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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 September 2005, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
Day in Afghanistan: Village life

As part of the BBC's Day in Afghanistan, our reporter Soutik Biswas spent Tuesday in the village of Asad Khyl, to the north of the capital, Kabul.

Asad Kyhl village
View a 360-degree panorama taken from Asad Khyl village

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

Most of the villagers now work on small grape farms or take on odd jobs.

Soutik met residents in the village and asked them how they are trying to rebuild their lives under difficult conditions.

Many of you put questions to the villagers, some of which appear with answers below.

Read on to find out how the day unfolded.

Soutik Biswas 0900 local time (0430 GMT)

It's a balmy summer morning in Asad Khyl in Qarabagh district in Kabul province. A light wind is blowing through the dun-coloured landscape and the temperature is around 30C.

There is a slight mist over the imposing Hindu Kush mountains which ring this village of grape growers, daily wage workers and residents who run small shops, including soft drink kiosks on the highway that runs alongside the village. The road connects Kabul to the rest of northern Afghanistan.

Soutik Biswas in the village with his laptop

The villagers woke up as usual at five in the morning and washed and offered prayers before feeding their animals, mostly cows, sheep and goats. Then people had breakfast - naan and green tea. Green tea is the tea of choice in summer, while black tea is drunk in winter.

Now most residents are ready to go to work - a school teacher and a judge to Kabul. Others like Gul Khan go out to find work for the day - he is a day labourer. Most of the men who don't have enough vines or land are out looking for work - they will wait in the dusty village bazaar for half an hour hoping to find jobs. If they don't get lucky, they go home where their women are doing chores.

Some children have already gone to school for the first shift which began at six in the morning - the local primary school is barely a kilometre away. It works in three shifts to accommodate all the pupils. There is also a high school nearby.

Question from Viktor Steiner, Oberlunkhofen, Switzerland, to Shukrullah, 18, student, 0930 local time (0500 GMT)


Q: Shukrullah: I admire your dedication to study and hard work. What is your greatest hope for Afghanistan in the next five years?

A: My big hope is that electricity should be provided, wells should be dug, salaries of teachers should be increased and many more projects should be set up.

Question from Mary Heater, Branchville, USA, to Shukrullah, 0940 local time (0510 GMT)

Q: What aspects of daily life have been better and which have been worse since the US-led invasion of your country?

A: I did not have an opportunity to go to school before. Now I can go to school. I am in my own country, I can work here. Previously I was a refugee in Pakistan. But the economy is much worse here today.

Question from Seema Khan, London to Shukrullah, 0955 local time (0525 GMT)

Q: What do you think would be the one change that would most effectively benefit the lifestyles of women in the village? What are the provisions for educating children and what are the opportunities for them to participate?

A: Women have an important role in the development of the country. Men and women have equal rights to education and work.

Question from Phil Colgan, Baku, Azerbaijan, to Haji Abdullah Saleh, 56, village elder, and Rahmat Gul, 46, teacher, 1000 local time (0530 GMT)

Q: What you have done to co-operate together so as to mobilise your village community to to develop water sources and seek both technical and grant assistance from international development organisations in order to improve your local infrastructure, especially water resources? And why do you think you have not been so far successful - ie what lessons have you learned? How can your central government and international friends best help you?

"We dug a well together in this village two years ago"

A: Answer from both men: Yes we dug a well together in this village two years ago. We funded the local well. It cost $7,000 and we pooled from our savings. The green farms today are the result of this well.

This well provides a lot of water now. The well began with a generator to pump the water out, but many people are so poor they can't afford fuel for the generator to work the pump.

We went to a NGO called Care and asked for help to develop water resources, but Care said they had general projects, not projects for specific villages. We have tried but not received any assistance from any international organisations.

They say our village is not included in their plans. Water is very important - it is the basis of growth of an economy and a village. We do have enough money to develop our village. We have very good ideas for development, but no assistance.

We had a very good economy 30 years ago - we had houses which were two storeys in our village. Thirty years of war destroyed our village. People now live in single-storey mud houses. We have started from zero.

Actually the government and international community promised to rebuild the village, our houses, our country, but they did not even pay a penny for us. They have not recharged the rivers and the dry wells. The wells which were destroyed are still not working.

They promised to help us to stand on our feet, but people are living very badly. Our condition is even worse than what it was 30 years ago. The government and the international community are cheating the Afghan people.

Question from Alan Harle, Norwich, UK, to Rahmat Gul, 1015 local time (0545 GMT)

Rahmat Gul

Q: Do you have any local government or council that you can refer problems to and who could intercede with Kabul on your village's behalf. If you do have a local 'council' are they honourable people and are women represented?

A: We have a local shura or council. It has 10 members. We meet once a week. Whenever we have problems we discuss the problems and then take them to the district governor's office and then to Kabul.

The minister of rehabilitation has a programme called the national solidarity programme which allocates some money to every village. Our shura controlled the spending of money in our village.

The money has been spent on culverts, embankments on a village stream. We expect water in the stream some day. And we have also spent money on paving the roads.

The money is not enough anyway. The money is not even enough to solve 2% of the village's problems. The basic problems remain unsolved.

Question from Nicole, Iron River, USA, to Rahmat Gul, 1030 local time (0600 GMT)

Q: I was wondering how religion affects the daily activities of people in this community.

A: Thank God we are Muslims. We strongly believe in Islamic laws and the Islamic village. Islam does not have any bad effect, but a very good effect on the activities of people in this village.

Question from Rémi Lévesque, Moncton, New-Brunswick, Canada, to Shaista, 14, schoolgirl, 1040 local time (0610 GMT)


Q: Hi! This is for Shaista. I teach history to a class of 14-year-olds. They would like to know how your life is like in your village for a 14-year-old-girl.

What do you study at school? What kind of responsibilities do you have at home? Do you take part in sports and or other activities at school and in your community? How is your life better now?

A: My life is good, I am happy. But we don't have water, we don't have electricity, and other necessary things.

I study different languages, Pashto is my favourite language. I wash dishes, sweep the rooms, I draw water from the well at home. I don't play any sport.

Question from James Showler, Peterborough, England, to Rahmat Gul, 1050 local time (0620 GMT)

Q: What have you done so far today, what is a typical day? What are you looking forward to?

A: I get up at 0500, complete my ablutions, offer prayers. I recite the holy Koran for 20 minutes, then I go to my vineyard and cut the bushes. Then I have my breakfast (naan and tea), and then I prepare for school.

Before going to school I have lunch. I go to school at 1300 and I stay there till 1700. I teach about 300 students Pashto. I come back at 1800, offer prayers and have dinner by 2100.

By 2300 I am fast asleep after reading a book.

Question from Tony Clark, Vermont, USA, to Shaista, 1100 local time (0630 GMT)

Q: Do you have US military troops in your village and/or region and if so what kind of influence have they had on you and your villagers? Would you prefer not to have any US troops in Afghanistan?

A: I hate American troops in Afghanistan. They are pagans, non-Muslims. They should leave our country.

Question from Omar Siddiqi, New York, USA, to Haji Abdullah Saleh, 1105 local time (0635 GMT)

Haji Abdullah Saleh

Q: Haji Abdullah, under the Taleban, many practices of the Sufis were outlawed, such as the visiting of tombs, etc. Afghanistan has a rich history of Sufism - do you think that a return to this way of life would help positively reform Afghanistan?

A: Just as literacy is a problem among Afghan people, so knowing Islam properly is too. They have not understood Islam correctly. Being an extremist or too liberal is not the way of Islam. Being in the middle is being a good Muslim. People have not really understood the benefit of the Koran. Sufism does not necessarily help in reforming Islam.

Question from Roderic L Mullen, North Carolina, USA, to Shaista, 1125 local time (0655 GMT)

Q: What is the kindest thing someone has done for you?

A: When I was a refugee in Pakistan I had a friend. She gave me fruit, she gave me sweets, she played with me. She was the one who did very kind things to me.

The biggest influence in my life are my father and mother. If they order me to do something I obey. If they forbid me to do something, I obey.

Question from Jonathan Burton, Austin, Texas, USA, to Haji Abdullah, 1135 local time (0705 GMT)

Q: What opinion do people in your village have about the United States government?

A: People have a good opinion about the American government. We are satisfied with the help of the US government. Still we are getting American government aid. To that extent we are satisfied. No one can ignore American government help.

Question from Wazhma, Vancouver, Canada, to Gul Khan, 25, day labourer, 1140 local time (0710 GMT)

Gul Khan

Q: I am interested in finding out from these six Afghans whether the establishment of a democratic government has actually resulted in improved living conditions. Can these Afghans really tell a significant difference between the current government and the Taleban?

A: Life has changed a lot after the Taleban. There was war and no democratic rights. Security and peace exist. Life is better now than under the Taleban.

But basic living conditions have not changed. We used to have naan and tea at breakfast during the Taleban time and we still have that. Lunch is still potatoes. Only we have got some peace and security now.

Question from Gina, Kalamazoo, USA, to Haji Abdullah, 1155 local time (0725 GMT)

Q: I wonder what ideas everyone has to help Lal Bibi and Gul Kahn? Is it possible Lal Bibi could acquire some education at the school to gain administrative skills? Another question I have is when is your rainy season? Are there enough barrels to set outside to catch rain water, to replenish the vines?

A: Lal Bibi and Gul Khan need permanent jobs. They need new lives, they are like dead people now. I have had many meetings, I am trying to find a solution, find jobs. They need jobs.

As for the rainy season in the village, it is early March and April. It rained very well this year after 10 years of drought.

Question from Scott Painter, Barnesville, USA, to Rahmat Gul, 1205 local time (0735 GMT)

Rahmat Gul

Q: I am an American that does not always agree with my government. What do you think of us (the people)?

A: The Americans are a very good help. They have helped us in many ways. They are developed, they are educated, they serve their country. Negative point is that they like luxury. Too much luxury is bad. Luxury means womanising, drinking, partying. There is no place for such things in Islam.

Question from Young-Cheol Jeong, Seoul, Korea, to Rahmat Gul, 1215 local time (0745 GMT)

Q: What are international organisations doing? What did they do? What can they do?

A: We were expecting foreign NGOs to work in this village, but they haven't come. I don't think they are doing much for Afghanistan.

Question from Wojtek, Chicago, USA, to Haji Abdullah, 1220 local time (0750 GMT)

Q: How does the situation during the Soviet occupation compare to today's situation in your village regarding access to education, medical help and basic social help. Did you have irrigation channels and water 30 years ago?

A: At the time of the Soviet occupation, things were bad in the village. People reacted badly against the Russians. The Russians used to abuse us. The Russians did not have any idea of developing villages.

Now things are better - women go to school now. We had natural water in the stream. The Chinese government had an irrigation project in my village between 1978-1980. That was the only time there was foreign help to develop this village. The Russians destroyed a lot of things. People hated them.

Question from Johanna, Richfield, Minnesota, USA, to Lal Bibi, 45, widow, 1230 local time (0800 GMT)

Lal Bibi

Q: I am curious as to why life is so hard for widows? Are single or widowed women allowed to work? Can they find good paying jobs? Do you have many (any) rights in your country? Is the Taleban really gone? Do you feel safe? What keeps your hopes up?

A: Life is difficult for me because I have no male support and I am not educated to go outside and work. For all widows who don't have male support and children, life is very difficult. I can't get a job because I am not literate.

My village was destroyed in the war and the people in the village don't have the means to hire a servant or a washerwoman, which I could be doing. I can wash clothes, I can sew, but there isn't any work because our lives are poor and we don't have the money to afford these.

Yes I feel safe, especially after returning to my country after being a refugee. Even if I don't have any food, I have a roof over my head.

Question from Toni Sammons, Port Ludlow USA, to Lal Bibi, 1235 local time (0805 GMT)

Q: I would like to ask Lai Bibi if she has friends there to share her worries with, and do the chickens lay eggs, and does she sell those? Is there any woman able to make a living in her village?

A: My sisters are my friends. When I have problems they visit me or I go to them and we share our problems. One of my sisters is sick, she has rheumatism and is in bed. I have three married sisters, I am a widow.

Yes I sell two or three eggs each day. I used to have 10 chickens that produced, but some of them died because of disease. A local NGO gave me the chickens. It was funded by the USA.

There are two women in the village who go out to work. They are teachers.

Question from Vic, Toronto, Canada, to Shaista, 1245 local time (0815 GMT)


Q: Hi Shaista, I can only imagine as I have never left North America. Living a life with the pressure of earning money and going to school at the same time can be hard. My question to you is: What chance has a women given that becoming a doctor in Afghanistan is a male-dominated profession?

A: If I study hard and try my best I will have lots of chances to become a doctor.

Question from Jaan, Iowa, USA, to Haji Abdullah, 1255 local time (0825 GMT)

Q: I am an American female convert to Islam. After conversion I married a man from Pakistan. He and other people from Pakistan insist to me that the Taleban did not close girls' schools and the Taleban did not stop women from working. They say it is only Western media that say such things. What would you say to them?

A: It's a fact that women were banned from getting education under the Taleban. Their schools were closed, women could not go to offices. Only women who were doctors were allowed to work. Only little girls could be educated in Islamic subjects in mosques.

Question from Saresse Zelman, Phoenix, USA, to Shaista, 1300 local time (0830 GMT)

Q: I would like to know what Shaista's life is like on a daily basis. Does she have easy access to an education? And is her school co-ed or just for girls? Does she need school supplies, books? Does she learn English in her school?

A: I go to a girls school. I need learning materials like books, pens, notebooks. I do not learn English. I am in fifth grade. I will begin learning English in seventh grade. I need some easy-to-learn English books.

Question from Amanda, Dallas, USA, to Shaista, 1310 local time (0840 GMT)

Q: It embarrasses me and shames me how ignorant we [in the US] are about most things outside our borders. What one thing would you most like us to know about life in Afganistan? What do you feel we misunderstand the most?

A: I would like you to know about our religion, Islam. And I would like to tell you about our beautiful weather, our tasty fruits, like grapes, and our country.

Question from Todd Steed, Knoxville, USA, to Shukrullah, 1320 local time (0850 GMT)


Q: Shukrullah, do you feel like you are getting the education now needed to reach your goals later?

A: I like geography because it gives information about rivers and mountains, in my country and others. In the future I will take private courses to study and become an engineer.

Question from Tom Andrews, Belleville, Ontario, Canada, to Shukrullah, 1330 local time (0900 GMT)

Q: In my area many people have a stereotypical view of Afghanistan. They picture a desert and a few hovels. Of course this isn't true. What sort of stereotypes do the people of Afghanistan have of North Americans?

A: I think there are tall buildings, modern bazaars, lots of women on streets, gardens, mountains in America.

Question from Brian Jolley, Bountiful, Utah, USA, to Haji Abdullah, 1340 local time (0910 GMT)

Haji Abdullah Saleh

Q: There is a wide perception in the West that Afghanistan does not value women, that they are seen as second-class citizens whose contributions in business and government are disregarded. Is this perception wrong?

A: It is a matter of fact that women's rights have been trampled upon here. The rights which Islam has given to women were not given here. Illiteracy is rife here among women.

The government and international community are working for women's rights. Since literacy has not reached the women, I'm not sure whether the women can understand the rights. So men's rights are being trampled in the process.

The rights of women are different in cities and villages. If you go to government offices and foreign NGOs, women are getting jobs, but men aren't getting the same jobs.

Soutik Biswas, 1430 local time (1000 GMT)

We just finished a sumptuous lunch laid out by the village elders in a mud home with grapes hung to dry from the wooden beams to make raisins.

Kebabs and naan for lunch

This was an elaborate Afghan village lunch usually served for guests - lamb kebabs, a mild lamb stew, the famously long, home-baked Afghani naans, yoghurt, two varieties of green salad topped up with delicious musk melon.

We sat on a carpeted floor. A villager came with a water bowl to wash our hands. "This was the least we could offer you," said Haji Abdullah.

We were joined at lunch by a strapping young man called Shams Khan, 26, who is starting up a cricket team in the village.

He coaches some 50 young boys in the village on a makeshift pitch he has dug out of the arid Shomali plains soil. His favourite players are Pakistan's Shahid Afridi, Indian fast bowler Irfan Khan and Aussie spinner Shane Warne.

Khan says his dream is to coach an Afghan cricket team one day. "But we don't have any resources - no bats, or any cricketing kit. I have only two bats and two balls for the whole team - nothing else," he says. Khan learnt his cricket as a refugee in Lahore during the war.

After lunch, the elders prayed in a room. It's scorching here - the temperature must be touching 35C and we are getting ready for another session of questions and answers.

Question from JJ Vincent, Huntsville, Alabama, USA, to Rahmat Gul, 1435 local time (1005 GMT)

Q: It looks like you and your village have limited access to technology (ie the internet). How does this help and/or hinder you and your village's progress?

A: I know that the internet is the world. It connects every part of the world together. I regret that we don't have electricity and the internet even in the big cities, let alone in a small village like ours. If I had internet access, I would use it in getting information for the benefit of my students.

Question from Bill Preston, Golden, Colorado, USA, to Haji Abdullah Saleh, 1440 local time (1010 GMT)

Q: How much do you think oil and oil pipelines played a role in the US invasion of Afghanistan?

A: This question has not arisen yet. We have not thought about it yet. But people think that US participation is important for setting up pipelines and transferring gas from Turkemenistan. American troops have been very helpful in all aspects of life. We hope they will help us here too.

Question from M, London, UK, 1445 local time (1015 GMT)

Q: Do you think the US war helped Afghanistan or made matters worse? Which was the worst regime - Taleban, Russia or the current?

Haji Saleh: The Russians were the worst.

Rahmat Gul: The Russians were the worst.

Lal Bibi: The Russians were pagans, they were not Muslims. We don't blame them. They were bad, but the Taleban were worse. They are Muslims, yet they burnt our houses and destroyed our lives. So they were the worst.

Gul Khan: The Communists were the worst.

Shukrullah: The Taleban were the worst.

Shaista: The Soviets were the worst.

Question from Adela, London, UK, to Rahmat Gul, 1450 local time (1020 GMT)

Rahmat Gul

Q: Do you have a postal service? If we sent you things in the post, would they get to you? Is there anything we can send you that might help?

A: We had a good postal system in the past. It became bad during the war. If she wants to send me something my address is Ghulam Haider Khan High School located at Khair Khana, Kabul.

There is a postal system which delivers only to organisations and offices, not individuals in the villages. I need so many things - it's up to you to send me what you want.

Question from Moray, Burford, UK, 1455 local time (1025 GMT)

Q: How do the villagers view the ousting of the Taleban? Some say they brought a degree of stability and order to a lawless country?

Haji Saleh: The Taleban did bring security and stability to the country. But I hate them because they banned our women from education, drove out people from their villages, burnt our grape and mulberry trees which were more than 200 years old. And they were under the influence of Pakistan.

Rahmat Gul: They bought security and stability but without any source of income.

Gul Khan: Yes they brought security, but they paid no attention to education.

Question from Tcherina, Tokyo, to Haji Abdullah Saleh, 1500 local time (1030 GMT)

Haji Abdullah Saleh

Q: Although life is hard in your country, many people dream of visiting, because it is extremely beautiful. Do you think it will be safe for travellers soon? Can young people earn money by guiding and protecting travellers? In Mongolia, for example, local villages earn money by hosting guests.

A: Our area in the Shomali Plain and northern Afghanistan and Jalalabad are some of the best places for sight-seeing. If you want to come, we will guarantee your life and property in these parts. You will be completely safe in these parts. I would suggest that you avoid the south and south-west of the country like Kandahar, Zabul, Khost.

Yes, young Afghanis can be your guides, they will be very helpful.

Question from Rosemary, Montreal, Canada, to Gul Khan, 1505 local time (1035 GMT)

Gul Khan

Q: Do former refugees return home with new skills? For example, in Pakistan, did you learn other languages that could help you earn a living, or perhaps learn new building or farming skills?

A: In Pakistan I joined a school. I studied up to 10th standard and learnt Urdu. But I did not learn any extra skill there. So it has not helped. I could not learn any skill because I had to support my family and worked as a daily worker - that came in the way of learning new skills

Question from Patrick Duncan, Christchurch, New Zealand, to Haji Abdullah, 1510 local time (1040 GMT)

Q: Do you think it is good or bad that warlords have been banned from the upcoming election? What effect do you think it will have on who is elected?

A: It's a good thing that some warlords have been banned from participating in elections. But the warlords have not been indicted by the courts. If they had been convicted by the courts, it would have been better and would have carried much more weight in depriving them of political rights

Question from Megan Wildermoth, Auckland, New Zealand, to Haji Abdullah, 1515 local time (1045 GMT)

Q: From the outside looking in we see many displaced people and people who are struggling day to day. How do you get into a position where you can obtain a masters degree in Islamic law, and become a lawyer? Is it because your family has owned land and therefore you have inherited wealth? How does someone who does not have that gain an education and improve their life?

A: I was born into a poor family. But I was intelligent, and always came second or third in the class. Education has been always free in Afghanistan. The government gave us a room in a hostel - and fed and housed us. So I could study. Poverty cannot be an excuse for not studying. If you have the will and talent and passion, you can always study .

Question from Marie Louise Seeberg, Oslo, Norway, to Lal Bibi, 1520 local time (1050 GMT)

Lal Bibi

Q: You and I are women of the same age group. Yet our lives are very, very different. I wonder if you could tell me a little about what you personally and your women friends think might improve the situation of women like yourselves?

A: I was born in this village and grew up here. I studied for two years as a child and I can hardly read. I don't feel I am unfortunate because I believe in destiny and fate. Whatever is written in my fate I accept.

Question from Naeema, Middlesex, United Kingdom, to Shaista, 1525 local time (1055 GMT)


Q: Although your father encourages you to keep studying, do you think that in your country you will have the same prospects as your brothers, even if you have the same level of education?

A: I think I will have the same opportunities as boys have. We have equal rights now in the country.

Question from Theresa , Minneapolis, USA, to Lal Bibi, 1530 local time (1100 GMT)

Q: If there were opportunities for women to work in your area, what would you like to do? Was schooling available to young women when you were growing up?

A: I would like to do embroidery and sew clothes if I had a chance to do a business. When I was young, education was not provided enough for all girls.

I did not have access to education because the school was far from the village and we were not allowed to go so far. If the school was near the village, I would have probably gone and studied.

Question from Monica Berggren, Vasteras, Sweden, to Lal Bibi, 1535 local time (1105 GMT)

Q: I am a woman living in Sweden. I'm 50 years old and I go to school. I am married and have three children. Can you marry again if you find a man? Do you need to cover your face when you go out? It is very difficult to understand what life is like for women in Afghanistan. In Sweden women are very free and we can do what we want.

A: I would never marry again. Never.

I go out a lot but not to the bazaar. I just go to the farms, the garden. Widows like me who have no men at home have to go out. When I go to the bazaar and hospital I wear a burqa. When I go to the farm or the garden, I wear a long veil and I cover my face.

Question from Iva, Belgrade, Serbia, to Shaista, 1540 local time (1110 GMT)

Q: Do you have enough time to finish everything, to study, help your family and play? And if you were to choose one thing you lack most, what would that be?

A: If I don't become a doctor it will be the biggest failure of my life.

Question from Deena Fuller, Seattle, USA, to Shaista, 1545 local time (1115 GMT)

Q: Your father is correct, most TV is not important - keep studying! I hope to read that you are going to medical school in the near future.

A: Thank you. There are problems, though. For example the school I go to has no tables, chairs or learning materials. Our teachers are too poorly paid to teach us properly. They are unhappy so they don't teach us properly.

Question from Loretta H Vodziak, Las Vegas, USA, to Gul Khan, 1550 local time (1120 GMT)

Gul Khan

Q: I will admit I am uneducated about your country, but I have a huge desire to see you all prosper. Could we send you vines?

A: It would be very kind if you sent me some grape vines. It would help me and my village. Thank you.

Question from Laura Macleod, Oxford, UK, to Rahmat Gul, 1555 local time (1125 GMT)

Rahmat Gul

Q: Instead of military occupation of your country, would you be happy to see Western teachers, doctors, nurses, etc working in your country to help your country develop and get back on its feet?

A: It's a very good proposal to have Western teachers, doctors and nurses to come here and work and help our country. We need more of such people in my country. There is already a lack of doctors for women in Afghanistan.

Question from Ulas Soylu, Ankara, Turkey, 1600 local time (1130 GMT)

Q: If they had a magic wand, what would they change in their country, or at least in their village and in their lives?

Shukrullah: If I had a magic wand, I would become an engineer.

Gul Khan: I had a magic wand, I would like to become educated to the highest level.

Rahmat Gul: I would like to marry an English woman if I had a magic wand.

Shaista: Becoming a doctor immediately!

Question from Dwynwen Hopcroft, Inverness, Scotland, to Haji Abdullah, 1605 local time (1135 GMT)

Haji Abdullah Saleh

Q: I was very distraught to see the destruction of the Buddhist statues in Bamiyan province on 25 Feburary 2001. Do you think Afghanistan is now more tolerant towards other religions?

A: It was very bad to destroy statues. People don't worship statues here. The Bamiyan statues did not have any negative effect. In fact tourists came from all over the world to see the statues, which was a source of income for Afghanistan. The country is now more tolerant towards other religions. Hindus and Christians are going ahead with festivals.

Question from Tom, Bristol, UK, to Rahmat Gul, 1610 local time (1140 GMT)

Q: Do the villagers participate in or follow any particular sport? Are newspapers available in the village? If not, where do you get your information about the outside world?

A: Villagers play volleyball, football. We have just begun playing cricket thanks to a young boy called Shams Khan who is coaching some of our boys. Newspapers are not available in the village. We listen to radio and watch TV for news. Only 5% of the village homes have a television, but every house has a radio. A radio costs between $3 and $8.

Question from Sean, Anchorage, AK, USA, to Haji Abdullah, 1615 local time (1145 GMT)

Q: I'm puzzled. What did US military troops do that you resented them so much? There are some US soldiers that are Muslims.

A: Americans feel that they are hated by Afghans. But we don't hate them. If you have any proof - please let me know. Only the al-Qaeda members are fighting Americans all over the world, not ordinary Muslims of Afghanistan.

Question from Sohaila Abdul-Rahman, London, to Rahmat Gul, 1620 local time (1150 GMT)

Q : I am an Afghan woman and work as a lawyer in London. I was encouraged to study and today I lead an independent life. What is being done to encourage women to gain an education?

A: I have four daughters and they all go to school. It will be up to my daughters what they choose to be when they grow up. I want them to be educated. I encourage them, and I am sure I am not alone in this country in wanting women to be educated.

Question from Wendy Beaumont, The Hague, Netherlands, to Haji Abdullah, 1625 local time (1155 GMT)

Q: Does anyone in the village do handcrafts? I know that carpets are knitted but are there any organised handcrafts or is there a tradition of handcrafts in your region? Are the clothes you wear produced locally?

A: We make carpets and do a bit of embroidery in this village. A six-metre carpet takes two months to complete here. We get $170 for the job.

Question from Jason Stallman, Kenosha, US, to Haji Abdullah, 1630 local time (1200 GMT)

Q: I was wondering how you felt about the US invasion of your country. Did we help at all or just cause more pain?

A: I did not feel good when the Americans first invaded Afghanistan. But the security which they brought to the country compensated for those bombings.

Question from Joseph Schneider, Madison, US, to Haji Abdullah, 1635 local time (1205 GMT)

Q: What do you think is the biggest misconception or false assumption about Afghanistan? What makes you most proud of your country?

A: The biggest misconception is that Afghans are terrorists, that they belong to al-Qaeda. That is not true. Terrorism was inherited in Afghanistan. The foreign fighters made these schools of terrorism and left a bad name.

The eradication of terrorism makes me proud of Afghanistan today. But as long as Pakistan continues to interfere in Afghanistan terrorism will last.

Question from Lucy Barringer, Worthing, UK, to Gul Khan, 1640 local time (1210 GMT)

Q: Does music play any part in your lives today?

A: Yes I love Indian music and it plays an important part in my life.

Question from Ahmad, United Kingdom, to Haji Abdullah, 1645 local time (1215 GMT)

Haji Abdullah Saleh

Q: A lot of farmers in Afghanistan have had no choice but to grow opium poppies, due the greater profits involved and the pressure from others to do so. What stops you and the others in your village from doing the same?

A: We have never cultivated poppy in this village and farmers have never been given any incentive to grow poppy. The poppy growers should be dealt with strictly just like the Taleban dealt with poppy farming. Then they should be given alternatives to poppy farming.

Farmers who don't grow poppy should also be given incentives not to grow so that they don't begin growing poppies - they should be helped more.

Question from Alischa Kugel, New York, USA, to Haji Abdullah, 1650 local time (1220 GMT)

Q: How is rural life for the elderly in Afghanistan? Are sons and daughters moving to the cities, leaving their elderly parents fending for themselves? Is there support for the elderly to help them with day-to-day activities and to provide them with food and water?

A: The culture of looking after old parents still exists here. Only a small portion of children who have gone abroad live separately from their parents. Generally all children, especially sons, wherever they go, look after their parents financially and physically.

Question from Amani Kohistani, Toronto, Canada, to Rahmat Gul, 1655 local time (1225 GMT)

Q: Do you really care who is in power? Or is that irrelevant as long as there is peace and prosperity?

A: Stability and security are important but they are not the only issues. I want a person who serves the country and brings welfare to the people. I don't care who he is if he brings a change in our lives.

Question from Fi, Birmingham, UK, to Gul Khan, 1700 local time (1230 GMT)

Gul Khan

Q: Given the chance to move to a Western country, would you want to?

A: I would like to move to a foreign country. I would like to move to London. I will go there and earn some money as a daily worker.

Soutik Biswas, 1700 local time (1230 GMT)

It's 1700 and time to head into the dusty dusk of the Shomali plains and return to Kabul. It's been a very rewarding day with the villagers and very moving. Village elder Haji Abdullah Saleh says he is very happy with our effort.

Village father with child as dusk falls over Shomali plain
Village father with child as dusk falls over Shomali plain

"I want to thank you for coming here. The war damaged our minds, our economy, our agriculture and homes. Your coming energised us and indicated that the world has not forgotten us. When I saw you today here, it gave me a lot of energy," Haji Abdullah says.

"The international community is helping the warlords and drug traffickers. But this has always been a clean village and people never broke the law. I hope the international community instead of helping warlords and criminals helps villagers like us to develop the economy and show it as an example of developing the country."

It's time also for the four policemen who were assigned to guard us to leave. The only disturbance during the day was the drone of low-flying helicopters and airplanes from the Bagram air base.

The villagers simply cannot believe that more than 1,000 people wrote in to inquire about their lives and their country's future.

They all look happy and wave to us as we drive out in a cloud of dust to take the newly rebuilt highway back to Kabul.



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