Archive for April, 2010

The Frontier Gandhi

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2010 by stevemccurry

Pashtun Pacifist

Frontier Gandhi

Aditya Arya Archive

Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, The Frontier Gandhi
1890 –  1988

Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, proud Pashtun and devout Muslim from Charsadda in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan, traveled the length and breadth of the subcontinent preaching the power of passive resistance and nonviolence.
Close friend of Gandhi’s, his followers formed his non-violent army made up of Pashtuns, one of the most fierce warrior groups. The members of his army vowed to turn their backs on violence, revenge, and retaliation.  They believed in the power of non-violence, education, and women’s rights.
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Jailed by the British numerous times, he said, “With love you can persuade a Pashtun to go to hell, but by force you can not take him even to heaven.”
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Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1985, his role in winning independence from British rule has been largely forgotten.  His actions redefined the Pashtun concept of honor and courage.
Thousands of mourners attended his funeral, marching through the historic Khyber Pass from Peshawar to Jalalabad. A cease fire was announced in the Afghan war to allow safe passage to the funeral procession.
Father and Daughter, Afghanistan, 1984
The world  could use another giant of a man like Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan.

Honor Matters

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2010 by stevemccurry

Pashtunwali – The Code of the Pashtuns

I heard it said by a Pashtun that he has been a Pashtun for 5,000 years, a Muslim for 1430 years, and a Pakistani for 63 years.  That is the power of the Pashtun identity, one of the oldest and largest ethnic/tribal groups in the world.


Kandahar, Afghanistan, 1992. A group of Pashtun tribal nomads called Kuchis in the desert near Kandahar.

Forty million strong, Pashtuns mainly live in the Pashtun tribal belt which straddles the Afghan/Pakistan border.


Farmer, Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 1992

The legal and moral code by which they live,  deeply embedded in the Pashtun psyche, is the concept of Pashtunwali, the idea that honor, hospitality, revenge,  and the importance of tribe, clan, and family are paramount.


Kabul, Afghanistan, 2002



Pakistan, 1984. Afghan Pashtun Refugees

Fierce fighters, they are said to have been reluctantly admired by the British, Russians, and any other group who tried to subdue them.


Kandahar, 1985

It is said that they are today’s Spartans in a culture that lives and breathes war and conflict.


Kandahar, 1992

The attempt to extend the influence of a national government is antithetical to the Pashtun ways of living.  Outsiders are rejected violently if they threaten to usurp the ancient ways.


Young girl, Ghazni, Afghanistan, 1990

In order to understand current events in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is imperative to understand the mores of this ancient tribe.



Kabul, 2002



Kilns firing bricks to rebuild homes, Kandahar, Afghanistan, 1992

Boy Found After Three-Year Search

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on April 12, 2010 by stevemccurry

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.


Lake at Band-e-Amir 2002

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.


Ali Aqa, 2007

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.


Qala-e Sabzi, Bamiyan Province, Afghanistan, 2007.

There is nothing more gratifying than helping people whom I have photographed because most often, it is impossible to locate them again.


Bamiyan City, Afghanistan 2002



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