Asia

Rebuilding lives after Kabul bombings

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Media caption"We live in fear," says one Kabul resident

Rebuilding homes and businesses often proves an arduous task for Afghans left on their own after being hit by suicide bomb attacks.

Habib, a young car mechanic, is attending to a motorbike in the Shahr-e-Naw quarter of central Kabul.

He is working in front of a half-open shack with a tin roof, held down by old tyres.

Habib had a proper workshop here but he has been fixing cars in the open since a suicide attacker struck the area on a winter morning in 2010.

His business was located just beneath the target of the attack, a guesthouse which was destroyed, along with a shopping mall, a bank and many small businesses in the vicinity.

Like Habib's workshop, many businesses in Kabul struggle to recover months and even years after initial attacks have grabbed the headlines.

Image caption Like many, Habib has struggled to rebuild after a bomb attack hit his business

"I came to work that morning and found my workshop completely destroyed, together with other businesses here," Habib recalls.

"I lost at least $14,000 (£9,030) and now I can't find the money to start again and buy the necessary equipment."

There was no compensation and like others in this situation, Habib didn't have insurance.

"I lost my equipment and now I don't have enough customers. Sometimes I can't buy food for my family who depend on me," he says.

Nervous traders

But it is not just small businesses which have suffered as Kabul has become vulnerable to insurgent attacks over the last few years.

An impressive building covered in red marble next to Habib's workshop still looks largely intact on first sight.

But at close quarters the damage becomes apparent. Windows are broken, walls are damaged and the inside is filled with rubble.

The building's owner, Vazir Zazai, has come here every day for months, trying to clear it all by himself.

Image caption Vazir Zazai says he still has hope for Afghanistan's future

"I need about $5m (£3.2m) to restore my shopping mall," he says.

"It was ready to open when insurgents attacked this area. No-one has helped me so far.

"I need to get a loan from a bank to restore my business, but I don't know how I can convince them to give me credit."

Mr Zazai was one of the optimistic expatriate Afghans who came back to their country, willing to invest. Now he has lost almost everything he owned.

He says he cannot leave his unfinished business right now or start another project, but he has not given up.

"I'm still confident that we will rebuild and help to develop Afghanistan," he says.

There are exceptions though. Foroshgah - a shopping mall situated near government buildings and hotels which are always full with foreigners - was almost burnt down when it became the scene of a shootout between insurgents and foreign troops last year.

Now it has been restored to its former glory and many businesses are functioning again.

"The Americans gave each of us $5,000 (£3220)," a young shopkeeper says.

"It didn't cover all the damage, but it made a big difference for me."

But he also says that many traders here are nervous and there is no guarantee that the insurgents will not strike again.

Western aid agencies compensated for the losses in Foroshgah because foreign troops were involved in the fighting. But that is the exception rather than the rule.

No safe place

The suicide attacks targeting Kabul have also caused another kind of damage.

Helmand Lemar lives in Abdul Haq Square, in a flat adjacent to the half-finished high rise building which gained notoriety in September when insurgents used it to attack Kabul's embassy quarter for more than 20 hours.

"Every day when I go to work I worry about my family and my children back at home," Mr Lemar says.

Image caption The Foroshgah shopping centre was badly damaged in January 2010 but has since been restored

"My children were at home when it started and I didn't even know whether to get them outside or keep them indoors.

"We live in fear after those attacks. But we can't move anywhere else: There is no safe place in Afghanistan these days".

The attack in a residential area claimed many lives including children. Mr Lemar says that those attacks taught him that anyone might be a target, anytime and anywhere in Kabul.

Dozens of people have been killed and many more injured in the recent attacks across the Afghan capital. In many cases Afghan troops had to rely on foreign forces to help fight back the insurgents.

And as control over security matters is gradually handed over to Afghans, many people in Kabul are worried what will happen when coalition forces pull out in 2014.

It is a question that remains open for many in Kabul, not least for those who have suffered at the hands of attackers, and who found that they have been left on their own in their attempts to mend their lives and businesses.

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