Arts, Culture & Media

We don't usually see this side of Afghanistan

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Credit: Bilal Sarwary

These merchants sell Hena in Jalalabad city, Ningarhar province.

Afghanistan is a country of breathtaking valleys and mountains, but we don't often see the country's beauty discussed or pictured in the news.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

But the BBC's Bilal Sarwary has seen them as he travels around the country, and he's started a collection of photos of everyday life. He's taken photos of school children in colorful outfits, a bird seller at the Kabul market and a farmer in Kundoz.

"What I’ve been trying to do is to show the world that Afghanistan is a country which has beauty and beautiful people. And that normal life goes on," he says. “Unfortunately with all the news about fighting and all the other problems, people start to forget that Afghanistan has this natural beauty.”

Some of Sarwary's pictures date as far back as 2003 — but he only recently started posting them to his Twitter account, now that Afghanistan has a 3G connection. While taking the pictures and sharing them might be easy, getting to the remote areas in Afghanistan is not.

“One of the biggest frustrations that I’ve had as an Afghan is that you really can’t travel to a lot of the provinces the same way as I was able to in the past,” Sarwary says. "It's because the security has dramatically deteriorated in those areas."

So, he sometimes captures beautiful mountains and rolling valleys in photos he takes from an airplane or a helicopter. Sarwary says his photos show the resilience of the Afghan people.

“When you go to a remote village in Afghanistan and a villager, who is stuck between the government, the Taliban, and the international forces comes out, he’s hospitable. He has not lost hope,” he adds.

This, Sarwary says, is what his project is about: capturing people, their lives, their hopes, and their resilience.

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    Credit: Bilal Sarwary

    A Kuchi boy.

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    Credit: Bilal Sarwary

    Rush hour, Central Kabul.

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    Credit: Bilal Sarwary

    Kabul, Shadoshamshera mosque.

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    Credit: Bilal Sarwary

    The Gardez-Kabul highway runs through southeastern Afghanistan.

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    Credit: Bilal Sarwary

    Hunted birds are sold in Kabul city, despite a presidential decree banning hunting of migratory birds.

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    Credit: Bilal Sarwary


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    Credit: Bilal Sarwary

    Donkeys remain the most basic form of transportation in rural Afghanistan.

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    Credit: Bilal Sarwary

    Peach valley, Kunar province.

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    Credit: Bilal Sarwary

    Salang pass, Parwan province.

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    Credit: Bilal Sarwary

    A shopkeeper clears snow in the Salang river valley.

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    Credit: Bilal Sarwary

    Flying over Lashkargah, Helmand province.

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    Credit: Bilal Sarwary

    Flying over Lashkargah, Helmand province.

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    Credit: Bilal Sarwary

    Kuchis, Nawa district, Helmand.

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    Credit: Bilal Sarwary

    Central Kabul, butchery.

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    Credit: Bilal Sarwary

    This is reported to be the most expensive barber shop in Kabul city.