To Kabul, without guns

I’m thinking about my trip to Kabul everyday since I left, and now that I’m in Russia, it’s interesting to see mixed reactions when I tell people here that I went to Afghanistan. Given the previous military history between the two countries, people don’t understand why I went there, to say the least. And obviously, family and friends are happy that I am safe. I previously wrote about the good and the beautiful about the country – it’s scenery, people and culture. Now it’s time to mention the other side – the political and civil unrest, insecurity, poverty and growing social class inequality.

Afghanistan is not safe. Flying into Kabul, safety is on everybody’s mind. Even the pilot of KamAir flight felt the need to reassure the passengers that “there was nothing wrong with the airplane”.

I’m sure while I was in the country, many things were not said and a few risks taken.

On arrival you’re faced with numerous gunned-up road blocks and dark-green police utes with mounted machine guns. War victims, disabled people sitting in the middle of a street begging for money. Poor kids playing with sticks in a heap of dust. Older kids exhausting themselves carrying canisters of water up the mountain or pushing loaded carts instead of a horse. You can’t look at Afghan kids without feeling the pain. You can’t avoid their adult-like eyes.

It’s obvious that the foreign forces currently occupying Afghanistan don’t really care about the future of the country. This country has one of the highest (20%) children mortality rate. Kids who survive often die because of lack of food or clean water. We complain about our hospitals, but how about having one doctor per 50,000 inhabitants? And what happened to education? And what is being done about the unemployment (40%+)? The country is rich with resources – it’s probably the richest area in the region, but it’s all being developed and mined by foreign companies, heavily guarded against any Afghan involvement.

A boy with a kite in Kabul

Kabul is like a large bazaar. It’s full of same sores that filled Russia during the Perestroika. Little kiosks, dwarf supermarkets, video salons, clubs, “New Afghans” driving expensive cars. The country is absorbing the bad and the ugly of the western imperialism. The country is loosing its unique identity. You see kids shouting English words at you. You see shops selling shiny western junk. It is a sad state.

People who choose to work in Afghanistan care about the future. They care about today. They may change a life of one person. That person may change a life of the whole country.

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2 comments on “To Kabul, without guns
  1. cmh says:

    As risky as it sounds, you obviously had a great time there. Glad you are now back with family, but I’m looking forward to coming on your next trip!
    Take care brother, and greetings to your family.

  2. Terry says:

    Guen, great writing. Thanks for sharing the insights that you have gained. Say g’day to your family over there for us.

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