February 18th, 2011
10:49 AM ET

The 'Afghan Oprah' opens up

The "Afghan Oprah," Mozhdah Jamalzadah, discusses her talk show and why she decided to return to Afghanistan.

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Filed under: Life and Culture
February 11th, 2011
09:47 AM ET

Rediscovering Afghan music

CNN's Phil Black visits a school working to rediscover Afghanistan's musical heritage after decades of conflict.

Filed under: Life and Culture
Generations of opium addiction
January 24th, 2011
10:30 AM ET

Generations of opium addiction

Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan - In a far flung corner of northern Afghanistan, Aziza reaches into the dark wooden cupboard, rummages around, and pulls out a small lump of something wrapped in plastic.

She unwraps it, breaking off a small chunk as if it were chocolate, and feeds it to four-year-old son, Omaidullah. It's his breakfast - a lump of pure opium.

Read the full story from CNN's Arwa Damon

Filed under: Drug trade • Life and Culture
January 18th, 2011
12:09 PM ET

Tiny theater's Afghanistan play heads to the Pentagon

As Iraq's insurgency was peaking, and American soldiers were dying at a dizzying rate from roadside bombs, a theater director in London was having an epiphany.

Plenty of plays about the Iraqi carnage were piling up on his desk, but there were none about the the calamities befalling Afghanistan.

It was then that Nicholas Kent, director of the tiny Tricycle Theatre - far from the glitz and glamour of London's fabled West End playhouses - decided to act.

"I became aware in 2007-2008 how it was all going wrong in Afghanistan," he said. "It wasn't being reported in the media and certainly there was no artistic response to it."

He commissioned a dozen writers to produce a dozen short plays on Afghan history. The result, "The Great Game," changed the Afghan debate in the United Kingdom at a stroke. FULL POST

January 17th, 2011
01:11 PM ET

Restoring Kabul's former glory

CNN's Arwa Damon takes a tour of a turquoise jewelry community in Kabul, which is being restored with outside aid.

26 arrested for smuggling thousands of Afghans
Afghan migrants are detained in a Greek port in May 2010
January 14th, 2011
08:14 AM ET

26 arrested for smuggling thousands of Afghans

Italian police supported by the European Police Agency arrested 26 people this week suspected of smuggling thousands of illegal immigrants from Afghanistan into Europe.

The smuggling network was responsible for transporting about 200 hundreds migrants a month since August 2008, according to a news release from Europol. Twenty percent of those moved through the network were children, the police agency said. FULL POST

January 11th, 2011
07:23 AM ET

Taliban casts long shadow over Afghan schools

"An apple," English teacher Asadullah writes and reads out on the board. A simple word, perhaps, but here speaking and teaching English is something of a novelty and for the U.S. military and Afghan government a success - albeit small.

It would not have been possible four months ago when soldiers from the 101st Airborne arrived in Andar district in Afghanistan's Ghazni province - the first American presence in the area in two years.

"The school was empty, it was essentially a ghost town," Captain Justin Quisenberry recalled. "We found a passerby and asked, 'where are all the students, the teachers?' He said it had been closed for a couple of years, the Taliban threatened us. It's just not a safe place to have classes."

An indication of just how powerful the Taliban has been in this area is the turnout for the country's September elections. Just three people out of the district's 110,000 residents voted.

Classes only just resumed here.

Read the full story

January 5th, 2011
10:39 AM ET

Skateboard school ramps up Afghan dreams

CNN first visited Skateistan two years ago, after two Australian skateboarders started Afghanistan's first and only skateboarding school in Kabul.

Recently, CNN's Arwa Damon revisted the skate park, where it's grown beyond just skateboarding.

"We're trying to create opportunities for our students, which means we want to educate them through activities we do in the classroom," Deputy Director Max Henninger says.  That includes art classes, English lessons, a girls' journalism course, a disabled class and a critical "Back to School" program to help children from impoverished families enroll or re-enroll into public schools.

Read the full story from CNN's Arwa Damon

Filed under: Life and Culture
January 4th, 2011
10:42 AM ET

Child scavenges trash for family's survival

Five-year-old Marjan sniffles from the cold as she struggles under her load. Hoisted on her back is a bag almost as big as she is.

Instead of going to school, Marjan scavenges for hours with her 10-year-old aunt collecting trash. It is a heavy burden for such a small child but a necessary one. The trash she collects is what her family uses as fuel for cooking and, more importantly, to fend off Kabul's bitter winter.

It is a matter of life and death for someone so young.

UNICEF, the UN children's agency, says that Afghanistan is the worst place in the world to be a child. One in five children do not live past the age of five. Afghanistan is second only to Sierra Leone when it comes to child mortality. Most of those deaths are caused by curable childhood diseases and malnutrition, compounded by the security situation, which means that parents are unable to access proper health care.

Read more from CNN's Arwa Damon

Filed under: Life and Culture
January 3rd, 2011
08:20 AM ET

Battling abuse from behind a mask

"I had so many dreams for my life, but when I saw him, they just disappeared." Saraya spoke softly, her hunched-over body and nervously twisting hands testimony to all she says she has had to endure.

"I told my father I didn't want to marry him: 'why are you doing this to me?'" She continued: "My father said 'you are of an age to be married and this is my decision, not yours.'"

Saraya says it only took three days for her to realize she had been married off to a madman.

Emotions and turmoil she never dared publicly speak of tumble out freely - concealed, along with her face, behind a mask.

Half the mask is pale blue, the color of the "chaudari" or burka, symbolizing the oppression of women; the other half white, representing innocence.

This is Afghanistan's new revolutionary TV show called "Niqab," meaning "The Mask." FULL POST