Norbert Meier - Afghanistan
Journey into the unknown

Initially my photographer Peter (34) and I wanted to travel alone with our landrover to Afghanistan.

But at the border we were emphatically advised to travel with a guide who knew the area. With Abdul we were lucky. Although he was a practising Moslem he proved to have much humour.

We drove towards the Riff-Raff mountains, behind which, we saw the red of the morning looming – or was it the glow of the explosions from the battlefield? An anxious feeling began to creep. But the fields of red flowers which stretched to the mountains gave us comfort. Beauty and horror – they are so close together.

Before
Everywhere the red flowers grew abundandly before the coalition took power. The Afghan didn´t seem to have any aesthetic sense: the whole country was just a monoculture!

Even Abdul told us that his family was growing these plants for cenutries. Red, red, red - the fatal tradition of a soilidified, pre-modern society.

After
Only after a couple of months, the blue helmeted coalition was able to announce the first successes: The red plants were reduced by 40 percent.

Finally the Afghans see different colours than red. Whereas the tribal elders watch the work of the coalition with scepticism, the young women especially, are thankful to our soldiers for the exuberant new colours.
Far away from the Coalition
We are very impressed with the successes of the coalition, but then Abdul shows us the reality behind the official statistics. After a two day donkey ride we reach remote valleys to which no streets lead and where our soldiers have never been.

We hardly trust our eyes: Impudently the Afghan keeps on growing the plants. Red flowers as far as our eyes can see.
Afghan Nerds in colony garden
As alien as this culture may appear at first sight, for some Afghans not everything seems to be lost.

Only a few kilometres away from the Headquarters of the coalition we find tidy cultivated gardens with real, healthy vegetables. Cauliflowers, salad and kohlrabi – here our soldiers receive a friendly welcome
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The Flower of Evil
„It´s beautiful though“, says Peter and takes a close-up of a red flower. But from the literature we know, that this beauty is only a facade:

When did red flowers bring humankind anything else but death and destruction?

Why doesn´t the Afghan understand this?
Rebels in the Haystack
Peacefully the landscape lies in front of us, but Abdul urges us to hurry. He knows: The rebels don´t only bunker in the mountains but can crawl under any haystack.

Only after the pictures were developed do we see the danger lurking and are very thankful for Abdul`s attentivness.
Curse ´n´ flights
Suddenly at the horizon planes appear. “The coalition”, shouts Peter, but Abdul only says: “Illuschin”.

He knows what nobody in the West wants to know: the warlords of the rebels have captured Russian military planes. They use them to help the farmers sow the seeds.

A problem the coalition has yet to solve.
The Cow of the Afghans
Typical Afghanistan: The humans live in scanty shanties with hard clay flooring, whereas the flowers on the other side of the river grow in fertile pastures.

What the cow is for the Indian; the red flower is for the Afghans. It will take decades till our values are deeply rooted here.
The Dream of Democracy
After weeks of research we come back home full of impressions. We know: the coalition fights for a just cause.

But what´s the outlook?

We propose the introduction of a three field plant rotation. Because the dream of democracy even lives at the Hindukusch.