Into the Mountains – Chaman and Back

Mountain pass overlooking Afghanistan from Pakistan | MSF

Mountain pass overlooking Afghanistan from Pakistan | MSF

 

I first travelled through Afghanistan at the age of nine, from London to Peshawar in a Ford Transit van.  Across the Spin Ghar mountains connecting Afghanistan and Pakistan along  the ancient Silk Road. One of the oldest known passes in the world. When there was still Yugoslavia and a safe passage across beautiful Iran and Iraq. This is the closest I would have been to Afghanistan in decades.

 

A boy sits alone in the wilderness of the mountains of Baluchistan | MSF

A boy sits alone in the wilderness of the mountains of Baluchistan | MSF

 

I was surprised to see people wandering around in the wilderness and baron mountains. A rough harsh and arid landscape lacking vegetation and trees to shelter from the blazing sun.

 

Women wearing burkas waiting for test results | Chaman Baluchistan |MSF

Women wearing burkas waiting for test results | Chaman Baluchistan |MSF

 

Some women have travelled across the boarder from Afghanistan to Pakistan [Chaman] to visit the anti natal clinic. Many are into the later stages of pregnancy. It is not uncommon for women to be delivering for the fifteenth time.

 

Mehmood at the anti natal clinic waiting area | Chaman Baluchistan | MSF

Mehmood at the anti natal clinic waiting area | Chaman Baluchistan | MSF

 

Mehmood has been waiting with his mother and grandmother for her test results for several hours. Women are accompanied by family members, usually the mother-in-law and/or husbands siblings.

 

Samiullah waiting patiently in the waiting area outside IPD | Chaman Baluchistan | MSF

Samiullah waiting patiently in the waiting area outside IPD | Chaman Baluchistan | MSF

 

Most of the children I photographed were not running around as expected but sitting patiently with the mothers and grandmothers. Lacking any interest in my presence or camera. I was overwhelmed with a sense of sadness.

 

Baby girl born on the 8th March 2014 | Chaman Baluchistan | MSF

Baby girl born on the 8th March 2014 | Chaman Baluchistan | MSF

 

I’m in Chaman for three days and visit the nursery no less than six times each day. I do not come across visitors or an attendant for this beautiful baby girl.

 

A lady wearing a burka at the window of the pharmacy | Chaman Baluchistan | MSF

A lady wearing a burka at the window of the pharmacy | Chaman Baluchistan | MSF

 

The younger girls are all wearing large shawls but once married then wearing a burka is mandatory. In the few days and many hours that I spent observing these women wearing burkas, I imagined suppressed and timid women to emerge from beneath. But that was not the case. When there were no men then the face cover would be perched at the top of their heads and pink cheeks and sparkling eyes would emerge.

 

Off Roading heading back to Quetta via the old route. Used when the regular route is blocked.

Off Roading heading back to Quetta via the old route. Used when the regular route is blocked.

 

 

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