Thirty years ago, the dwelling would have been luxurious. But today, between walls damaged by artillery blasts and under collapsing ceilings, over 1,000 nomads from Afghanistan’s south are preparing to spend the winter in Kabul’s condemned Darul Aman Palace.
The roughly 300 Pashtun Kuchi families say they have little food and were driven to live as landless beggars after violent clashes with local minority Hazaras over rights to a plot of land. In September, they found refuge in the neoclassical palace – built in the 1920s by King Amanullah Khan to emphasize his western-style reforms.
According to the United Nations, Kuchis are one of Afghanistan’s most vulnerable minority groups. “Nobody pays any attention to us. The government doesn’t support us. We don’t know how long we are supposed to stay here,” says Abdul Malim, a 39-year-old Kuchi who lives on the palace grounds with his wife and 10 children. “We are cold, we have no food. We just want some land, a normal place to live.”
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Erin Cunningham is a freelance journalist based in Kabul.