Reports from Kabul

Sher Darwazah mountain, Kabul, Dec. 2011

1. First of all, Mohseni is alive! The news of his death, turned out to be untrue. I tracked down the rumor though, and it was originated from a joke during a tea session in a private college in Kabul. However, it was true that the mullah was seriously ill at that time and was taken to Iran, and then, to Germany for treatment. He was also absent in the last Loya Jirga – which is one of those Karzai parties where Mohseni is usually sitting on the first row. The news of his illness coupled with his absent from the Jirga, was the main reason causing the rumor of his death, and people thought that God might have done us a favor and has taken his present back. To our bitter disappointment, on the day of Ashura, he appeared on his TV, just to prove that he is not going to leave us anytime soon. I am sorry for spreading the rumor of his death on this blog.
2. Last month, I had a short overland trip to Takhar. It was my second time in that province. I was not able to see considerable progress in the city since 2009. But in Herat, where I have been staying for the past three weeks or so, the city has changed a lot since 2010. Herat is the city where I lived under the Mujahedin and Taliban governments, that is why I always measure the effectiveness of the post-Taliban system, by looking at this city.
3. In the taxi from airport to Dasht-e Barchi in West Kabul, all the squares along my way were covered in black and red fabrics, commemorating the Muharram, which is the most important Shia ritual, in honor of Imam Hussain’s martyrdom. I had mixed feelings seeing all the Kabul streetscape overwhelmed by Muharram signs: on one hand, I was happy to see how tolerant our Sunni Afghans have become, but on the other, I was nervous that all these may provoke hostile sentiments from the Sunni community. On the day of Ashura, when a suicide bomber killed more than sixty Shia worshipers, and a hardliner Sunni commander from Nimruz took the responsibility, I came to this conclusion that second feeling was right, for religious tolerance in this country, we still need a very long time.
The most irritating thing in the media coverage of the attack was the way every reporter emphasized that there has never been sectarian violence in Afghanistan. This is not true. Part of the current Afghan conflict is sectarian; there have been several Shia-Sunni wars in the past in Kabul during the Ashura ceremonies. The bloodiest were in 1803 and 1832 which forced the Shias of Kabul to either convert to Sunni or do conceal their religious beliefs and perform the ceremonies in secret places. Only in the post-Taliban era, the Shias have the freedom to appear on streets and practice their religious ceremonies. I still don’t understand why the foreign journalists and some of the so called analysts think the history of Afghanistan starts from 2001 AD?
4. Kabul, at first glance, looks like a boom town; you see several new townships being developed in northern and southwestern suburbs. New apartment blocks are being erected in the city and many roads are being paved or repaired. The best of these repaired streets is the Dar ul-Aman road which is surprisingly well-designed and well-built. The present mayor of Kabul is apparently making a lot of efforts in ordering the city and making life easier for Kabulis.
5. I got sick here, I am not sure if it’s because of the cold weather, polluted air or dirty water… or the all three. I think I’ll be better in a few days.
6. I have taken so many good photos, but the slow internet doesn’t allow me to upload them here. May be some other time.
7. I have been using my free time to write a couple of articles about the city of Kabul (domestic architecture, public space) and Afghan cinema for DW radio, Dari service. Actually the one on public space (in Dari) is going to be published in an new online journal edited by my friends in Kabul. I’ll be back soon.