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Homes in Kabul painted bright colors to cheer up war weary residents

Aziz Khan, 25, looks at his neighborhood of Sher Darwaza in Kabul on June 19, 2017. Kabul Municipality recently painted the houses in the neighborhood in a bid to make the war-weary residents happier.

PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN/STARS AND STRIPES

By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 22, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan officials are hoping to alleviate some of the depression associated with war by literally brightening up the country’s capital.

Kabul Municipality is slapping cheerful paint onto thousands of homes populating the hillside shanty towns towering above the city’s downtown neighborhoods, hoping the bright colors will help lift residents’ spirits.

“There has been a lot going on in Kabul and in the country that makes you sad, so this step has been taken to help change the way people think,” said Najibullah Alkozai, head of the municipality’s second district.

Two thousand homes have already been painted since the project began about a month ago.

Colorful patches of blue, yellow, green and pink now peak out among the usual dusty brown mud structures.

Neighborhoods on the mountains are some of the poorest in the city.

Kabul’s population has exploded from about 1.5 million in 2001 to as many as 6 million today, as Afghans fleeing war and seeking work have flooded into the city.

With nowhere to live, tens of thousands of newcomers have simply built homes on the city’s hills. While the structures are technically illegal, the city has generally left them alone.

Alkozai said around 5,000 houses will be painted as part of the initiative, which is meant to benefit people living in the houses as well as those who see them on a regular basis.

Kabul residents are increasingly living through some of the worst violence the city has seen in the last 16 years.

In May, a massive explosion targeted a central district, killing over 150 people and wounding hundreds more. It is believed to be the deadliest single attack in the country since a U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban from power in 2001.

Responding to the recent violence, President Ashraf Ghani last week said he would soon announce new plans to make Kabul safer.

While residents wait patiently for a new security strategy, the municipality’s painting project already seems to be having an impact.

“This is a small example, but it’s making this place happier, and if you can make this a happy place, you can make the city happy, and you can make the country happy,” said Aziz Khan, 25, who lives in one of the recently painted houses.

Najibullah Mohammadi, 27, whose home also has a fresh coat of paint, said no one believes the new colorful houses will bring an end to the 15-year war, but they are helping people who are forced to live with the conflict every day.

“This conflict is making everyone sad,” Mohammadi said. “But since they started painting these houses ... we feel the city cares about us, and we feel happy about it.”

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

wellman.phillip@stripes.com
Twitter: @PhillipWellman

 

Aziz Khan, 25, sits at his home in the Sher Darwaza area of Kabul on June 19, 2017. He says the municipality's decision to paint local houses bright colors has made residents happy.
PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN/STARS AND STRIPES

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