12/07/2004, 00.00
AFGHANISTAN
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Voices from an Afghanistan that wants to change

Milan (AsiaNews) – "There is a lot that must be done, but a new Afghanistan was born," this according to Afghans like Nabi, a Pashtun man with a higher education under his belt, Fatah, a bricklayer for whom "Kabul has become one big construction site, and Dinah, a woman physiotherapist who still wears a burqa when she goes out but who can at least work.

These are but a few of the voices collected by Alberto Cairo for the December issue of Mondo e Missione, an Italian-language monthly published by the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions (PIME). Dr Cairo is an Italian aid worker who has been in Afghanistan for the past 13 years as the head of the International Red Cross's orthopaedic centre in Kabul.

Let us hope "that the world won't forget us," Nabi is quoted as saying in the magazine. From a well-to-do family, he was a law student but had to hide from the police under the Communist regime. He might know the Afghan Civil Code inside out, but his passions are history and politics.

For years, he could not live out his passions: under the communist regime because history and politics had to follow the party line; under the Mujahadeen because they were written with bullets and, worse still, under the Talibans because of their hatred for books and education.

For 25 years, Nabi could only read and talk hidden away from prying eyes. Now he can go to a bookstore, participate in the activities of a group called 'Friends of Afghanistan', speak on his cellphone and watch TV relayed by a parabolic antenna. Above all, he can do politics.

In the presidential elections he campaigned for Hamid Karzai even if he is a bit critical of the country's president. "He should fight for a greater say in our affairs. But who can really stand up to the US?" But by hoping that "the world won't forget us", Alberto Cairo writes, Nabi sums up Afghanistan's need for international aid.

"A survey shows that more than 80 per cent of Afghans want the warlords disarmed and out of power", Cairo says. The prevailing view is that "until weapons are not taken away from them, this country has no future." "Fortunately," he adds, "there are some courageous mullahs who, in their mosques, are asking for just that".

Fatah, too, agrees that the situation is much better than in the past. "Kabul's population has increased three-fold," he said. "They say it is now over the three million mark".

Women are also better off, at least in Kabul "because just 20 km from the capital it is another world where time seems to have stood still. It could be 20, 30 years ago."

"Dinah," Dr Cairo writes, "had been forced to cover herself from head to toe, relegated in the women's ward and had fallen into a depression. Yet, despite all her constraints, just being able to work was her salvation. Now she goes out with her friends, studies English, is taking computer courses, has a cellphone and uses make-up."

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