Reference : V-P-AF-E-01513
Date : 03/2009
Country/Region : AFGHANISTAN
Caption : Kabul. A blind patient in an Afghan Red Crescent marastoon or "house of refuge".
Photographer : NACHTWEY, James
Confidentiality level : public
Publication restrictions : reserved users only
Copyright : ICRC/VII
Description : In the 1930s, marastoons – a Pashto word meaning “home for the destitute” – were set up by the Afghan government in the cities of Herat, Jalalabad, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kandahar and Kabul. The Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) took them over in 1964 and, 30 years later, as civil war ravaged the Afghan capital, the ICRC stepped in to evacuate the marastoon’s inmates as the frontlines began to encroach on their compound and rockets rained down. The ICRC continued its support for the next decade.

Intended primarily as shelters for the homeless, the marastoons are also refuges for social outcasts and the mentally ill. Despite their regional differences, each one has a common goal: to give the children who live there an education, and the adults a trade, so as to ease their integration back into society when their time comes to leave after a maximum of two years.

Thirty-two-year-old Dad-e-Khuda, was blinded while playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance when he was 11 years old. He spends his day at the marastoon listening to the Holy Quran on his portable cassette player and memorising the words. Eventually, he hopes to become a teacher. "I may not live in the Marastoon all my life," he explains. "By learning the Holy Quran, I will be able to work, and teach, and live on my own"

Decades of occupation and civil war in Afghanistan have left tens of thousands of physically and mentally disabled people bearing the scars.

Original material : negative
Resolution : 4861x3315
Orientation : landscape
Colour/B&W : black and white