This garden is the setting for several of the scenes described in an essay I have just published in the Boston Review, "A Tribe Apart: Afghan Elites Confront a Corrosive Past." An excerpt, set in the garden:
The essay is organized aroudn a memoir of my first visit back to Kabul after the overthrow of the Taliban, in March 2002, but it reaches back in history and returns to the present to show some of the informal sources of understanding on which I base my analyses.
After we told the boys we knew [Amrullah] Saleh [head of Afghanistan's intelligence agency], one of them, a blue-eyed tough wearing a black and white kafiya tied as a scarf, stepped forward as the group’s spokesman. He began telling us how the garden was destroyed. “The mujahidin were up there,” he said, pointing to the bomb-wracked heights above the garden, “and Hizb-i Islami was down there.” He pointed to the ruined houses below. Malikyar and I looked at each other: only Massoud’s forces were “mujahidin”? Hizb-i Islami, the Islamic Party, was one of the several officially recognized mujahidin parties, but its leader was Massoud’s main rival in the anti-Soviet resistance, Gulbuddin Hikmatyar—the favorite of the Pakistani intelligence agency. “Mujahidin,” once a near-sacred term, had become a another factional category.
Far below, on the road at the foot of the ruined garden, several Kamaz trucks rumbled past, their ancient diesel motors grinding. “Those are Russian trucks,” the boy said. “Rus khub mardum hastand,” “Russians are good people.” Malikyar was taken aback: “What kind of mujahid are you, praising the Russians?” Russia, together with Iran, had supported Massoud in the fight against the Taliban.
He paused and looked [Helena] Malikyar in the eye. “Do you know why the Americans can’t find Osama Bin Laden?” he asked. We had some idea, but wanted to hear his view. “Because Bin Laden is sitting safely in America. The Americans sent Arabs to kill our King (padishah-i ma), because they knew that if Massoud was alive, they could never enter Afghanistan.”
Below: a gardener at work (click on image for full photo) .