Tag Archives: Taliban

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”.


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

Photography | Filmmaking | Production

Current location: The Gambia, West Africa

For assignment queries, and image licensing – Contact here

Displaced Persons, Panjshir Valley Arrival into the Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan from Tajikistan with Northern Alliance fighters ©Jason Florio

An Afghan Diary, 2000 & 2001. Images ©Jason Florio

An Afghan Diary: For those of who have had the privilege to have spent time in Afghanistan, I am sure all hearts go out to the extraordinary people who are on the verge of facing another surge of uncertainty as the US troops prepare to leave on Sept 11 2021. Jason Florio

An Afghan Diary – 2000 & 2001

My journey to the Taliban-controlled region of Afghanistan in August 2000 was in fact not planned. I was on my way to Kashmir to follow the ‘jihad trail’ when I got a call to join my colleague and writer Pepe Escobar, who was working on jihad stories on the Pakistan-Afghan border – he said: “This is (Afghanistan) where it’s really happening…”.

An Afghan Diary, 2000 & 2001. Children playing on destroyed Russian tank, Panjshir Valley, AfghanistanBlack and white Images ©Jason Florio
An Afghan Diary, 2000 & 2001: Children playing on destroyed Russian tank, Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan. Image ©Jason Florio

Crossing the Afghanistan-Pakistan border by foot at the Khyber pass we spent two weeks driving through the heart of Taliban-Afghanistan to try and get a clear understanding of who the Taliban were and how they held such sway over the populace. We felt we had dropped through a tear in the space-time fabric to the surreal land of corrupted ancient ideologies spouted from the mouths kohl-eyed men driving brand-new Toyota 4×4’s, where photography was outlawed – and because of which, we were arrested on two occasions.

To follow the full story on Afghanistan we knew we also need it to head to the north-east to meet the Taliban opposition, the Northern Alliance, who controlled that portion of the country. This we could not do until a year later in August 2001.

Gender Equality Afghanistan - Secret Home School for Girls - image © Jason Florio
An Afghan Diary, 2000 & 2001: Secret Home School for Girls, Afghanistan. Image ©Jason Florio

Our first attempt to cross the border from Pakistan to the Northern Alliance area disguised as women wearing full covering burqas failed. We then spent the next three weeks organizing a ride into the country via Tajikistan on a Russian helicopter operated by the Northern Alliance.


August 2001 I went to Afghanistan to photograph a war, all was quiet. I returned to my home in Greenwich Village, New York City on September 5th. Six days later the war came to me. JF

Being in the north-east was like being in Shangri-La compared to our time with the Taliban. We worked fairly freely and were eventually granted an interview with the legendary commander, Ahmed Shah Massoud. Despite our two successful Afghan journeys, we felt that the world at the end of August 2001 the media cared little about what was happening in this harsh land.

An Afghan Diary, 2000 & 2001.Women in burqa's, wearing fancy Chinese plastic shoes, Faizabad, Afghanistan Black and white Images ©Jason Florio
An Afghan Diary, 2000 & 2001. Women in burqa’s, wearing fancy Chinese plastic shoes, Faizabad. Images ©Jason Florio




Assignment queries, and image licensing – Contact here