Tag Archives: Kabul

Afghan Notes: Three children playing on a destroyed Russian tank, in the Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan. Image ©Jason Florio

Afghan Notes: Jason Florio, August 2000

Afghan Notes – Jason Florio, August 2000: The Taliban Ministry of Foreign Affairs told us on arrival to Kabul that we could take pictures of anything as long as it’s not a living being – all images of humans and animals had been outlawed by them. Later that day we headed into an area of Kabul, home to the Hazara ethnic group, who were particularly persecuted by the Taliban. Next to a mortared mosque, a Hazara man tried to sell us a 1970’s travel guide to Afghanistan with stained pages and a broken spine for $20, but after we declined he invited us into his home. His three young sisters came to join us and Brazilian journalist, Pepe Escobar, and Pakastani journalist, Khawar Rizvi, made an interview with them while I made photographs. The irony and symbolism of the broken clock and the (outlawed) poster of innocent fluffy kittens were not lost on us. The next day we were arrested by the feared Vice and Virtue police for taking pictures of a football match.

Afghan Notes - Three young women, sitting in their living room, wearing full burkha's with a picture of a cat on the wall. Afghanistan 2000. Image ©Jason Florio
Afghan Notes – Three Hazara girls in full burqa. The picture of the cat hung on the wall behind them is considered illegal. Kabul, Afghanistan, 01/08/2000. Image ©Jason Florio

“Please tell your friends that I apologise for the behaviour of these people, this is not the way we Afghans treat our guests”.

I had hidden the previous day’s exposed film in our hotel, but Pepe’s video camera contained the damning evidence of the interview. The Vice squad demanded Pepe show them what was on the video camera tape – I realised this could be highly dangerous, not just for us but especially for the Hazara family. While Pepe fiddled with the camera, my heart was sinking thinking of what could happen to them after they showed us such Afghan hospitality. But sagely, Pepe had fast-forwarded the tape to an unrecorded section, and when he played it for the Vice goons, it only played a blued screen. We were released, albeit shaken. But just as we were driving out of the Vice and Virtue compound an old man stopped us at the gate. I froze in my seat, fearful the Vice squad had changed their mind and would detain us again. The gatekeeper leaned in and spoke to our driver, “Please tell your friends that I apologise for the behaviour of these people, this is not the way we Afghans treat our guests”.

@jasonflorio

Afghan Notes: A group of Kuchi nomads, sitting in their makeshift shelter, on the road to Kandahar, Afghanistan. Image ©Jason Florio
Afghan Notes: A group of Kuchi nomads, sitting in their makeshift shelter, on the road to Kandahar, Afghanistan. Image ©Jason Florio

“No way am I bringing the camera, I don’t want to get us killed!”.

We had left Kabul the day before, still a little shaken from our arrest by the feared Vice and Virtue goons and our temporary detention by a Taliban commander for wandering onto his military base at Ghazni a few hours before. Soon after our release, I told Khawar, our Pakistani colleague, that I was not going to take any more pictures, because every time I do we get arrested or detained. He knew I was unnerved by the past days, but soon found an opportunity to get me back on track and taking pictures.

Afghan Notes

Some hours after leaving Ghazni on the road to Kandahar, I spotted something black on the horizon to the West. Khawar said they are tents belonging to nomads, Kuchis. “Let’s go and say hello”, he said – I stepped from the Toyota SpaceWagon, purposely without my camera. Khawar said “What, no camera?”. “No way am I bringing the camera, I don’t want to get us killed!”. Khawar, an old soul in his late thirties, said without pressure, “Bring the camera, you will ‘enjoy’ this”. We stalked across the blasted terrain with my Contax G2 in hand to the black tents, which on closer inspection were constructed in a tattered patchwork of pieces. The Kuchi were hunkered under the black folds and welcomed us in from the August sun. Khawar had thoughtfully brought some of our food supplies from the Toyota, which the Kuchi willingly accepted after they had made us tea.

They told us they had lost much of their livestock to the drought, and sometimes to landmines, and were heading south to the Helmand River in hopes of finding water and saving the few precious camels and sheep they had left – they said it was about 28 days walk away. I made the photograph, and thanks to Khawar and the Kuchi, I regained my confidence.

But my quiet euphoria at overcoming my fears were torn asunder the following day when we crossed the Helmand River, we all fell silent as we looked down at the river bed, it was bitterly dry.

See more images/read more – from two journey’s made to Afghanistan in 2000, and 2001 – on the website.

Jason Florio

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