Bamiyan Panorama

Bamiyan Panorama

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fears grow for abducted Laos campaigner Sombath

Fears grow for abducted Laos campaigner Sombath

Laos' leading development worker Sombath Somphone
Mr Sombath founded the PADETC organisation in Laos

It is a case that a decent detective would crack in a week. Sombath Somphone's abduction was caught on camera and took place on a busy road at a police checkpoint.

But more than four months after Laos' leading development worker disappeared, the authorities say they have no leads and yet need no outside help finding him.

It is little wonder that aid workers and diplomats in this small South East Asian nation are fearing the worst.

Mr Sombath's wife Shui-meng Ng last saw her husband in the rear-view mirror of her car.

It was Saturday, 15 December 2012, and the couple were driving home in their respective vehicles along Thadeua Road, which runs parallel to the Mekong River.

Mr Sombath, 61, had been doing some early evening exercise while his Singapore-born wife had attended a meeting in town.

With the day coming to a close, they met up at the small shop Ms Shui-meng runs and decided to head home in convoy.

Despite the absence of traffic, the cars lost contact with each other. When she got home, Ms Shui-meng waited for several hours before heading back out to look for her husband.

Having found no trace of him or his Jeep, she reported him missing the next morning.
Last sighting
Grainy CCTV footage showing the vehicle in which Sombath Somphone was taken away
CCTV footage showed the pick-up in which Mr Sombath was taken away

On the Monday, having seen little sign of interest from the police, Mr Sombath's family turned detective.

They went to Vientiane's main police station where they requested to be shown CCTV footage of the stretch of road where he had last been seen.

"I was shocked when we saw that he was stopped by the police at a police post." Ms Shui-Meng said.

The footage showed Mr Sombath's Jeep being pulled over shortly after 18:00 and the policeman asking him to get out of the vehicle.

Shortly afterwards, a man arrives on a motorbike and drives Mr Sombath's vehicle away.

Less than seven minutes after he was first stopped, a pickup arrives. Mr Sombath is bundled in without fuss and driven away. It is the last time he was seen alive.

With canny foresight, Mr Sombath's family made their own copy of the CCTV by filming the monitor screen with a mobile phone or digital camera.

The pictures they captured are blurry, but the contents and chronology are clear. They thought it was a breakthrough.

Having installed state-of-the-art cameras all along Thadeua Road, the Lao authorities must have captured the number plates of the pickup and the motorbike.

The traffic policeman at the post, if not directly involved, would also surely be able to provide some information.
Tepid response
Unfortunately for Mr Sombath and his family, the police response has been either embarrassingly inept or wilfully blind.

Despite possessing the original CCTV footage, they declared in a statement that it has given them no information on the number plates of either the motorbike or the pickup.

That footage has not been released to the public and the Lao authorities have rejected all offers of foreign technical assistance to try and enhance it.

A spokesman from the Ministry of Public Security said it was "unnecessary" and that this was Laos' "internal responsibility".

He went on to say that the policeman who stopped Mr Sombath was simply carrying out random checks and could not remember anything unusual taking place that Saturday evening.

For foreign diplomats in Vientiane, it just does not add up. Months of supposedly intense investigation had apparently revealed nothing more than Mr Sombath's family had discovered in two days of amateur sleuthing.

"There seems to be more that could be done," Karen Stewart, the US ambassador in Vientiane said, barely disguising her frustration.

"They could accept offers of technical assistance to work on the video footage. We just don't know who's behind this, but would hope for a more thorough and prompt investigation."

Another diplomat with the benefit of anonymity was more blunt.

"It's pretty clear that some part of the ruling party or government are behind this," he said. "It's hard to watch the CCTV footage and think this is anything other than an organised abduction."
'Political adversary'
Sombath Somphone and his wife Shui-meng Ng
Sombath Somphone was last seen by his wife, Shui-meng Ng, right, in December

Laos is in name, at least, still a communist country.

On the streets of Vientiane, backpackers happily take pictures of the many red flags bearing the hammer and sickle fluttering alongside the Lao national flag.

But as the country fell a long way behind its rapidly growing neighbours, its leaders changed tack and made some steps to open the economy up.

Though now riddled with corruption, Laos is now more market than Marx. But political change has been much slower.

Laos remains a one-party state and has been dominated by the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP) since independence in 1975.

In the absence of an opposition, aid agencies and civil society groups are treated with huge suspicion, and on occasion, outright hostility.

"Civil society is seen as a political adversary not as a partner in development," one international aid worker said. "They associate us with the Arab Spring."

For 30 years, Mr Sombath had successfully navigated Laos' complex internal politics. Returning from university in the US in the 1970s, he initially worked in agricultural development.

Then in 1996, he founded his own organisation PADETC, which encouraged and empowered young people. He won awards and then retired in the middle of 2012, hoping to live life at a slower pace.

Soft-spoken and non-confrontational, Mr Sombath was never an activist or agitator.

But many link his disappearance directly to the role he played organising a meeting of the Asia-Europe People's Forum (AEPF) in Vientiane in October 2012.
Wife's appeal
Sombath's wife Shui-meng Ng
Shui-meng Ng does not want her husband to be forgotten

The People's Forum was a chance for Lao grassroots organisations to meet and speak with activists and campaigners from around the world.

It was unprecedented by Lao standards.

Mr Sombath was a key part of the organising committee and helped run a regional discussion process that then contributed at the international meeting in Vientiane.

"Never had citizens here been consulted in that way before," a member of the Lao aid community said.

Some excitedly hailed the meeting as a sign that the political space was beginning to open up.

But for some members of the ruling elite in Laos, it was clearly a step too far.

In December, the head of the Swiss NGO Helvetas, Anne Sophie Gindoz, was expelled for "breaking the rules".

Ms Gindoz had just written an email to partners critical of the Lao government and the lack of freedom of speech. She had also been heavily involved in the People's Forum.

"They did what they know best," another Lao aid worker said, on condition of anonymity. "They expelled the head of an international NGO and in the process scared all the local ones."

Ms Gindoz was told to leave Laos on 7 December. Just over a week later, Mr Sombath was stopped at the police checkpoint.

One Western diplomat in Vientiane said they believe Mr Sombath was now caught in a power struggle between conservatives and reformers within the Lao government.

"The Defence Ministry remains the most important ministry in government," he said.

"Along with the Ministry of Public Security they appear to control the real power - and want to resist change at all cost."

Mr Sombath's wife Shui-Meng Ng is now trying desperately to ensure her husband is not forgotten.

When we spoke in Bangkok, she told me she has been given no indication as to whether he is dead or alive.

"I keep waiting. I keep hoping for some news about his whereabouts. It's been very stressful and very draining for everyone," she said.

"So please. I appeal to the government, I appeal to anyone who might know Sombath's whereabouts to let us know where he is."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Building a school for Hazara refugees in Herat


I was in Herat, hosted by the Italian forces a couple of months ago. Faced with a dearth of stories sticking with the military, I “unembedded” myself. This is where you sign a bunch of papers saying you’re leaving the care and protection of whatever forces you’re with and heading out on your own. If misfortune should befall you, you or anyone cannot claim damages from the Italians or Americans or whoever you were originally accompanying.
Herat is known as a safe city. This is, of course, a relative term, but in general, the main threat here is kidnappings of wealthy Afghan businesspeople. Military institutions, such as the Provincial Reconstruction Team have been attacked and the Heratis also love a good protest, but it’s largely quiet and surprisingly well-developed and beautiful. A beautiful blue mosque is a popular attraction, as well as the recently repaired Herat citadel.
I met up with a local Afghan female journalist, named Massouma. Like many working Afghan women, she had a number of jobs: journalist for ISAF’s Dari-language radio station; women’s rights activist; blog circle webmaster and “homemaker” (as the Americans would call it). Of Hazara ethnicity, which by and large offers its women more freedoms in terms of working, she and her husband took me for pizza and one of the more upmarket restaurants and then to a school that they’d founded and built, purely from their own salaries.
The school was originally meant to be a profit-making business. But, in choosing the cheapest plot of land, they soon discovered that the reason the price was so good was that the surrounding area was prone to flooding and, therefore, had a large population of Hazara refugees from Iran. These were people, who had escaped the fighting before 2001 and had returned to no jobs, homes or were forced to eke out a living in the city, as there was little to no work in the countryside.
She told me how taking on 100 students from these refugee communities, as a free school, presented its own peculiar problems. Many of the children would bring knives to school, have bad hygiene or malnutrition. They had no social skills and would resort to violence or crying. The parents were not much better. Massouma and her small team of female teachers had to start at the beginning, with social behaviour classes for the children and handicraft classes for the mothers; giving them a chance to raise money in the bazaar with their wares and also keep them from gossiping in the schoolyard.
Registering the school with the Ministry of Education, she was told the students had to have a uniform. The cheapest option, on visiting the market, was to buy the kids imported Chinese sweatshirts of bodybuilders. Unable to afford to take on more than 100 children, she decided to make the school a permanent two grade institute, which would move up as the children grew older. They started at kindergarten and grade one, now the children are at grades two and three.
Thanks to some funding from the US, they hired an English teacher and now the majority of the children are beyond the level usually accorded to their age. However, the second floor of the building is yet to be completed and there’s no heating for the winter months.
Massouma tells me her ambition is to keep renewing the curriculum, year on year until the kids graduate and then found the first free university. However, with funding pulling out already, even prior to the complete 2014 withdrawal of foreign forces, it’ll be a tough job for Massouma and her husband to continue their pet project.
Anyhow, the footage I took from my coincidental meeting with Massouma made it into a wider piece by my colleague, @jaketupman, on female entrepreneurs.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

'Not a death in vain': Kerry to meet parents of US diplomat killed by Afghan car bomb

Smedinghoff family via Reuters
Anne Smedinghoff, a 25-year-old diplomat from River Forest, Illinois, was killed along with four other Americans in a car bomb blast in Afghanistan on April 6.

Secretary of State John Kerry was due on Monday to meet the parents of Anne Smedinghoff, the American diplomat killed in a car bombing in Afghanistan earlier this month.
Kerry was scheduled to meet them in Chicago after flying back from Japan following a six-nation tour in Asia dominated by the North Korean crisis.
Smedinghoff, 25, was on her way to deliver books to a school in Qalat, Zabul province, when she and four other Americans were killed by a car bomb on April 6. An American civilian was also killed in a separate attack on the same day.

Anne Smedinghoff, 25, was killed Saturday when a suicide car bomber blew up their convoy along with four other Americans. Although she recognized the dangers and risks in Afghanistan, her family and friends said she still loved the job. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.
Kerry, speaking in Tokyo, said that everyone he had met with in recent days in the State Department “feels this enormously.”
“It's all the promise of a young person with all of the idealism and energy, enthusiasm suddenly snuffed out in the quest of high ideals and great values,” he said.
“I think that … is not a death in vain. It's a loss. It's a horrible loss. It's unfathomable as a parent,” he said. “But it's a great contribution and sacrifice for our country. And it is in the highest spirit of tradition and service of the State Department and the Foreign Service, and indeed of America, in our efforts to try to help other people be able to share in the blessings of life that we experience every day.”
“So I think that people should celebrate her life and really show their respect for what she was trying to do,” he added. “She inspired a lot of people and even in her loss she's an inspiration.”
Kerry met Smedinghoff, whose business card read "Assistant Information Officer," several weeks ago when she worked as his control officer during his recent trip to Afghanistan.
Smedinghoff previously served in Venezuela.
In an email to the Washington Post, Smedinghoff's parents said their daughter "was always looking for opportunities to reach out and help to make a difference in the lives of those living in a country ravaged by war."
They added: "We are consoled knowing that she was doing what she loved, and that she was serving her country by helping to make a positive difference in the world."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

In Pictures: Savage Islamic Attack on St. Mark Cathedral Allowed by Egyptian Forces

By on April 9, 2013 in From The Arab World, Islam, Muslim Persecution of Christians

Egypt’s Coptic Christians frequently accuse State Security and police of overlooking Muslim attacks on Christians and their places of worship, especially monasteries and churches.  The Western mainstream media often ignores these accusations, or mentions them in passing as “unsubstantiated reports.” Last weekend’s assault on the St. Mark Cathedral — unprecedented in significance — was no different, except for the fact that there are many pictures demonstrating State complicity.

To recap: After last Sunday’s St. Mark Cathedral funeral service for Egypt’s most recent Christian victims of jihad — including one man set aflame — gangs of Muslims attacked the Christian mourners, resulting in the deaths of two more Copts, including one shot through the heart.   Hundreds of Christians retreated back into the cathedral — both to get out of harm’s way, and to protect their holiest site.  They were trapped there all night, enduring projectile and firebomb attacks.   State Security also opened fire on the cathedral, including through tear-gas.

Several Egyptian media outlets and newspapers, especially the popular Youm7,  have published a variety of pictures showing mobs, if not terrorists, attacking the cathedral in front of absolutely indifferent, possibly approving, security forces.  Some of these pictures, with my captions, follow:

Muslim”youth” climb to the roof of a building adjacent to St. Mark Cathedral to attack it. To the left, a man winds to hurl a projectile at it. And in the white circle to the right, high-ranking Egyptian officials and security stand by watching (easily recognizable by their hats and helmets).

A better close up. This image shows a masked sniper with rifle in hand preparing to open fire at the cathedral — confident that security forces will not intervene.

Same man opens fire.

Another man prepares to hurl stones at the cathedral, even as security forces stand by watching.

A masked man, with a rifle, sits inside an Egyptian armored vehicle — bought with U.S. taxpayer money — and fires at the cathedral.

More snipers attacking Copts and their cathedral.

Yet another picture showing rioting Muslims throwing projectiles (upper left-hand corner) at the cathedral.  A man with a pole (in yellow circle) dismantles or destroys something — a cross, or something else of Christian significance? — and Egyptian “security” (lower left-hand corner, in red circle), idly stand by.

St. Mark Cathedral, holiest site for Egypt’s indigenous Christians — and home of the Coptic pope — now turned into a war zone,  under Muslim Brotherhood leadership.

A Muslim burns a Bible in front of the cathedral, right under  security’s nose. In Egypt, if a Christian is merely accused of “desecrating” a Koran, he/she gets several years in prison. Yet here is a Muslim burning a Bible, with photo evidence, but he has nothing to fear.

A collage of some of those on rooftops firing at the cathedral. Most of them are known by name — including the second one in the Palestinian scarf — and Copts regularly report them to police and security, to no avail.

More rooftop terrorism against the cathedral.

The aftermath: the entrance of Coptic Christianity’s holiest site, the St. Mark Cathedral, after Egypt’s Muslim mob and State Security were through with it.

Finally, lest there be any doubts as to the Islamic nature of this attack, here is a video of Muslims chanting “Allahu Akbar!” in front of the cathedral as smoke rises from it:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Giving voice to Pakistan's 'voiceless': Housewife becomes first female candidate in tribal region

Giving voice to Pakistan's 'voiceless': Housewife becomes first female candidate in tribal region

Anwarullah Khan / AP
Badam Zari, (right) wearing a colorful headscarf, leaves the election office after filing her candidacy for parliament in Khar, capital of the Pakistani tribal area of Bajur, on Monday.
PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- A housewife in Pakistan’s tribal belt has made history by becoming the first woman from the restive and conservative region to run for office.
“The women in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have faced many challenges because of unnecessary restrictions on them and rigid tribal traditions,” Badam Zari, 38, said in a telephone interview from her native Bajaur, a district in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal region. “I want to give voice to our voiceless women.”
Zari, who on Monday put her name on the ballot for the May 11 parliamentary elections, has her work cut out for her. Not only is she up against 44 other candidates, Bajaur is also home to militants who have waged war against state institutions, such as schools for girls and women.
In 2008, Pakistan’s army launched a massive operation to evict militants from the area, with soldiers flushing out many of the militants in 2011. But while Pakistani forces have managed to establish an uneasy peace in Bajaur, problems facing women have not disappeared – Pakistan is at the bottom of world maternal mortality and women’s literacy rankings.
Pakistani troops say they want to rebuild Waziristan, a corner of Pakistan that has become a hotbed of military activity, with financial help from the U.S. and others. But in order to do that, they insist U.S. drone strikes on the area must end. NBC's Amna Nawaz was granted exclusive access to the region that had previously been off-limits to foreigners.
Zari said she is running for office to do something about these dismal conditions.
“Women in Pakistan in general, and those living in the remote tribal areas in particular, have been neglected,” said Zari, who is married to a school principal. The couple do not have children.
The candidate added that past parliamentarians had served their own interests and not those of the tribal population as a whole. She vows to try to stamp out endemic corruption and boost services, such as health care and schools. While being a strong supporter of women’s education, Zari herself has only completed the fifth grade.
Fellow Bajaur resident Dil Faraz Khan welcomed Zari’s move, and said that existing lawmakers were corrupt and had done “nothing” for the community.
“I was so happy today when I heard on local FM radio that a woman would contest election,” he said. “This woman would be far better than those corrupt politicians.”
He worried, though, that Zari would have a difficult time competing against established politicians who bribed voters to get into office.
Although some of her fellow tribesmen welcomed Zari’s move, Sahibzada Shah Jehan argued that to campaign for office ran counter to tribal traditions.
"After Malala Yousafzai, most of the women are trying to do something that could help them get popularity across the world,” he said, referring to the Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head by militants for promoting girls' education. “But they ignore that their action could jeopardize their lives."  

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

'Fun Fact' about North Korea?

In 1976 two US Army officers were attacked in the border area while pruning a tree - reportedly planted by Kim Il-sung. They were killed with their own axes by North Korean officers. There was no apology but a North Korean message of regret stated: "Our side will never provoke first, but take self-defensive measures only when provocation occurs. This is our consistent stand."

Friday, April 05, 2013

Rada Akbar - Afghan photographer

 Rada Akbar was born in 1988 in Afghanistan.

She has always expressed herself through art.
Originally she started out as a painter and participated in a wide variety of exhibitions.
But step by step she gained interest in documenting everyday life of the Afghan people with her camera, and photography became her profession.

Akbar has made two documentary films describing the life and hardship of Afghan women. One of her documentaries "Shattered Hopes" was selected for The Panorama Hindukusch-Film Festival in Köln, Germany 2009.

Currently, she is working with GIZ-BEPA (Basic Education Program for Afghanistan), and she hopes her success can inspire other Afghan women.

"I don't photograph subjects. I photograph the way they make me feel. Admittedly, it's a bit of a strange concept. But it's honest - and it's the best way to describe my approach to the craft. I wrestle with every image I shoot. I assume perfection is possible and I want to wring it out of every picture. As a female Afghan artist I am responsible for serving my people and convince our society that Afghan women are in the position to work in this field and gain achievements."

Akbar works with many different ways of expression, and her paintings and photographic work have been internationally exhibited.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Photographer Jawad Jalali from Afghan Eyes Photo Agency

Afghan Security Forces
In this interview with A.P.N. managing director and photographer Jawad Jalali from Afghan Eyes Photo Agency share his thoughts on one of the biggest personal projects done by the Agency team of photographers.
Could you tell us a little about what your Agency is working with right now apart from assignments?Sure, right now we are working on this huge story about the Afghan security forces. The last 3 years we have travelled to all parts of Afghanistan working with the border police and the Special Forces in all kind of situations from demonstrations to terrorist attacks. We have been everywhere and tried to cover all aspects of the military life. We want to show the capacity of the Afghan national security forces and then it is up to the viewers to judge if the forces are capable of bringing peace and security after the coalition forces leave.

Has it been difficult to get the permissions and to work with the military?

Actually no, in most cases they were very easy to work with and whenever we travelled with them they were very friendly and cooperative, but it became even easier when my partner in the agency, Ahmad Massoud, last year shot a picture that made an Afghan soldier a national hero over night. The story was that this soldier was shot in his leg, but still he was fighting against the terrorists. When we got back to the office we published the picture to blogs and social media like Facebook, and the next morning we saw that there were thousands and thousands of shares, likes and comments. Some organisations decided to print the picture and make billboards all around Kabul so that made that soldier a hero. After that our cooperation with media and military forces became much easier.

Many of your pictures are very dramatic shot in the middle of combat situations, what about your own security?

It is very risky, and sometimes the soldiers joke with us and show us their guns. They are saying; at least we have guns, when attacked by suicide bombers you have only a camera to defend yourself with. It is true, we have no protection, and many times journalists and photographers have to take great personal risk to tell the stories. One of my friends working for the national TV was shot in the back. He was standing only five meters from me during the same attack as Massoud made the famous pictures of the wounded soldier. Now my friend is in a wheelchair it´s a very sad story.
It is dangerous when you want to tell the real story. You have to be in the middle of the situation, and that can be very dangerous.

Why is photography important?

Photography is extremely important in telling the Afghan story to the Afghan people. We have around 70 % illiterate, they can not read and they get a lot of their information through pictures. Just to give you an example; in 2008 we had around 5 exhibitions, one were about Afghan women and it was exhibited in 6 provinces. Some of the pictures showed women working as TV- and radio journalists and that came as a surprise to many people. They thought that the only place a woman could work was in the home.
So these are all small steps to bring change to the people minds. This is a positive and important part of the job.
We are almost done with the new project. We just need a few more pictures and then we will find ways to exhibit the project. It is very important that we reach the people and exhibit the work in public places throughout Afghanistan. Our message is for the people of Afghanistan.

How do you see the future when the coalition forces are leaving Afghanistan?

I can say as an Afghan I am confused. It is all politics and I am not sure if we will have peace or war. But I have been with the Afghan military forces and I am optimistic. They are well trained and able to handle the situation but at the same time each day Taliban is getting more powerful. We have to see what the future will bring.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

How A Female Photographer Sees Her Afghanistan

Born in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 1984, photographer Farzana Wahidy was only a teenager when the Taliban took over the country in 1996. At age 13 she was beaten in the street for not wearing a burqa, she recalls, and she describes those years as a "very closed, very dark time." To carry a camera would have been unthinkable.

Farzana Wahidy

And yet, she says, "I felt lucky compared to other women at that time." Women were banned from continuing their education during Taliban rule. But some, like Farzana, found ways to keep studying. She would carry books under her burqa and attended what she calls an "underground school" with about 300 other students in a residential area of Kabul.
When U.S.-led forces ended Taliban rule in 2001, Wahidy was able to attend high school. A friend encouraged her to apply for a photojournalism program, knowing that she had hopes of sharing her experiences with the world.
"Day by day, as I started learning about photography, I fell more in love with it," she says. "There was a huge need for women photographers in Afghanistan."

An Afghan girl blows bubble gum while cooking for her family in Kabul, 2007.
An Afghan girl blows bubble gum while cooking for her family in Kabul, 2007.
Wahidy became the first Afghan female photographer to work for the AFP and later AP, two leading wire agencies, and eventually received a scholarship to continue studies in a photojournalism program in Canada. In 2010, Wahidy returned home to Afghanistan.
"I try to show the bigger image, not just show we have problems," she says. "And we do have a lot of problems, but I do want to show normal daily life."
Wahidy focuses on women. "This subject was important to me because I am a woman," she says, recognizing an advantage that gives her. When she wants to document their lives, "it's easier for a woman to get access," she says.
Her photos of daily life range from men selling balloons on the streets to the secret lives of female prostitutes. And Wahidy was not the only one to recognize the need for this type of photography in Afghanistan. She is now part of the recently created Afghan Photography Network.

"Many Afghan photographers are not well-connected," she explains. "We hope it will create a better connection and show Afghanistan by Afghan photographers."
It is a young website, still in development, but the Afghan Photography Network is already bringing increased visibility to the work of Afghan photographers.
Of the eight women in her original photojournalism program, Wahidy is the only one working as a full-time photographer. Some got married, and others stopped working for reasons unknown to Wahidy. Wahidy, meanwhile, plans to continue for a very long time.
"When I shoot and I get a good photo," she says, "that is a beautiful day."

Two Afghan women clad in burqas whisper in a shop in Kabul, 2007. Despite advances in women's rights since the fall of the Taliban, most Afghan women, especially outside the capital, still opt for the all-enveloping cloak.
Two Afghan women clad in burqas whisper in a shop in Kabul, 2007. Despite advances in women's rights since the fall of the Taliban, most Afghan women, especially outside the capital, still opt for the all-enveloping cloak.

Afghans feed pigeons at the Shrine of Hazrat Ali in northern Afghanistan, 2009.
Afghans feed pigeons at the Shrine of Hazrat Ali in northern Afghanistan, 2009

An unidentified Afghan prostitute fixes her headscarf to cover her face in Kabul, 2008. Afghanistan is one of the world's most conservative countries, yet its sex trade appears to be thriving.
An unidentified Afghan prostitute fixes her headscarf to cover her face in Kabul, 2008. Afghanistan is one of the world's most conservative countries, yet its sex trade appears to be thriving.

 An Afghan policeman is seen through a hole at a police checkpoint on the outskirts of Kabul, 2007.
An Afghan policeman is seen through a hole at a police checkpoint on the outskirts of Kabul, 2007.

An Afghan girl brushes her hair in Kabul, 2007.
An Afghan girl brushes her hair in Kabul, 2007.

Boys play on a water pipe in a cemetery in Kabul, 2007.
Boys play on a water pipe in a cemetery in Kabul, 2007

An Afghan girl bathes her brother near a building where refugees live in Kabul, 2007.
An Afghan girl bathes her brother near a building where refugees live in Kabul, 2007.

Abdul Malak, who lost his leg in a mine blast during grazing, stands on a prosthetic limb — with his daughter nearby — in a Parwan province village north of Kabul, 2008.
Abdul Malak, who lost his leg in a mine blast during grazing, stands on a prosthetic limb — with his daughter nearby — in a Parwan province village north of Kabul, 2008.

Laila, 7, works on homework in her home in Kabul, 2008.
Laila, 7, works on homework in her home in Kabul, 2008

Arazo, 19 (from right), Tabasum, 20, and Shamayal, 25, who fled from abusive family members, stand for a picture in Kabul, 2009.
Arazo, 19 (from right), Tabasum, 20, and Shamayal, 25, who fled from abusive family members, stand for a picture in Kabul, 2009.

An Afghan boy selling balloons waits for customers in Kabul, 2009.
An Afghan boy selling balloons waits for customers in Kabul, 2009.

Afghan women kiss Shiite religious flags during Ashura in Kabul, 2009.
Afghan women kiss Shiite religious flags during Ashura in Kabul, 2009.

Ten-year-old Nahid grabs a thread while weaving carpet in her home in Kabul, 2010. Carpets, made mostly in the country's north, are one of Afghanistan's few major exports.
Ten-year-old Nahid grabs a thread while weaving carpet in her home in Kabul, 2010. Carpets, made mostly in the country's north, are one of Afghanistan's few major exports.

A photograph taken from behind a burqa, Kabul, 2007

A photograph taken from behind a burqa, Kabul, 2007.