AT dawn, Faqir Mohamad stands outside Pulikheshti Mosque and
hopes for a day's work. Waiting at the blue-domed Kabul landmark is
a regular ritual for Faqir and dozens of other Afghans uprooted by
more than a decade of war.
Some days the construction worker, who fled his bombed village
with his family four years ago, earns $3. Often, he does not.
"If I only had the money, I would go to Pakistan," says the wage
laborer, pulling down his tattered fur cap. "Now I just wait for
peace so I can go back to my village."
A tide of neglected, often invisible refugees is adrift inside
Exiled in their own country, these displaced Afghans fall outside
the massive international relief umbrella sheltering almost 6
million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran.
In Kabul and other cities, where they have been driven by war and
hunger, the refugees often fall through the cracks of the
Soviet-backed welfare program that helps keep President Najibullah
Experts estimate their numbers at 2 million, a group second in
size only to Sudan's internal refugees. Yet international aid
workers say that there are few facts about who, where, and how many
"Theirs is the story of a rural population on the move all the
time," says Michael von Schulenberg, a United Nations official in
Kabul. "The internally displaced person ... has a much tougher life
inside than the refugee."
"Displaced people within a country are regarded as an internal
problem and have not gotten international attention," says Ross
Mountain, an official of the United Nations Development Program.
Afghanistan's cycle of revolution, rebellion, and resistance to
foreign occupation has shattered the traditional family-based rural
society, observers say. Before the war, about 85 percent of the 17
million Afghans lived in self-sufficient villages and valleys tucked
among the country's stark mountains.
But when the Communists took over in 1978, a Muslim uprising was
triggered, Soviet troops invaded, and the population was set in
motion. Some Afghans, when war strikes, leave for the next valley,
the other side of the mountain, or the nearest town, and wait for
the first chance to return. Others are on the move constantly, first
from their village, then to another province, and finally to the
Suddenly, urban Afghanistan has exploded with growth. Kabul has
more than doubled in size to almost 2 million people as migrants
fleeing violence flood in.
Millions of Afghans, including many educated and well-to-do
people, fled to Pakistan, Iran, India, and elsewhere. Those who
stayed behind were marooned by poverty or the danger of war. Some
refugees preferred exile at home to living abroad.
Now, despite the Soviet troop pullout a year and a half ago, the
United States and the Soviet Union continue to pump aid into a war
that revolves increasingly out of their control, analysts say.
The war has become a mosaic of localized conflicts. Traditional
clan rivalries, violent politics, and corruption plague all sides.
Najib, as the Afghan president is known, holds the cities, despite
dissent within his ruling People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan.
The rebels hold the countryside. But their political parties based
in Pakistan and Iran bicker and are despised by many mujahideen
commanders in the field and Afghan civilians.
Caught in between are hundreds of thousands of internal refugees
like Fari Gul, a young woman with a shiny nose ornament and tiny
tattoos on her face and hands who walked 30 miles from her village
to Kabul in March.
This was only one of her many flights to the capital, and like
before, she plans to return and rebuild. "We are only farmers, and
it's too hard for us to find a job here," she says. "We do not get
anything from these communists."
Before the Soviet pullout, many Communist Party members and
sympathizers fled the countryside for the safer, better supplied
urban strongholds. …