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‘I Could Just Vanish.’ In Kabul, Pocket Notes to Prevent Anonymous Death.

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Tareq Qassemi, a bookseller, misplaced a detailed pal to a suicide bombing that killed 80 civilians in Kabul one scorching summer season day. Four years later, he nonetheless mourns his pal, but additionally the anonymous Afghans who perished with him.

“Their bodies were shattered — the only thing that remained was a shoe or a bag or a pen,” he recalled.

Mr. Qassemi, 28, now carries a particular slip of paper, generally known as a pocket observe, that accommodates his full title, his blood kind and the telephone numbers of members of the family — like a do-it-yourself, civilian model of a soldier’s canine tags. He is aware of too properly how fragile and ephemeral life in Kabul may be, and he refuses to turn into an unidentified sufferer.

“I could get killed on my way to work or in a car or anywhere, and no one knows about me and they will look for my body everywhere,” he mentioned. “I could just vanish.”

The bearers of pocket notes hope the slips of paper will assist emergency medical staff establish an injured individual’s blood kind for a lifesaving transfusion. They may additionally assist authorities rapidly summon members of the family for treasured remaining moments with a mortally wounded liked one. And they might assist establish a badly disfigured corpse.

For some younger folks, the pocket observe has turn into a necessary ingredient of each day life. It can validate human existence — an id marker guaranteeing that if violent loss of life comes, it doesn’t should be nameless.

“If something happens to me, who will collect my body? What if I need blood?” mentioned Masouma Tajik, 22, a pc science scholar in Kabul, whose household lives a whole bunch of miles away.

Those questions confronted Ms. Tajik when she was caught in a Kabul site visitors jam one current day, terrified {that a} automobile bomb would possibly explode at any second, she mentioned. She now carries a slip of pocket book paper along with her private info. The observe says, “If anything happens to me.”

In the years because the 2001 American invasion unleased a lethal Taliban insurgency, every new day has introduced the potential of sudden loss of life by automobile bombing, taking pictures, roadside explosion or rocket assault.

Since signing a February settlement with the United States, the Taliban have curtailed mass-casualty assaults in city facilities. But the nation has seen an increase in focused assassinations, singling out authorities functionaries, prosecutors, journalists, spiritual students and civil society activists in near-daily assaults with weapons or magnetic bombs hooked up to autos. The authorities has accused the Taliban of finishing up most of those killings, however they’ve repeatedly denied accountability.

Some officers fear that at the very least a few of the assaults are being dedicated by political factions outdoors the Taliban to settle previous scores, a disturbing development reminiscent of Afghanistan’s civil warfare a technology in the past.

At the identical time, the Islamic State has claimed accountability for current suicide bombings and different mass-casualty assaults in Kabul. A suicide bomber killed 44 folks at a tutoring middle on Oct. 24, and gunmen killed 21 extra at Kabul University on Nov. 2.

The fixed menace of a sudden, brutal loss of life has left many Afghans with a way of despair and fatalism. The most prosaic acts can finish violently — commuting to work, visiting a pal, shopping for groceries, striding right into a classroom.

“Every morning when I leave home, I am not sure if I’ll come back alive,” mentioned Arifa Armaghan, 29, who works for a nongovernmental group.

“This is how we live in Afghanistan,” she added. “It is not just me. I talk to some people who say goodbye to their families every morning because they don’t know what will happen to them during the day.”

Ms. Armaghan has carried a pocket observe since July 2017, when a detailed childhood pal died in a Taliban suicide assault on a authorities minibus that additionally killed 23 different folks. The physique of the pal, Najiba Hussaini, was recognized by her trademark silver ring, studded with a turquoise-colored stone.

“When you lose people you know, you feel that you are next, and you feel death coming closer to you,” Ms. Armaghan mentioned.

After each mass bombing, she mentioned, she and her pals ship pressing textual content messages to family members. “There is always a fear that someone will never get back to you,” she mentioned.

Some of those that carry pocket notes say they’ve thought of leaving the nation.

“But it is hard to decide when my brain is busy thinking about who will come to kill me,” mentioned Mujeebullah Dastyar, 31, a geographic info specialist. For the previous two years, he mentioned, he has carried a pocket observe together with his title, blood kind and a relative’s telephone quantity.

Some Afghans have posted messages on Facebook, warning of threats in opposition to them or detailing premonitions of loss of life.

Burhanuddin Yaftaly, 24, a former lieutenant within the Afghan military, was shot and killed by a Taliban gunman whereas attending his sister’s marriage ceremony within the northern province of Badakhshan in December. The bride was wounded when she tried to avoid wasting her brother, police mentioned.

Mr. Yaftaly’s father, Khairuddin Ziaye, 61, mentioned his son had been threatened by the Taliban. Shortly earlier than his loss of life, Mr. Yaftaly posted a remaining observe on his Facebook web page: “Dear friends: I am sorry for any mistakes I have made in the past. I have been receiving many threats from different sides. I think I won’t be able to survive anymore.”

In Western nations, folks routinely carry an array of things that may establish them, however in Afghanistan, issues like driver’s licenses and worker badges should not as widespread, and bank cards should not used. Afghans are issued a tazkira, a nationwide id doc, however few carry the cardboard as a result of appreciable effort and time are required to switch it if misplaced.

Rafi Bakhtiar, 21, a marketing consultant, mentioned he has carried his tazkira because the Kabul University assault on Nov. 2. That day, he mentioned, neighbors searched into the evening for his or her daughter, a scholar, earlier than the college confirmed that she had died within the assault. The college used a contact quantity in a telephone discovered on the scholar’s physique to name Mr. Bathtiar’s sister, a detailed pal.

“If I get killed, there should be evidence on me so people can get in touch with my family, and they don’t search the whole city to find my body,” Mr. Bakhtiar mentioned.

Like many Kabul residents, Mr. Bakhtiar mentioned he had contempt for insurgents who kill civilians, however he additionally blamed the American-backed authorities for failing to safeguard its residents.

“If the government doesn’t do anything to protect us, you lose your hope and you can’t dream for a better future,” he mentioned.

Mr. Bakhtiar mentioned he had accepted the cruel actuality that he might die, capriciously and violently, on any given day anyplace within the capital.

“We are broken. We are shattered,” he mentioned. “The angel of death is flying over Afghanistan.”

Najim Rahim contributed reporting from Kabul.



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