If you missed the latest episode of Mary Smith’s work in Afghanistan then here is something to whet your appetite… a fascinating look at some of the history of the region which is embedded in the hearts and minds of those who have lived through it.
Autumn 1989 somewhere between Yakolang and Lal
Juma Khan, the truck owner joined Khudadad and me for tea in the guest room. He was accompanied by his elderly wife whose eyes were filmed by cataracts. Pointing to his wife’s eyes he asked what could be done; did I have any medicine to make her see again? My heart sank. I was going to be a very disappointing guest.
I shook my head, explaining only an operation would help. The nearest hospital where such surgery could be performed was Kabul. We all knew, without further discussion, that Juma Khan’s wife would end her days in darkness. More patients from the village arrived for consultations – children with eczema, children with scabies, malnutrition, diarrhoea. The picturesque rural scene I had seen as we arrived disguised the poverty, ignorance and disease in the village.
Apart from a couple of doctors of doubtful qualifications in the bazaar of Yakolang no other medical facility was nearer than our clinic in Lal. Some years ago, an American Government funded mission group had built a hospital in Yakolang. It had been closed, even before the Soviet invasion, amidst rumours of spying and proselytising. I had seen the modern buildings as we drove through the bazaar earlier and, faced with so many children for whom I could do little to help; I wondered why one of the many aid organisations working in Afghanistan did not re-open the much needed hospital. Our organisation was tiny, but where I wondered were Oxfam, Save the Children, the UN agencies? Khudadad answered, ‘This place is too far from Pakistan. They don’t want the bother. It is easier for them to help in the nearer, Pashtun areas.’
Although he spoke in English, on hearing the word “Pashtun” Juma Khan’s wife let out a long wail of anguish followed by a voluble speech full of anger and grief. Khudadad explained, ‘This family are originally from near Jaghoray, but the Pushtoon took their land and forced them to move. Many, many families lost their lands at that time and moved here. The land is not good and farming is hard. They will always hate the Pushtoon people. That is why the Hazaras must have some power when there is a new Government.’
It was quite a speech from Khudadad and the emotion in his voice was clear. ‘When did this happen?’ I asked.
‘During the time of Abdur Rahman Khan,’ he replied. ‘They will never forget.’
Head over to read the rest of this entertaining and also informative post… thanks Sally.