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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 September 2005, 03:10 GMT 04:10 UK
Life in an Afghan village
By Soutik Biswas
BBC News, northern Afghanistan

Afghan village
On Tuesday the BBC devoted time to finding out more about what life is like for the people of Afghanistan in a day of special coverage.

As part of the project we invited you to send your e-mails from around the world to the six Afghans below who live in this village north of the capital, Kabul.

About 300 families live in the village, most of them are Pashtuns. During Afghanistan's civil war, the Taleban destroyed many homes and burned the vines that are a key part of the villagers' economy.

They are rebuilding their lives, but under extremely difficult conditions.

Click on the links above to read more about the villagers.

HAJI ABDULLAH SALEH, 56, village elder

Haji Abdullah Saleh
Haji Abdullah Saleh is one of the revered elders in the village - he is a well-to-do landlord who owns some 3,000 vines and is one of the judges in Afghanistan's Supreme Court.

A masters degree in Islamic law led to a three-decade long career as a lawyer and fetched him the coveted job of a judge - he is among the 3,000 judges in the country's fledgling justice system. During the rule of the Taleban, he was fired from his job because he "went to some foreign countries".

He says he is appalled by the rising incidences of murder cases in the country. Saleh believes the infrastructure of his villages needs to improve vastly. "The biggest problem facing Afghanistan is poverty and illiteracy", he says.

The father of eight children - all sons, one of them going to engineering school - he believes the foreign troops need to stay in Afghanistan to bring about its much-needed stability.

SHAISTA, 14, schoolgirl

The daughter of a daily wage worker, Shaista wants to become a doctor when she grows up.

"Education is important," she says. "If I become doctor, I will rid people of their diseases and earn money too."

Shaista has four sisters and three brothers - most of them are going to school. She is happy that the war is over and the family were able to return from a wretched refugee life in Pakistan.

When they returned home, they found they had lost their home and mulberry trees. The family has some vines, but no water to grow the fruit.

There is no time to watch movies because their home has no electricity and there is no television. "And my father says, keep studying all the time," she says.

GUL KHAN, 25, day labourer

Gul Khan
Gul Khan returned home from 20 years scraping a living as a refugee in Pakistan only two years ago. He did not finish his education.

He lives with his wife and three children and says he barely gets 10-12 days of work every month, usually slogging on somebody else's farm for about $3 a day.

He says he used to find more work in Pakistan, "but the police would harass me and take my money".

He is glad to be back home and happy to see the war is over. But there is little work - "too much tension, very little work," he says. He is eager to work more to rebuild his life, but there is not much work around. "But the future is here, at home," he says, smiling weakly.

LAL BIBI, 45, widow

Lal Bibi
Twelve years ago, Lal Bibi's husband went to war and never returned home. The couple had been married for just five years.

Today, the childless widow lives with her ageing mother and barely manages to eke out a decent living selling eggs and buying and selling goats.

It's a hard life for a widow in Afghanistan, she says.

"There should be more opportunities for women like me to work for a living. Widows and poor women are in the worst condition in our society."

Lal Bibi's gnarled and shivering hands betray her failing health. "There's not much to do for me, tending to my chickens and my mother."

SHUKRULLAH, 18, student

For nearly four hours a day, Shukrullah goes to the village school learning science, Dari, geometry, geography and history.

The rest of the time, he helps his father knit carpets which will earn the family $170 after the carpet is made and sold.

Father and son knit only one carpet a month.

He would love to spend more time in school. Geography is his favourite subject. Iran is a country of his dreams from geography lessons.

Shukrullah has five siblings. He wants to become a civil engineer when he grows up, building roads. "Road building is good for our country," he says.

He has no time for games or movies - "I study and knit carpets, that's my life."

RAHMAT GUL, 46, teacher

Rahmat Gul
Rahmat Gul studied biology and chemistry but ended up as a teacher of Pashto because of a dearth of language teachers.

Today, he makes a living from his $50 a month job teaching Pashtu at a Kabul school and from selling fruit from his 500 vines. All his seven children go to school.

Gul says his village's reputation as a prime grape growing area has not meant much for its residents who still cannot plant trees because of lack of water.

Some 15 years as a teacher have convinced Gul that education is the key to Afghanistan's future success as a nation.

"We could just export our grapes and become rich. But where is the water, where are the canals?" he asks.


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