Friends Despite Afghan War Ruins

by Dr Hakim in Kabul

‘Darul Aman’,

was supposed to mean ‘Abode of Peace’,

but it became a charred caricature

of Man’s repetitive use of bullets, rockets, tanks,

bombs and ancient fire

to secure money,

and seize power.

Here, King Amanullah and Queen Soraya

dreamt of a ‘modern’ Afghanistan,

not knowing that almost a century later,

Tufan, Su’ood, Amir, Nemat, Matin and Nisar

 came to record its wounds and ask,

“What abode?Where’s the peace?”

Their strong heart-beats constantly grasp

for a measure of calm,

in a colonized city of shattered pulse vista.

Confronted with an intractable present,

 they ask a universal question,

“What can we do?”

Imagine a new direction,

and without winking,

venture a leap!

But how can reconciliation begin

if the old hasn’t healed,

if there aren’t hands to hold values other than weapons?

Not someone else’s hand.

Our hands.

It’s hard for Nisar to describe life under the 24-hour, million-dollar spying ‘blimps’;

they feel utilized, intruded into, objectivized, mechanized.

That’s why they propose

the preventative and personal security

of friendship.

When we put barbs on wires,

we separate,

we call on fear,

we divert opponents to even more violent ways to invade.

The foursome leaned on each other,

and mutually affirm their human instincts,

“We have no borders.”

Tolstoy’s war and peace,

Orwell’s war is peace….

“No,” the youth defy,

“War is War.

        We are Peace.”

    We need to be clear.

Of course Tufan wonders

if we can untangle what we built.

If fighting is our tendency,

why aren’t families killing one another

across the world?

We mustn’t shrink from the responsibility

that war is a choice

requiring much scheming and funding.

We can hence choose to abolish it.

When Amir visited Bamiyan recently,

he heard that Hazaras like him

are falsely pitted against Tajiks like Nisar.

We should place the science of our shared human genome on every politician’s table: Humans are 99.9% similar.

The morning light which bounced off my stained lens

covered Su’ood’s countenance,

but could not hide his need to recover composure.

War stains permanently.

It tears the picture.

Overlooking a main road near the American University

where at least 16 were recently killed,

we felt frustrated about

the vision which the royal Amanullahs

may have had for humanity.

How have we become blind to evidence?

With an outstretched heart,

Nemat is overcoming his father’s recent demise,

and his own undiagnosed limp.

He forms circles,

and participates in community.

Once, he said, “I see that I’m not alone.”

They stood abreast,


Not one of them was haughty.

They smiled,

and basked in the delight of alignment.

It is fine that picket lines are

a balancing act,

naturally imperfect, and un-straight.

Where are the oases?

Where have all the flowers gone?

They quickly left the small, freshly wet plot, out of respect to the gardeners,

the uncles who have

toiled as if in a desert

full of thirst.

How will the youth live,

where many governments are failing

despite their machinery, money and masks?

Person by person,

thought by thought,

they can refuse hate,

and refute norms.

Today, the normal kills.

Their sense of camaraderie,

an ease,

a different spirit,

surrounded the ruins,

and while historical artifacts

have become information that no longer enlighten,

the youth can stand tall

by being one another’s teachers.

Like many in war zones elsewhere,

out of the war rubble which Power throws away,

they look up,

they should look in,

they can breathe.

I’m so proud of them.


NB – The photos named “Hope in War Ruins 1, 2, 6, 10 and 15” are by Muqadisa. The others are by Hakim.



Afghan Street Kid Habib Says: “Food comes from the land.”

by Dr Hakim in Kabul

Habib ( left ) having a conversation with the Food Bank Coordinator, Ghulam Hussein,
while sitting on a wheelbarrow of his monthly food gifts

I asked 15 year old Habib what he thought

basic human needs were,

and he replied without hesitation,

“First water, then food!”

Habib working in the streets

Habib’s sensible and thoughtful nature was forged

in the streets.

His voice was pre-pubertal then, baby-like, not innocent, but pure,

resounding along Pul-e-Surkh road,

with a half-smile and full-tedium,

“Hey, take your weight, take your weight!”

In front of him was his family’s livelihood tool,

a weighing scale.

His eyes were level with the skinny legs of passers-by,

and when he got hungry while ‘at work’,

he would “buy half a piece of bread”

and munch away.

If his younger brother, Sami or Abdullah, was with him,

he would first say, “Bukhurid! Eat!”

Habib with his mother

 I did not know his story,

like the many pedestrians who walked by,

till his mother came with a shrapnel chest wound still unhealed

from the “wind of a bomb”, she said, that killed her husband,

Habib’s late father, breadwinner, Uzbek, Afghan, laborer, pillar.

His father was selling oranges

from a wooden cart which he pushed and pushed daily,

calling out for customers like his sons did,

not expecting charity, or death.

She said sincerely but with invisible distress,

“Thank you for bringing him here to study.

I hope, someday, he’ll become something…”



Habib in his tent home, with a pressure cooker, a gas cylinder, and two pots.

“Hunger is difficult,” Habib said, and to solve it?

“I want to go to school, and when I grow up,

I want to be a doctor…

and get out of this poverty.”

He was seated in his tarpaulin tent ‘home’

which had cooking utensils and a squeaking parakeet in the corner.

His grandma was the anchor,

 a washerwoman, resourceful, a survivor.

When Habib left, she was shaking her head

and complaining about how a ‘foster’ uncle

had stormed into their hardly livable space,

and ‘snatched’ Habib and one of his three younger brothers away,

from their panicky and depressed mother,

to Faryab Province in the north, “far away in the mountains” the mother bemoaned.

Habib and his younger brother bringing their monthly food gifts home. Habib was holding on to his weighing scale.

The doctor prescribed IV saline infusions plus ‘medicines’ for a month,

to tide Habib’s mother through

Ismael, another street kids, loads a sack of rice on Habib’s back on another occasion

maternal sorrow,

not caring that love’s anxiety is not assuaged by salt or drugs.

“What could we have done?” the mothers asked.

I could imagine Habib’s unwilling falsetto

remotely resisting from a ‘madrassah’ ( religious school ),

missing his mother and grandmother,

Habib attends class

enveloping the squabbling and fighting

waged by those who are hungry not for food,

but for power and territory and dollars.

I saw his childhood slipping out of the physician’s coat

into the robes of a ‘mullah’,

Habib expressing ideas in class

his heart receding from change and ambition

into fate.

Fate? “We’ll still deliver Habib’s portion of food

to his ‘tent’ family,” the street kids teachers decided,

tempering destiny,

signifying solidarity with Habib,

“You are not here, but we are with you.”

In war zones, it may be

lighter on our sentiments

not to expect ‘return’, for life to sort of ‘move on’.

But, Habib turned up again,

and I tried to look beyond his older features and voice,

to understand the intervening emotions.


“The daily lessons were too routine…

and there was unrest and violence,

so I called my mom,

and said I wanted to come back,


Habib in the Borderfree Library

 He was a fraction more distracted,

but I could sense that the affections of home

were renewing his energies.

“My mother is grateful for your support,”

Habib said, “I’ll be coming to classes from now on.”

His reading and writing improved,

he found friends from other ethnic groups,

Habib, outside his tent home

and occasionally,

the street kids would have their momentary fun,

releasing their feelings

Inside Habib’s home

through their young bodies,

without plans,

searching for happiness.

When recently Habib didn’t turn up to collect his food rations,

Habib with his ration of rice & oil

Ghulam and I got on our bikes to his ‘tent’ house.

“We’re vacating our space

as the landlord wants to refurbish his yard.”

The ‘tent’ which housed six persons was emptied.

The next day, Habib collected his food gifts from Ghulam,

“Food comes from the land.

Allah ( God ) owns the land.”

But Habib has no land,

because the ‘strongmen’ confiscate or claim the land,

leaving none to the farmers,

that is, leaving the people food-less,

and more than half of all Afghan children stunted.

“I’ve found some temp work

with a telephone company…

of course I’ll go to school.

I was third in class last year!”

Habib said with a jaded spark drawn across his eyebrows.

As if petitioning the world for throwing away 33% of all its meals,

he added, “We shouldn’t waste food.”