We started out by visiting the red cross orthopedic center in the morning. Our tour guide, Najib, had worked here during the war. We met with the head of the orthopedic center, Najmuddin Helal. In addition to providing medical services for disabled people they also provide social programs, educational, vocational and employment. The factory to make the prosthetics was on the same site of the hospital and they only employed disabled people a type of affirmative action which he referred to as ‘positive discrimination.’ Najmuddin Helal himself had lost both legs to a mine in 1988. He told us that 80% of the amputees who come for treatment are victims of land mines.
After meeting victims of mines it seemed fitting to visit the OMAR mining museum. In it they had examples of every different mine they had found in the countryside including the small butterfly mines that are particularly dangerous to children. They had educational materials, posters telling people not to step in unchecked areas as well as classrooms and even an internet cafe inside an old helicopter. OMAR is a de-mining organization and we saw their name on the side of the road elsewhere, indicating that this place was free of mines.
Also that day we met Fauzia Kufi the Parliamentary representative from Badakhshan and the chair of women’s rights committee. When asked how she came to power she explained that she comes from a political family; her father was elected four times and her older sister represents Tahar province. She expressed some uncertainty about Afghanistan’s future and the future of women. She said she hoped that the US would wait to pull out troops until after the elections in 2014.
On our way back to the car some kids across the street were throwing snowballs. As I was stepping into the car one of them hit me square in the face with a dirty snowball. It didn’t really hurt but I was pretty shaken up. Boys will be boys.