By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
I ask them if anything has gotten worse since the Taliban left. They all shake their heads, no. But when I ask if they are still afraid of being attacked in the streets, they all gravely nod. Pressed further, they complain about skyrocketing rents and tell a tale of a woman leaving home uncovered and having battery acid thrown in her face. Some Talibs never left, one woman says, “they just shaved their beards.”
Before I leave, the widows present me with a bag of their candy. One woman, blushing, asks me to take her to America, and they all begin talking at once, worry-lined mouths pulled wide into smiles. The translator can’t keep up, and summarizes. “They ask you to build them a factory,” she says, “so all of them can work.”
We drive down crowded side streets to another class in District Six, a Hazara area, through markets where plastic buckets, propane tanks and the gutted and flayed cadavers of sheep hang from the ceilings of mud-walled shops. We turn up another still narrower alleyway divided by another and still fouler-smelling sewage trench clogged with shit and crumpled plastic bags. Boney, wide-eyed children, their faces dark with dirt, press themselves against the walls to let our car squeeze past.
I am led up a steep mud staircase and into another tiny room, this one filled with rows of women sitting before hand-cranked sewing machines. They are learning to make tote bags, flimsy nylon things with knockoff Reebok and Nike labels. It’s a class in sweatshop labor. The women stare up at me, nothing on their faces but blankness and fatigue.
The women’s teacher, a thin, jumpy man, asks if I have any questions. All the questions I prepared, that I asked the other women earlier in the day, suddenly seem indecent, stupid, cruel. I shake my head, do my best to smile.
A woman sitting at the front of the room with a wide, heavy face and angry eyes, raises her hand and speaks. “I have a question for you,” she says. “My husband is dead. I have small children. We are very poor. Our life is very hard. What should we do?”
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