Archive for Bamiyan
I have always been interested in the ways that people around the world share things in common. All of those things remind us of what the human condition is really about. In the blogs that I wrote about reading, we saw that there is a strong connection between people and their books which is the same in Yemen as it is in China as it is in France as it is in Thailand as any other place on the planet. The relationship between people and their books goes all the way back to the invention of the printing press.
The subject of this blog goes back millennia. Here are some pictures of couples who have a relationship that is evident in their gestures of caring, their body language, in their eyes.
So many of you have told me that you enjoy seeing the unpublished work, that I will try to put up previously unseen material more often. Thanks for looking at my blog.
The “Great Game” a term popularized by Rudyard Kipling in his novel, Kim, to characterize the intense rivalry between the British Empire and the Russian Empire over dominance in Afghanistan and Central Asia, seems particularly appropriate now that it has been revealed by the Pentagon that a trillion dollars worth of rare and valuable minerals deposits are in Afghanistan. But, this has not been a secret to many.
In January 1984 a report was published by the chief engineer of the Afghan Geological Survey Department about Soviet uranium mining in Afghanistan. It revealed that uranium production had begun after the discovery of deposits in 1983.
Soviet engineers were also said to be mining uranium between Herat and Shindand, and also in Kandahar province. The uranium projects were restricted to Soviet personnel in order to maintain secrecy and security. It is believed that all production was sent to the Soviet Union.
By 1985 Soviet surveys had also revealed potentially useful deposits of asbestos, nickel, mercury, lead, zinc, bauxite, lithium, and rubies. The Afghan government in the mid-1980′s was preparing to develop a number of these resources on a large scale with Soviet technical assistance. These efforts were directed primarily at the country’s large iron and copper reserves.
The iron ore deposits contained an estimated 1.7 billion tons of mixed hematite and magnetite, averaging 62 percent iron. These reserves, among the world’s largest, are located almost 4,000 meters up in the Hindu Kush, in Bamiyan Province.
Source: Illinois Institute of Technology
A 2007 report by the USGS said most of the data on Afghanistan’s mineral resources was produced between the early 1950′s and 1985. The timing of the Pentagon’s announcement is interesting because the findings on which the story was based are online and have been since 2007.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines has information on this website about mineral deposits in the country . http://www.bgs.ac.uk/afghanminerals/raremetal.htm
There is little doubt that the new version of the Great Game will include all the players during Kipling’s time, plus the U.S., China, India, and any other country who seeks an advantage in obtaining a slice of the Afghan pie. There will be “invaders” waiting to pounce on any opportunity that presents itself.
We can only hope that the Afghan people who have suffered for decades, will get the benefits they so richly deserve.
In 2006 and 2007 I was on assignment for the National Geographic Magazine for a story on the Hazaras of Afghanistan. I traveled west of Bamiyan City to a small village near the lakes at Band-e-Amir, Afghanistan’s first national park.
I was visiting a school when I photographed this boy, Ali Aqa, who wants to grow up and be a lawyer. When the story was published, many people around the world wanted to help him achieve his dream, but it has taken years to find him.
His family is poor, his clothes used, but 15-year-old Ali Aqa isn’t deterred: He plans to be a lawyer. Childhood memories include Taliban occupation of his village in Bamiyan. “They burned everything, even my school,” he says. “I pray to God no regime comes like that again.” We have now located him with the help of the UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan) and school officials. We are in the process of working with local educators to help him prepare to start his college education when he graduates from high school next year.
There is nothing more gratifying than helping people whom I have photographed because most often, it is impossible to locate them again.
Danger for the Taliban’s Favorite Victims
As the Taliban fights to make a comeback in Afghanistan, no group is in more danger than the Hazaras. The Taliban’s favorite victims, hundreds of Hazara families froze to death while fleeing their villages during winter attacks by the Taliban.
During its reign, the Taliban wreaked destruction and on as many Hazara communities as they could. Scores of Hazara villages were totally destroyed and their people killed or left to search for shelter from the harsh environment of the Hindu Kush Mountains.
Persecuted for centuries, the Hazaras, Shiite Muslims, and protectors of the Buddhist treasures in Bamiyan for a thousand years, have been persecuted, tortured, and slaughtered, but the ravages of the Taliban are only one chapter in the long history of discrimination and abuse.
A local official commented that their history has been characterized by “blood and smoke.” He said that the pain is still in his heart because of the thousands that were slaughtered or died trying to escape.
Although most Hazaras live in central Afghanistan, the land they refer to as Hazarajat, the Hazaras who migrated to Kabul looking for work make up a large underclass, which takes jobs that other groups refuse – as bearers, street sweepers and other common laborers, the jobs that are referred to as “Hazara occupations.” They are seen and insulted as “donkeys.”
His family is poor, his clothes used. But 15-year-old Ali Aqa isn’t deterred: He plans to be a lawyer. Childhood memories include Taliban occupation of his village in Bamiyan. “They burned everything, even my school,” he says. “I pray to God no regime comes like that again.
This fascinating and resilient people hopes to have a place at the table of Afghanistan’s government, but whatever happens in the central government in Kabul, these brave and independent people will continue to struggle for survival and dignity.
Maybe one definition of hell is that it is the place where more effort produces fewer results. Five years ago, I could drive from Kabul over mountain passes in safety to the central highlands town of Bamiyan. Today, the only recommended way is to fly – if you can get a UN flight. Today we have many more soldiers, contractors, and NGO’S than we did five years ago, yet it is far more dangerous today than it was then. We are getting fewer results with more boots on the ground. That tells me that many do not understand the country, the history, the people, the terrain, the language, the religion, the culture.
As hard as outsiders have tried to “re-create” the country in their own image, Afghanistan has been able to absorb the blows of superpowers, and remain essentially the same. The interesting thing to me is that the people trying to change it, change more than the country does even after Herculean efforts of well-meaning governments, NGO’s, and coalitions. Look at the Soviet misadventure for evidence.
The Congressional Research Service recently said the United States has spent nearly $230 billion on the war in Afghanistan. That amount will jump to $300 billion once Congress has approved a military spending bill for fiscal 2010. The question for all of us to ask is on what we are spending the money, and is it making a difference? Do our leaders have any idea what they are trying to accomplish? How many books have they read on Afghan history? How many officials based in Washington have stayed there more than a couple of days?
Everyone wants Afghans to live their lives in a peaceful country where families can thrive, but our ideas to achieve that goal are often built on faulty assumptions. President Obama may be a one-term president if the war goes badly, and who will decide if and when we “win.” The concept of winning is dangerous. Do we win, or do the Afghans win, and do they even want that victory as we define it?
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The problem is that intentions which are based on faulty assumptions are doomed to failure.
A Portfolio of Images from Afghanistan
Allah is the mountain above the mountain, and it is He who entertains the idea — or not — of our next hour on the earth.
This is why Afghans are reluctant to bet on tomorrow. Tomorrow is not ours to presume upon. Tomorrow is the pleasure of Allah alone.
Insha’Allah. The pervasive, overpowering feeling that is difficult to describe about Afghanistan.
It is the stubborn and unassailable conviction – the ability to endure almost anything – that defines the Afghan soul and my fascination with it.
It is this powerful feeling that draws me there again and again.
The Afghanistan Dilemma – http://stevemccurry.wordpress.com/2009/10/04/393/
Over the past thirty years, I have taken hundreds of thousands of pictures. Many of them have been published in my books, in magazines, and seen in my exhibitions, but a majority have never been seen. Here are a few of those unseen pictures.
Note: November 9 – I have added some pictures at the bottom of the Berlin Wall which came down twenty years ago today.
A few years some friends and family founded ImagineAsia. The mission of ImagineAsia, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, is to work in partnership with local community leaders and regional NGO’s to help students in Afghan communities in order to provide educational resources.
One of our projects has been to provide medical books to doctors who have virtually no current reference books. We have received donations of thousands of new and slightly used medical textbooks from hospitals and the American College of Physicians, which we have distributed to medical schools and hospitals around Afghanistan.
It is impossible to overstate the need of up-t0-date information for Afghan doctors, and it has been very gratifying to receive positive feedback from doctors and librarians. One of the needs mentioned most often was pediatric textbooks, and thanks to the physicians at the Chester-Crozer Hospital, we have been able to provide hundreds of those books.
We have also provided hundreds of literature books to schools, especially in Bamiyan. One of our board members went to Bamiyan to teach an intensive English course for high school girls.
Our small school for refugee children in Kabul has been taught by a wonderful teacher who has been with us for three years, and thanks to the efforts of an Afghan doctor friend, has been well provided with a stove, wood, and other materials so that the students can learn all winter even when the public schools are closed.