Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Rights and Freedoms

Teeth, flowers and another tale of violence

Martine van Bijlert 2 min

Every day in Afghanistan is full of stories. Most of them with a fair share of bad luck and wry humour and usually quite a bit of violence. This story is about – let’s call him Hamidullah.

Hamidullah comes from a place not far from Kabul. It is commander country. In the past he fought under the main leader of the area, but he left the trade and started growing flowers instead. On a massive scale. He showed me pictures of the farm with its millions of saplings, where people came from far and wide to enjoy themselves (what Afghan can resist a field of flowers). In the pictures he is a large man with a full black beard. Now he seems somehow skinny, his face drawn and his beard scraggly. But his eyes shoot fire.
As is often the case, an attractive piece of land attracts attention. So one day some unfriendly men come and tell him that the (newly surfaced) owner wants the land back. He reasons with them, to at least let him sit out the season and sell the flowers. So the men come back at night. One of them is the neighbourhood police chief. They beat him and pull patches out of his beard. He loses eleven teeth, six of which he carries in a rag in his vest pocket. He has laid them out on the table before me and shows me the teeth in his mouth which are loose, preventing him from eating (or laughing) properly.

The men who beat him up are linked to the same leader he fought for. They trashed his farm, took his belongings and destroyed his flowers. So he complained to the leader and asked to see him. And has not been able to get him on the phone since. For two years he has told no one, but now he is fed up.

Hamidullah recently visited the village of the men who beat him up and complained. They are now somewhat ashamed to go home. He has found a new piece of land and has made a new greenhouse from mud, twigs and plastic. He has cleaned the ground and his waiting for confirmation that he can use it – because no piece of land is without a dispute. His greenhouse a small covered oasis on a desolate piece of land in the city. He built a makeshift wooden platform with a roof, so he can sit and catch the breeze on summer nights. The mayor came to check one day to see what he was doing, but has so far left him alone. It is the third time he starts a new farm.

He has asked me to put his story “on the internet”, because he wants it to be known. But this is still Afghanistan, so I hide the details and give him a different name.

I have now have a pink flower in my garden from his greenhouse. And whenever I pass the site of his new farm I look to see if his saplings have been planted yet. So far he remains a lonely figure on a desolate piece of land, his flowers tucked away in a makeshift greenhouse.


Human Rights


Martine van Bijlert

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