Kabul Street Vendors Swept Away in City Cleanup

By Mohammad Jawad Sharifzada

KABUL, Afghanistan, January 18, 2005 (ENS) - A traditional way of life on Kabul's streets is slowly being swept away.

The stalls and kiosks dotted along the streets in practically every neighborhood of the city are being removed as part of a major cleanup operation.

A wide variety of goods, ranging from apples to zinc baths, were sold by numerous vendors either from pushcarts or kiosks.

"We are removing the kiosks on the grounds of sanitation, and in order to expand the roads for the benefit of pedestrians and motorists," said Mohammad Faqir Bahram, Kabul’s deputy mayor.

He said that the majority of residents were pleased with the changes and that displaced merchants were being given the chance to open shops.

But most of the affected merchants are unhappy with the move.


Street vendors trade and socialize on a Kabul street. (Photo courtesy Kabul Reconstructions)
"I have to support a family of 11, and now I am unemployed," said Khudadad, 54. For the past five years, he has been selling toiletries from a handcart.

He says he is too poor to open a shop. "I was unable to buy firewood so I have to burn newspapers and boxes,” he said. “How can I afford a shop?"

Khudadad said local traders are important to the community.

"Customers come to us because we provide a service,” he said. “The authorities should have established these shops and let the traders move in before knocking down the kiosks."

Haji Hafizullah, 60, agreed, saying, "They should have set up a market first. Everyone round here used to shop locally. Now we have to go to the city centre and pay higher prices.”

Hamidullah, 35, who sells glass and building materials from a stall in the centre of Kabul, now operates his business out of a shop. But he worries what will happen to fellow merchants.

"Two or three people, feeding families of eight to 10, used to work in each of these kiosks,” he said. “Now they are unemployed.

He added, "I think the authorities took the right action but at the wrong time. It's the middle of winter and many people are in financial difficulties."

Navid, who supports 11 members of his family, sold toiletries from his stall but is now unemployed. Still, he believes the government took the right action in the interests of sanitation.

"And it makes the city look tidier," he added. "But after they pulled down the stalls, I would have liked them to widen the road and ease the congestion."

City center flower shop owner Dost Mohammad said, "Since the stalls have disappeared, prices in the shops have increased by almost 50 percent."

{Published in cooperation with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.}