In a garden in Kabul’s Karte-Seh district, a group of Sufi musicians and poets gather for an evening of mystical melodies. Platters of rice pilau and fruit cover carpets spread across the lawn. This twice-weekly meeting is held at the home of a member of the ancient Chishti Sufi order who gathers together an all-male crème de la crème of Kabul’s Sufi society.
Standing on the deck of the Mavi Marmara recently, a Greek activist presented the head of Turkey’s Islamic Humanitarian Relief Foundation, sponsor of the Gaza-Strip-bound aid ship, with a model of an ancient Cretan vessel.
In a room adorned only with a portrait of Kemal Atatürk, Celal Yilmaz, head of the Alevi village of Kayaburun in eastern Turkey, listens carefully to a surprise request -- a town-hall meeting with a female parliamentary candidate from the ruling Justice and Development Party.
Amid the hardships and uncertainties of life in Kabul these days, beauty salons, once banned by the Taliban, have re-emerged as sanctuaries for Afghan women. For many, the salon experience is therapeutic.
A third of a million desperate people once lived in Maslakh, a camp of wind-blown mud brick houses erected upon a brittle lunar landscape in western Afghanistan. Ten years after the US-led invasion, the population of internally displaced waxes and wanes, subject to the whims of the country’s quarreling political factions.
It is dawn in Jangalak, and the former industrial park has the appearance of an apocalyptic fairground. The drug addicts melt away at first light, leaving their syringes littering the ground. Schoolchildren walk down dusty paths among shelled, machinegun-strafed buildings.
Set up in southwestern Kabul in 1961 during the reign of King Zahir Shah, Jangalak quickly became the nucleus of Afghanistan’s emerging proletariat and took center stage during strikes and labor protests. In the late 1980s, the upwardly mobile neighborhood was being inhabited by western-educated technocrats and civil servants.
Golzadeh Hosseini strikes an odd figure, sitting on one of the Afghan Military Training Academy’s plush couches in her US-issued military uniform. Blonde highlights, pink lipstick, plucked eyebrows and a black veil top off her desert camouflage uniform.