The Editor’s favorite college journalism professor often waxed poetically about Afghanistan. He had lived there as a young man and yearned to return. Hard as that may be to believe now, these photos may help explain it.
Mohammad Qayoumi is president of California State University, East Bay. He grew up in Kabul and wrote the story that accompanied these photos in ForeignPolicy.com:
Former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince recently described the country as inhabited by “barbarians” with “a 1200 A.D. mentality.” Many assume that’s all Afghanistan has ever been — an ungovernable land where chaos is carved into the hills. Given the images people see on TV and the headlines written about Afghanistan over the past three decades of war, many conclude the country never made it out of the Middle Ages.
But that is not the Afghanistan I remember. I grew up in Kabul in the 1950s and ’60s. When I was in middle school, I remember that on one visit to a city market, I bought a photobook about the country published by Afghanistan’s planning ministry. Most of the images dated from the 1950s. I had largely forgotten about that book until recently … Through a colleague, I received a copy of the book and recognized it as a time capsule of the Afghanistan I had once known — perhaps a little airbrushed by government officials, but a far more realistic picture of my homeland than one often sees today.
A half-century ago … Ordinary people had a sense of hope, a belief that education could open opportunities for all, a conviction that a bright future lay ahead. All that has been destroyed by three decades of war, but it was real.
… it is important to know that disorder, terrorism, and violence against schools that educate girls are not inevitable. I want to show Afghanistan’s youth of today how their parents and grandparents really lived.
Check out the rest of these unbelievable photos.