1. My name is Syed Faqir.

    I am 84 years old and I have been a taxi driver for 55 years. Before 1953 there were only 16 taxis in the whole of Kabul. Now there are more vehicles in Kabul than there are people. You can find any type of vehicle, any model, all the high class ones.

    I leave home at around 8.30am and work till 1pm. I rarely work the whole day, I am not that strong. I stay at home with my grandsons in the afternoon. It’s spring now; we have flowers and vegetables. I water the plants.

    Sometimes I make 1000Afs in one hour and sometimes nothing in a whole day. Petrol is expensive; I don’t always cover the cost. The Mafia owns the oil. Prices change all the time – there is no one controlling it. Sometimes they sell water and pretend its gas.

    It was 1959 when I married. I have 4 sons and 2 daughters. We all live together. My sons are very nice. We won’t get separated. We have dinner all together. I am so happy with them.

    Driving is very dangerous. It’s too hard to drive in this city. If you have an accident, you are gone. You have to drive slowly. But when you drive 120 Km/h, it’s nothing but death for you. It’s all filled with danger. I don’t like it at all but I am forced to do it. I don’t know how to do anything else, I never finished school. But God looks after me and I can handle it.

    It’s hard to be a taxi driver. Everyone is a thief – whether they are stealing your food, your taxi or pretending to be a taxi driver and stealing your fares. I have to pay an annual tax of 20,000 Afs but if you have an important family you only have to pay 1,500 Afs. Like the ministers’ children, they all run private taxis with their nice cars. Even Karzai’s car works as a taxi. These guys have 2010, new models. Mine is 1972. It’s such a mess.

    The only thing this government has done for us is to bring too many cars and too many televisions. Such thieves, the government, all they know are dollars. Such thieves with such big tummies that they can’t get into a car. They have forgotten God. I’m so sick and tired of it all. If there is a NATO contract to build a road for $10 million, $5 million goes to Mr. Minister and $5 million to Mr. Director.

    A minister goes to the toilet and blocks the road and 100,000 cars are stuck. In the past, we used to go to a minister just like that; his door was open. Now we can’t even see the minister on TV. These guys don’t even allow you in their offices. His soldier will hit you with a machinegun.

    That is what they made for us. Now that these Americans are here, let them work and build the country. We are stuck in this tragedy. At least they give us money – like the Communists – they loved the country. They fed the poor. They looked after jets and tanks. They were building the country but they were called “Infidels…infidels…” The Americans are infidels too, but nobody cares because of the dollars. Once a Canadian man left $70,000 in my taxi. I kept it until he came back for it three months later.

    My best memories are from when Zahir Shah was King. If someone was killed he would bring in the whole tribe or district and beat them or throw them in the river until they told him who did it. But now nobody cares.

    In 1973 after the coup against Zahir Shah I saw his family being put on a flight. The police left them with nothing. That scene made me cry for a few days. The day after that I hit 30 sheep on the road because my mind wasn’t calm. I had gone insane after I saw that scene.

    A person has two good times in his life – once when he is a small child, people will love him then. And once when he is old – people respect me now. I can do what I want because I am so old. I can even insult people and they will do nothing. Everybody is so nice to me. The traffic police and soldiers leave me alone. If they ask for my license I tell them ‘what license? My beard is my license.’

    # vimeo.com/54655359 Uploaded 320 Plays 0 Comments
  2. My name is Gul Khan

    My job is to collect rubbish for recycling. I moved from Baghlan to Kabul to do this a year and a half ago.
    There are many poor people in Afghanistan doing this. I was jobless when I was in Baghlan, but I have a better life now I am in Kabul. I came here to join some relatives who have been collecting rubbish for five years.
    We have rented some land to live on. There are 30 of us living and working together. We are all from the same tribe. We share the rent of 25,000 Afs every month. We live here in tents – they are not very good but it is okay for us. Four or five people sleep in each tent. This is what life is like if you are poor. We make just enough money to feed ourselves. In winter it is really hard. We sleep with just a simple blanket. There is no wood or anything like that to throw in a heater. We cannot afford it. To make a fire we burn shoes that we collect and the rubber around power cables – we sell the metal inside.

    There is an alleyway where we live. We have put up curtains so that women and children passing by will not see the dirt we have here. We don’t want people to be uncomfortable.

    We leave home at 5am and go to the rubbish tip. We get home around 7pm. At night we separate the different types of rubbish into plastic, aluminium, metal. We collect it for three or four weeks until we have a lot and then we sell it to another relative. He will crush the rubbish and then sell it in Pakistan where the big money is. He buys it separately per kilo – for example plastic is 2 Afs per kg, metal 5 Afs, aluminium 12 Afs and shoes 1 Af. Everyday we make around 150-200 Afs each. We make less in the winter when it is snowing and raining – it is very hard to work then, but we are forced to.

    My family is still in Baghlan. I have one brother and five or six sisters who are all smaller than me. About 14 years ago my father left to go to Saudi Arabia – it has been four years since we heard from him. We don’t know if he is alive or dead, but we heard he was in prison over there.
    I always hoped God would help me become someone good, but I didn’t have time to study and become a teacher or an engineer. My brother and sisters relied on me to bring home money for them to live on. I still hope that one day I will be able to study, but that’s up to destiny. Anyway for now, I can work and support my family. Every month or so, when we have sold all the rubbish I have around 5,000 Afs to take home to the family and they can buy oil and flour and things to feed themselves.

    Obviously there are diseases connected with this work. We try and stay clean – we wear different clothes to collect the rubbish and wash when we come home. We are used to it, but there are some who get sick and have lots of problems. I am ill right now. It is a dirty job but we can’t find any other work. I don’t think anyone would enjoy this job. I thank God that my hands and eyes and feet are healthy and I can still work.
    Our work is good for our country. We keep it clean. Instead of getting buried, in the ground the rubbish gets reused and new things are made. But there are a lot of people who look down on what we do.
    Everyone has big dreams and my dream is that God will help me make enough money not to be dependent on others. I hope to have a better life so that when I have children they can have one too.

    # vimeo.com/54655356 Uploaded 86 Plays 0 Comments
  3. My name is Mohammad Saber Yaqout Hussaini Khedri.

    I am a calligrapher and I am 52 years old. I was a refugee in Iran for 20 years where I learned painting and calligraphy from many different masters. My brother helped pay for me to study. When I returned to Kabul it had changed so much. Where we are now there was so much water people would come here to hunt ducks. Now there are so many tall buildings everywhere instead.

    On my return I met a man called Agha Sahib Alhaj Sued Mansoor Naderi who told me, ‘I have a dream, which is big and spiritual. I’ve been thinking about it for years’. He asked me to be his calligrapher and I told him that if he supplied the materials I would write it with all my heart. I have always wanted to serve Islam by using my beautiful art. I feel very happy that I could serve Islam in this way, I was so happy.

    For five years I worked to create the biggest Q’uran in the world. It measures 2metre 38cm by 1metre 55cm and weighs 500 kilograms. It has 218 pages and cost over a million dollars to produce. It was a huge project; I was so busy, I worked 18 hours a day for five years. My parents were pushing me to marry, but it was impossible. I had no time for a family besides which I could not take money for this work. If I had taken money the project would never be finished and I would not be serving Islam. A single man does not need much money anyway. A year and a half after I completed the project I finally married and now God has given me a son.

    I wanted to write the Q’uran in a way that had never been done before, on canvas and in colour. All 30 sections had a different design: it took me six months just to complete the designs. I had to have help and I enlisted nine art students to work with me, they worked hard but not as long hours as I did.

    I wanted it to be perfect, for each section and each verse to finish at the end of a page so I began by writing the book out many times on paper before starting on the canvas.It is a beautiful book, with golden paints and it shows the skies and the stars. We created a special sky blue colour because the name of Allah is written in the skies. Every page is made up of more than a million dots; it looks like it has been lit up.

    With God’s help I hope I can write an even bigger Quran some day, with new designs and colours, something completely different. But I am so proud, and I will be even happy if somebody else makes a Quran that is bigger and better than my own.

    # vimeo.com/54655354 Uploaded 102 Plays 0 Comments
  4. My name is Sayed Farouq Shah Sadat

    I am a postman. I have been working for the Afghan Post Office for 41 years. I am 65 years old and I have lived in Kabul all my life.

    Many of my friends and relatives escaped to other countries when the war started. We had no means of communication with our families apart from letters. I received letters from Iran, from Pakistan, France, and also from the provinces. Getting these letters made me so happy. I dreamt that one day that I would deliver letters to other peoples loved ones and make them happy.

    When I first started working my salary was the equivalent of 1 Afghani in today’s money but it lasted me for two months. I now earn of 5,400 Afghanis, which goes nowhere.

    Around 25 years ago I became obsessed with stamps. I would feverishly collect every newly designed stamp coming out of the Ministry of Communications. I had a special book for them. I couldn’t think about anything else so my beard turned white. It was a great stamp collection. Sadly I sold it because I needed the money. Now I have no stamps but a lovely beard. We have a stamp museum here in the Post Office so I can still go look at them.

    Before the Taliban came I wore a postman’s uniform that was made in London. Now I am an old man and I don’t like to wear it. I don’t think it’s necessary. Especially the hat, seriously I hate it. It looks absurd.

    During the Taliban regime there was a rumor that people had been poisoned through the letters. I had to take a letter to the chairman of the Ibne Sina hospital, when the chairman saw the letter he was really scared. He asked for a mask and put it on, and held the letter far from his face. I told him, ‘I am an official postman, and don’t deliver poisonous letters; let me to open it. So I took the letter and opened it for him. It was fine.

    My work was originally in the suburbs of Kabul. The Central Post Office gave me a motorcycle but I chose to use my bicycle because there are too many cars in Kabul and the traffic is abysmal. Back in the day, I would ride 80-90 km per day and knew the city like the back of my hand. I would take letters to all over the place. From Darulaman to Gul Bagh to Firqi Rishkor to Char Asya, Khair Khana, Dashte Barchi, No, no one knew the city like me.

    The trouble is, most streets and houses aren’t numbered. Although if a letter doesn’t arrive in the right hands there’s always a way of tracing it back to see at what point it got lost. Sometimes it was a wrong address or sometimes the person wasn’t at home and the letter was given to a neighbour.

    Most of the delivering to the provinces used to be done by car but nowadays the security is bad and the roads are poor so letters go the provincial capitals by plane and then are delivered on from there.

    During the Civil War there were many armed checkpoints whose guards were aggressive. I was always getting stopped and the contents of my bag searched. I don’t know what they were looking for. In the end I used to just turn my bag upside down before they could harass me. It was such a bad time… But now, thank God, things are better.

    In 2004 when we had our Constitution prepared, I was selected to deliver a copy to the Provincial Governor of Kabul, Syed Hussain Anwari, a nice man, for his signature. But his guards wouldn’t let me in. They wanted me to give them the document. Of course I told them that I couldn’t and that I needed to deliver it to the governor myself. I mean, how could I trust them?

    We were arguing with each other so loudly that in the end the governor came out and said, ‘you take your job more seriously than a fire fighter’. I replied, ‘the post office is one step ahead of the fire department. We do exactly as we are instructed. I was asked to get your signature and that is what I will do.’

    He smiled and gave me a reward for my diligence.

    # vimeo.com/54655351 Uploaded 206 Plays 0 Comments
  5. My name is Massoud Hossaini and I am a photojournalist working for AFP in Kabul. In 2012 I won a Pulitzer for a photograph I took on the day of Ashura in December 2011.

    I started taking photographs when I learned about the situation of Afghan refugees in Iran. I saw that their lives were really painful and they had been forgotten by the world.

    I worked for nine months to earn the money to buy my first camera. I didn’t have permission to have a camera. I had to hide it under my clothes. The first picture I sold was of beautiful scenery. I sold it to a tourist magazine for 50 cents. I used the money to buy two rolls of film.

    When I came back to Afghanistan from Iran in 2002 I was determined to be a photographer. I worked for a local newspaper, and in 2007 I started work at AFP. My daily work is covering all the incidents and realities that happen in Afghanistan. My family worry about me all the time. I often have to lie to them about where I am so they don’t think I’m in danger.

    I was covering the Ashura event in December 2011 when I took the picture that I won the prize for. I have covered the event for nine years and there has never been any violence. I was walking with the celebrations when I spotted the girl in the bright green dress – Tarana.

    Then the explosion happened. When you are close to a bomb the wave of the explosion will shake your bones from the inside. I sat on the ground for a minute and realised that I was bleeding. I was trying to work out what had happened. I ran towards the smoke.

    As the smoke cleared I realised that I was surrounded by dead bodies all on top of the other. There were heads without bodies, feet everywhere, hands, brains even, and blood all over the ground. I was shocked and crying. Everything had changed in one second; from smiling faces celebrating around me to a circle of dead bodies.
    Our training tells us to run from the danger and find a safe place to do our work. I had to decide what to do. It was difficult, my body was shaking, I was dizzy from the blast and I was afraid. But I had to stay. Then through my camera I saw the girl in the green dress. She was on her feet screaming in horror and fear, bodies all around her. I went closer to her, I was in the middle of the bodies. I’m sorry to say it but I wanted to get the right shot. It is hard when you are putting your feet in the blood. It was a really painful moment for both of us, but I had to record it. This is the picture that won the Pulitzer.

    When I put my camera down I saw she was pointing at her brother on the ground. Someone lifted him up. I saw the back of his head was completely destroyed. I realised he was dead and I was crying. I had to leave, it was too difficult. I am often asked why I didn’t help. Normally I would, but this was not the right time. People were so badly injured they needed real doctors. I was injured and shocked myself. There was nothing I could do.
    When I sent the photos. I was not thinking of winning awards. I was still crying. I needed to go home and be among my family. All that day the explosion was coming to my mind. I left physically but not mentally. I couldn’t sleep for days, I had to take pills.

    It’s really big for Afghanistan to have the Pulitzer and be recognised. Afghan people always believe that their pain is being forgotten. Now I can talk for those who can’t, those who died and civilians.
    A few days earlier had been my best day working as a photographer when I covered a Farhad Darya concert just for Afghan girls. They felt safe and were wearing beautiful dresses. It was the first time I saw young girls so happy. Their happiness was followed by sadness. That is the reality of Afghanistan – happiness and sadness always come together.

    I was always very keen to go on embeds. I wanted to know how the war is being fought. It is sometimes difficult being with foreign soldiers as a journalist from the host country. The first embed I went on with the US, was very restrictive. I complained in the media, as I thought maybe it was because I was Afghan. After that I was blacklisted for six months and could not work with any military at all.
    I have seen a lot of the country, although it is hard to move around now. I never realised it could be as beautiful as it is. The north and centre are my favourite parts. I always want to visit on my holidays.
    I won $10,000 for the Pulltzer. I will share some of the money with Tarana’s family because they have a lot of medical problems with her sister after the bombing. Maybe I can make their pain a little less. My story and their story are linked now, I feel I have to do something for them.

    # vimeo.com/54619857 Uploaded 104 Plays 0 Comments

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…


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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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