Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Children in Prison

I took this photo in Pul-e Charkhi prison outside Kabul while reporting a story about children who live behind bars with their convicted mothers. The little one was born in Pul-e Charkhi, as are many children of women jailed for moral crimes; often they have married the man they wanted instead of the man chosen by their family. The boy holding the baby has been in prison since he was a year old. The mother of the boy on the right had divorced her first husband and remarried; her first husband then accused her of cheating on him and committing adultery.

I lent him my pen.

In the absence of playpens, unruly children were tied to bed posts to keep them out of trouble.

These girls lived with their mothers in a prison in the western Afghan city of Nangarhar, where I went to meet Rukhma, a woman I wrote a story about who was kidnapped and raped, and whose son was beaten to death before her eyes. The perpetrator was jailed for murder, and she was jailed for running away and adultery.

The girls left the women's prison at the same time that I did. They were delivering packages from their mothers to their fathers, who are in the men's lockup next door. The girl in the red has on her head her father's freshly-cleaned clothes: It appears that the traditional role of the wife washing the husband's laundry adheres even when they are incarcerated.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Band-e Amir

We took a side trip to Band-e Amir, five bright blue lakes hidden in the mountains northwest of Bamiyan. It's another bumpy ride along slivering unpaved roads in the desert. This was our first glimpse of the lakes.

The lakes are large tiered pools that spill one into the other, as can be seen in these small rivulets from the light green lake that pour into the larger bright blue one. These are the actual colors of the waters, which seem too saturated to be real.

We hiked from one side of the lakes across to the other, stopping for a brief dip in one of the shallower pools, which were extremely chilly.

One of the larger falls between two of the lakes.

Where the Buddhas once stood

Two days before leaving Afghanistan, we took a very bumpy eight hour trip north of Kabul to Bamiyan, once home to enormous 1,400 year old Buddha statues that were blown up by the Taliban in 2001. The Taliban claimed the Buddhas were idols and forbidden under Islam. On the roads leading to Bamiyan are several ruins of towers and castles.

Barely visible here are more ruins, set atop a mountain in the center of this photo but in the shadow of other mountains in this photo.

A glimpse of the village of Bamiyan, its farmland and the niches where the Buddhas once stood. There is an eery feel about the place, all at once peaceful, yet overwhelmingly sad because of the Taliban destruction of the statues and murder of ethnic Hazara villagers in the region.

The bazaar on a street in front of the Buddha niches were destroyed when the Taliban raided the area.

A guide took us on a tour of the cave complexes around the Buddha statues. This is one passage way that leads into the rooms that once contained frescoes and statues.

The site has also been raided by looters involved in the illegal trafficking of Afghan artifacts, but there are still remnants of paint on the wall, giving a glimpse of how colorful and ornate the ceilings and walls once were.

Part of our walking tour takes us on a narrow path that would once have looked out over the Buddha's head.