Four Afghan brothers have pulled their family’s carpet out of the warehouse in the desperate hope of earning a living while the country’s economy is on the brink of ruin.
The Haidari brothers are now spending their days sitting next to each other on a squat bench – as generations of the family did before them – weaving the complex rugs for which Afghanistan is famous.
They work many hours every day and keep a brave face, although there is no guarantee that they have anyone to sell their rugs to.
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“We have no other option” to keep the family alive, said Ghulam Sakhi, the 70-year-old family patriarch.
Until August 15, when the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan, the Haidari brothers had managed to escape the pioneering work of carpet making and run a successful business of delivering flowers for weddings.
However, the harsh movement’s rigorous interpretation of Islam was largely paid for by the lavish engagements that the Afghans loved and the family business collapsed.
In a creative act in the face of adversity, they fell back on their family rug making.
“When the Taliban took over … wedding halls obviously did not have much business. Therefore, we started carpets again,” said Rauf, 28, the eldest of the brothers, who all live and work in Kabul.
“It’s a very old practice that our ancestors have inherited from us,” he said AFP.
Now they pick threads from dangling silk spiders before looping them into the carpet’s chain and shoots with precise, rhythmic energy.
And when the 12-meter (39-foot) rug is finished, they hope it will fetch up to $ 6,000 (5,300 euros).
About two million of Afghanistan’s 38 million people work in the carpet sector, according to Noor Mohammad Noori, who heads the National Carpet Makers Association.
But demand has taken a sharp hit since the Taliban took power, triggering an exodus of foreigners working for international organizations, he says.
Afghan rugs – from intricately woven silk presses to the simpler woolen trunk climbs – are sought after all over the world.
But over the past few months, “more and more people are making rugs,” says Kabir Rauf, a merchant in Kabul who describes his goods as “Afghanistan’s national treasures.”
New among the carpet-weaving workforce are women who cannot go to work, girls who are locked out of school, and unemployed men, he said.
In Herat, near the Iranian border, Haji Abdul Qader already employs about 150 families for his carpet manufacturing business.
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But every day he contacts him two or three more people, desperate for work. Even those without experience make contact.
“There are no other jobs,” Rauf Haidari said.
But those who have the skills have a chance to earn a living.
“A person who knows how to weave rugs will never be without work,” says Muhammad Taghi, whose family has worked with Haji Abdul Qader for a decade.
Taghi used to weave when he was younger, but now the work is left to his four children – aged between 17 and 24 – who make rugs next to the stove in the family home.
It will take them 120 days to complete four matching rugs of twice three meters, for which the family will earn about $ 500.
“I am proud of this work. We make these rugs in our country, which will be sold worldwide as Afghan rugs,” said Muhammad Taghi.
“I can send my girls and boys to schools and universities with this money.”
His youngest son Nassim, 17, who started weaving at the age of 10, still goes to school and dreams of becoming a doctor.
But for carpet retailers, a supply surplus brings its own problems.
Bank withdrawals are limited to $ 400 a week, said Haji Abdul Qader, who receives about five blankets a week.
“I’m afraid I do not want enough money to pay the producers.”
There are also few customers.
“Foreigners are not here to buy them,” Kabir Rauf complained as he sat idle at his Kabul market stall surrounded by hundreds of blankets.
The emigration of international organizations in the wake of the Taliban’s return has brought “the worst time” for business, he said, adding that he nevertheless remains optimistic.
Air connections to the Gulf have been restored, and from there his blankets can fly all over the world.
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