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Once Upon a Time

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The image of Afghanistan that most people have seen on TV and the headlines over the past three decades is an ungovernable country that never made it out of the Middle Ages. But for many Afghans who lived in the 1950s and 60s in Kabul and other big cities, that is not the Afghanistan they remember. They remember that life was peaceful and there was law and order, and a government which was building the country's infrastructure, albeit slowly and with outside help - roads, power stations, factories, hospitals and schools.  Perhaps only a small elite enjoyed and valued the modern urban life style, and much of Afghanistan was still poor and under developed. But most people had a sense of hope that a better future lay ahead. That is how Mohammad Qayoumi who grew up in a prosperous Kabul in the 1950s remembers Afghanistan. He has lived in the United States for over 30 years, and is now president of California State University, East Bay.

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Mohammad Qayoumi recently contributed a photo essay to Foreign Policy magazine depicting the modern face of Afghanistan of his youth. Most of the images dating back to the 1950s are from a guide book published by Afghanistan’s planning ministry in 1969. Mr Qayoumi got hold of a copy of the book and had the images digitized. He says he was stirred by the fact that news portrayals of the country's history didn't mesh with his own memories and decided to publish them. “I recognized it as a time capsule of the Afghanistan I had once known -- perhaps a little airbrushed by government officials, but a far more realistic picture of my homeland than one often sees today.” He says: “Remembering Afghanistan's hopeful past only makes its present misery seem more tragic but it is important to know that disorder, terrorism, and violence against schools that educate girls are not inevitable. I want to show Afghanistan's youth of today how their parents and grandparents really lived”.

Mohammad Qayoumi shared a copy of the images of Afghanistan of the 1950s with Jadidonline which you can see in the photo galleries on this page. 

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