My Afghanistan – Life in the Forbidden Zone

“The stories told are the Western soldiers’ stories. Not the stories of the civilians.”
—Nagieb Khaja

Nagieb Khaja, a Danish journalist of Afghan origin, travels to Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province in Afghanistan. Because journalists are not able to move safely outside of the capital, contact with the civilian population in rural areas is almost impossible. But Khaja has a trick up his sleeve. He gives people living in outlying communities mobile phones equipped with cameras and asks them to film their daily lives, providing a rare glimpse into the war-torn existence of ordinary Afghans.

We ride along with Hakl Sahab in his 70-year-old Jeep with no brakes, get hair-styling tips from Jurna Gulm, seek shelter from fire fights with Shukrullah, and watch farmer and widower Abdul Mohammed raise his four children alone. And as the project progresses, it becomes clear how challenging it is to capture the difficult lives of women. Alternating between the participants’ scenes of daily life and Nagieb’s own experiences, My Afghanistan depicts a country where civilians are the greatest victims of the war, and Afghans struggle to live in the constant shadow of violence. Official Selection Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival 2012

Afghans have endured almost 35 years of armed conflict, of which the intense fighting since the US invasion in 2001 is only the latest chapter. Afghan civilians have not only suffered deaths and injuries from fire fights, air strikes, improvised explosive devices, land mines and unexploded ordnance, but also destruction of their homes and livelihoods, land theft, trauma, and lack of freedom of movement that has blocked access to education and health care, especially for women and girls. Human Rights Watch has documented abuses by all parties to the conflict and rights violations that have occurred during the conflict, including serious abuses of Afghan women and girls.