By Ahmad Masood
The Maha Kumbh Mela, or the Grand Pitcher Festival, is one of the biggest gatherings of people on earth; it takes place every 12 years and goes on for 55 days, in one of four cities in India : Allahabad, Ujjain, Haridwar and Nashik.
I moved to India from Afghanistan last year and the Mela, as it is called, was one of the assignments I wanted to cover.
KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan election officials announced most of the long-delayed results from a Sept. 18 parliamentary poll on Wednesday, but the disqualification of three more candidates and angry protests further clouded the poll.
The credibility of the result will weigh heavily on U.S. President Barack Obama’s review of his Afghanistan war strategy, due next month, amid rising violence and sagging public support, especially after a fraud-marred presidential election last year.
KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan election candidates took to the streets of Kabul on Wednesday to protest against a polling process they say was corrupt and shameful ahead of the expected announcement of final results from the September 18 vote.
Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) has said it would announce the winners of 249 seats in the lower house of parliament, or wolesi jirga , after a delay that lasted more than two months due to investigations into fraud complaints.
Kabul-based, Afghani photographer Ahmad Masood, is spending a month based in Berlin.On my first day of work in Berlin: a very different city from my city, Kabul, Afghanistan, I covered a demonstration by students demanding improved conditions at schools and universities. I have covered some hardcore protests in Afghanistan, where about 8 out of 10 resulted in death or serious injuries. This time I was in Germany and I didn’t expect any violence.We arrived at the scene. There were many young men and women gathered with banners and some armed with whistles in their mouths. People were laughing and smiling. There was music playing on a loud speaker. If that was not enough, some protesters were blowing their own trumpets and other instruments. It was just like a party. The students looked to be in pretty good condition, so I was wondering “Why? What are you complaining about?”.The police were quiet and peaceful, kindly giving way to the marching, bustling and whistling demonstrators. To my surprise the police stopped me from taking their pictures.So, before it began it finished and the only serious issues were as follows: police confiscated a banner which was not allowed, there was a colored flare fired and a couple of water balloons were thrown at the very well-behaved police.I filed only three pictures to the wire, two of which were of the same person who was the only person I found in any way similar to an Afghan protester.I could not help but to compare the two countries, Afghanistan and Germany, and the way they protest.War and conflict impacts people everywhere and in my country it has been going on for nearly three decades with no sign of ending. People are too busy trying to make ends meet to protest for their rights. For the majority, to waste a day would mean no food for their children at home. Any demonstration in Afghanistan stems from extremely real rage.This rage takes its toll on Afghanistan. Afghan police are interested in having their pictures taken, that is until they start beating up protesters, and at times journalists too.Police are often not well trained and at some points they fire directly at the protesters instead of firing warning shots. Protesters, too, make a mess of the place by burning and destroying public property out of anger. When a protest erupts; clashes start, guns are drawn, shots are fired, rocks are flying.In Afghanistan, it is always a protest of necessity not of choice.
KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan police fired into the air on Sunday to break up a protest by thousands of people who had gathered in the capital, Kabul, to protest against what they said was the desecration of a copy of the Koran by foreign troops.
Protesters, claiming foreign forces had burned a copy of Islam’s holiest book during a raid in Maidan Wardak province last week, blocked traffic in Kabul for more than an hour.
Sometimes we Afghan photographers joke that an Afghanistan without burqas, would mean no more good images.I was with Yannis Behrakis when he shot his version (top). It was the day after the Northern Alliance took over Kabul and the Taliban fled the city. Yannis wanted to shoot some images which could show a change after the fall of the Taliban. We came across a number of women who were waiting to receive some alms from a rich local businessman. Yannis stopped to take some pictures.For my version (below), I went to cover President Hamid Karzai’s election rally in the south of the country on August 4. There were thousands of men but some females who were mostly covered in burqas, as usual. I wanted to show the women’s participation in this mainly male-run country.One could draw the conclusion that years after the fall of the Taliban, women are still under burqas and pictures look the same. This is because the situation of women may have changed in the cities but not across the country. The reason is not that international communities failed to help women liberate but it is because that is how they live. The life style in most parts of Afghanistan is a unique one, it is an Afghan one. It is clear from the start that men work outside and women work inside the house, that is how centuries past by. This is how they choose to live, one can not just take their burqas off, put them in jeans or short skirts, tell them to go out and work and then say your situation has improved. With all due respect to the Western media, they are painting the wrong picture on the situation of women here. Let’s leave the Taliban era out of this, this is now eight years of “Operation Enduring Freedom”.You still see the same picture. The Afghan women and burqas make a damn good picture so they make a good story too, it is colorful. It is hard for me to believe a story written by a journalist who come for a short visit to Afghanistan and made reports about women or anything in Afghanistan. It takes time, knowledge and above all understanding of the Afghan way of doing things. This may be wrong according to the outside world but right according to Afghans.