Dispatches from Afghanistan: What boys stand to lose
It isn't just girls with a lot to lose
“It always hurts more to have and lose than to not have in the first place.”
― Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
The streets outside are slowly coming back to life: a new life that is also very old.
A few days into the Taliban rule, more and more Taliban members are swarming the streets and cementing a stringent version of Islamic Law. The color of clothing that once dotted the pavements has dispersed into dun-colored fabrics that seep into the scenery.
Women and children are neither seen nor heard outside the public sphere. While much attention has been focused on the painful plight of girls and women – who have the most to lose when it comes to the Taliban rule – it goes without saying that boys too lose their childhoods in other ways.
Textbooks rapidly change for heavier religious interpretation. Different views of girls and women are taught and shaped. Their freedoms fall in other ways.
They risk recruitment into child soldier ranks. They risk whippings for infractions like indecency or having a hand chopped off for a thievery conviction. A suit and tie is a bygone concept.
The joys of music and entertainment in the night now belong to a graveyard of memories to gather cobwebs.
Two days before much of the nations’ north fell to Taliban rule, I met a thin-boned, bubbly young Afghan man by the name of Noorzai. He was twenty and madly in love. He laughed at the end of every sentence.
Photographer Jake Simkin & skateboarder Noorsai
Noorzai is one of Afghanistan’s top skateboarders – having gone from a beggar boy in the streets offering to weigh people with his cracked scale for a few cents to being plucked into a U.S.-funded program aimed at teaching both boys and girls to wheel and flip.
(By Jacob Simkin)
Only Noorsai now is desperate to leave his homeland – or else his beloved boarding would be a thing of the past.
Small things. But small things matter.
But many young men I spoke to in recent weeks felt violated by all sides as Afghanistan slipped into oblivion. They could no longer put their weight behind a government that did not have their back and certainly had no clue to embrace the path of Taliban leadership.
“The President has the power to do something, but they don’t do anything. Everyone is corrupted in this country,” Muhammed Lal, 23, speaks to me with halting English. “Animals have value in this word. But if someone is Afghan, it doesn’t even have the value of a dog in this world. We are worse than dogs and animals.”
Lal looked at me with a slight hint of distrust, as if exhausted by those from the outside as much as those on the inside, which contributed to the staining of his birthplace.
“We are even worse than dogs and animals. Is there anyone left who can hear our voice and listen to our pain? Because if you could,” he continued. “You would surely lose your mind.”
Lal taught himself to speak English and was an English teacher for young Afghans as of Friday when we spoke.
“I learned it, so I could run away from here,” he added.
Less than twenty-four hours later, that time would come again. Only there would be nowhere to go.
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