The exodus of young Afghans at its root, in Afghanistan itself. Who are these young people? Why after they are forcibly returned to Kabul, many of them launch themselves into yet another voyage of hope and death? What drives a 14-year old to leave? According to the UNHCR, a quarter of the world refugee population escapes from Afghanistan. Afghanistan is also a country of millions of internal refugees, people forced to live in others’ homes or in refugee camps. They often say me that they send their children to Europe so that at least one survives.
I’d like to address the exodus of young Afghans at its root, in Afghanistan itself. Who and what do these young people leave? What happens to them when they are forcibly returned to Kabul? Why is it that as soon as they arrive back in Kabul, so many of them launch themselves again into yet another voyage of hope and death? What drives a 14-year old to leave? According to the UNHCR, a quarter of the world refugee population escapes from Afghanistan. But Afghanistan is also a country of millions of internal refugees, people forced to live in others’ homes, under whatever roof they can find over their head, or in refugee camps. They often say me that they send their children to Europe so that at least one survives. I've tried to examine the underlying social causes of this exodus: the war economy; the business of smuggling and kidnapping of children; the prostitution of women and their attempt to survive in a country of a million widows, where a woman without a man who tries to defend her honor according to the logic of the spoils of war becomes an object, an object of public use. What do we know about the violated youth in Afghanistan, the fruit of our war? Kabul, at night, in winter. Its archipelagos of villages, where children get up at 4 in the morning and walk long distances to fetch water. The magic rituals that make up for the lack of medicine, the villages full of opium addicts because there is nothing else to kill the pain. Brides sold for debts; the new epidemic of self-immolation; the anti-personnel mines that continue to increase exponentially. What do we know about the death threats nailed at night by the Taliban, on the doors of those who dare to send their daughters to school? Who talks about babies, the survivors of kidnappings – the country’s most thriving industry? What do we know about the juvenile prisons where female adolescents are incarcerated after escaping from forced marriages? About the nomad girls working as prostitutes, or the forced prostitution of young orphans, the ‘boys who dance’ bacha baza? Or about the refugee camps where nobody counts the number of children who die, it was not even recorded their existence, those who survive are sent to beg in the city. Who cares about the Kuchis, the last nomads: without pasturelands, reduced to miserable existences, living in the cities in squalid hovels or tents, where half the newborn babies do not survive the winter? But all Afghans are in danger of becoming Kuchis, a displaced and dispossessed people, perched on their bundled belongings, waiting for an escape that never comes. Afghanistan does not mean just war, although we have been fighting this war for 13 years already, on thousand-year-old silk roads, destroying delicate balances and feeding monsters. I know: speaking about the Afghan people is awkward. It is frightening. It is uncomfortable.
photographer&writer on the road, ted fellow