Imitation is the biggest form of flattery right? 🙂
This is an image of an Afghan IDP (Internally displaced people) family living in the outskirts of Kabul. With the continued war and violence going on where they live, they decided to pack up their belongings and move to the ‘relative’ safety of the capital. The mud houses with plastic covers as roofs are warm and filled with flies. Dust everywhere. A small room of 3 by 5 meters is home to a family of 7…
Hoping to one day return back to their villages, they now live in horrible conditions and try to survive as best as they can. They men and boys try to find work as day laborers and the women take care of the children and food. School is only an option for some children and the quality of the schooling is not up to par at all…
The year 2011 was the most violent year since the collapse of the Taliban in 2001: the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) recorded a rise of 69 percent in security incidents in 2010; in 2011 it reported again a rise of 20 per cent in security incidents on top of the 2010 increase.37 This boils down to 2.000 incidents on a daily basis according to Unicef.
More suicide attacks, improvised explosive devices (IED’s), kidnappings and attacks on schools, health centres, etc… Consequences for children are huge and the caused trauma of living in a constant state of fear is immense. So many families choose to leave Afghanistan al together.
Just yesterday I saw an item on the Belgian news on rights of asylum seeking children or better said the lack thereof. Families and organizations protested and want the Belgian government to take the interests of children within asylum procedures into consideration so the children involved would get heard as well.
12 year old Amir has become the face of this protest with a letter he wrote in name of asylum seeking children who want to be listened to. Rightly so he asks in the news how it can be safe for children in Afghanistan, when it’s not even that for soldiers who can defend themselves.
16 year old Sonam rightly says that Afghanistan isn’t safe, especially for girls and women, who cannot go to school there and face various forms of gender based violence. Here she has already learned Dutch and some English and is getting opportunities she can only dream of in Afghanistan.
It’s appalling to hear that there is an article in the Belgian constitution on children’s rights, but that this doesn’t apply to children without official papers/permits who are in the asylum seeking procedure… And already Belgium has been reprimanded by the European Committee for social Rights about the way our country treats underaged asylum children.
So Amir and Sonam take to the streets, are demanding to be heard and continue to fight for their future with the hope of staying in Belgium.
In today’s newspaper De Standaard, I read an article about how music can heal in places affected by war. This particular article was about Kabul, Afghanistan and tells the story about Wahid, a boy that found solace in learning how to play the piano.
As it happens I visited the Institute of Music of Kabul (photo featured along the article) while I was in Afghanistan.
In Iran as well as in Israel and Palestine, I’ve found music to be a wonderful guide to get me into places that show a different reality of that particular country. It’s a language we all speak and understand. It always reminded me that we all want the same things out of life. A young girl no matter where she comes from, wants to be a little ballerina. A boy no matter where he comes from might have the dream to become the world’s best guitarist and play in a band. It’s a shared humanity across borders, languages or different religions.
Fawzia Koofi is the first female elected Vice-President to Afghanistan’s parliament and is a candidate in the upcoming 2014 presidential elections of Afghanistan.
Despite repeated death threats from the Taliban, she remains an avid and outspoken women’s rights activist and is committed to raising the level of education and voicing problems women face in her war torn country.
All these images were taken on a trip I took with Mrs. Koofi to her home province of Badakshan. More images can be seen online on my website.
This post is about a wonderful, young contemporary artist I met in Kabul. Shamsia Hassani. The first female graffiti artist of the country, member of the art collective Roshd and drawing/sculpture teacher at the Kabul University. Talk about a busy and creative woman.
Shamsia participated in a week-long workshop by British graffiti artist Chu in 2010 and has a love for this art form ever since. The streets of Afghanistan are not safe for a girl to wander. Shamsia is limited to spray her work in abandoned industrial spaces, on private walls of restaurants, art galleries and has since developed a digital way to continue developing her vision. She takes photographs of walls and spaces that she likes during the day and then digitally adds her graffiti to it on her computer.
Still very much a conservative and traditional society, it’s not common for women to venture out on the streets by themselves. Sadly, a lot of the women that do go out on the streets alone, face various forms of street harassment .
A lot of her work features women in bright blue burqa’s. But the female figures are represented in a much more feminine way. She uses the image to talk about women’s rights and the problems women in Afghanistan face. She changes the shape from sad to happy, because she feels women’s lives can also change for the better.
“For me art has lots of meaning. It’s like a kind of writing of my special alphabet of my inside. Every artist is like a country, every artist has a different kind of language, different rules. When one country writes something, people from another country can’t read it. They need translation. For example my alphabet are like the fish, the bubbles, the women in burqa, some colors that I always like to use. These elements are like my alphabet that I’m speaking and writing with… This way I can speak with my inside language.” Shamsia Hassani
Lastly, check out the wonderful video of Shamsia on the project website of Kabul a city at work, an incredible multi-media project, led by a joint international and Afghan crew collecting interviews, photographic portraits and video shorts of the people of Kabul in their working environments.
Today Young Women for Change organized a walk demanding justice for the killing of Shakila, an 18 year old girl from Bamiyan that was raped and then murdered on the 26th of January in the house of provincial council member Hadi Wahidi Behshti.
Over 6 months after the murder, the investigation was run inconsistently and has not been conducted transparently. No one has been convicted of this crime as of yet.
Reports show that gender based violence in Afghanistan is still on the rise (with more women finding courage to report crimes and seeking justice)…Often these crimes take place in very brutal and shocking ways, yet hardly any of the perpetrators are prosecuted and /or convicted.
Meet 3 of the wonderful girls I met today at the Afghan Mobile Mini circus school.
All day I was surrounded by juggling, dance and song, laughter and play and it reminded me so much of the wonderful time I spent with the Palestinian circus school a few summers ago in the West Bank.
Talking to David, one of the founders of the school, I asked him why circus and why here in Afghanistan? His answer was that there couldn’t have been anything else he could do here. He knew the country a little already and wanted to do contribute in some kind of way. Even more important then food, he thought making children laugh was the first and most important thing to do. Make them smile, let them sing, play with them, so that the little food they have will taste better, the songs they hear will sound sweeter and their general outlook on life will be more happy.
Not exactly what I expected to see on my first day real day in Kabul.
Well, maybe it’s always good to expect the unexpected. A friend of mine told me about a fashion show that would be hosted in the garden of a chique French restaurant in Kabul. Who am I to say no to that. It turned out to be a charity event to raise money for the Zabuli girls school founded by Razia Jan. And even though I saw no Afghan models or mostly expats lounging in the garden, it was a beautiful event.