Dec 7, 2006

Trip to Forgotten Land

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I left Kabul on a misty morning. Dust and smoke covered the face of the city, the laps of the mountains had been filled with snow by the clouds that came rolling down. It was different from other mornings. I couldn't see a hundred meters away, and worried about what would be ahead of me. But I left anyway.

We were 14 passengers, including the drivers, planning to reach the mountains in a van. I bought a small radio to listen to the news. As I walked out of the garage, the driver yelled: "Hey man, hurry up! We're leaving soon!"

The driver was afraid to leave the main road. The reason, he said, was the traffic police. "The traffic police always makes problems and asks money for nothing," he explained. I was sitting on a bench in the van with three guys from the Ministry of Education. The two beside me started to talk. Their breath smelled horribly and even the chewing gum I offered them did nothing to end the nauseating odor. I covered my nose with a shawl and didn't remove it during the whole trip.

We passed the Maidan shar, where three cars had been robbed by the Taliban not too long ago. The Afghan National Army (ANA) fought with insurgents here recently. Going down a hill, we saw the wreckage of a car that had been blown up.

"My brother and my wife were killed in this car," the driver sighed. "My brother worked for an international NGO."

Just minutes later we reached a narrow passage entering a small valley. "Look! This is the place where the three carred were robbed by the robbers!" said Ali, the driver.

We arrived at an old bazaar where we'd stop for lunch, and I couldn't take my eyes off wrecked cars ridden with bullet holes. This was Siakhak, in the district of Jalez, with a population of about 40,000 people. Eight years ago, when Kabul was captured by the Taliban and I fled from the city, I passed here on my way to Mazara-e-sharif. Then, this was a very busy and crowded bazaar. Now it was empty. I walked down the street and took pictures of the walls with all the bullet holes. I saw some people and asked them what had happened. They told me that when the Taliban captured this place they destroyed it because the bazaar was the main source of income for the Hazarajat and there was a military base of the Hizbe Wahdat party nearby -- they were fighting the Taliban.

This was not the first time the bazaar had been destroyed. When the Soviet Union invaded in 1979, the same had happened.

We continued our trip and reached the top of the Onai mountain, covered in snow. We arrived at another small bazaar called Tagab and halted again, this time for praying. That gave me time to talk to people and take some pictures. I asked a small boy if he went to school. "If I go to school, who is going to give me food? I am a shepherd here," he answered.

A young man, asked about education in the area, pointed at some place in the distance and explained that there was the only and first intermediate school ever in the area, built last year. Turning around and pointing to another part of the village: "Here is the only hospital which was newly constructed for us. Before that, we had to take our patients to Kabul, most died on the way, only a few survived."

The hospital has only three doctors. Patients are being brought here from all over the Behsood.

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I'll post more if I survive and have internet access again

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