Postcards from Afghanistan

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Along with his team, Ershad Honaryar from BBC Persian made the five-day trek to the Wakhan province in the far east of Afghanistan. Published on BBC on February 27, 2018.

What do most people associate with when they hear the word Afghanistan? They usually come up with war, death, bombs, terrorism, opium, and poverty.

Unless, of course, somebody has travelled there, spent time to get to know the people and customs and learned about their humanity, and understands deeply that we are all one.

Ershad Honaryar asked people he met in the Wakhan province – a place called the ‘roof of the world’ – to smile for a photograph and tell their stories.

Like many locals this man makes his living as a cattle herder in the Pamir mountains. He receives a sheep at the end of the month as his salary. Men are expected to own cattle before they can ask for a woman's hand in marriage.
Bibi Asli is 42 years old and has three children. She gave birth naturally, but women who require a Caesarean must travel to Ishkashim district 10 hours away. Wakhan is far from the violence most of the rest of Afghanistan suffers but there are no clinics because it is so remote. Many women die or lose their baby during the difficult journey for medical help.
This 16-year-old was on his way to school when I stopped him. He told me it was the first time anyone had taken his photo. There are only 16 schools in Wakhan district, where 13,000 people live spread out across 11,000 sq km (11,000 sq miles). Students sometimes walk for hours to get their education.
At 71, Qeich Beig has lived a long life in Wakhan terms. He owns a local guesthouse for tourists visiting the region, which has made him rich. Most local guesthouses operate under the supervision of the tourism office in Badakhshan province.
This 13-year-old also goes to school, but that isn't the end of his day, as he helps his father on the farm after school. Education is highly valued in the region and families try to make sure their children continue their studies for as long as possible.
I stopped these three girls on their way to school in the village of Sarhad-e Broghil. Aged between 10 and 14, they help their families with farm work after school. Compared with other parts of Afghanistan, women in Wakhan enjoy greater freedoms. They can take part in public celebrations and social events and wear colourful clothes, and they are the main workforce.
Ziauddin's bandana showed the colours of the Afghan flag. Some locals criticise the central government for failing to deliver on its promises to the region, but most of them show a strong sense of national pride.
This young tour guide in the Pamirs is paid a daily fee of 1,000 afghanis (about $15; £10) to guide visitors through the rugged terrain of the Wakhan Corridor. Some of these trained guides also offer to cook on the journey for an extra $10.
This man lends his horses to visitors to the Pamir mountains for $25 a day. The horses carry the tourists' supplies and belongings across raging rivers and rocky terrain and back to Wakhan. Tourism is an important part of the local economy.
Eight-year-old Ahmad Reshad is a student. He is from a prosperous family which owns and runs a local guesthouse. Unlike many other children in Wakhan, Ahmad doesn't work on the farm after school.
I met this man working on the farm of a landowner in Kala Panja village. For his work, he is paid a monthly salary of 5,000 afghanis. Wheat is the main product here, but because of the extreme weather the quality of the grain harvest is often poor.
Zahra, who is four, lives in Sarhad-e Broghil village in Wakhan. Her family lives next to the local guesthouse. Zahra spends a lot of time playing with tourists visiting the area.
This six-year-old boy tripped and fell on his face two months ago. Health services in the area are poor. The Afghan government has promised to build a health clinic in the area, but it is yet to deliver.

All photos: credit Ershad Honaryar

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