pass in the Hindu Kush which connects the northern and the central part of the country.
The entrance to the Salang tunnel.
This 2.7-kilometer tunnel was built by Soviet specialists.
During the Afghan war, two cases of the mass death of Soviet soldiers took place in the tunnel. On February 23, 1980 as a result of a car crash, 16 soldiers choked by exhaust fumes. Another, an even greater tragedy, happened on November 3, 1982 when, as a result of the traffic jam, 176 people died in the tunnel.
Now the state of the tunnel is quite lamentable. There is almost no asphalt. Most of the road is destroyed. No light and very dusty. Drivers can barely see the road.
In addition to the main tunnel, there are a lot of such galleries.
Traffic jams occur here very often.
That’s how the road to the north looks.
The mass fight of the drivers.
After the pass, drivers stop to wash their cars.
And themselves.
As well as to have a snack.
And to pray.
A column of the Americans.
The column is quite large, mostly consisting of construction equipment.
At some periods, the column stops and blocks the road causing a large traffic jam. The reason for doing so is to prevent the terrorists from coming too close to them.
Unfortunately, the soldiers turned out not very friendly. They took the photographer for a German tourist and were truly surprised when knew that he was Russian. The captain wished him good luck and categorically forbade him to shoot. At close look, the soldiers look very cool. All wear some cameras, sensors, weapons, flashlights, etc., just like robots.
Local residents advise to stay away from the American columns because they are very often attacked.
Peasants harvest.
The remnants of military hardware are everywhere. One more reason why the locals don’t like the Russians is that the latter left tons of military equipment after leaving. This equipment was used by the Taliban against the civilian population.
After the Americans came here, the traffic of heroin to Russia increased by 2 times.
This boy is 8 years old and he is the pride of the family. He knows 2 chapters from the Koran by heart!
This is a standard checkpoint. Sometimes it is under fire. Once the most quiet and peaceful corner of Afghanistan has recently become a place of fighting of the Taliban with invaders. 3 weeks ago, they blew up a bridge. A month ago, they cut off the head of some Australian. Sometimes they kidnap foreign workers…
Such airships with installed cameras fly over the military bases and monitor the situation from the height.
This area is, by the way, very beautiful. Fields with rice and nice terraces look wonderful. A very unusual landscape for Afghanistan. It would be nice to make some more pictures of this place, but the driver refused to stop here. If the Taliban see that he picked up a European, he will be killed. Everyone who deals with the NATO and the UN is punished…

The checkpoints are located at each of 3-5 km. At night, they are closed, the soldiers hide themselves in bunkers and the road is not controlled by anyone.
The closer to Mazar-i-Sharif, the hotter the air becomes. At night the temperature is about 35 C and it’s pretty cool for this place as the day temperature reaches 50 C.
At some point, the road tired the driver and he calmly took a piece of hashish (of the size of a small piece of chocolate) out of his pocket, began to crumble it over his clothes, then took a cigarette, emptied the tobacco into an ashtray, filled it with hashish and lit it. All this was happening at a speed of 120 km per hour…

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