Afghanistan, having passed more than three decades of war and suffered well over a million casualties, seems tentatively poised to start the difficult path towards stability. From a political, economical and social perspective, a measure of security and certainty is a must for the country’s beleaguered people.

For a generation of middle-aged Afghans, whose lives have been filled with the bitter tastes of insecurity and poverty, they feel hopeful to see a brighter future for their children and the coming generations.

Of course, stability comes at a price and remains far from a certainty. One thing which stood out during my stay in Afghanistan (in May 2015), were the many children and teenagers I met who had to work to feed their families. While they were proud to be helping their families, they also wished that they could have the right to a good education as children in other parts of the world.

Similarly, Afghan women, who were for years chained under the harsh misogynistic rule of the Taliban, have begun their restless struggle to gain more freedoms. Progress is slow however: even the theoretically democratic government refuses to put into place basic protections for women in public roles.

Thus, Afghanistan remains caught between its proud, distant past, its much more challenging recent history and hopes for a new future. The country’s ancient history is filled with a poetic and mystic culture which gave birth to many great writers of the Persian language, a country of color and life.

Recent decades have seen it bruised and brutalized. Today, its people struggle to brush away the dust that has been left during the long years of war. Underneath the first layer of gray, cold struggle, they aim to once again see Afghanistan as it should be: radiant with beautiful colors.

— Ako Salemi