Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Afghanistan of the 50's

Having seen the title of the post, many probably thought that it would be about a wild, backward, medieval country with even worse living conditions than now. Some time ago, it was an absolutely different country. Afghan women made a career in medicine, went to the movies and studied at the universities of Kabul. Afghan factories produced fabrics and other goods. There was law and order and the government could implement such large infrastructure projects as the construction of hydroelectric plants and roads (though not without help from outside). Ordinary people had hope for the future… All this was destroyed.

The campus of the University of Kabul has changed little since then. It’s people who have changed. In the 50s-60s, the students preferred Western style clothes, and the young people of both sexes could freely communicate with each other.
Today, women hide their faces and a large part of their bodies, even in the capital. Only half a century later, men and women seem to live in different worlds.
In the 50s-60s women could make careers in such fields as medicine. 
Previously education was highly valued.
This incubator at the hospital of Kabul is very different from those which can be found now.
In the 1960s, almost half of Afghanistan’s population had access to health care, now only few do. Today, hospitals are overcrowded, and one in four children dies before his/her 4th year.
The Vaccine Production Center of Kabul in the 60s. Today, medical services are limited by several factors, one of them is lack of electricity. Less than 20% of Afghans have access to electricity, many homes are lit by oil lamps.
In the past, the central government of Afghanistan implemented various programs directed at the development of rural life. One of them is shown in the photo: nurses were sent to remote villages to treat people from cholera. Nowadays, it would be simply impossible because of the problems with security. The governmental health workers are often attacked by the groups of gunmen who want to create disorder and terror in society.
Formerly, there were Girl and Boy Scouts in Afghanistan. In the 50s-60s, such organizations were popular in the USA. The boys and girls of the primary and secondary schools learned about nature, camping and public safety.
Some time ago it was possible to watch a Hollywood movie, which are now restricted.

Light industries, as this plant located on the outskirts of Kabul, once gave great hope for the Afghan economy. But now, how can one work without electricity?
Now there are only small workshops in Afghanistan and opium became its largest exported product.
With the help of Germany, Afghanistan built its first hydroelectric power plant (pictured) in the early 50s. At that time it was considered a work of art. Now it still works, but, unfortunately, over the past eight years, the Afghan government hasn't built any other power plants. The only finished governmental project is the expansion of the shipping line to Uzbekistan.
A clothes factory. Some time ago, there was a feeling that Afghanistan had the bright future – its economy was booming.Then the greater part of cotton processed in this factory was cultivated by hand. 

The radio of the 60s broadcast the world and local news, music programs, jokes, political debates and even children’s programs. Radio Kabul (whose old offices you can see in this photo) was launched in the 1930s.
In today’s Afghanistan, there are a lot of private radio stations, satellite and television programs. However, the access to radio and television depends on electricity and that’s why their audience is limited. Only few families have generators at home.

Boutiques used to be very common for the Kabul of 50s-60s.
Today, furniture stores, like this one, are a real rarity. The greater part of furniture is made outside of Afghanistan.
Fruit markets seem the only thing that remained the same in modern Afghanistan.
The level of education of the administration of Kabul is now much lower than 50 years ago. Then, most officials had master degrees or doctorates. The Western style clothes were the norm. Today, the meeting of the government in Kabul is held among men with long beards, in turbans and traditional dresses.
The once strong and active defense forces of Afghanistan now faded in history. After the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan, Pakistan destroyed the armed forces of the country. The civil war of the 1990s, the constant pressure from the Taliban and the American intervention made the local security forces very difficult to organize, even considering that security remains the major concern of the country.
Now, it is hard to say exactly who is to blame for the decline of Afghanistan but we can say for sure that once a developing country is now destroyed almost completely.

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