Fighting season -- for animals -- peaks in Afghanistan
Animal fighting was banned as un-Islamic under the Taliban's 1996-2001 regime, but is once again a violent feature of daily life in Afghanistan.
Sun, Apr 29, 2012 at 04:03 AM
BIRD FIGHTING: Spectators gather to watch fighting partridges at the Central Park in Kabul. (Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP)
KABUL — Spring marks the start of the "fighting season" for humans involved in Afghanistan's decade-long war — but for birds, dogs, camels and even kites it reaches its peak.
At dawn on Friday mornings in Kabul's central park, hundreds of people converge with decorated cages full of fighting birds, including quail and roosters, as well as dogs, for a day of bloody combat by proxy.
"I was born and grew up in war, I love to see fighting, it is a good pastime," says Najibullah, 30, while fondling his bird and preparing it for a big fight.
"Last Friday, my quail beat two others, it is a hero," he says.
In other corners of the park big roosters with bloody beaks fight and dogs rip into each other as crowds of excited men roar around them.
Outside of the capital, particularly in northern areas of the country, people also make camels, rams and bulls fight, for the "fun" of watching them — and for gambling on the outcome.
Animal fighting was banned as un-Islamic under the Taliban's 1996-2001 regime, but is once again a violent feature of daily life in Afghanistan — as is the war between Taliban insurgents and 130,000 NATO troops.
The hardline Islamist Taliban were overthrown by a US-led invasion in 2001 for harboring Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington — and have since waged an increasingly bloody insurgency.
Spring, when the snows melt, is traditionally the start of intensified fighting — this year signaled by a major attack by Taliban suicide squads on Kabul on April 15.
"No doubt the continuous fighting in the country has added to the violent character of the people," says Dr Temorshah Mosamim, head of a mental health hospital in Kabul, referring to more than 30 years of war since a Soviet invasion in 1979.
"War is a main cause of mental health problems in Afghanistan too.
"Poverty, stress, fear, trauma — all this presses people to lose their temper. Up to 80 percent of around 100 patients we see every day have violent characters due to war," he adds.
Taliban militants have targeted animal fighting gatherings several times in the past. In February 2008, around 80 people were killed when a suicide bomber attacked the crowd at a dog fight in Kandahar.
But Afghans, who live with war every day, are not deterred. Even when families and friends gather on windy hilltops to fly their kites, they do it to fight each other.
At the top of Maranjan hill in the center of Kabul hundreds of people gather every Friday for kite fighting.
"There is no fun only in flying kites, you have to fight with them", says Ahmad Shah, controlling his colorful kite in aerial combat with a competitor, each trying to slice through the other's glass-coated string and bring the kite down.
People who don't like forced and vicious animal fighting, love kite fighting, he says.
"As long as I remember, the people of Afghanistan have always been fighting for different causes, we cannot love anything else but fighting", Shah says.
Copyright 2012 AFP Global Edition