Both clients seem as depressed as the restaurant manager. They eat in silence their kebabs not cooked enough, elbows on the plastic tablecloth. The waiters sat at tables that will remain empty, lost in their mobile phone. The Sadaf restaurant, right in the center of Kabul, is big. It could accommodate a hundred or so customers.
Only two years ago, the place was run. Not so much for its classic gastronomy, but for its modest prices, and its location, at the end of Chicken Street, the street of sellers of gold, precious stones, carpets, chapkas and leopard skins. "It was full all the time. There were even provincials who came here on purpose when they were passing through Kabul, " says the manager, Massoud Mohamadi, 22 years old.
Everything collapsed on January 27, 2018. A trapped ambulance tries to join the Ministry of the Interior. Blocked at a police checkpoint, it explodes under the Sadaf's windows. It's carnage. More than 100 dead and twice as many injured. The restaurant is ravaged, windows and windows sprayed, facade in pieces. A customer has her head torn off, other people are thrown into the street by the breath of the bomb. Three weeks later, as workers were busy renovating, there were still traces of blood on the ceiling and, during a tree, a shred of forgotten flesh. At the time, the boss, Raz Mohamed Mohamadi, said he was motivated and determined to revive Sadaf. He had no choice, he only had his restaurant to survive.
In front of the German embassy, in the green zone of Kabul, where the Afghan and foreign powers are concentrated.
Raz did not succeed. A few months later, he gave up and entrusted the establishment to his son Massoud. "My father never recovered from the attack. At first, it was believed that he had a broken skull badly, but actually no. His head does not work very well. He does not want to come here anymore. He works as a caretaker next to our house in Istalif ", said the young Afghan. He was not destined for restoration, he would have preferred to finish his law studies. But Massoud could not refuse. He started sports – bodybuilding and kick-boxing – and waits the rest of the time in his empty restaurant. "Before, we sold 70 kilos of meat a day. Today, it's about ten kilos a week. "
"Nothing good is getting ready"
Despair wins Kabul. Its inhabitants seem resigned, between pessimism and fatalism. They are not waiting for the peace talks, which have just been relaunched in Qatar or the presidential elections scheduled for late September. "I voted in previous elections and everything got worse. Why would I go back? " asks the young Massoud. He does not believe in talks with the Taliban any more. "It's just a game. They want the departure of strangers. And after ? Afghanistan will not be better, it will be more unstable and it will be war again. "
The abatement does not only affect the young and the poor. It has spread to the sphere of power, to these advisers and politicians who have worked in the governments of former President Hamid Karzai or the current, Ashraf Ghani. "We are no longer masters of anything, we suffer. And nothing good is getting ready, said a Karzai adviser. Most of my friends fled to Turkey or Europe. The others are preparing for it. No one is investing in Kabul, everyone is leaving. "
Khais Amani, 44, is ready to leave. The businessman knows abroad, he lived in China from 2002 to 2015. He had set up a business where he exported molds and plastic sandals making machines. Back in Kabul, he moved to the industrial zone, north of the city. His studio makes 5,000 pairs of shoes a day. His business is successful, even if he has to deal with corruption. It has a large office, air-conditioned and adorned with a huge flat screen.
On July 25, Khais Amani nearly lost everything, including life. Like every morning, he joined the workshop with his son in his 4 × 4 white. As he passes a marble factory, a car parked on the roadside explodes. That of Amani is projected ten meters forward, the windshield broke, doors bent. The businessman is stunned, unable to move. His son pushes him, takes the wheel and accelerates to get away. Khais Amani was not targeted. The car bomb was destined for another 4 × 4, armored this one, belonging to the Afghan forces. The road leading to the American Base Bagram (North), the largest in the country, passes through the industrial zone. As often, there has been no official report. According to the contractor, seven people were killed. "The Taliban believed my car was part of a convoy. We had a lot of luck. If they had triggered the explosion a few seconds earlier, it was over. "
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The next day, Khais Amani decided to leave. He does not yet know where or how. No one will buy his studio, but never mind, he'll manage. He says he can not die; he is responsible for 22 people in his family. "The day after the attack, my mother cried. She said: "But if we lose you, who will support us, how can we get out?" I'm tired of this life, I'll find a way out of the country. "
Massoud, 22, took over his father's restaurant after a bombing that hit the place.
Attacks have become a standard like any other in Kabul. During Ramadan, there was one a day. Since then, the pace has decreased to a few a week. They are sometimes claimed by the Taliban or the Islamic State, but more and more often by person. They target convoys of the Afghan army or foreign forces, police officers, government employees, universities. But each time, passers-by, neighbors, traders are killed or wounded. According to the UN, the month of July has been the bloodiest since 2017, with more than 1,500 civilian casualties across the country, caused by the resurgence of attacks.
No one is safe. On 28 July, the Taliban attacked Amrullah Saleh, a former intelligence chief, a candidate for the Afghan vice presidency, and one of the country's best-informed and protected men. Three car bombers and several suicide bombers hit his party headquarters at Shahid roundabout on the road to Kabul airport. Saleh was present, he escaped via a hatch that overlooked the roof of the building. The official record is 20 dead and 50 wounded. According to a close friend of Karzai, he is at least twice as high. The building will have to be shaved. The walls of the ground floor were curved under the blast of explosions, others collapsed, collapsed ceilings.
The adjoining building will have to be seriously renovated. The first three floors burned. A rocket, fired from the Taliban hospital opposite, sparked the fire, according to Abdel Manan Nour, who lives on the third floor. He walks with a tired step the parts of his charred apartment. In the one where the guests are received, there are still pieces of glass from the window planted in the wall. "When we took the apartment, we thought there would be better security as Saleh was next door. We were wrong. " Abdel Manan tries to recover what he can in the debris. He puts in a crate what remains of half-burned identity documents. Some are translated into English. "It's for visa applications abroad. I have been unemployed for four years, we want to leave for a long time. No matter where, it just has to be a safe place where my kids can go to school. I have to redo all the documents now. " The apartment is no longer habitable. He, his wife, and their three children moved into an aunt living in Kabul. They do not expect any government help.
Scanners and miradors
Those who can, the most powerful, barricade themselves. The streets leading to their house are closed one after the other, protected by gates and armed guards. In the center, the green zone ("Green zone") constantly encroaches a little more on the neighborhoods bordering it. This is where the Afghan and foreign powers are concentrated: presidential palace, private residences of ministers, embassies, seats of several media.
The offices of Saleh's party, candidate for the vice presidency, attacked on July 28.
To circulate there requires authorizations and passes. A village in the city, with its narrow streets barred by checkpoints, watched by soldiers or former foreign soldiers reconverted in the private, and watched by cameras, scanners and watchtowers. The walls, regularly raised to a height of ten meters, are sometimes protected by low walls with barbed wire. They must be bypassed to arrive at doors and gates that lead to buildings invisible from the street. The most suspicious do not even go out of the green zone by armored car. To reach the airport, 2 kilometers away, employees of the US embassy take helicopters.
Frescos on the walls
The people of Kabul have become accustomed to rubbing shoulders with this hypersecurity to which they are not entitled. They walk along the walls of the enclosure of the green zone without paying attention. Kameshka, a member of the NGO Union of Kabul Residents, is tired of it. The thirty-something decided to transform these gray walls ever higher. Supported by the town hall, he wants to repaint the main, an area of 11,000 square meters, he calculated. Helped by twenty young people, he draws frescoes of Afghans who embrace or the Darulaman Palace – built in the 1920s for King Amanullah Khan and devastated during the civil war – under renovation. "Kabul is invaded by these walls. They are synonymous with war. If they are repainted, people may be less desperate. " Half an hour later, an explosion sounds, then a second. The attack on Amrullah Saleh, the vice-presidential candidate, has just begun.
Luc Mathieu special envoy to Kabul, Sandra Calligaro photos