Bamiyan Panorama

Bamiyan Panorama

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Afghan girl's 'horrifying abuse' exposed by video

A video given to the BBC shows the extent of the injuries suffered by a 15 year-old Afghan child bride who was locked up and tortured by her husband.
The girl was left starving after being detained by him and his family for several months.

The case came to light this week when police rescued the teenager, Sahar Gul, who had been locked up in the basement of her in-laws' house.

Police say that she had had her nails and clumps of hair pulled out.

In addition they say she had chunks of flesh cut out with pliers.

Sahar Gul was married off to a 30-year-old man around seven months ago, when she was just 14 years old. Her parents contacted police after not being able to see her for several months.

She was rescued from a dark, windowless room in her in-laws' house, according to Baghlan police official Jawid Basharat.

In the video, as Sahar is taken to hospital in a wheelchair, she is asked who beat her. She names her father-in-law, her husband, her sister-in-law, her brother-in-law and her mother-in-law. The 15-year-old says her hair and her nails were pulled out by her mother-in-law.

The authorities in the northern Baghlan province said they were aware of reports that the girl was tortured after she refused to be forced into prostitution, but could not confirm that was the case.

Rahima Zarifi, director of the Women's Affairs Department in Baghlan, said Sahar had been severely tortured, both physically and mentally, and that the psychological scars were likely to endure.

The police have managed to arrest Sahar's in-laws, but her husband had already fled.

Women in many parts of Afghanistan continue to suffer domestic abuse, often at the hands of their own family or in-laws.

Human rights activists worry that the plight of many women here, especially in rural areas, is being sidelined as the international community focuses on its military drawdown, and puts less emphasis and less pressure on the Afghan authorities over human rights.

In the second quarter of this year alone, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission registered 1,026 cases of violence against women, compared with a total last year of 2,700.

Those are only the cases that come to light.

Under Afghan law, the earliest age for marriage for girls is 16. However, almost half of Afghan women are married when they are younger.

And now for MY comments:  When I was 15 I was in school, learning how to drive, and had just started my first job.  This 15 year old has been married for at least a few months and treated like an animal.  Physical, mental, psychological, and (it seems like) sexual abuse.  How did this happen?  What would make an entire family treat a human being like this?  Is it because of the wars?  Is it because of PTSD?  Is it part of the culture?  Is it part of the religion?  Is it family values?  WHAT IS THE PROBLEM HERE PEOPLE? 

How do you justify THIS? 
Sahar Gul

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Kabul in the 80's

Here's some nice shots of Kabul from 1979-1987.  They are mainly pictures from Universities in Kabul.

Kabul in 1979

Factory workers in 1980

Kabul University Students 1981

At the Polytechnic Institute in Kabul 1981

Cooking class 1981

Factory Worker 1981

University Students 1983

Typing Class 1983

Kabul 1984

Factory Worker 1984

University Students 1986

Rally 1986

Chemistry Teacher in Kabul 1986

Two VERY different styles on the streets of Kabul in 1986

Medical Institute of Kabul - students 1986

Outdoor classroom 1986

More fashion & burkas!   1987

Children's event 1987

University of Kabul librarian 1987

Nurses in Kabul 1988

Afghan girls 1988

(From a website called Rianovosti)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Acid attacks in Pakistan & Afghanistan

I tale of romance:  Boy meets girl, boy wants girl, girl refuses, boy gets over it.  NOPE!  He gets acid and throws it in her face!  Acid burns the skin, it can make you go blind, it can eat away your skin and bones, and scar you forever.  And you call yourself men?  GROW UP and act like men! 
Saira Liaqat, 26, poses for the camera as she holds a portrait of herself before being burned, at her home in Lahore, Pakistan, Wednesday, July 9, 2008. When she was fifteen, Saira was married to a relative who would later attack her with acid after insistently demanding her to live with him, although the families had agreed she wouldn't join him until she finished school. Saira has undergone plastic surgery 9 times to try to recover from her scars.

Irum Saeed, 30, poses for a photograph at her office at the Urdu University of Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, July 24, 2008. Irum was burned on her face, back and shoulders twelve years ago when a boy whom she rejected for marriage threw acid on her in the middle of the street. She has undergone plastic surgery 25 times to try to recover from her scars.

Kanwal Kayum, 26, adjusts her veil as she poses for a photograph in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008. Kanwal was burned with acid one year ago by a boy whom she rejected for marriage. She has never undergone plastic surgery.

Munira Asef, 23, poses for a photograph in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008. Munira was burned with acid five years ago by a boy whom she rejected for marriage. She has undergone plastic surgery 7 times to try to recover from her scars.

Shahnaz Bibi, 35, poses for a photograph in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008. Ten years ago Shahnaz was burned with acid by a relative due to a familial dispute. She has never undergone plastic surgery.

 This girl committed suicide.

This 17 year old and her younger sisters were attacked with acid in Afghanistan after rejecting a marriage proposal. This happened recently, sometime in 2011.

How many thousands of women does this happen to?  How many get medical treatment?  How many get justice? 

Come to think of it - these women should all be in JAIL!  Why?  They were physically attacked.  If one of these women were raped, she woud be thrown in jail.  Rape is a physical attack.  So is acid.  So, lets just throw them all in jail and forget about the whole thing!  (i am being completely sarcastic, I hope that is obvious.)  The men who do the raping and the men who throw the acid are the only ones who belong locked up in jail. 

Here is where I found most of my pictures.

Sesame Street is coming to Afghanistan!

KABUL — Children in Afghanistan soon will be able to start their education the same way as millions of preschoolers elsewhere in the world: by watching the TV series "Sesame Street."

Makers of the show worked with two Afghan television channels and the ministry of education to produce the Afghan series, which begins on Thursday and features footage of Afghan life and the Muppets from the original U.S. version.

The series aims to encourage a love of learning in Afghanistan's youth. Around 45 percent of the population is under 15 and many will struggle to get an education, said Masood Sanjar, channel manager at TOLO TV, which will broadcast the show in Afghanistan's Dari language.
"Less than two-thirds of children are enrolled in primary school," he told reporters and children who had been invited to meet characters Grover and Ernie at a briefing in Kabul.
"'Sesame Street' is undoubtedly the most influential children's television program in the world. It was the first show to effectively use television as education," he said.

The series, funded by the U.S. embassy in Kabul and known in Afghanistan as 'Baghch-e-Simsim', will also be broadcast in the Pashto language on another channel, LEMAR TV.

"'Sesame Street' is not just for children," said Ryan Crocker, the United States' ambassador to Afghanistan.
"Teachers will discover that the characters in 'Sesame Street' can help children start school well prepared ... Afghan children who watch 'Sesame Street' will be ready to start school knowing the alphabet and knowing their numbers."

The Afghan education system, like many of its government functions, suffers from shortages of cash, and infrastructure shattered by years of war.  Earlier this year, a senior NATO commander said that only one in 10 Afghans who sign up for jobs in the army and police can read and write.

On Wednesday, Crocker said that when he first came to Afghanistan in 2001, only 900,000 children were in school, but that number has risen to more than 8 million.

A sample film displayed at the briefing on Wednesday showed a 6-year-old Afghan girl making friends on her first day at school, and red furry character Elmo searching in vain for someone who looked sad.

"Children will learn about the great diversity in this country," said Charlotte Cole, vice president for international education at Sesame Workshop, a not-for-profit organization that originally devised the series, first broadcast in America in 1969 and now screened in more than 100 countries.

"It's an opportunity to see a positive image of children like themselves on the screen."


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Karez - irrigation in Afghanistan

"In happier days, Afghanistan was a paradise of orchards and vineyards, spice gardens and forests. Sophisticated irrigation systems watered crops and were channeled into beautiful pleasure gardens for the leisure classes. In the 1960s, high-value horticulture and dried fruit provided Afghanistan with almost half of its export revenue. By-products of orchard fruits, such as pomegranate rind and walnut husks, were used to dye the brightly coloured carpets for which the country is famous, along with madder root, which produces the unique and varied red hues prized by buyers."  -FAO

         Karez (or Qanat) are a type of underground irrigation canal running between an aquifer (underground water souce) on the piedmont (mountain or higher elevation) to a garden on an arid plain. They are common in Afghanistan. The karez technology is used most extensively in areas with an absence of larger rivers with year-round flows sufficient to support irrigation. They are common when potentially fertile areas are close to precipitation-rich mountains or mountain ranges, and when the climate is arid and has a high surface evaporation rates. They are also found where there is an aquifer at a potentially fertile area which is too deep for convenient use of simple wells. In the middle of the 20th century it is estimated that approximately 20,000 karezes were in use in Afghanistan, each commissioned and maintained by local users. Although most are shorter than 5km, the length of the karez can run up to 16 km and it is said that the longest Afghanistani karez is 70 kilometers long. One of the oldest known karez in the Afghanistan is in Jalrez distict of Wardak province, which after 300 years still provides drinking and agricultural water to nearly 3000 people. Its main well depth is more than 60 meters and its length is 8 kilometers.
          The karez system has the advantage of being relatively immune to natural disasters (such as earthquakes and floods) and human destruction in war. Further it is relatively insensitive to the levels of precipitation; a karez typically delivers a relatively constant flow with only gradual variations from wet to dry years.
          To make a karez, one needs a source of water, such as a well, an underground reservoir or a water-bearing geological layer, a tunnel is cut to the farm or village that needs the water. The trick is to make the angle of the karez not too steep, because in that case, the water will grind itself down into the bottom and create pools that will make the karez collapse; on the other hand, if the angle is not steep enough, the water will be tainted. In some Karez where the gradient was high, the water flow has been slowed down by building weirs inside the channel or even by constructing underground mill. The builders of the Karez (‘muqannis’) therefore had to be brilliant surveyors and engineers.
The length of a Karez is punctuated with access shafts, which are added for three reasons: as an air supply, to allow the removal of sand and dirt, and to prevent the tunnels from becoming dangerously long. The shafts are not very far apart, and as a result, a karez seen from the air gives the impression of a long, straight line of holes in the ground - as if the land has been subjected to a bombing run. The shafts can be between 30 meter to 1 km apart, although in some rare cases they can be up to 3km apart. The shafts usually range from 20 to 100 meters in depth.
          Typically, the karez becomes a ditch near its destination; in other words, the water is brought to the surface by leading it out of the slope. The Karez therefore creates an artificial artesian well and oasis at the point at which it emerges. Fields and gardens are located both over the karezes a short distance before they emerge from the ground and after the surface outlet. Water from the karezes defines both the social regions in the city and the layout of the city. The water is freshest, cleanest, and coolest in the upper reaches and more prosperous people live at the outlet or immediately upstream of the outlet. Downstream of the outlet, the water runs through surface canals called jubs (jūbs) which run downhill, with lateral branches to carry water to different areas.

          The Qanats are called Karez (rhymes with "raze") in Dari (Persian) and Pashto and have been in use since the pre-Islamic period. It is estimated that more than 20,000 karezes were in use in the 20th century. The oldest functional Kariz which is more than 300 years old and 8 kilometers long is located in Wardak province and is still providing water to nearly 3000 people. The incessant war for the last 30 years has destroyed a number of these ancient structures. In the troubled times maintenance was not always possible. To add to the troubles, as of 2008 the cost of labour has become very high and maintaining the Karez structures is no longer possible.  Lack of skilled artisans who have the traditional knowledge also poses difficulties. A number of the large farmers are abandoning their Kariz which has been in their families sometimes for centuries, and moving to tube and dug wells backed by diesel pumps.  However, the government of Afghanistan is aware of the importance of these structures and all efforts are being made to repair, reconstruct and maintain (through the community) the kariz.  The Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development along with National and International NGOs is making the effort.
          There are still functional qanat systems in 2009. American forces are reported to have unintentionally destroyed some of the channels during expansion of a military base, creating tensions between them and the local community.  Some of these tunnels have been used to store supplies, and to move men and equipment underground.


Friday, November 04, 2011

What IS the Wakhan Corridor?

If you look at a map of Afghanistan you will see a 'finger' sticking out of the northeast part of the country.  Odd?  I think so.  From my knowledge of maps, I know that when you see a strange border shape there is normally a long story attached to it.  That is true in the history of the Wakhan.

I could summarize the history of the Wakhan, but I prefer to use a synopsis written by Greg Mortenson, as well as some quotes from Wikipedia:

"...The Corridor was historically used as a trading route between Badakhshan and Yarkand.[7] It appears that Marco Polo came this way.[8] The Portuguese Jesuit priest Bento de Goes crossed from the Wakhan to China between 1602 and 1606. In May 1906 Sir Aurel Stein explored the Wakhan, and reported that at that time 100 pony loads of goods crossed annually to China.[9(wikipedia)

"For centuries it [had] been a natural conduit between Central Asia and China, and one of the most forbidding sections of the Silk Road, the 4,000-mile trade route linking Europe to the Far East.
The borders of the Wakhan were set in an 1895 treaty between Russia and Britain, which had been wrestling over the control of Central Asia for nearly a century....Eventually Britain and Russia agreed to use the entire country as a buffer zone, with the Wakhan extension ensuring that the borders of the Russian empire would never touch the borders of the British Raj.
Only a handful of Westerners are known to have traveled through the Wakhan Corridor since Marco Polo did it, in 1271. There had been sporadic European expeditions throughout the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. In 1949, when Mao Zedong completed the Communist takeover of China, the [eastern] borders were permanently closed, sealing off the 2,000-year-old caravan route and turning the corridor into a cul-de-sac. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, they occupied the Wakhan and plowed a tank track halfway into the corridor. Today, the Wakhan has reverted to what it’s been for much of its history: a primitive pastoral hinterland, home to about 7,000 Wakhi and Kirghiz people, scattered throughout some 40 small villages and camps." (Greg Mortenson)

"There is no modern road through the Corridor. There is a rough road from Ishkashim to Sarhad-e Broghil[11] built in the 1960s,[12] but only paths beyond. It is some 100 km from the road end to the Chinese border at Wakhjir Pass, and further to the far end of the Little Pamir." (wikipedia)

WHO LIVES THERE?The Wakhi people live in the wide valley of the Wakhan Corridor itself, in Afghanistan and across the borders in Tajikistan and Pakistan. The Wakhis are Shia Ismaili Muslims, whose spiritual leader is the Aga Khan.
In the Pamir mountain valleys at the far east and northeast of the panhandle live the Kyrgyz, who are among the last of the Central Asian peoples who still follow a nomadic lifestyle. The Kyrgyz are Sunni Muslims. They once roamed more widely but the arrival of Communist governments in the Soviet Union and China confined them to an increasingly restricted area as border controls were tightened. Those who remain in the Afghan Pamir still follow their traditional pastoral lifestyle, especially in the two main valleys -- the Great Pamir and the Little Pamir. (A 'pamir' is a wide green valley, good for grazing animals.)  (

Wakhi People

A Kyrgyz Nomad

My next post will go into more detail about the Wakhi & Kyrgyz people in the Wakhan corridor today. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Zarnegar Park in Kabul

These are photos of Zarnegar Park (in Kabul) taken in the 70's. 

Here are some photos of the park taken within the past few years.
A mosque has been built in or near the park recently.

As it turns out, Zarnegar Park has been turned into the location for Kabul Municipality.  Here are some photos taken a few months ago - thanks to Mark in Kabul for these!