Text by Mujib Mashal
What happens when the pandemic hits a country already mired in conflict, bogged down by political instability, and deep in poverty? When a system -- corrupt, complacent, and dependent -- finds itself against a swift-moving infection?
One Wednesday in March, 11,627 people crossed the Iranian border into the Afghan province of Herat. A sea of young men formed. Some carried backpacks, others large sacks overstuffed with their belongings. One carried a child’s bicycle, another a string instrument. One had just two blankets folded under his arm, another a canary in a cage.
Most of the men were Afghans in their 20s. Their search for a better life in Iran had been abruptly thwarted by the coronavirus, returning them to a border that once took them days to cross in the other direction — squeezed into the beds of pickup trucks by smugglers who sped them through deserts at night, leaving some with bruises and others with broken body parts. The least fortunate were left in the desert to rot.
Now, as the men waited to be processed back into a war they had tried to escape, health care workers shouting through a megaphone instructed them in how to wash their hands.
Afghanistanâs Next War
What happens when the pandemic comes to a country in conflict?