Life under Taliban cuts two ways
(Page 4 of 4)
More than a dozen of these training camps are still in operation. Some are thought to be funded by Mr. bin Laden. Authorities believe they trained the perpetrators of numerous attacks, from from Khobar, Tanzania, and Kenya to Yemen, New York, and Washington. A major part of their ideology is the overthrow of America, and of less-than-pure Islamic governments in places like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"They're winning the battle of the minds of the people, and we're losing it ... because we don't speak Arabic and we don't understand Muslim culture," adds the diplomat. And with little credibility or leverage in the region, there is little the US and its allies can do to influence Afghanistan, outside of the use of military force.
Now, more than a week after UN relief officials and foreign aid workers have withdrawn from Afghanistan, Afghans like Karim who depend on aid programs for food and work are having to rely on other means, primarily their families. World Food Program officials estimate there are only two weeks of UN food stocks left in Afghanistan. Already, thousands of Afghans are reported leaving their homes, both out of fear of US bombing attacks and in search of a stable source of food.
Like some 6 million Afghans, Karim and his family spend their daily lives fending off starvation. Nearly 1 million urban Afghans and 4 million rural Afghans are almost entirely dependent on food relief.
While more than 400,000 Afghan civilians have lost their lives in the 1990s alone, the humanitarian crisis has had a particularly hard effect on Afghan children, who make up nearly half the nation's population - 10.3 million of a total 25 million Afghans here. Nearly a quarter of all infants die by the age of 5, mostly from malnutrition. Only 12 out of 20 school-age boys, and one out of 20 school-age girls, go to school.
Karim's family is so poor that he and his his four brothers must leave the house by 5:30 a.m. and start the day's work: picking through trash and roadside filth in search of wood, metal, and bits of paper to sell to scrap dealers. His father is unable to work; his mother earns some money washing clothes and baking bread for neighbors.
On a good day, Karim earns about 30 cents, enough to buy five pieces of bread. His first meal of the day - a glass of milk and a hunk of bread - comes at 9:00 a.m. at the training center run by ASCHIANA.
Karim gets two meals a day through ASCHIANA. At noon he rushes out to the local bazaar for two hours to scavenge for wood and metal.
"It's dangerous, because there are lots of places in Kabul where there are mines," says Karim. "There are some mines beside the rivers and in the destroyed areas. We learn what the mines look like, and how to avoid them."
Karim has never been to school, but after a year at ASCHIANA, he can now read and write. He has even read the Koran once, and the lessons from that holiest of books in Islam give him hope, he says. But his favorite pastime, by far, is painting. "I'm learning to be an artist," says Karim, smiling. "I have one wish: to be a good teacher, so that I can teach others to be good painters."
At the end of the day, Karim walks home with his friends. He's supposed to be gathering scrap metal, but on this day he and his classmates stop at the playground in Sharinow Park. They take turns pushing a rickety merry-go-round, which tips and sways and sends some of the boys flying into the dust as it gathers speed.
For 10 minutes, Karim's world is like that of any child in the world, a world of play.