Archive for Bamiyan

Fun and Games

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2011 by stevemccurry
Tibetan Refugee Settlement, Bylakuppe, India
If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed
himself a bit of fun and relaxation, he would go mad or become
unstable without knowing it.
– Herodotus


TIBET-10799 Lhasa, Tibet


The true object of all human life is play.
Earth is a task garden.
Heaven is a playground.

G . K. Chesterton

Gubbio, Italy




You can discover more about a person in an
hour of play than in a year of conversation.
– Plato

JAPAN-10027Tokyo, Japan


 ITALY-10288NF8Spoleto, Italy


Mumbai, India


 INDIA-10005NF4Rajasthan, India


Play is a uniquely adaptive act,
not subordinate to some other adaptive
act, but with a special function of its own
in human experience.
– Johan Huizinga

Pul i Khumri, Afghanistan

AFGHN-12126NF3  Wrestling Match, Kahan, Afghanistan


USA-10214 Los Angeles, California

Games lubricate the body and the mind.
-Benjamin Franklin


CANADA-10001Nova Scotia, Canada


Play is the exultation of the possible.
– Martin Buber

AFGHN-10100Kabul, Afghanistan




Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the
seriousness of a child at play.
– Heraclitus

INDIA-10490NFMumbai, India


CHINA-10038NF3 China

It is requisite for the relaxation of the mind that we make use,
from time to time, of playful deeds and jokes.
– Thomas Aquinas

  AFGHN-12262Bamiyan, Afghanistan






INDIA-10836Rajasthan, India

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Lost in Thought

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2011 by stevemccurry
Bagan, Burma/Myanmar
 A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought.  There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor. 
– Victor Hugo
 Angkor Wat, Cambodia

 Never be afraid to sit a while and think. 
– Lorraine Hansberry,  A Raisin in the Sun
 Varanasi, India

 Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen;
even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind. 
-Leonardo da Vinci, Notebooks, 1508
New York City 
South Korea 
United States
AFGHN-12422Ahmed Shah Massoud, Kabul, Afghanistan
Bamiyan, Afghanistan
No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.
– Voltaire

CAMBODIA-10298Angor Wat, Cambodia 

Jammu & Kashmir 
SPAIN-10020NFMuseo Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain
Guernica and the Evolution of Consciousness, Picasso

USA-10292Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States

Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?
Winnie the Pooh,  A.A. Milne

Children at Work

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2011 by stevemccurry

AFRICA-10237The Sahel, Africa

In developing countries one in six children from 5 to 14 years old is involved in child labor.

INDIA-10207Ship-breaking yard, Mumbai, India

Shoepolisher, Tibetans, 12/2000, final book_iconicLhasa, Tibet

In the least developed countries, 30 percent of all children are engaged in child labor.

Marpha, Nepal, 1998Marpha, Nepal

Worldwide, 126 million children work in hazardous conditions, often enduring beatings, humiliation and sexual violence by their employers.

AFGHN-13034NFKabul, Afghanistan

The highest proportion of child laborers is in sub-Saharan Africa, where 26 percent of children (49 million) are involved in work.

Kabul, Afghanistan

AFGHN-13002Kabul, Afghanistan

AFGHN-12258-(1)Kandahar, Afghanistan

An estimated 1.2 million children — both boys and girls — are trafficked each year into exploitative work in agriculture, mining, factories, armed conflict or commercial sex work.

_SM13419, Myanmar, Burma, 02/2011, BURMA-10283Mandalay, Myanmar/ Burma

AFGHN-10025Kabul, Afghanistan

AFGHN-12925Bamiyan, Afghanistan 

“Child labor and poverty are inevitably bound together,  and if you continue to use the labor of children as the treatment for the social disease of poverty, you will have both poverty and child labor to the end of time.” –  Grace Abbott


AFGHN-12209Pul i Khumri, Afghanistan

Cigarette Vendor, Kabul Survey Trip, 05/2002 Kabul, Afghanistan

AFGHN-12243Pul i Khumri, Afghanistan

Charikar, Afghanistan, 2002

 ImagineAsia’s Storybook Project for Afghan Children

The mission of ImagineAsia, a 501c3 non-profit organization, is to work in partnership with local community leaders and regional NGO’s to help students in Afghan communities receive fundamental educational materials and resources. 

IA  has started to translate Aesop’s fables into Dari for the children of Afghanistan who have never had a book of their own.  Translated and illustrated by volunteers, these stories will reach families in remote areas of the country.

For thousands of years the fables have revealed universal truths through simple allegories.  The stories often use animals to  teach lessons that are easily understood by people of all ages.

Here are some sample pages:

The Lion and the Mouse –  illustrated by Jason Melcher

 The Boy Who Cried Wolf – illustrated by Kate Raines

Pitcher and the Crow –  illustrated by Lois Andersen

An Afghan Folktale – The Silver on the Hearth – illustrated by Kate Harrold

Tortoise and Hare –  illustrated by Kate Harrold

The Donkey and its Purchaser – illustrated by Kate Harrold

The Sun and the Wind – illustrated by Annie Zimmerman

 The Fox and the Goat – illustrated by Jason Melcher


Open and Closed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2011 by stevemccurry


Since the beginning of time, doors have symbolized both great opportunities and thwarted dreams.  The open door is a metaphor for new life, a passage from one stage of life to another, and metamorphosis.  Closed doors represent rejection and exclusion. 


The Door
Too little
has been said
Of the door, its one
Face turned to the night’s
Downpour and its other
To the shift and glisten of firelight.

AFGHN-12927NF4 Bamiyan, Afghanistan 

For doors
Are both frame and monument
To our spent time,
And too little
Has been said
Of our coming through and leaving by them.
– Charles Tomlinson

INDIA-10412 India

CAMBODIA-10002 Cambodia


AFGHN-10235Kabul, Afghanistan

BURMA-10005Mingun Pagoda, near Mandalay, Burma/Myanmar

INDIA-10221Porbandar, India

AFGHN-12648 West Kabul, Afghanistan


USA-10256Los Angeles, United States

 The door swings open:

O god of hinges,
god of long voyages,
you have kept faith.
It’s dark in there.
You confide yourself to the darkness
You step in.
The door swings closed.
– Margaret Atwood

AFGHN-12467NF Kabul, Afghanistan

AFGHN-13116NF Bamiyan, Afghanistan

A door just opened on a street–
I, lost, was passing by–
An instant’s width of warmth disclosed
And wealth, and company.

The door as sudden shut, and I,
I, lost, was passing by,–
Lost doubly, but by contrast most,
Enlightening misery.
– Emily Dickinson

INDIA-11038NFBombay/Mumbai, India

AFGHN-10156Kabul, Afghanistan

BANGLADESH-10020 Dhaka, Bangladesh

The closing of a door can bring blessed privacy and comfort – the opening terror.
Conversely, the closing of a door can be a sad and final thing.
The opening a wonderfully joyous moment.
– A. Rooney
CAMBODIA-10145 Monastery at Rolous, Cambodia


Stalemate in Afghanistan

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2011 by stevemccurry



Insane asylum, Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992

The pain of war has become too much for these men. Wrapped in blankets, they  have retreated into themselves.  Vulnerable and
haunted by demons, they are the uncounted casualties of decades of war.


Hospital, Jalalabad


I was covering the war that erupted between the militias after the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan, photographing the aftermath of an attack on Kabul when, without warning another rocket attack began. I took cover in what turned out to be a hospital for the insane. Its residents were the victims of decades of war  – both civilians and soldiers. There were no doctors or nurses, no electricity, no running water. The smoke from the fire of a makeshift kitchen blackened the ceilings and walls. The men and women there wandered around, or sat in a catatonic stupor.


Red Cross Hospital, Kabul

Photographers work in metaphors, trying to distill experience in pictures.  The scenes inside these hospitals get closer to showing the tragedy of the war than those of  destroyed cities.


Hospital in Herat

The rationale for the mission has lurched from one thing to another.  Officials in Washington and in Kabul all try to explain what we are trying to accomplish.   We have been told it is to keep the streets safe in America from Al Qaeda.  It has been said that we are there to give breathing room to the Afghan government to build up their own forces.  We hear that we are there to help build Afghan institutions so that the country can have a civil society with good governance.


Red Cross Hospital, Kabul



Pul i Khumri


Victim of Kandahar air attack in Peshawar Hospital


Going to morgue, Kabul



Terence White, AFP reporter, took this wounded Afghan fighter
to the hospital in Kabul



Rocket attack in Kabul


The Century Foundation, a non-partisan research institute, has called on all sides of the conflict to enter into peace talks.  Lakhdar Brahimi, former UN Special representative for Afghanistan, has co-chaired a special task force with former undersecretary for political affairs Thomas Pickering.  Their recommendations are clear and blunt: it is time to stop deluding ourselves that there will be a clear victory in this war.  The report,  Negotiating Peace, was published this week.






Executive Summary Chapter One

Afghanistan has been at war for more than thirty years, and for nearly a decade, the international community has supported the country’s political, social, and economic reconstruction—and opposed the return to power of the Taliban. Afghans have seen many improvements over that decade, yet the resurgence of the Taliban across much of the country underscores that they are undeniably a force in Afghan society whose exclusion entails a very high cost. A majority of the Afghan people seem anxious for the contending factions to achieve a negotiated end to the war.








Rahimullah Yusufzai,  senior analyst with the Pakistani TV channel, Geo TV, and the Resident Editor of the News International in Peshawar, an English newspaper in Pakistan, makes the point that the Taliban can keep fighting forever because they are fighting for their country and for their religion.  He believes that there is no military solution and that negotiations are the only way to stop the endless cycle of killing.




There will never be a time when we can achieve an historic battlefield victory and declare that the war is won.  Tribal groups will always vie for power.  Religious groups will always believe that the right way is only “their” way.  Women will always have to fight for their rights.

Wars end with political settlements, and it seems clear to many, if not most, that this war will have no winner.  Decades of war have been tragic for the Afghan people and the generations of children who have lost their childhoods, their limbs, and their lives.  It’s time to see if negotiations can do what shooting could not.


Hazara Boy, Bamiyan Province


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Proverbs and Poems from Afghanistan

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2011 by stevemccurry

AFGHN-10225 Jalalabad 

If literacy rates were measured by a nation’s proverbs and poetry, Afghanistan would be one of the most literate countries on earth.  These two forms of the oral tradition have been embraced for centuries and reveal the heart and soul of the Afghan people.


Proverbs are part of every culture and have been for thousands of years.  Francis Bacon said that the wit, genius, and spirit of a nation are discovered in its proverbs.  Here are some common Afghan proverbs which provide unique insights into the ancient culture.


There is a path to even the tallest mountain.

AFGHN-10010NFHindu Kush Mountains 

The mountains are our people.

AFGHN-12819 The harsh land is integral to this nomadic herder culture with deep roots in high pastures. “Koh-o mar-domon moya,” a saying goes: “The mountains are our people.” Qala-e Sabzi.

A warm fire is better than a delicious meal.

AFGHN-10124-(1)Refugees return to their bombed out neighborhood in Herat

If there is only bread and onions, still have a happy face.


In a ditch where water has flowed, it will flow again.

AFGHN-12258Irrigation channel, Kandahar 

Many drops make a river.

AFGHN-10064NFBetween Sarobi and Kabul 

A real friend is one who takes the hand of his friend in times of distress and helplessness.



Not even the five fingers of our hands are alike.

AFGHN-10090Textile Dyer, Kabul

There is blessing in action.

AFGHN-10146Bakery run by Afghan widows

AFGHN-12998Brick Workers, Bamiyan Province

First a friend then a brother.



In Afghanistan, the tradition of poetry writing and recitation dates back a thousand years.  To lend credibility to an argument, the preface,  “The poet says…”   denies the listener the opportunity to disagree.  Although many do not read or write, they can recite long passages of both classic and modern poetry.


If leadership rests inside the lion’s jaw,
So be it. Go snatch it from his jaws.
Your lot shall be greatness, prestige, honor and glory.
If all fails, face death like a man.

Hanzala of Badghis – 9th century poet

Wounded Afghan fighter outside of Jalalabad


Ah! How beautiful is Kabul encircled by her arid mountains
And Rose, of the trails of thorns she envies
Her gusts of powdered soil, slightly sting my eyes
But I love her,  for knowing and loving are born of this same dust

My song exhalts her dazzling tulips
And at the beauty of her trees, I blush
How sparkling the water flows from Pul-I-Mastaan!
May Allah protect such beauty from the evil eye of man!

Khizr chose the path to Kabul in order to reach Paradise
For her mountains brought him close to the delights of heaven
From the fort with sprawling walls, A Dragon of protection
Each stone is there more precious than the treasure of Shayagan

Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye
Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs

And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls …

 – Saib-e-Tabrizi, 17th century poet 


AFGHN-10130 Nomads at prayer at sunrise


The earth opens her warm arms
to embrace me
The earth is my mother
She understands the sorrow
of my wandering

My wandering
is an old crow
that conquers
the very top of an aspen
a thousand times a day

Perhaps life is a crow
that each dawn
dips its blackened beak
in the holy well of the sun

Perhaps life is the grief-stricken earth
who has opened up her bloodied arms to me

And here I give thanks
on the brink of ‘victory’

–  Partaw Naderi

July, 2002 

Only the Educated are Free

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2011 by stevemccurry
I’ve been working in Afghanistan for thirty years.  I covered the Russian invasion and withdrawal, the civil wars, the rise and fall of the Taliban.
AFGHN-10260-(1)  Mujahadeen Fighters, Nuristan, 1979
It seems that each time I return, control of a province or a city  has changed hands.  It was working in Afghanistan which taught me a lot about being a photographer.
BIO-10118Afghanistan, 1979
War and turmoil are a way of life in Afghanistan. One thing that is guaranteed, Afghanistan will endure anything and everything. The people who murmur Inshallah (God willing) don’t bet on tomorrow, but strive each day to survive and take care of their families.
Bamiyan, Afghanistan, 2007
 A Hazara boy has transformed old car tires into buckets.
 After working in the Bamiyan province and seeing the dire stuation of the Hazara people,  I founded ImagineAsia to work in partnership with local community leaders and regional NGO’s to help provide educational resources for students at all levels, from elementary schools to high schools and universities.
We are happy and proud to welcome Freshta, a  young Afghan student from Bamiyan, Afghanistan, who has received a full scholarship from Goucher College in Maryland.  ImagineAsia worked with the Afghan Girls Financial Assistance Fund.  Our joint efforts were successful in  bringing her here to study pre-med.
Freshta, Dulles Airport, Washington, D.C.
January, 2011
Ali Aqa lives in Bamiyan Province near Band-e-Amir. His family is poor, his clothes used, but this 15-year-old  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.  After seeing my picture of him in the National Geographic article on the Hazaras, many people wrote to me who would like to help him.  ImagineAsia is working to ensure that he also receives a college education.
AFGHN-12818Ali Aqa, Bamiyan Province
“The Hazaras are producing the most enthusiastic, educated, forward-looking youth, who are seizing the opportunities provided by the new situation.”
– Michael Semple, Deputy to the European Union special representative to Afghanistan in 2004 – 2007.
“We must not believe the many, who say that only free people ought to be educated, but we should rather believe the philosophers who say that only the educated are free.”  –  Epictetus

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