March 24th, 2010
04:37 PM ET

'I don't want to go home'

The Qambar Square camp in Kabul’s west is now home to more than 1,200 families from across Afghanistan.

Bibi Hawa lost her husband, daughter and son to war. She now lives with her three grandchildren in a tent at a refugee camp in Kabul.

The old woman cries as she says, “I fled from Marjah in Helmand province because of the fighting. I don’t want to go home any more. I lost my family there and I don’t believe the war will end in our province.”

She is dressed in old clothes and wrapped in an old blanket. As we talk she frequently asks for money.

“My son and my husband fed us before they were killed,” she says. “Now I ask people to give me some bread just to survive”.


A young child living in the camp.

Wakil Ahmad Tawoos lives at the camp and is a tribal elder. “The camp was established more than year ago,” he says. “There are more than 800 families here who fled Helmand province.”

As you walk through the camp, you are quickly surrounded by people begging for help. They are refugees in their own country. Some have lost limbs. Some have lost family members.


Children carry water with the help of a wheelbarrow.

The children are hungry, but some of them study. There is a school here. It is a tent with no tables or chairs. It is hot in summer and muddy in winter. When class ends the students have to carry water to their homes from a nearby pump.

“Young boys can’t get jobs and are spending long days and nights under tents,” says Tawoos. “They have to wait for rich people to bring them food or money.

“We were all farmers who made money growing opium. Now there are no more jobs for us in Helmand because the government has banned poppy farming.”

The Afghan government says it “encourages” the refugees to return to their homes. It is planning to provide transportation in the future.

soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. deployed

    This is a true depiction of many Afhanis lives, however I believe too much emphasis is being placed on the "war" as the cause. These standards are not far from what most of the people live with, Americas counterinsurgency withstanding. Violence is common practice, and believe it or not, much of it is not by the hands of American forces, although these situations do occur.
    People are routinely beaten and killed per the social norms that have endured throughout centuries of war, although the friction between ISAF forces and islamic fundamentalists does not help. Spend a little time on the ground, and seeing women beaten and children bruised and bloodied is not an uncommon occurance.
    Afghanistan is truly a culture ran by men, and unfortunately, many families are ill fated because of the decisions, or lackthereof, made by them. Everyone here knows growing poppy or opium is wrong. They have the opportunity to grow legal crops, however often take the risk associated with the reward. These risks can obviously lead to disastrous consequences, an do.
    But one thing to understand is that not only is it the purpose of Americans deployed here to fight a counterinsurgency, but also and often more importantly a fight to help these people. There are millions up millions of dollars being poured into civial assistance programs, from building wells and canals for the availibility of drinking/irrigation water, schools for education (whereas it is otherwise nonexistent), donations of wheat seeds as an alternative to drugs,and countless others. Be proud of the Americans here sacrificing so much to help.

    April 10, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jeff of Peoria

    We would have left them alone had it not been for Bin Laden and his ilk. We had totally forgot about the Afghams until then.

    You leave us alone we'll leave you alone but that's too little too late now.

    The ironic thing is she's crying because she can't grow opium anymore. You can't tell me that she doesn't know what it's for.

    March 29, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ruth

    War never solved any problems except ww 2 .We cannot impose democracy on others by going to war.The largest democracy in the world is Indiia and they did not get it, but by non violence .

    March 29, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Daniel Boone

    NATO and the US with all there military might can not stop the MADNESS. How much longer will this go on? What is the solution? The ordinary civilian population are suffering the most and not the Military or the Taliban. Even if the Taliban are defeated then what? The Goverment of Afghanistan is not able and will never be able to provide any services to there civilian population.

    March 29, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Natasha R.

    This just shows how wars don't just affect political parties and military personnel. The innocent gets caught in the middle because they have no control over anything and generalization occurs just because some religious extremists wanted to make their point across. The public needs to be more educated about the effects of war on these affected countries, rather than being fed with news on the negativities and/or triumphs. One can't win everything.

    March 29, 2010 at 5:31 am | Report abuse |
  6. aisha

    Karzai and all his freindf in Afghanistan and outside Afghanistan will answer in front of Allah on judgment day for all these human suffuring Enshaallah. As a muslim I beleive in this promis of Allah in Quran.

    March 29, 2010 at 4:26 am | Report abuse |
  7. Saddening

    People need to realise that the American Govt cares very little for the welfare of their own citizens, much less for those of countries they invade. How horrible and sad that in this age there are people livinig in poverty like this while the warmongers plot their next destination to bomb!

    March 28, 2010 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
  8. FARIDOON TAHIRI

    It is quit visible to all Afghans that the long periodic devastated war turn our nation into ruin, the family lost their value members; their property damaged intensively and forced to flee to nearby countries.
    Now it is time to realize the insurgents, and the Afghan should avoid being deceived by their enemies.
    An afghan has high standard of trust and he must not support illegal insurgents to attack on Afghan military forces and other Gov authorities so it results to lose consideration and trust against the government and target by Afghan and coalition forces.
    The community should support the government and provide facilities for security reason let the international donors to help build the nation and avoid insurgents to carry out illegal actions.
    When our nations rehabilitated, the education improves so it let the people live on confidential trust and democracy.
    It is why that the conflict happens and result the civilian to lose their family members and suffered and finally forced to flee their village.

    March 28, 2010 at 6:09 am | Report abuse |
  9. Audieme

    "It's sad but we have orphans in our own country that need saving. Let the international community take care of those in Afghanistan." posted by Rick

    Rick, we are ALL part of the international community!

    March 28, 2010 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  10. Pity

    War and prejudice are the enemies of human race. Nothing has been gained from these wars. Both sides lose lives and a new generation of war victims are created especially the weak, women , elderly and children. These are victims of wars forced upon them.

    March 28, 2010 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
  11. Tony

    That is great! I thought we are there to improve their lives. I think it would be much more effevtive of a war against Talibans and cheaper in cost if we drop food and clothings for these poor people instead of dropping bombs.

    March 27, 2010 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Edward

    Solving problems such as this would be much more helpful in breaking the insurgency than fighting the taliban. Europe is right. The afghan conflict should be approached as a nation building program, not a war. On the presumption, I mean, that we want government there...

    March 27, 2010 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. GV

    Matiullah Mati, Producer for CNN

    GREAT ARTICLE MY FRIEND.. KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!!!!!

    VIC

    March 27, 2010 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kari

    As usual, the children and the elderly are the ones that take the worse of war. Those are the cliches that we leave every day. Shame on the war!

    March 27, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. snyde

    ok seriously, this is crazy... we the u.s. did this to their country. and we send aid to the entire freakin world. while our own are being forclosed on, losing jobs, bailing out banks with taxpayer money and its ok for the banks to give big bonuses.... this country and the people in it are slowly goin down the drain... HEY AMERICA you voted these clowns into office... im sure youre all so proud huh.... news for you... its not the 40's anymore. this is all a big joke.... hey obama ! can you hear us ? we the people want our money back ... this is the breakdown quick... give me my money mr obama... a lump sum for all LEGAL U.S. citizens who pay their taxes. ill buy a new car ( we didnt need to bail the auto industry out ). ill pay on my house ( no forclosures here ) and ill invest in my future and my childrens as well... not let my kids and grandkids pay for it... what a greedy bunch the banks and the auto people are. shame on you all.... when gas rose to 4 and 5 dollars the auto industry should have stopped production but no.... you kept making acres and acres of cars... your own fault.... you bankers should be in our shoes .... and bring our men and women home from this farse you call a war that bush started... were killing our own by sending them there... bad govt. bad obama,bad banks... you all suck

    March 27, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • MamasAngels

      DO YOU NOT REMEMBER SEPTEMBER 11, 2001? OH WAIT... LET ME GUESS... THAT WAS OK, WE DESERVED IT RIGHT? I DONT LIKE THIS WAR ANY BETTER THAN YOU DO! I HAVE A SON THAT'S FIGHTING THIS WAR, AND NO IT'S NOT EASY KNOWING THAT HES IN HARMS WAY, BUT HE ALONG WITH THE REST OF OUR ARMED FORCES ARE OVER THERE TO KEEP US FREE AND HOPEFULLY FIND THAT SOB BIN LADEN!

      September 13, 2010 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  16. Recently returned from AFG

    Sickening bravado? Marines in Marjah fought for over 3 weeks with no artillery, tanks, or air dropped ordnance. They took casualties that could have been prevented if they had the usual weapons of war at their disposal. However, the Marines decided to risk their own lives to minimize the number of civilian casualties. It worked. Civilian casualty and infrastructure damage levels were lower than any other operation of that scale in history. It isn't bravado. It's hard sacrifice for a foreign people, a people with a culture so vastly different from ours that it is nearly impossible to understand.

    The solution for saving the refugees? Trust that the military is doing it's best to help the people. It's the young Lieutenants who are fighting the fight over there, not the Generals. Platoons are using their meager resources to make life better, to educate, to empower the local nationals. It is too easy to simply blame the military. It is ignorant to think that the military is simply a institution of killing and destruction. The military provides security, builds infrastructure, educates, and works to strengthen the legitimate governments. These young, 23-25 year old Lieutenants are doing far more good in this world (at high risk to their own lives and the lives of their men) than any blogger, activist, or politician sitting back safely in the states trying to be an "armchair General."

    March 27, 2010 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
    • dindy Sri lanka

      I wish so much if his honorable President Barack Obama See this comment. I fully agree with the one who recently returned from AFG. As I checked the fallen Men"s list most of really young But gone for bigger mission with their maximum strength. May lord Give wisdom to the US Governors to finish this brutal war which loose many lives in Both Afhganistan and USA.

      July 19, 2010 at 4:17 am | Report abuse |
    • dindy Sri lanka

      I wish so much if his honorable President Barack Obama See this comment. I fully agree with the one who recently returned from AFG. As I checked the fallen Men"s list most of really young But gone for bigger mission with their maximum strength. May lord Give wisdom to the US Governors to finish this brutal war which loose many lives in Both Afghanistan and USA.

      July 19, 2010 at 4:18 am | Report abuse |
  17. American Progress-ive

    War is not pretty. It never is. Whenever we are attacked we must defend ourselves, however.

    March 26, 2010 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
  18. crghss

    Why is it so amazing? Most of the world has camps like this. It's only because of the war that we read about it.

    March 26, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Jon

    "its amazing that we live in the twenty-first centruy and we still can't seem to find a solution for this."

    Not really that amazing when we can't even take care of our own...

    March 26, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  20. snoop dog

    we need to end this war!!

    March 26, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  21. kanye west

    The war is very sad and we need to bring our troops home so they dont die and famils dont suffer anymore......

    March 26, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Naveed Shah Saeed

    When the world becomes the playground of "Me First" generation and forgets the plight of the less previliged class, no wonder we have extremists and fundamentists all around us. The best weapon to fight extreme ideologies of any regligion is to have fair and just system and discourage corrupt goverments around the world. We as Americans, are doing the opposite and facing the consequences.

    March 26, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Rick

    It's sad but we have orphans in our own country that need saving. Let the international community take care of those in Afghanistan.

    March 26, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  24. Tahera

    It’s a fifty, fifty situation. From one hand NATO’s involvement in vacuuming Taliban from Helmond provice is appreciated, but from other hand, its totally unfair to forget about those who lost families and shelters in the war. they are sitting in a camp with out any future and security. These people are refugees and orphans in their own country.

    I don't understand what does bloody Afghanistan Government is doing about these people. Why Mr Karzi is hiding behind curtain and waiting again for UN and NATOs to move their burden and help these people.

    If you guys really wanna feel, look at the old woman photo for 5 minutes. Try to study her situation. She is a hopeless and misplaced woman who lost everything she had in life including her family. She is left with grandchildren in such an age that can't work and support, except to beg on street to keep the children alive.... have you ever thought, what will happen to the children if she dies one day from a sickness, who would provide support for the children? Who would take care of them? Who would keep them warm, clean and safe from evils around?.... God knows how many are still in back of curtain waiting to be heard! My heart is crying for them…I have no idea how to reach them to help!

    March 26, 2010 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
    • dindy Sri lanka

      Dear Tahera, we had the same situation in Sri lanka and I was on safe side but my heart was weeping for the refugees .I dont know your religion. you dont know mine. But with my experience the prayers from a humble heart works. Please pray for Bibi Hawa and others. When i (may be others did the same prayer in other places.)prayed every day God showed me all the UN aid was reaching camps in many trucks and the child soldiers returned home and war ended.

      July 19, 2010 at 4:26 am | Report abuse |
  25. Kate

    And yet over 600 comments weeping for Whoppers, DQs and movies...Am I missing something ?!? eye opening article–great shots! thanks!

    March 25, 2010 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Donna G

    Please write more articles like this BUT tell people how they can help.

    March 25, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Kate

    No food, no work, no farms, no schools, no hope. Yep, Mission Accomplished!!

    March 25, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Daas

    its simply because they are afhgani. its sad to say this but the western world are so prejudice against these people.

    March 25, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Cecile

    This is the REAL face of war. This is the REAL face of incompetent governments that refuse to do better for their own kind. Shell shock, PTSD, starvation and disease result. What country allows the farming of poppy as part of agriculture? Like to see that in Iowa. Let's have these ready willing farmers plant corn, wheat, and whatever else can grow to feed their own.

    March 25, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Will

    It's horrible to know that nothing is being done by either government to alleviate these people's pain. If I were in charge, I'd set up a program here on the home front to send food, medicine, and clothes to these refugees.

    March 25, 2010 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Tia

    Please write more articles like this...

    March 25, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Sean

    its amazing that we live in the twenty-first centruy and we still can't seem to find a solution for this.

    March 25, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  33. Ahmad Siar Safi

    As I read this Article regarding the Helmand province refuges I reach to this " they are blame that have Afghan nationality and they are blame that are being with this Government If they would being a part of insurgent they might be so comfort and had more facilities" yes definitely I am agree with that women how she can go back to their Land even thought they don't have a family and they don't have any hope farther more to live I really and really sad about the condition of this comp I really feel their Bad condition. I am too much sad that couldn’t help them and our government also doesn’t have eyes to look them as an Afghans.

    March 25, 2010 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  34. LOCO

    How can we contribute to these refugees? Secondly, can we adopt these orphans?

    March 25, 2010 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
  35. Daniel

    What a change! The news media showing the human side of the war! It's a breath of fresh air,instead of all that sickening bravado I've been hearing lately!

    March 24, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |