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Afghanistan On AssignmentArrows

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From Photographer

Steve McCurry

Afghanistan On Assignment

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From Author

Edward Girardet

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Steve McCurry



Field Notes From Photographer
Steve McCurry

Best Worst Strangest
    After years of searching for the Afghan girl I photographed in 1984, we finally found her last year. Her name is Sharbat Gula, and her story prompted National Geographic to establish the Afghan Girls Fund to help provide education to Afghanistan's women. On this trip, I visited the girls school built with proceeds from the fund, and it was a great experience. It's gratifying to know that a photograph can do so much good and actually make a difference in somebody's life, in this case, the lives of all these girls. The school brings girls from various ethnic groups together. It's inspiring to see such groups as Sunnis and Shiites as well as Pashtuns, Tajiks, and Hazara all working and learning together. [Zoom in on McCurry's photo of the school.]

    One day in January while traveling to northern Afghanistan, we discovered that the roads had been closed because of snow. So we had to walk over the Salang Pass, which is about 14,000 feet (4,000 meters) high. The weather was freezing cold, and there were no vehicles around. It was like everything had just stopped. I was concerned that if we got stranded, we wouldn't be rescued. It took about six hours for us to cross the pass. All the while we worried about the real possibility of avalanches and frostbite.

    I attended a Shiite gathering in Kabul commemorating the death of Imam Husayn, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson. Husayn and his family were tortured and killed at Karbala, Iraq, about 1,400 years ago. This happened during the Islamic month of Muharram. So every Muharram, Shiites mourn his death and often flagellate themselves to acknowledge the suffering he endured. The men slashed themselves with knives and threw off so much blood that I got completely covered. I had to keep wiping blood off my camera.


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