Kabul — The time after the American invasion was a time of great hope. The golden years. After the darkness of the Taliban rule, Afghanistan finally seemed to be on the road to a better life. But today, fifteen years later, that hope has vanished and life seems to be even harder than before.
After the darkness of the Taliban rule, Afghanistan finally seemed to be on the road to a better life. But today, fifteen years later, that hope has vanished and life seems to be even harder than before. Aftermath of a truck bomb attack on a market in Kabul, August, 2015. I began working as a photographer for AFP under the Taliban, in 1998.
Taliban fighters and Kabul residents watch as surgeons cut off a thief’s hand at the national stadium in Kabul, under Taliban rule. Life at the time was hard, people were without work, prices were going through the roof. Some Taliban approached me. “What are you doing?” they demanded.
“Nothing,” I answered. Luckily this was in the age before digital cameras, so they couldn’t check to make sure I was telling the truth. I rarely put my name on my photos at the time, I just signed them “stringer,” so as not to draw unwanted attention to myself. AFP didn’t really have a bureau here back then, we had a house in the same neighborhood, Wazir Akbar Khan, that we do today.
Special envoys would take turns coming here, and we would regularly go to the frontline on the Shomali Plain, where the Northern Alliance was holding out against the Taliban. Aside from the BBC, only the three agencies, AFP, AP and Reuters remained in the city. Then in 2000 all of the foreigners were finally chased out and I was left alone to hold down the fort at AFP’s bureau. I would phone in information to the Islamabad bureau with a satellite phone.
I watched the September 11 attacks on the BBC, not thinking for a second that there would be possible repercussions for Afghanistan. Taliban fighters try to repair a broken tank in Kabul, in anticipation of a possible US attack. I was in the middle of phoning in the information to Islamabad when I heard the planes over Kabul. The first bombs were dropped near the airport.
Not far from it, I came across a group of several dozen Taliban fighters, dressed in black. One of them approached me. Listen, I’m nice today so I’m not going to kill you, but get out of here right away. I turned around, drove back and left my car at the office.
I came back with my bike, like an ordinary guy, a scarf wrapped around my hand to hide my camera. I took six photos that day, just six. I ended up sending two of them. Then one morning, the Taliban were gone, vanishing into thin air.
You should have seen it. The streets were filled with people. It was like people were coming out from the shadows into the light of life again.