A third of a million desperate people once lived in Maslakh, a camp of wind-blown mud brick houses erected upon a brittle lunar landscape in western Afghanistan. Ten years after the US-led invasion, the population of internally displaced waxes and wanes, subject to the whims of the country’s quarreling political factions.
The Taliban controlled the camp until they were ousted in late 2001. As the Tajik victors of the so-called Northern Alliance reclaimed Herat under American tutelage, they unleashed a wave of persecution against the Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, which also forms the Taliban’s main base of support. Sensing the end of their regime, Taliban foot soldiers shouldered their weapons and disappeared into the camp’s anonymity from comfortably appointed villas in nearby Herat.
Today, the tensions continue at Maslakh, which translates as “slaughterhouse” in Dari.
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Iason Athanasiadis is an Istanbul-based freelance journalist.