From Mujahedeen to Farmer

Without disarming the country's 100,000 guerilla fighters, there's no way Afghanistan can count on a peaceful future. So far, too few have put down their weapons. But those who have face difficult choices. Report: Sandra Petersmann

Without disarming the country's 100,000 guerilla fighters, there’s no way Afghanistan can count on a peaceful future. So far, too few have put down their weapons. But those who have face difficult choices. Sandra Petersmann reports from Afghanistan

In December 2001, the political elite of Afghanistan and the international community came to a single conclusion at a summit in Bonn, Germany: A new Afghanistan could only be created if the mujahedeen guerillas were disarmed. According to very conservative estimates, there are over 100,000 mujahedeen in the country.

Two years on, the country is in the process of rebuilding itself and drafting a constitution, but there are still just as many armed mujahedeen as there were before the war.

"I don’t need my weapons any more"

One of the few fighters who has publicly laid down his weapons is Aadina Mohammad, a 38-year-old father of five. For him it's embarrassing, especially in the presence of a female reporter, to admit that he gave up his Kalashnikov. He nervously tugs on his dark beard and pulls a thick wool blanket tighter over his narrow shoulders. He’s wearing leather sandals, without socks.

It’s cold on this foggy winter morning and Aadnia’s already been sitting in front of the United Nations disarmament office in Kunduz for two hours. "The battle is over, the colonial powers and oppressors have left our country," he says. "I don’t need my weapons anymore. In the beginning, the Soviet Union was our enemy. But after the Soviet Union left, I fought against the Taliban. Now, I really hope we can keep the peace."

The first time he was pulled into war, Aadina hadn’t yet reached the age of 15. For the next 23 years, all he did was fight. In the beginning, he kept a tally of the people he killed, but later he stopped. The only memories he’s allowed himself to keep are those of the holy war waged against Afghanistan’s former Soviet occupiers and the struggle against the hated Taliban regime. He has tried to blend out the four horrid years between, in which mujahedeen turned against and began to slaughter each other, transforming the capital city of Kabul into a desert wasteland.

A test case

The five time father is a test case – he’s one of 1,000 fighters in Kunduz who have given up their weapons. The office in the northeast Afghani province, where soldiers from Germany’s Bundeswehr army are also stationed, is a pilot project of the United Nations for the disarmament of Afghanistan.

At the beginning of November, the commandants in the region began sending tired or inexperienced mujahedeen to be disarmed in the presence of interim President Hamid Karsai, who flew in to Kunduz especially for the event.

But Aadina doesn’t make any fuss about that. He says he volunteered to give up his weapons and that the gesture was sincere. "In all those years, I fought very close to my family," he recalls. "Despite that, there were times when I didn’t see them for five or six months at a time. Many of the friends with whom I fought with side-by-side are dead. Many others lost a limb. I try to see those who did survive as often as I can. We’ve done enough fighting and the oppressor is away. It’s time for a new beginning."

Mine clearing or farming

The former rebel is thankful to still be among the living. Even today he speaks of having been given a gift from God, despite the fact that he doesn’t know what the future holds for him. UN workers have offered him two alternatives to his fighting past. He can get training to become a mine clearer or he can become a farmer.

Today, Aadina has come to the UN office in Kunduz because he has made a decision.

"Training and education are so important in life," he says. "Look at me. I’ve never gone to school. I have only fought. Killed. I’m uneducated. The only thing I can do is work in the field. I’d really like to be a farmer."