A people stuck between the tanks of Islamic factions. Small tribes and ethnic groups separated by the rough terrain. Gunes Kocatepe from Atlas visited the devastated cities of Afghanistan two years in a row and observed a country that is on the verge of insanity.
Mezar-i Sharif is the largest city in the Dostum territory to the north of Afghanistan. It is famous for the alleged tomb of Caliph Ali. Even though this is one of the many alleged tombs, Afghans insist that it is the real one. They know, they say, because all the doves in the city are white. In stark contrast to the bullets that fly 300 km. (190 mi.) from here, Mezar-i Sharif's doves are symbols of hope and peace.
Hoca Khaltan's tomb in Herat is always filled with people with wishes. The person who enters the tomb kneels down to the ground and puts his forehead on the square stone on the floor. Then he makes his wish and prays. Then they start circling the floor with their eyes closed. They believe that the further they can go without swaying to the right or left, the more they can rest assured to get their wish. They collect donations from visitors to repair the tomb that was heavily damaged by the war. In the meantime, they try to support the walls by leaning large cannonballs against the walls.
Kabul 1995. The tragedy of the Afghan people is closely linked to technological advances. The carcasses of the many tanks that lay immobile in Kabul are sold to neighboring countries for scrap value. Some of them are melted and reshaped into simple agricultural tools such as picks, spades and axes.
The Kabul government sent troops to Herat in March 1979. Twenty-four thousand died, thousands of others were maimed.
Herat has been bombed many times during the war to put down rebellions. It clearly bears the marks of those days. The man in front of the coffee house, one of the few that has remained intact, has gone insane. The one next to him has lost his legs.
Dostum's soldiers watched the buzkasi game here. The following day, they were ordered to the front, to Bagdish.
Taliban has intimidated the population by its extremely conservative and oppressive practices. The most powerful force against the Taliban is Dostum's army to the north. This group, seen in soviet uniforms, are part of Dostum's army. after watching the games, they were then sent to the front on the following day.
This blind woman begs in Mezar-i Sharif. The fact that many of the men died in the war makes life especially difficult for women.
24,000 people died in a single day in Herat in 1979. Its streets are now filled with children playing. This generation was raised entirely during the war that is in its nineteenth year. Maybe because they're tired of playing with the tanks on the streets, these children are playing a simpler game. This picture was made in 1995.
One of the few markets that has been able to survive the war undestroyed. The shopkeepers earn their living from selling rugs (left). The Afghani economy has been devastated by the war. They collect bills in bags and carry these bags around to pay for what they buy. High inflation has eroded the purchasing power of the money and continues to do so with each passing day. This picture was taken in 1995. Since then, inflation eroded even more of their purchasing power (right).
Kabul 1995. Kabul is a mosaic of many different ethnic backgrounds. In addition to the Pastun, Tadjik, Uzbek and Hazar heritage, the children that are born to interethnic marriages are called "Kabuli"s. These children smiled for our camera in 1995.
On Fridays, the locals go to the park next to Caliph Ali's tomb. There is a wide variety of people who come here: story tellers, fortune tellers. Having your fortune told is possibly the best way to get a feel for what is coming at this unpredictable time. Mezar-i Sharif, 1996.
Because of unemployment, children are forced to live on the streets. For these children who depend on a few slices of bread that the local restaurants give them, a bowl of rice is an unbelievable feast.
Religion is a fundamental organizing principle in Afghan life. It is perhaps the only force that brings together the population that is otherwise sharply divided along ethnic and linguistic lines. It has also demonstrated its power in the struggle against the socialist government.