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"Return, Afghanistan" photo exhibition opens in Kabul

"Return, Afghanistan" photo exhibition opens in Kabul

Former refugee and photographer Zalmaï has taken the world tour of his exhibition to the Afghan capital, where he hopes to share his vision of Afghanistan with his compatriots.
16 July 2004
Afghan President Hamid Karzai (in green) with photographer Zalmaï (in black) at the Kabul opening.

KABUL, Afghanistan, July 16 (UNHCR) - A travelling photo exhibition on Afghanistan has come home to Kabul, where it has been hailed as one of the biggest public events since the fall of the Taliban.

The exhibition, "Return, Afghanistan", opened at Kabul's Amani High School on Thursday with the support of UNHCR and the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was an emotional experience for the photographer, Zalmaï Ahad, who had fled the country in 1980 and was now returning to share with his compatriots his vision of a long-lost homeland through photos taken after the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

Among the guests was Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who said, "You showed this country as it is today. These images tell the truth, and that is why they are important."

Filippo Grandi, the Secretary-General's Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and former UNHCR chief in Kabul, added, "Constantly, we read reports and more reports on Afghanistan. But the best of all reports is today before your eyes. It is made of images. And it says, with talent, two essential things about this country: it is a destroyed country, but its inhabitants are filled with hope and energy."

The exhibition was also attended by Afghan dignitaries and diplomats from UNHCR's major donor countries, including the United States, Canada, Holland, Sweden and Switzerland, where Zalmaï is now a citizen.

His fellow Afghans are now lining up to see their country through the eyes of the returning refugee.

"Yes, these photos tell us what is really happening here," said Hamida Aman, a young Afghan woman who was a refugee in Switzerland before returning to Kabul last year. "Only an Afghan could take these photos. They have a proximity to their subject that no other report on my country has ever had."

"Return, Afghanistan" will run in Kabul till August 5 before moving on to Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, Japan, Germany, Italy and other European countries over the next two years. A parallel tour is ongoing in major US cities. Both tours were sponsored by UNHCR, the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Aperture, Musée Elysée in Lausanne and Fedex Express.