I can say that Afghanistan was once home to me. As a child I lived there for four years, when my family had to escape Iran after the Islamic Revolution and found refuge in Kabul. I remember the smell of dust, when the first rain drops touched the dry soil.
The sound of rockets hitting nearby buildings and my parents sleeping with us girls in one room wishing if we shall die, we should die at least together. I remember how my father took me to the local market to rummage through piles of clothes to find something suitable to wear. I always asked him to buy me one of those cheap plastic rings but there were more important things we needed. I remember the sweet taste of ice cream that my parents bought us in the park and the embarrassment I felt when little girls and women begged me for money, assuming those who can afford ice cream are wealthy.
I took these memories with me when I returned to Afghanistan in 2013 and was introduced to cultural facets I had not known before. Living with locals enabled me to experience the country from their perspective, to see beauty in the simple things, experience the joy of unexpected visits and wedding announcements. Being integrated in local structures allowed me to find a different approach to strangers. I put my guard down, overcame my prejudice and fear and invited others to do the same. I experienced generosity among those who had very little and was touched by the stories of those who had never read a word. My photo essay is an attempt to show Afghanistan from a perspective that is different from the war torn images we are used to. They show the faces of people who are proud, content, tender in their relationships, welcoming in their encounters.
Milla is a researcher and has worked as an advisor with development aid agencies. The photos for the photo essay were taken during her field work in Afghanistan. “I was extremely fortunate to have met people who supported my endeavour. I am forever grateful for their generosity and indebted to the kindness they have shown me.”
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