Holy Blood: An Inside View of the Afghan War

By Paul Overby | Go to book overview
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9

With Mullah Naqeeb

Idolatry is worse than carnage. Quran 2:218

NOW THINGS would be difficult, Wahidi said: the morning after we arrived, Ramadan began. To get something to eat, the Afghans in the house had risen in the middle of the night and eaten breakfast before dawn.

Ramadan is the month of fasting for Muslims. Nothing can be eaten, drunk or smoked during the daylight hours, which begin at the moment when white thread can be distinguished from black. There is to be no sexual activity or merrymaking. Ramadan is explained as a celebration of the month of the first revelation to Mohammed, and also a reminder of the plight of the poor, who live like this every day, so as a kind of collective penance. The men who were fighting the jihad were not required to observe Ramadan, yet they all did.

As much as I wanted a breather after the three-day march, the house turned out to be choked with clouds of flies, and when we started for Mullah Naqeeb's camp it was a relief. As we trudged along the dusty road several miles out of Aghrendab Bazaar, there was suddenly gunfire off to the left. Bullets whined over our heads. I was scared and fascinated at the same time: the sound had a strange slowness, an eternal quality, different from anything I'd heard before, like hornets with a mad machine intensity. Whether this was target practice, and we happened to be behind the target, or a heavy-handed joke, who could say? No one seemed greatly concerned.

In the thoughtless afternoon heat Mullah Naqeeb's “camp” squatted dusty and forlorn on a barren patch of ground: a small adobe building. The mujahideen greeted us with smiles and appreciation, although Mullah Naqeeb himself was not there. A birdcage hung from a tree, and flowers were planted in old bomb casings. Gaiety in the midst of desolation. It occurred to me: this was Mullah Naqeeb's camp, so where was the fighting? A couple of 350cc Jawa motorcycles were parked near the door of our room, part of the motorization of the guerillas in flatland Kandahar. Jawas were Czech, but these were made in the Soviet Union, shipped to Afghanistan, captured—or maybe even bought—by the mujahideen.

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