In May 2010, I was given the opportunity to accompany the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization (AHRDO), an NGO that promotes human rights through arts and culture, as its staff conducted participatory theater workshops as psycho-social therapy and organized civilian war victims to take an active role in shaping the national debate over the government’s intention to negotiate with some of the insurgent factions currently battling Afghan and international forces.
by UNA MOORE
Leaving Bamiyan city, we drive through what amounts to a slum. The sights are jarring. This is where some of the poorest people in the world scrape out a ragged existence on the edges of a society with little to spare. Destitute families crowd into caves cut out from the rocky cliffs. There is no running water, no electricity, and just a few rudimentary outdoor latrines. The six month Bamiyan winter is often deadly for children and pregnant women living in these caves.
Along the road that leads through the caves area, I see children with thin limbs carrying cans of fuel. Their hair so dry and dirty it sticks out at all angles, and they have badly sunburned, prematurely wrinkled skin. Their clothing is tattered and they don’t smile. It is impossible for me to tell how old they are.
Bisharat shakes his head. “They waited for aid, but it didn’t come. The people feel they are being punished for peace.”
Since 2002, the Afghan government has broken most of its promises to the people of Bamiyan. Pledged infrastructure has been delivered slowly, when delivered at all. The Provincial Reconstruction Team, led by New Zealand, is under-resourced and too small to cover an area as large and rugged as Bamiyan province.
Half-way between Bamiyan city and Yakawlang, we stop at a place called Qarghana To, a collection of single-room shops that sell gasoline and expired snack cakes.
I need to pee, so I ask where the latrine is. Bisharat grins and tells me to pick a spot.