The fearless city
– from Ramin Rahman, Kabul, 23.05.2020

My name is Ramin Rahman. I am a freelance photographer in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan. After one and a half months of quarantine, I left home for the first time to walk and take pictures in the streets of my neighbourhood in Kabul. I tried to leave the loop of repetition at home by going out. The virtual postcard I sent you shows the blurred and distorted mirror image of street life and me through the reflection of a car wheel: People have decided for themselves, so close to Eid al-Fitr, that corona is in the past. As if they are seeing the city through a mirror image that shows them what they want to see, because the truth—nothing is over yet—is just not reconcilable with our hopes and material needs.

In the early days of quarantine, people stayed at home in fear of getting infected. Throughout the quarantine, people just left the house to bring food and medicine home. For Kabul standards, the city was quite deserted. The usually busy streets were emptied. There were no more people rushing from one place to another on the sidewalks, and there were no more cars honking their way through traffic. There were even no people praying in mosques. After a bit of strolling through this new version of the city I grew up in, I caught sight of people who never had the privilege of staying at home. For them, day laborers, beggars, police men, child laborers selling gum and socks on the streets, it was business as usual and at the same time it was not. Those who were able to borrow money or refer to savings stayed at home.

Now, it is close to Eid al-Fitr, one of the dearest holidays to people of faith in Afghanistan. From one day to the other the roads are full of cars again, sidewalks are full of people again, as if there is no coronavirus anymore. Initially, it felt like some people are deeply mentally challenged by the stress of quarantine. But after having lived through self-isolation (until now), I realized that Kabul has never slept, not even during the wars of the past forty years. The city will always be kind-of- alive and struggling. And now, corona is to people a story of the past. The switch happened fast and I thought to myself, “What’s the matter with people?”

The coming of Eid al-Fitr and maintaining the daily needs of their families or themselves, make people come back to live in the city and not just hide in it. I do not condemn people at all for having left quarantine behind and for being careless despite the virus still being present. Unemployment and debts push people back into the streets of our city. What choice do you have when you earn 300 to 500 Afgs (about 4 to 6 Euros) a day for a living?

I hope that this situation will end soon and people will be able to live and love normally again with their families and loved ones.