1. My name is Shakila Nadiri

    My husband is a driving instructor so it was only natural that he taught me to drive when the Taliban fell and women were given an open window of opportunity rather than seeing the world through the burqa. It took me a year to learn to drive. I took a test through the traffic police. The test was really easy though and all they made me do was point out road signs and reverse. They didn’t take me seriously at all as a woman.

    Three years ago I decided to teach other women how to drive. Of course we faced many problems as there were hardly any women drivers. Men used to shout insults as me when I was teaching but I have a lot of students now because families are more comfortable to have a woman teach their daughters rather than a man. I teach the girls in one of our three Toyota Corollas.

    As a child I wanted to be a schoolteacher. I got married though and so couldn’t complete the qualifications. I have ten children aged between 24 to 4, which kept me very busy. It still does! I suppose in a way I am fulfilling my dream of teaching – just, in a different subject.

    My family is proud of me working. Four of my sons are driving instructors too so it is very much a family business.

    It costs 4000 Afs for a month of lessons for women but only 3000 for men. That is just the way it is. You get an hour a day and it takes about 2 months of lessons to pass a test that costs 520 Afs. Personally I earn about 20-30,000 Afs per month but it is a family business so we all work together.

    The driving test for women is still very easy but maybe it’s because I teach my students so well! Over the last three years I have taught about 300 girls how to drive. It started off slowly, with maybe one or two students a month but this year I have fifteen.

    I start my day with a prayer and some tea and then have breakfast. It takes me about half an hour to get to work and I arrive at about 7am and begin lessons. I teach about 9-10 students a day and finish at 5pm when I go home and do household chores. To really unwind I love watching Indian soaps.

    At work, I love driving fast on empty roads. It is so exhilarating. But the worst thing is if there is a crash. I had a student crash just the other day. She pressed her foot on the accelerator and not the break. I am not very good with punctures either and they happen quite a lot in Kabul.

    I taught my friends to drive. One is a prosecutor, one is a lawyer and one works for a mobile phone network. They were all really excited to learn how to drive. Women value my work and respect me but men… men make problems for us and hurl insults at me.

    Do you know, just a month ago I was driving my student after a lesson and a mini van crashed into me intentionally and drove off. I raced after him, cut him off and made him get out of the car. We had a big argument as he had caused 1500 Afs worth of damage and it is not like we have insurance here. A lot of other men had gathered around and told him not to pay. I was so angry; I took down his license plate numbers and threatened to report him. Later that day, he turned up on my doorstep with the money and begged me not to report him. Can you imagine?

    Am I afraid of the Taliban returning? Of course. They don’t like people like me. If they come back, I think I will be first on their list.

    # vimeo.com/54571251 Uploaded 46 Plays / / 0 Comments Watch in Couch Mode

  2. My name is Rahimulla

    I have been the keeper of the British cemetery in Qala Musa for 28 years.

    The Christian cemetery is where they bring the foreigners when they die in Kabul. This land belongs to the foreigners. I think I am doing a good job here. Other people in the community criticise me, saying that I look after the graves of infidels, but I don’t care. I need the money to feed my family. I am an old man and I can’t find other work.

    As a Muslim I have no particular feelings about my work. I can’t say anything about the Christians. It is up to the Most High God to decide who is good and who is bad and then pass judgement. It’s not up to me. In the end, all people are responsible for their own destinies.

    Each day I come here at eight, weed the graves, fix things and then just sit around until five or six in the afternoon. I look after the flowers, the plants, the birds and the graves. There isn’t enough money but I’m still doing the work.

    When a foreigner dies they report it to me. I get workers in to dig the grave, then the foreigners come and bury their body, and after a while, they go.

    No one told me I was responsible for the Cemetery but as I had the keys, I just started looking after the place.

    I used to run a shop just nearby, and I had a cow so I came here to graze her. The gardener gave me some keys so I could come and go, and then he disappeared during the civil war. The British Embassy pay my salary, but they don’t seem to care much about this place.

    There is a collapsed wall that I have reported to them eight or nine times, but they do nothing. The last time the wall fell down it was the ex-governor of Kandahar who paid to fix it.

    Under the Taliban we faced other problems. One day there was a knock on the door of the cemetery, and I found six big men with guns who told me “we want to come in!” So I let them in, to poke around. One of them only had one eye, and I knew (Taliban leader) Mullah Omar only had one eye too. Could this be him…? It turned out that it was.

    He asked me: “what are you doing, tending the graves of infidels?” I said “I am old, please take pity on me! I can’t find other work.” He said he would find me a job but I told him “I have no education, no one will give me work. People with no education are no more use than the blind”.

    Slowly I realised what I had said to Mullah Omar. Then I got scared. So I ran away as fast as I could and didn’t come back for three days, I just went up a hill and watched the cemetery as I thought those men would still be here, waiting for me. This is a graveyard, so I deal with dead bodies – that’s my job. There is nothing to enjoy about it. I suppose it’s important. But in the beginning when I started I thought life would get better. Nothing has happened. I still earn a poor salary.

    # vimeo.com/54518316 Uploaded 29 Plays / / 0 Comments Watch in Couch Mode

  3. My name is Mohammad Nayeem

    I have worked this corner for seven years although Wazir Akhbar Khan is the best place for business. It is where all the rich foreigners live. But there is stiff competition from other card sellers there. As unemployment rises lots of young people have taken to the business and they are more nimble than me, so it has become harder to make a living. I used to make 1500 Afs a day, now I make about 300. I keep this as my corner as there is not much competition.

    My father was killed when I was 14. Two years later we moved to Iran. We had nothing. I worked in a factory making plates. We stayed for 4 years and then moved back to Kabul where I was conscripted into the military.

    The rockets were falling all around us but I swam over, put him on my back and took him to safety.

    Those were sad days, hard days of war. I remember seeing families fleeing from the conflict and wading across a river. A child was stranded on a rock and couldn’t swim. His family had forgotten him. The rockets were falling all around us but I swam over, put him on my back and took him to safety. He stayed with us on a military checkpoint until his family found him again.

    I lost my leg the day before my military service came to an end. I was waiting for our release forms and some friends and I decided to go and pray on a mountain while we waited. A sergeant saw us and put us to work moving some rocks. It was then that I stepped on a mine. When I opened my eyes I was still standing, it was just my foot that had been mangled. I tied it up with a handkerchief my mother had given me and my friend carried me to a military vehicle. The driver refused to take me but my friend forced him at gunpoint. Then the vehicle then broke down so it took hours and hours to get to hospital, by which point my leg was infected and they had to amputate above the knee. It was just my bad luck.

    I established a general store after that for 5 years or so but when the Mujahideen came they took everything so my family and I took to making yarn. I had to stop though, the fine threads got into my lungs and I couldn’t breath properly.

    I was jobless after that and begged on the streets. Under the Taliban there were no jobs but we sold some land to a cousin, which kept us tied over for a while.

    A wholesaler brings us the phone cards that we buy from him and sell on at a small profit. On a 500Afs card, I make 25Afs. On a 50Af card I make 2Afs.

    I live 20 minutes away and I wheel myself here every morning at 7.30 after prayers and tea, and I go home at 5.30.

    I suppose the city has changed, I mean there are tall buildings now and modern cars, but the place is still expensive. I like this city though although at the moment the security is bad what with suicide attacks and explosions. Surviving them makes me feel guilty. You see young men losing their lives in these attacks and you think, what gives me the right to survive? That has happened throughout my life and I wonder why I have survived.

    Am I happy? Well it is not as if I can do anything else now is it? I sit all day in my wheelchair, which is boring so I end up thinking about my sons who are 16 and 8. I have a daughter too but it is my sons I think about the most. I hope they will be luckier than me.

    # vimeo.com/54518315 Uploaded 14 Plays / / 0 Comments Watch in Couch Mode

  4. My name is Mohammad Jawid.

    I am a butcher. I have been doing this for about 30 years. I was 10 years old when I started. My father was a butcher. My grandfather was a butcher. And my great grandfather was a butcher. We have been butchers for generations. When I was a child, my father – may he rest in peace – would say, “Go and help the worker.” So the worker helped me saying, “This is the profession of your fathers; I want you to learn too.”

    The first time the worker gave me the knife and said, “Say the prayer”, I didn’t have any feelings of fear, but happiness, because I had learned the profession. I felt joy. I had seen blood and was used to it. When they arranged my first sheep for me, they held it tight, and told me “You do the slaughtering”. When I held the sheep’s neck and ran the knife over it, I did it with interest and delight. That same day, I slaughtered about 60 sheep. I was about 11 years old then.

    I have four children, two sons and two daughters. If my son is interested in continuing the profession of his fathers, we do not forbid him. And if he says I want to study, learn computer skills, or to become a doctor or an engineer, we don’t forbid him that either. My daughter will not become a butcher. Slaughtering by women is Haraam.

    Eid-e-Qurban is a very nice celebration. Especially the Eid prayer time: Every moment of it is meaningful, if one understands it. It’s a celebration of joy. When people do the Hajj and they return, they must do a sacrificial slaughter once a year on the occasion of Eid. The concept of slaughtering an animal is related to Hajjis.

    For that reason, as a butcher I am very proud of my job and that I serve people on these three days. Others wear new clothes and go sightseeing, but I serve the people with dirty clothes and knives around my waist.

    There’s much demand for the butchers because there are not many of us. The meat of the slaughtered sheep or cow – one part is for the home and the other is for the poor. It is packed in plastic bags and distributed to the doorsteps of the poor people – orphans, widows, etc – in the area. This is part of the duty of a sacrificial slaughter.

    In one day, if the customers’ houses are not far from each another, I could possibly slaughter 20 sheep. We start after morning-prayer and work until the sunset. I butcher a sheep in half an hour, for a cow it would be an hour and a half. The rate is 500 Afs for sheep. The rate for cows varies if it’s small, I would charge 2000afs, and if it’s a lot bigger up to 4000Afs.

    Those three days make me so exhausted that I can’t move. When I come home and lie down, I don’t have enough energy to move a glass of tea to my mouth. It makes me that tired. It’s physical work and needs to be done quickly in order to catch another customer – that is why it’s so much pressure. Before finishing with one customer, there is another one. These days make me so proud, so happy. I have very nice memories of each and every Eid.

    One day I was going to slaughter a cow and it went mad. The cow escaped. We tried to stop it by car but we failed. The cow was completely mad and would hit anyone crossing it on the road. Finally we called the Police. They came and shot the cow with an AK47. We were there, so we quickly blessed it and slaughtered it and didn’t let it to turn Haraam. I was exhausted because we had ran so much, and sad for the people who were hit injured. I was so angry. I took the axe to cut some meat part but it slipped and hit my hand. My hand was badly cut. That was a day to remember.

    # vimeo.com/54518314 Uploaded 22 Plays / / 0 Comments Watch in Couch Mode

  5. My Name is Meena Rahmani

    I am the owner of Strikers Bowling Alley. I came back to Afghanistan in 2009, having spent most of my life in Pakistan and Canada. In Kabul there is nothing to do apart from going to a restaurant and after 7pm everything closes and the streets are deserted. It is mainly to do with the security situation but it’s also partly to do with the lack of entertainment on offer.

    Every Afghan knows this and the youth are crying out for enjoyment. When I first came up with the idea everyone thought I was crazy; ‘why not open a one in Canada where it’s safe?’ was the usual response.

    When I came back I saw my city was in such a poor condition. Nothing was complete. Even people’s mentality was different and it was rare to see women in the street but I could see development; there were new buildings and some paved roads. So I felt it was important to invest my time and money in my home country.

    The first problem was finding the location. Property here is expensive but my family had some land so we sold it and I invested it in this businesses. When I first walked through the doors to this place it was being used as a parking lot and I remember thinking ‘Oh my god, am I really going to set up a bowling alley here?’

    It was very daunting as I was working on my own but I persevered. At first there were problems from the municipality. They tried to extort money for spurious reasons but I refused as I had done everything official that was required.

    I designed the whole place from top to bottom and employed many people. They had never worked with a woman before and they couldn’t believe I was their boss. I sourced most of the parts from China. We had to import everything from the lanes to the shoes to the kitchen but everything else is Afghan. I had to go to different markets where women don’t usually go and had local carpenters make the round sofas. They were used to making traditional furniture so it was a new experience for them too.

    A major problem is the electricity in Kabul. It’s not strong or constant enough to run the alley. I was going to open in July but the power surges ruined some of the machinery so I had to import a whole new set of parts. Power is an ongoing problem and I have spent $10,000 on replacement parts. I spend about $1500 a week on generator fuel.

    It is an expensive business to run so my prices reflect that. It is $30 per hour per lane but you can hire the whole place out for $420 per hour. But people really like the place we have even had Afghan pop stars make their music videos here.

    I still have to be careful about security. The guards I hire keep the peace if customers start disturbing each other, which happens occasionally. If there is a suicide bombing in the city I send everyone go home.

    In the restaurant I offer a variety of food; Pizzas, seafood, fruit juices, smoothies etc. At first my customers just wanted Afghan food but I wanted to open peoples minds and to taste different things. It’s about bringing a change to the culture of Afghanistan – not necessarily western, just a global standard of cuisine.

    Many returning Afghans start an enterprise and let it go to seed after a few years. My dream is to open other franchises throughout Afghanistan and I have been in touch with organisations in Singapore with whom I am planning to start a league. We already have some talented bowlers and I make sure their photos are posted on the Strikers Facebook page to encourage competitiveness. It’s about providing the Afghan nation a healthy and entertaining environment. It’s physical and lots of fun.

    It is amazing to see girls coming here for an hour or two. I overheard them saying ‘I can’t believe we are in Afghanistan’, and it was music to my ears. Ultimately I am doing something for the Afghan nation. I would like other Afghan women to join me. Let’s do it for Afghanistan.

    # vimeo.com/54518313 Uploaded 19 Plays / / 0 Comments Watch in Couch Mode


Kabul at Work

At Work PRO

Kabul: A City At Work is a multi-media project, led by a joint international and Afghan crew collecting interviews, photographic portraits and video shorts of the people of Kabul in their working environments.

These small yet focused vignettes of Kabul life are a window into the soul of a much-misrepresented city that shows a positive view of the vibrant economic life that exists in Afghanistan.

So far the work has been

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Kabul: A City At Work is a multi-media project, led by a joint international and Afghan crew collecting interviews, photographic portraits and video shorts of the people of Kabul in their working environments.

These small yet focused vignettes of Kabul life are a window into the soul of a much-misrepresented city that shows a positive view of the vibrant economic life that exists in Afghanistan.

So far the work has been shown on Afghan TV in the form of a six part TV series.

The characters can also be seen on kabulatwork.tv

or join our Facebook page facebook.com/pages/Kabul-A-City-At-Work/219135948107135

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