Above Our Heads Afghanistan by Witold Krassowski There are certain opinions that Afghans repeat like mantras when questioned about their country. These opinions don’t necessarily reflect the facts, but certainly represent the state of mind of the people. They thus become facts. “We have lost initiative in our country. Americans imposed on us this government, that they control, they deal directly with the military and we don’t have a say in the decisions that shape our lives. Everything is arranged above our heads. They haven’t done anything for the people, they are worse than Russians. They just launch these campaigns with big poetic names like Big North Wind or Mountain Fury, and Taliban keep winning, they are on the outskirts of Kabul already. Obviously the Taliban could be removed in no time, America willing, but instead America prefers to play a game of hide and seek.” Life in Kabul under Najibullah, 1991. Transporting an imported car, with happy owner inside. The car was dismantled and imported as spare parts to avoid heavy taxation. “We have lost our solidarity. Before the fighting we had our rich and poor, obviously, but the rich knew they had to take care of the poor, so the latter could rely on them in time of need. Now it ’s gone. Our commanders made profit from the fighting in the country. This is the money that gets invested in Afghanistan today, the money from fighting, not the money from business, and it ’s not invested in production, just housing. They don’t know how much they have got and don’t care if they lose it. So the feeling of insecurity is still there. The commanders enjoy their wealth and their former soldiers go begging. After the fighting the international aid increased inequalities even more. The charities offered absurd money for housing and services, thus creating another financial elite. At the same time by handing help directly to the needy they induced the poor into passivity and claiming attitude. They destroyed their moral and physical fitness. And what more, the huge money the charities spent on their lifestyle is presented in the books as international aid to Afghanistan but it all goes to few rich, foreign companies and Toyota.” A Kabul street. Watching a Hindu movie team filming in the street. A woman kisses a man on a cheek in front of a holy pole wrapped in green and golden fabric, in the compound of Sahid Ismail Balhi mosque. Cooling a fighting cock with a spray of water, Babur Gardens. Watchmaker and soldier. “We must find a new system. Our former ways of administration don’t work. The king’s rule is no good, neither is the communists’. During the war with Soviets period we had commanders. Luckily they got almost dealt with by Taliban. Now the Americans revived them for the sake of their own politics, so we are set back. But we need to modernise our state and our administration. Otherwise the neighbours will always rule in our country. We are tired of war, we need peace and security to develop our economy. We want to modernise our lives, especially the young, who watch TV, and the refugees who returned from camps.  They have suffered a lot and now they want to enjoy good life. They brought with them new ideas and new culture. Only people in remote villages are not happy, the changes are happening too quickly for them. The impact of the media on the young creates big tension in villages.” Kid flying a kite in the settlement of the immigrants from the province that came to Kabul in search of jobs and security, Chawk area. Young girls combing hair and dressing up in the security of a side street, far from prying eyes. Rika Khanan area. Boys clean carrots by spraying water on them and kicking to get the mud off - in a wasteland behind Habibia High School. The number of land mines is still very high in Afghanistan and people with prosthesis are trying to make a living. Recently the UN cut funds necessary for demining by 60%, jeopardising the plan to clean Afghanistan by 2012. Street vendors at the entrance to the Women's Garden, also known as Women's Paradise where women and children only are allowed. They can enjoy complete freedom behind the wall. An abandonned soviet tank from the Afghan-Soviet war is used by a local handicapped one-legged man hired by the local community as a human scarecrow. Standing on the tank's turret he cracks a whip to scare small birds away form the rice field near the road from Kabul to Kunduz. “There is no widespread drugs addiction in Afghanistan. The production is enormous, sure, but it ’s all for export. The peasants grow the plants, international mafia buys the harvest three years in advance, so the farmers can not stop planting drug crops. The production process, all the networking and logistics involved are organised and controlled by the central government in Kabul. Being in government is the biggest business of all. Karzai just makes the right noises for the international community, he has no power anyway. If the situation becomes too difficult all the people in government will disappear, they have American passports ready in their pockets, they don’t care.” A charming scene with the loom and weaver in a private carpet factory in Deh Dana, Southern part of Kabul. Catching a kite set loose or "liberated" in a fight in the air. This is a favourite pastime on the hill next to the royal mausoleum. Which lucky boy will become the new owner of the kite?  Under the Taliban, kite flying was banned and those found flying them would be severly beaten. An open air slaughterhouse in the sheep market in Faizabad, Badakshan province. A handicapped man walks with his wife in a crowded street in Kabul market. An old muezzin waits for evening prayers in the village of Spin Gaw, near Faizabad, Badakshan. A swing in the Kabul Zoological garden, favourite spot for Friday entertainment, as the city has very little to offer in this respect. A tramp lies in the street while two boys indulge in kite flying, their favourite pastime. A local blacksmith heats up a sicle with the help of a boy (middle) pumping air into the furnace, in his workshop in the city of Borak, near Faizabad, Badakhshan province. Back to current issue