Afghanistan in stunning pictures

Salat at Blue Mosque in Mazar-e0Sharif

Photographer Steve McCurry has been photographing Afghanistan since the 1970s.

His photographs portray a country which despite so much conflict is still a stunningly beautiful place.

A large number of his photographs will be exhibited by Beetles+Huxley from the 12th May to the 7th June 2014 and you can see all the photos which will be on display here.

Afghan women in danger again

In a country where ‘honour’ killings and forced marriages are rife there was a belief that the Western occupation would help bring in laws which would protect women and girls, and give them greater rights then under the brutal Taliban regime.

But a new law is being passed in the country which will allow men to attack their wives, children and sisters without any fear of criminal prosecution, bringing into sharp focus the plight that women in the country are still facing.

The change to the criminal prosecution code bans the relatives of an accused person from testifying against them. With the majority of family violence against women this change effectively silences the victims as well as any potential witnesses.

The change is in a section of the criminal code titled “Prohibition of Questioning an Individual as a Witness”. Others covered by the ban are children, doctors and defence lawyers for the accused.

The law having been approved by both houses of Parliament in Afghanistan, is now just awaiting the signature of the President, Hamid Karzai.

Campaigners are now putting all their efforts into trying to shame the President into suspending the new law, a tactic which worked successfully five years earlier when Karzai was forced to soften a family law which enshrined marital rape as a husband’s right.

With most foreign troops leaving before the end of this year and relationships between Western Governments and Afghanistan being frosty, it seems that Taliban or not, the women of Afghanistan will never see the rights that Islam gives them.

The Quran and the NYPD

When Afghan workers at the Bagram Air Base saw our troops put copies of the Holy Quran and other Islamic religious works into a pile of burning trash in a dumpster, they didn’t hesitate. They yelled for them to stop. They ran and “reached into the fire,” according to a Times report, and pulled the burning books out.

When General John Allen, the NATO commander in Afghanistan, heard what had happened, he didn’t hesitate either. He apologized, completely and unreservedly, to President Karzai, his government, “and most importantly, to the noble people of Afghanistan.” He said that it had been a mistake. (“I assure you … I promise you … this was NOT intentional in any way.”) He said that there would be an investigation and that it wouldn’t happen again. He added, “I would like to thank the local Afghan people who helped us identify the error, and who worked with us to immediately take corrective action.” That is, the ones who stuck their hands in the fire. Continue reading

Afghanistan: What about the children?

Skateistan: To Live and Skate in Kabul is a film made by director Orlando von Einsiedel.

In a country with innumerable problems, Skateistan represents an oasis where children can be children and build the kinds of cross-cultural relationships that Afghanistan needs for future stability.