Afghanistan, An Eye Witness Account
By Stefan Smith, War Child
Issue 3.3 | October 1999
I took some photographs and left the school, walking home through the once bustling streets of Kabul's old city, a scene that now bears a striking resemblance to Sarajevo, Vukovar or Mostar. Once part of the staple diet of a Cold War hungry media in the 1980s, Afghanistan's continued Civil War has deemed it unworthy of the world's attention.
All around me, rubble bearing the seeds of many failed armies: landmines, unexploded mortars and bombs lay everywhere. The most alarming sight was the sheer number of children scouring the wrecked buildings, trying to gather scrap metal to sell to dealers. This deadly game of Russian roulette, where avoiding death or injury depends on luck, is being played out by thousands of children daily. When several kilos of scrap metal can buy a family food for a day, they accept the risk of death or severe injury.
When I think of Afghanistan now there are no romantic visions of a fiercely proud nation, the mysterious Khyber Pass or the historic defeats of the British Empire or the Soviet Union. The images that remain are of children clearing mines an arm and leg at a time, without limbs, without hope and without a future.
Had the landmines of Afghanistan been the machetes of Rwanda or the Serb snipers over Sarajevo, then perhaps the present long, drawn-out genocide would have spurred the world into action to help the innocent civilians of this country. But as it stands, the country faces a very bleak future. Until the world's attention shifts to those living with the daily horror of landmines, then places like Afghanistan will continue to suffer a slow and undignified collapse into anarchy and mutilation.
War Child UK (International)