Afghanistan: The Color Awakens

Recent decades have seen Afghanistan repeatedly bruised and brutalized—but today, its people struggle to brush away the dust of conflict and discover their homeland as it should appear: radiant with beautiful colors.

- Ako Salemi

Recycling plastic goods is improved during last decade, it is one of the most environment friendly act in Afghanistan.

Mazare Sharif, Afghanistan, May 2015.

Afghanistan, having passed more than three decades of war and suffered well over a million casualties, seems tentatively poised to start the difficult path towards stability. From a political, economical and social perspective, a measure of security and certainty is a must for the country's beleaguered people.

For a generation of middle-aged Afghans, whose lives have been filled with the bitter tastes of insecurity and poverty, they feel hopeful to see a brighter future for their children and the coming generations.

Only 6% of births are officially recorded in Afghanistan. As a result the majority of Afghan children have neither an official identity nor a nationality. They are invisible in the eyes of society. Mazare Sharif, Afghanistan, May 2015.

Zahir, nine Years old labor who works as brick maker. At a rate of 600 bricks a day, working 6‐days a week, Zahir’s annual brick production is an easy calculation. Calculating the cost to Zahir, however, is much more difficult, as the cost of child bonded labour is paid over a lifetime through the loss of health, education and opportunities. Suburb Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan, May 2015.

Of course, stability comes at a price and remains far from a certainty. One thing which stood out during Iranian photographer Ako Salemi's stay in Afghanistan (in May 2015), were the many children and teenagers he met who had to work to feed their families. While they were proud to be helping their families, they also wished that they could have the right to a good education as children in other parts of the world.

A man smokes cannabis in street of Kabul, Afghanistan, May 2015. Cannabis appears to be the second most prevalent drug used in the urban centers of Afghanistan. An estimated 7.5% of Afghan adults use illegal drugs.

Similarly, Afghan women, who were for years chained under the harsh misogynistic rule of the Taliban, have begun their restless struggle to gain more freedoms. Progress is slow however: even the theoretically democratic government refuses to put into place basic protections for women in public roles.

Thus, Afghanistan remains caught between its proud, distant past, its much more challenging recent history and hopes for a new future. The country's ancient history is filled with a poetic and mystic culture which gave birth to many great writers of the Persian language, a country of color and life.

A woman covered by Burgha (traditional Afghan women wear) passes by “Roze Sharif” holy shrine where a lot of white pigeons always fly near it. Pigeon is the symbol of freedom in Afghanistan. Mazare Sharif, Afghanistan, May 2015.

Recent decades have seen it bruised and brutalized. Today, its people struggle to brush away the dust that has been left during the long years of war. Underneath the first layer of gray, cold struggle, they aim to once again see Afghanistan as it should be: radiant with beautiful colors.

Masoud, eight years old sells woolen, he usually starts his work after his school. UNICEF estimates that up to 30 percent of primary school age children are working and are often the sole source of income for their families. They enrol their children in work, with boys and girls being “forced” to work not only by employers but by their parents. Mazare Sharif Bazaar,Afghanistan, May 2015.

Sand mining company. Industrial companies improved during last decade. The suburb Mazari-Sharifl, Afghanistan, May 2015.

(All images copyrighted Ako Salemi)

>> Gallery: Afghanistan: The Color Awakens

>> Photographer: Ako Salemi

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