The fighting that erupted among the vavious mujahideen factions eventually helped to spawn the Taliban….. More than a quarter of the population of 28 million was displaced during this period and between one and two million people were killed – around five per cent of the population. Physical and social infrastructure was devastated…..Girls schools were closed down all over the country. In 2002, only five per cent of women were literate, 54 per cent of girls under the age of 18 were married, and the maternal mortality rate was the second highest in the world, with an estimated 15,000 women dying each year from pregnancy-related causes.
As an Indian, I was greeted by many Afghans on the streets as Indian movies and film music have endeared us to the Afghans. Many sought refuge across the border in Pakistan and India and knew Urdu, and there are DVDs of Hindi movies in many stores.
Day or night, Kabul is a quiet city. One hardly hears horns, music or loud voices. Breaking this silence is the roar of generators, usually diesel driven, that make up for the lack of power in the city.
This has resulted only 25 per cent of Afghanistan’s estimated 28 million people having access to clean water.
Afghanistan has the worlds second highest maternal mortality rate, and the highest infant and child mortality rate.
In 2005, Afghanistan produced 87 per cent of the world’s poppy, and of the country’s total population of 25 million, 920,000 were estimated to be drug users in 2006. These figures stand out more as ninety-nine per cent of Afghans are Muslims; according to Islam, all drugs used as intoxicants (khan) are forbidden (haram)……….
When the Taliban were in power from 1996 to 2001, they banned poppy cultivation, but they could not stop the smuggling of harvests from previous years, And once the Taliban was defeated, farmers went back to cultivating poppy…….The reason poppy cultivation is extremely popular in Afghanistan is its harsh topography, where growing poppy is not only easier than some other crops, but also one that guarantees a high yield and a big market.
….Cardozo [the psychiatrist] and her team found that almost 80 per cent of the local people in Afghanistan harbor feelings of hatred and revenge.
….he remarked… that this was the only country in the world where even diplomats had dirt under their nails.
About 35 per cent of Afghans are Pashto speaking, and 50 per cent speak Afghan Persian or Dari. Most Afghans are bilingual. In Kabul, Dari is more widely spoken, with the change of regime from the Pashto-speaking Taliban to the Dari-speaking Northern Alliance. Other languages are Turkic, Uzbek and Turkmen (about 11 per cent).
A popular Afghan saying….. “Women are made for homes or graves.”
The amazing thing about Kabul is that no matter how bad the traffic is, Afghans do not honk, unlike us Indians.
…..commonly held view among many Afghans I meet. They lay the blame for the state of their country squarely on Pakistan, Russia and the US, often in that order.
…..many Afghans who have studied in India. The low cost of living, scholarships, familiarity with the country’s culture and language, good relations between governments, easy-to-obtain visas, and the use of English in the classroom are some of the reasons Afghans like to study in India, especially for those who cannot afford to go to Europe and the United States to study. The largest concentrations of Afghan students is in Pune… Some Afghans choose Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkey.
Pakistan and Iran were once top destinations, but that is no longer the case. Visa rules for Iran have become stringent in recent years, while Pakistan has become unpopular among students and the state. Many say people with Pakistani degrees do not find jobs as easily as those with degrees from India. India is a cheap and quality option.
Many young women I meet in Kabul have also studied in India. They tell me that it was the best time of their lives, they felt free and loved being there. Many say it is their second home.