Children of Darulaman Palace

Group of children inside one of corridors of Darlaman Palace, December 2010, Kabul, Afghanistan.

 

Tensions between Hazara villagers and Kuchi nomads erupted in west Kabul on August 13, the first weekend of Ramzan and turned into fierce fighting, with dead and wounded on both sides, arson attacks and looting of shops in the capital city's 13th District.

 

The background to the Kabul clashes was the long running dispute between the two ethnic groups over grazing rights for Kuchi animals. The Pashto-speaking Kuchi nomads who are Sunnis said they had a legal claim to the grazing lands to which they take their animals in the hot, dry summer months. The Hazara dwellers speak Dari and are Shi'ah Muslims. A group of Kuchis in Kabul was accused of settling too close to the Hazara graveyard, building temporary structures and urinating on graves which, according to Hazara, provoked the fight.

 

Angry mobs that gathered in the Pul-e-Khoshk area (in Dashte-Barchi) went on a rampage in Kot-e-Sangi and Pul-e-Sokhtia, burning few hundred of kuchi tents and killing their animals. Authorities have then restored order and moved the Kuchi to a shelter inside Kabul’s once most prestigious location – Darlaman Palace, where they started living with whatever they salvaged from their camps.

 

More than 300 families lived inside destroyed and abandoned Darlaman Palace, sleeping amongst the rubbish left by decades of war, trying to ensure themselves something to eat, scavenging through the city to gather and burn garbage in order to heat themselves.

 

The children of Darlaman palace, during a peak - more than a thousand of them, played in abandoned rooms, elevators, in the Palace’ dome bombed during fierce fighting in Kabul, at times when they were not begging on the streets or gathering scrap metal to earn money for food for their families.

 

Even though it is ANA grounds I was allowed to enter Darlaman Palace and speak to remaining families shortly before they left the place. They moved out knowing they are unable to heat themselves throughout winter in such high rooms. The last group of 15 families joined previous ones, that temporarily settled in Karte-Naw in mud shelters they constructed for themselves in order to survive winter that is just starting in Kabul.

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Uploaded on December 10, 2010