Faces of Afghanistan – a set of portraits taken in May 2007. At this time, I was allowed to travel to the three northern provinces of Afghanistan – Kunduz, Takhar and Badakhshan. I was – and I still am – very impressed. By the harsh landscape, by people, who grow crops, fruit and vegetables despite the difficult environmental conditions, by the uncertainty of permanent threats, by the situation of Afghan women, and by the archaic way of life people have lived through decades of war.

Shura meeting in the district of Khwaja Ghar in the north-eastern province of Takhar. The Shura - in a broader understanding - is the elders council of a village, a district or other administrative entities.
Members of the Shura are often more highly regarded in Afghanistan than policemen.
Men in Khwaja Ghar have gathered for a consultation.
When the council of elders of the whole district meets, that is most interesting for children, too.
The children enjoy the attention, ...
... sometimes a bit restrained ...
... sometimes more expressively.
This does not mislead the fact that even young children in Afghanistan have to work hard and sometimes assume a lot of responsibility for their families. A little girl in the Warsaj district of Takhar province.
Road construction in Warsaj, the southernmost district of Takhar province, a so-called "remote area". Neither the Russians nor the Taliban have ever penetrated this valley on the northern edge of the Hindu Kush.
Abdullah Ajisaid supervises the road works. The road is the only link between the capital town of Warsaj and 25 municipalities on the south bank of the Warsaj River. Until now, it was barely more than a path for donekay and small carts, but now it's being extended.
Abdullah Ajisaid, 60 years old, was a Mujahideen under Ahmed Shah Massud, who was killed in an assassination attempt in 2001 and is worshiped in Warsaj as a national hero. "I was only a small commander. When we had problems with the bad roads between the villages, Ahmed Shah Massud discharged me from Jihad and told me, 'You are now responsible for road construction'. So Mujahideen could bring their weapons and other materials up here. "
The road is being built without any heavy construction machinery.
A man has brought his cow to the veterinary point in Warsaj.
In the valley of the Warsaj river. The roads between the villages in the mountain region are wide and cumbersome. Nevertheless, people walk from village to village to trade with goods.
Teaching staff in a newly built school in Warsaj.
Woman in Fakhar in the province of Takhar. She works as a beekeeper to earn money for the family.
Woman in Takhar province. Not all women lift their Burqa so easily when strangers are nearby.
Older women in particular are more relaxed when it comes to lifting the veil. Often they still remember the time before the Taliban, when in parts of Afghanistan almost European freedom were considered for women. Woman in Khwaja Ghar with her grandson.
For Westerners, wearing a Burqa seems to be strange, for women in Afghanistan it is part of everyday life and is often understood as a protection of privacy.
Streetlife in Kunduz, the capital of the Kunduz province.
Shoemaker at a bazaar in Kunduz.
Lunch break. The driver of a horse rickshaw and his horse recover from chaotic traffic.
Women in the streets of Faizabad, the capital of the province of Badakhshan in the north-east of Afghanistan.
On the road with a troop of the German Bundeswehr in the region around Faizabad. The Bundeswehr was stationed in Faizabad until October 2012. The mission, among the military tasks: to establish good relationships with the local population.
A German officer talking to a village elder near Faizabad.
Village elder near Faizabad.
Shy, yet interested and curious children near Faizabad.
The locals are often friendly to the German soldiers ...
... sometimes rather skeptical.
Afghan boy in Badakhshan province.
German soldiers bring gifts, mostly toys for the children, when they go to the villages. They are still armed. Because at any time there is the threat of possible attacks.

All images © Edda Schlager – Don’t use without permission. For inquiries please send an email to schlager(at)tengri.de

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