Afghanistan: The children caught in conflict


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War photographer Andrew Quilty travelled with the charity Save the Children across Afghanistan, capturing portraits of children whose lives have been devastated by conflict in the country.

Across a series of portraits, the children describe stories of losing loved ones, physical injuries from mines, and having to flee their homes because of the fighting.

Despite continuing violence in their country, the children also reveal hope and determination for the future, with many now enrolled on the charity’s education and training programmes.

Statistics released by the United Nations show that 2018 was the deadliest year for children in Afghanistan in the past 10 years, with more than 900 young lives lost.

Nooria

Nooria, 15, was forced to flee her home with her family after their town was attacked by armed groups. She now lives in Mazar-e Sharif where she has enrolled in school and is being given vocational training.

“When they attacked our village, the rocket hit our neighbours’ house and they all died,” she says. “Our house then caught fire and we ran away.

“My friends who I used to play with – I still don’t know if they are alive or if they are dead.

“I’m hoping for a better future – to learn, to support my family and to get them out of this difficult life. And I’m hoping for a future where there is no war.”

Sema

Sema, 11, lost her father in a suicide attack in Kabul. She likes to look at his prayer beads to remember him – they hang from a curtain in the family home.

“We still have lots of his belongings, like his car, his clothes, his watch, his shoes,” says Sema. “Whenever we see them we cry. He gave us all so much love every moment and he is on our minds.

“I want for the powerful people around the world to stop the war and bring peace, because I don’t want other children to lose their fathers.”

Naveed

Naveed lost his leg when he stepped on a mine, aged eight. He was in hospital for a month and it took him six months to recover from his injuries. Now 16 years old, Naveed is enrolled in school and being given vocational training.

“For around a year I felt and dreamt that I still had my leg,” explains Naveed. “Sometimes I’d feel with my hand to check, and find it wasn’t there.

“If someone has lost their leg, it does not mean that they have lost their mind. With the help of our minds we can continue to study, learn and work to make the future of our families brighter.”

Habiba and Arezo

Three years ago, sisters Habiba and Arezo, along with their mother, were injured by a suicide bomb in Kabul. Arezo, 15, is still traumatised from what she saw and became completely withdrawn, so Habiba, 14, cares for her.

“When I woke up and I opened my eyes I saw lots of bodies and I thought I was not alive any more,” recalls Habiba. “It was horrible. I’ll never forget that.

“Whenever there is a big sound, [Arezo] gets scared because she was traumatised by the sound she heard during the attack.

“I love my sister and I help her with her lessons – I take her anywhere. She’s older than me, but I feel like the older one because I support her.”

Khalida

Khalida, 10, lost her brother when he was killed in an explosion in Kabul. Despite the grief of his loss, she is now enrolled in a community education programme.

“Two years ago, my brother was going to Kabul when an explosion happened and he lost his life,” says Khalida. “We are still carrying the grief and cry over him.

“At the time we were happy, everyone was happy. Now no-one is happy in the family. When I remember him, I cry and feel so bad.

“He loved me and I loved him. We played sometimes – the main game we played was running. He would help me with my education and with my assignments at home.”

Photography by Andrew Quilty for Save The Children.


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