Life in a City

Life in a City

Being careful in Kabul
By Fariba Nawa
September 2004

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Aysha and Ahad are kids living in the middle-class apartment complexes in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. They have almost every toy and technology that American children have. But unlike most American children, they’re scared to leave their apartment.

“I never go outside because it’s too dangerous. The mosque loudspeakers announce how many boys and girls are kidnapped every day,” says 8-year-old Aysha.

Afghan children in cities, especially in Kabul, are told to beware of kidnappers, careless drivers, and flying bullets. Violence has increased lately because of the first democratic elections scheduled for October 9. People unhappy with the election process are throwing rockets, planting bombs, and threatening anyone who dares to come out and enjoy life.

Kabul police say that child kidnapping is less common than people think. But many parents are afraid to let their children climb trees, fly kites, or go swimming.

Let’s Stay In

Aysha and Ahad find ways to have fun inside. Aysha plays with her dolls and dances to Afghan pop music. She plays games on her sister’s cell phone and teases Ahad. When it’s her turn to watch TV, she watches Scooby Doo and Tom and Jerry cartoons. Her favorite game on the computer is solitaire. Aysha and Ahad often fight over the laptop computer and the TV. Ahad, 13, plays video games like the King of Fighters. But he also goes outside and buys groceries for his mother.

The two share their home with their parents, four other siblings, and an American woman, Patricia, who is like their second mother. They don’t have couches and tables. They prefer to sit on red, cushioned mats, and lean against fluffy pillows. They eat on a plastic tablecloth when it’s mealtime and then wipe it off and fold it up when the food is eaten. Their living room is covered in red Afghan carpets and they have a medium-screen TV with a DVD and VCR inside an entertainment set.

The family left this apartment for several years during the civil war in Afghanistan and lived in Pakistan, where Aysha was born. Ahad and Aysha both speak four languages: Persian, Pashto (one of the two main Afghan languages), Urdu (the Pakistani language), and English, which they learned in Pakistani schools.

The family returned to their homeland four years ago when the new government took power. The brother and sister say they had more freedom in Pakistan, but Afghanistan is home. On Fridays, a Muslim holiday when Afghans do not work, Aysha and Ahad go to picnics, restaurants, and relatives’ homes with their family.

“It’s my homeland here. There is a better education system in Pakistan and it was safer, but we were strangers there,” said Ahad. “I think my family’s happier here and I want to stay here.”

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