What once was: Photos of Afghanistan as a vibrant Western society

by editor on March 5, 2011


Young Afghani women buying the latest hits in a Kabul record store

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.


College students on campus at Kabul University

Source: ForeignPolicy.com

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27 Comments on "What once was: Photos of Afghanistan as a vibrant Western society"

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March 5, 2011 5:32 am

What existed before Communism and Islamism attacked. :(

March 5, 2011 5:36 am

Oh please.. these women have skin showing for cryin’ out loud! And there are deciduous trees in these pictures. Does Afghanistan even HAVE trees, other than a stubborn, scraggly bush here and there? Not buying!

March 5, 2011 6:36 am


Trying pulling your head out of your lower regions and do a little research, like going to the original site:


It is indeed true, although probably a small slice of the overall society, you need to understand at one point the USA was largely poor and underdeveloped over most of it’s territories.

In other words, you have to start somewhere.

What you see now is the result of decades of warfare (you DO know bombs blow things up?), spurred on by islamist Pakistan and the Soviets, both totalitarian left-wing ideologies. And we didn’t help by abandoning them after the Soviets left.

Sure if you read the comments in this article, there will be nay-saying trolls as well, but that is to be expected. Still, it’s hard to dismiss the effect that these corrosive influences/philosophies have had.

Reminds one of what the Liberals have done to Detroit right here at home. No need to go to Afghanistan to see destruction on this scale.

Now please head back to Daily Kos where I’m sure you are worshiped, particularly with your screen name.


March 5, 2011 6:56 am

Easy does it Roger. I’m no liberal , and I’ve never been to Daily Kos! If I’m uniformed or, if I have the wrong perception of life in Kabul in the 50’s or when ever these shots were taken, then I plead guilty. But I don’t think what I said deserved your response. You have a nice day, shrub.

March 5, 2011 8:11 pm

Thank you, I did have a nice day, even if it was filled with yard work.

I suppose what raised my pique was the fact that a link was provided and it seemed pretty obvious you either didn’t click or read. Also due to the fact that you seem to be new around here and I didn’t recognize your screen name made me suspect you might have been a Soros funded robo-troll.

And a lack of coffee didn’t help either.

Also, if you do find the urge to check out the raging insanity of the KwazyKosKidz please make sure you are wearing a HazMat suit and are are loaded for bear with Dramamine.

You might also want to think about that screen name. You saw how easy it was to rag on it this morning. Just a friendly suggestion. I mean I changed mine from Lipschitz for business reasons, so……

And as for you Theo P, I think I speak for all us “A-holes” that hang out here:

Bite Us.


March 5, 2011 8:15 pm

You are the only one who has ever said anything about my screen name, which I’ve had for years.

March 5, 2011 9:03 pm

What can I say?

I’m a details kinda’ guy.



Theo P Neustic
March 5, 2011 7:44 am

That was a particularly venomous attack with no real basis for it.

Theo P Neustic
March 5, 2011 5:05 pm

Well then, you ass holes that gave it a thumbs down can just bite me for all I care.

March 5, 2011 5:39 am

Shows just how tolerant Islam truly is does it not.

What a true tragic example of intolerance and ignorance.

March 5, 2011 8:17 am

C’mon. No-one can fall for this. Be serious. Those first pics are main street USA. Granted, probably from the ’50’s. Dont know about the rest of them.

March 5, 2011 9:05 am

The religion of peace, isslum, has made wonderful advances in the societies where it has flourished hasn’t it? And we’re lucky because our muzzy illegal president wants to allow millions of them to immigrate to this country where they can make those same wonderful advances become a reality here.

March 5, 2011 10:04 am

Just goes to show what a totalitarian theocracy, adhering to a hateful religion, can do to a place.

March 5, 2011 10:09 am

Nope, not buying it either after living there in for over a year. No river that large in Kabul.

March 5, 2011 10:29 am

The ruissians invaded for some reason. Aren’t there a lot of industrial minerals there? Thought that came out again about a year ago.

If there were no resources to fund a society it wouldn’t have been invaded in the first place. Nobody cares about dirt farmers and goat herders.

March 5, 2011 2:04 pm

They invaded to maintain their puppet state. Nobody talks about puppet states anymore.

Grammar Fuhrer
March 5, 2011 10:42 am

The religion of peace and tolerance does great things indeed.


March 5, 2011 1:02 pm

It might be a good idea to save the European historical record on the moon or something, after Muslims take over there is no history but Islam, just ask the Bhuddists in Afghanistan – if there are any still living, or the Indonesians, or the Persians etc.

This record of pre-communist/islamist Afghanistan would not be recognized or believed by current Afghans, especially since this record would be fought ferociously by the mullahs who take pleasure in killing to emphasize their point of view. Liberals believe it’s the religion of peace, but only because they are morons.

March 5, 2011 1:53 pm

Better add Deroit to that historical record.

March 5, 2011 1:46 pm

These are the only pictures from Afghanistan that I’ve seen that don’t resemble screenshots from fallout 3.

March 5, 2011 2:02 pm

Actually, I have an advertising book from what was then serbia, that showed a world that no longer exists after all the killing — a snapshot out of time. Amazing how things can change in a few short years. Historically speaking, Afghanistan has gone all over the board — sometimes modernizing, and sometimes descending into honor killing and vendettas. There always seems to be a lot of violence from the tribes. The problems in governing these people has been the same way for thousands of years — many there apparently just like killing.. As with all such materials, you do have to take them with a grain of salt — but look beyond the pictures and think of the assumptions that went into each photograph. I can tell you right off that they don’t have a functioning university now — but they did at one time. In a lot of ways, this book is one of those “you can never go home to a past that never really was” moments. Quite sad, really. Like Mark Levin says — you can’t just foist a democracy on a people and expect it to “take”. They have to be ready for it, ready… Read more »

March 5, 2011 3:34 pm

Those photos look like Anywhere, USA to me. So really I am supposed to be excited for Sharia Law coming to these shores? I say no thank you. This is just sad, absolutely sad on every possible level.

March 5, 2011 7:38 pm

you’re back button does not work!! ASSHOLES!

March 5, 2011 8:26 pm

i must apoligise for my last remark,,,,,i,am the asshole. who punched in the wrong letter on the captcha code!! oop’s!
libtards have just got me so pissed of that all i want to do is,,punch another one out!

March 6, 2011 8:04 am

These pics are truly incredible. If they are indeed real, and they do appear to be, your kids and grandkids might very well be looking at pictures of current day USA someday soon with the same skepticism we have in seeing these. As in the references to Detroit, if the libs have their way, either through sharia or just plain old liberalism(dedevelopment, wealth redistribution, etc.), Detroit or Afghanistan of today will be the norm in our own beloved nation. Sharia and Islamicism are huge threats, for sure, but I believe our greatest threat is within at the current time. We must purge the govt. of libs, who through arrogance, stupidity, and willful ignorance truly would be happy to set us back centuries. I truly hope and pray that in future history we are not looked back upon as another once great nation and society. It is heartbreaking to even contemplate what could be the future for the young and as yet to be born here. We sorely need some leadership, and soon, so our country does not end up as a sad footnote in history.

March 8, 2011 6:01 pm

Sad trip down Sunni Lane.

March 8, 2011 11:26 pm

Coming soon to America: a new reality series entitled, “It’s Always Sunni in Philadelphia!”