Posted By: Erica

When his family members went missing, Shafek went with his father and his uncle to the “front lines” of Kabul (ironically a road that is now so peaceful that my office is located there). They saw bodies strewn everywhere. Many of them had been mutilated, a woman’s head atop a man’s body, or vice versa. “Unrecognizable,” Shafek said. He saw one woman who had been pregnant, with her belly slit open, her womb a pit of dried blood and flies.

They did not find their family members anywhere, so they went to the nearby university to search the containers. These steel shipping containers can still be found everywhere in Kabul — it’s the most common structure for small shops and businesses. But back in those days they sometimes had a different purpose. Fifteen to twenty bodies were collected in each container, Shafek said. As Shafek and his father and uncle sifted through the containers, looking for their loved ones, they were horrified to think that a similar fate had befallen them.

“The worst is when someone goes missing,” Shafek told me, a lump in his throat, “Because then whenever you hear about something horrible that has happened, you imagine that this same atrocity has happened to them as well. When someone dies, at least you can bury them, but when someone has disappeared, they always stay on with you this way.”

Like many Afghan families, Shafek and his family have never found out what happened to their two loved ones.

Photo: Shipping Containers

Shipping Containers in Kabul

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