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  June 26, 2008

Afghanistan's other voices: the brick makers

The Guardian: A group of brick makers struggle, confronted by rising food prices and insecurity
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SAMULLAH (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): There is nothing else here but the black soil of Afghanistan. I was born in Afghanistan. My parents are still alive. I have two older and one younger brother. I have uncles and cousins too. They all live in Pakistan as refugees.

VOICEOVER: Samullah is 23, a brick maker minding a kiln on the Shomali Plain on the outskirts of Kabul. It's a hard life, four men living in the same bare hut. The ["MOO-ree"], the openings in the kiln's top, need constant feeding with coal. Samullah returns home every few months with money for his family. Recently, the brick makers were robbed by men with guns. It's not the only problem.

SAMULLAH: Our land in Pakistan is not enough to feed the whole family ... as our family is big now. In addition to that ... the security situation is still not good here. The Taliban are still fighting with the English and the Afghan National Army. There are still aerial bombardments and occasionally we get arrested by mistake while we are walking around in the mountains. We are sometimes mistaken for the Taliban.

VOICEOVER: It is not well paid, and the men work day and night in shifts, but it is a job in a country with unemployment running at 40 percent.

SAMULLAH: During the Russian invasion of Afghanistan many houses were destroyed. People migrated to Pakistan as refugees. There was very little bread. ... We used corn for bread as it was cheap. But because of the shortages we had to mix it with other grains to survive. Then the Taliban arrived and the drought came along with them. It was a bad drought. ... Farmers were lucky to grow crops for one season. The present government followed the Taliban and the lives of ordinary Afghans is a little better.

VOICEOVER: Dawn is breaking, and the men begin to move the chimneys to another area of covered bricks waiting to be fired.

SAMULLAH: If the current insecurity continues, the situation for us may get worse. But if the government increases the number of police and improves security... then there is hope. When the Afghan refugees in Pakistan are asked to return home, they start to protest because there are no homes, work, or security to return to.

VOICEOVER: The situation for Afghanistan's poor, men like Samullah, is not getting any better.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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