Afghanistan: Kabul neighborhood struggles to regroup after bombing
In the corner of a Kabul neighborhood where almost every family lost someone in an early December bombing, the psychological and economic effects are far-reaching.
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Shah lives a short walk from the Abu Fazal shrine where the Ashura bombing occurred. Made up of mud brick houses and uneven dirt roads, the neighborhood likely doesn't look much different today than it did when it was first formed about 300 years ago. The shrine is also a short distance from several government buildings and a modern luxury hotel where the cost of one night in a basic room is almost double Shah’s monthly earnings.Skip to next paragraph
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In his corner of the neighborhood, 50 of those killed or injured in the attack came from 15 families, or a little more than 100 people. One family home now stands empty, the front gate bolted shut, after the blast killed seven and injured seven more people living there. Three family members were already disabled from various incidents over the past several years.
Another man in the neighborhood voluntarily gave up his home, vowing to live the rest of his life in the local graveyard alongside his wife, mother-in-law, and two sons who he lost in the suicide attack. Residents say he spends most of the day wandering the city before returning to the cemetery at night.
“Now we are concerned that maybe we will go deeper into poverty,” says Abdul Hussein, an elder in Shah’s neighborhood who lost his wife in the attack. “Our concerns are like a mountain. We are not people who have businesses and trade that generates a big income. We just depend on our daily work to survive and when you lose people who used to work it creates serious problems for the community.”
Residents say they will support their neighbors who lost breadwinners for a time, but they concede that given their own financial situation it is impossible for them to do so long-term. Help from outside the community has been more or less nonexistent.
Shah’s 12-year-old daughter Tarana, who was injured but not hospitalized, appears in a memorable photograph taken moments after the blast by Agence France-Presse photographer Massoud Hossaini. In the picture, which is likely to become one of the iconic images of the Afghan war, Tarana stands covered in blood with her arms outstretched, crying, and surrounded by a circle of dead women and children. One of her sisters sits among the dead, weeping, her face covered in blood.
“I was really scared by that incident and now when I go to bed at night I can’t sleep. I just lay awake scared,” says Tarana, adding that she also suffers from loss of appetite and no longer likes being outdoors.
Her photo ran in newspapers around the world after the blast and now hangs on the side of the Abul Fazal shrine. Shah keeps a printed copy of the photo, but says he has mixed emotions about it.
“Maybe this picture will help to bring a change, but it won’t be useful for me because I lost everyone. We got harmed and we’re losing more to take care of my injured daughters,” he says.