Journey into the heart of Afghanistan
A film by Mohsen Makhmablbaf
Kandahar is a story of a young woman’s odyssey into Afghanistan to find her sister who has become so depressed with life under the Taliban that she is contemplating suicide on the same night of the last eclipse of the 20th Century. The film is based on a true story of the Afghan born Canadian journalist, Nelofer Paziera, who with her family was forced out of Afghanistan when the Taliban took power. Her father, a doctor, her mother, a professor of Persian Literature, Nelofer—then sixteen, and her brother lived in Kabul. Because of his refusal adhere to the Taliban’s ban on male doctors assisting women patients her father was arrested and placed in jail . He spent sixteen months in jail. When he was released he gathered his family and with only their clothes on their back, they walked for ten days to the Pakistan border. From there they were able to emigrate to Canada and begin a new life.
Nelofer finished school and became a journalist. Since leaving Afghanistan she had stayed in touch with an afghan friend back in. Her friend, an economics graduate who had a job working in a bank, wrote how depressed she was that the Taliban had forced her to quit working and stay home. She was not even allowed on the street without a male family member. Fearing that her friend was contemplating suicide, Nelofer flew to Iran and tried to enter Afghanistan. As a journalist she could not get a visa for Afghanistan making it necessary for her to go in illegally. At a refugee camp on the Iranian border she tried to enlist someone to help her get to Kabul but was told that it was far too dangerous for her to travel across Afghanistan. If she tried and was caught she would not only endanger herself but others as well, perhaps even her friend. With that caveat she abandoned the trip and returned to Canada. A few years later she heard from her friend; she had moved to Mazer-e-Sharif in the northern part of Afghanistan where conditions were more relaxed.
In the movie, Kandahar, Nelofer plays an Afghan born Canadian journalist, Nafes, on a trip to find her sister who is contemplating suicide. She arrives at a refugee camp on the Iranian boarder with just three days to reach her sister. At the camp we are given a glimpse into life in Afghanistan. In 1979 when the USSR invaded Afghanistan to prop up the communist government that was growing shaky from a civil war, as many as five million people poured across the borders. Three million went to Pakistan and the other two to Iran. Nafes is to travel with a group of young girls returning to Afghanistan.
“This will be your last day of school,” the girls are told, “but remember the wall is tall but the sky is taller”. The education of women was abolished by the Taliban.
Before leaving the girls are given a lesson on how to avoid land mines. The Soviets had placed over a million landmines during the war without any mapping as required by the Geneva Convention’s rules of warfare. In places they had carpeted the ground with “butterfly” mines dropped from an air planes. The mines looked like butterflies as they fluttered to ground landing easily to avoid detonation. In an act of cruel desperation the Soviets had disguised some bombs as dolls and stuffed toys. War is not a pretty thing. The bombs were small and not designed to kill, but to wound. The Soviets felt that a wounded or crippled person would be a greater burden than a dead one.
Because of the mines Afghanistan is populated with people with only one leg, or no legs at all for that matter. The International Red Cross has a program for providing artificial limbs but it is nowhere close to filling the needs. In a scene in the movie artificial legs are dropped by parachute from a helicopter as if floating down from Heaven and the crippled men rush out to gather them.
Reminiscent of Nefeler’s father’s plight, along the path Nafes meets a...