Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Afghanistan in the 1950's and 1960's

This is Afganistan of 50s and 60s. Lots of people would think that they will see pictures of wild, underdeveloped and medieval country with lif econditions worse than now. Oh well, think again.

Mohammad Qayoumi, president of California State University, East Bay, writes in Foreign Policy:

On a recent trip to Afghanistan, British Defense Secretary Liam Fox drew fire for calling it "a broken 13th-century country." The most common objection was not that he was wrong, but that he was overly blunt. He's hardly the first Westerner to label Afghanistan as medieval. 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. A half-century ago, Afghan women pursued careers in medicine; men and women mingled casually at movie theaters and university campuses in Kabul; factories in the suburbs churned out textiles and other goods. There was a tradition of law and order, and a government capable of undertaking large national infrastructure projects, like building hydropower stations and roads, albeit with outside help. 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.

1. The physical campus of Kabul University, pictured here, does not look very different today. But the people do. In the 1950s and '60s, students wore Western-style clothing; young men and women interacted relatively freely. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

2. Today, women cover their heads and much of their bodies, even in Kabul. A half-century later, men and women inhabit much more separate worlds. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

3. In the 1950s and '60s, women were able to pursue professional careers in fields such as medicine. Today, schools that educate women are a target for violence, even more so than five or six years ago. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

4. When I was growing up, education was valued and viewed as the great equalizer. If you went to school and achieved good grades, you'd have the chance to enter college, maybe study abroad, be part of the middle class, and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. Education was a hallowed value. Today, I think people have become far more cynical. They do not see the link between education and a better life; they see instead that those who have accumulated wealth and power have not done so through legitimate means. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

5. This infant ward in a Kabul hospital in the 1960s contrasts sharply with one I visited in 2004 in Mazar-e-Sharif. There I found two babies born prematurely sharing the same incubator. That hospital, like many in Afghanistan today, did not have enough equipment. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

6.In the 1960s, about half of Afghanistan's people had access to some level of medical care; now a much smaller percentage do. Today's hospitals are crowded, the facilities limited; nearly one in four babies born in Afghanistan today does not reach its fifth birthday. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

7. Above is a vaccine research center attached to a Kabul hospital in the 1960s. Today, medical care across the country is limited by several factors, including lack of electricity. Less than 20 percent of Afghans have access to electricity; many homes are lit by kerosene lamps, with only fans running to combat the heat. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

8. The central government of Afghanistan once oversaw various rural development programs, including one, pictured here, that sent nurses in jeeps to remote villages to inoculate residents from such diseases as cholera. Now, security concerns alone make such an effort nearly impossible. Government nurses, as well as U.N. and NGO medical workers, are regular targets for insurgent groups that merely want to create disorder and terror in society. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

9.Afghanistan once had Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. In the 1950s and '60s, such programs were very similar to their counterparts in the United States, with students in elementary and middle schools learning about nature trails, camping, and public safety. But scouting troops disappeared entirely after the Soviet invasions in the late 1970s. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

10. This movie theater was located near where I once lived, and we could even see Hollywood movies there. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

11. A playground a few hundred yards away from the theater, where mothers used to take their children to play. Now, only men loiter in the city parks; it is unsafe to bring children outside. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

12. Light and medium industry, like this metal shop in the Kabul suburbs, once held great promise for Afghanistan's economy. But today, how could you run such an operation without ample electricity? Now there are only small shops, people who work at home -- no major industrial centers. Currently, Afghanistan's chief export is opium. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

13. With German assistance, Afghanistan built its first large hydropower station, pictured here, in the early 1950s. At the time, it was state of the art. It is still in operation, but unfortunately, in the last eight years, Afghanistan's government has not been able to build a single large power plant of any kind. The only sizable accomplishment has been the expansion of a transport line to Uzbekistan so that power can be imported from the north. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

14. Afghanistan did have medium and light industry, such as the textile factory pictured here. There was a sense then that Afghanistan had a bright future -- its economy was growing, its industry on par with other countries in the region. Back then, most of the cotton processed in a plant like this was grown locally. But three decades of war have destroyed industry and the supply chain. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

15. Compared with the 1950s and '60s, fewer women work outside the home, and their outfits are much more conservative than what you see here. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

16. If you flipped through the radio dial in the 1960s, you would hear broadcasts of world news, local news, music programs, funny skits, political discourse, maybe an art program, a children's show. Radio Kabul, a state-run station whose old offices are pictured here, was launched in the 1930s. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

17. Modern Afghanistan actually has a greater number of private radio stations, as well as broadcast and satellite television shows. This is one bright spot. But access to radio and TV depends on electricity, and so in a practical sense, the audience is therefore limited. Only the most well-to-do families have private generators to ensure uninterrupted electricity to power electrical devices. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

18. During the annual commemoration of Afghanistan's independence, Kabul was lit up at night in late August and early September for nine evenings in the early 1960s. Now the city is dark. Even driving at night gives an eerie feeling. There are hardly any lights on; the streets are desolate, and there is no night life. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

19. Clothing boutiques like these were a familiar feature in Kabul. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

20. So, too, were record stores, bringing the rhythm and energy of the Western world to Kabul teenagers. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

21. Today, furniture stores like this one are a rarity. Most furniture is manufactured outside Afghanistan, and only a small percentage of Afghans now have even simple furniture like this in their homes. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

22. Today it is only the fruit bazaars that still look the same. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

23. The education level of Afghanistan's cabinet today is far less than it was 50 years ago, when this photo was taken. Back then, most high-ranking government officials would have had master's or doctoral degrees. Western dress was the norm. These days, government meetings in Kabul are conducted among men, many with long beards, big turbans, and traditional garb. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

24. Afghanistan's once strong and functional defensive forces are today only a memory. After the Soviets left, Pakistan was instrumental in destroying the country's armed services. Since the 1990s civil war, the subsequent Taliban takeover, and the U.S.-led intervention, domestic security forces have proved extremely difficult to build, even as security remains a top concern. (MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI)

Source: foreignpolicy

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Anonymous said...

The americans took care of this country and destroyed it...

Anonymous said...

I know when the Americans invaded Afghanistan in 1979......wait that was Russia.

Anonymous said...

The Americans took care of it? Your a moron, the Afghans ripped their own country to shreds. It was fucked long before America got involved.

Anonymous said...

America funded and armed the Taliban. They took a fringe movement and made it the government of the country.

viessnabAll recent Afghan history flows from that tactical victory and strategic disaster of American foreign policy.

Anonymous said...

its not american or afghan people's fault. it is all Taliban's fault that are from Pakistan. they destroyed the country.

Anonymous said...

Who do you think PAID the Taliban and for their weapons? Wars are EXPENSIVE and not random, guerilla-just-happen-to-have guns galore.
read Charlie Wilson's War. Congress obliterated that nation and these photos are profound indictment of American democracy. Could cry after seeing these pix. Good God, what have we done???

Anonymous said...

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Afghans and non-Afghans. It is good time to start posting on web Afghanistan related contents to spread the fact of


Afghanistan Photos

Anonymous said...

Wow. My immediate impression is that it's like Pripiyat/Chernobyl before and after, just minus the radiation. It's really effing sad :/

Anonymous said...

It is very funny- You could go to many countries and make the comparison that they've gone from good to bad in a span of 50-60 years.. Take the USA for example- Our schools are terrible now, and people used to dress nice, and now many dress like complete slobs or sluts. Most kids wear their pants hanging below their knees. Who are we to be judging other cultures?

Is it really hard to figure out why things are bad in such a war-torn country as Afghanistan (constantly invaded by outsiders)? A nation that has seen more war than it has peace over the last few decades?

Of course a nation under attack is going to crumble.. Jeeze.. they have a lot of power outages. Couldn't be because their energy infrastructure was bombed to oblivion could it? What affect does constant war have on a young child growing up? Might that make them more militant and hard-line, might that make them more susceptible to accepting a "Taliban".

Why is it our issue if women are wearing shawls in a country half way around the world? It isn't our business, it isn't domestic.

Could the actual reason for the intentional slow destruction of Afghanistan be more strategic than humanitarian? Perhaps a good reason to assert our authority over the entire Middle East in a military manner for a strategic stronghold in central Eurasia? Has everybody lost their minds?

It seems every middle eastern country has a "different" justification to be invaded.

Iraq: Weapons of mass destruction, babies thrown out of incubators (turned out not true).

Afghanistan: Al CIAduh and Bin CIA Laden (and the evil Taliban who makes women wear shawls).

Iran: Trying to stir up something- are they blocking the straight of Hormuz?! It's making your gas high people.. Now they're making nukes!

You can look at any number of countries from the 1950s to today- and the quality of life has diminished for all but the top 1% super elite of society.

Take air or train travel- people used to be treated like human beings- now, because of corporate jets, the rest of us can be treated like cattle- while they don't even go through security checks and fly in luxury.

The elite of our world are diverting attention away from their own corruption (which is the root cause of all our problems) and instead are focusing.

The NATO rebels sent in to cause trouble in Libya are another great example- Watch "What I learned about Libya" and you'll see Gadaffi was actually building a beautiful country, everyone was provided housing, and farmland for free. The man had even built the world's longest irrigation system from the south to the north making the desert bloom.

No attention was given to this in western media, just vilification.

Anonymous said...

its funny and sad at the same time....The TALIBAN were funded and trained directly and indirectly by US and US interests. Please inform yourself before you jump to conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I had no idea Afghanistan was once such a strong and progressive country. As an American, I am disgusted with my government for it's part in Afghanistan's demise.