One Afghan refugee’s stunning photographs of the country’s ‘many stories that need to be told’

by Joey Watson with pictures by Muzafar Ali

Muzafar Ali, who lives in Adelaide, grew up as a refugee in Pakistan after his family fled Afghanistan in the mid-1980s. As a child, the only pictures he saw of his birth country were through Taliban-issued jihadi calendars and the occasional news report.

Photo: Muzafar Ali / The Guardian

Ali is Hazara, a long-persecuted ethnic group who faced extreme violence from the Taliban after the Soviet Union left Afghanistan in 1989. Refugee rights were limited in Pakistan, and Ali left school early to work and support his family. When he was 16, the conflict spilled over the border and a suicide bomber struck near his house. Ali helped carry away the bodies, among them members of his football team.

Ali was a young man when the western-backed government took power in Afghanistan. When he returned he found it a relief to be home.“I came to Afghanistan for the first time in the year 2004 and realised that it’s much more beautiful than those images from those old photos on jihadi calendars. People are craving peace and progress … they were so happy about the fact they could select their MP and they can have their own representatives in the parliament. And women were visible on the streets.”

Ali got a job with the United Nations as a political analyst, which gave him unique access to some of the most remote parts of the country. He bought a camera. He wanted to capture the beauty of his country and share it with its people…