Chad Dear, Mountain Societies Research Centre, University of Central Asia:
The text below is from a boxed text in a fairly unusual guidebook titled "Ski Afghanistan: A Backcountry Guide to Bamyan and Band-e-Amir."
Hussein Dad and his family come from Saeed-abad village at the bottom of Dukani Valley in Bamyan Province, Afghanistan. Like many inhabitants of Bamyan, Hussein Dad’s family sought refuge in the Koh-e-Baba mountain range when Taliban militants arrived in the autumn of 1999. The Taliban subsequently blockaded the valleys leading to the Koh-e-Baba, preventing supplies from reaching people hiding in the upper valleys. Displaced families survived through the generosity of their host communities and by gathering the few remaining edible and medicinal plants of the season. With food shortages and the bitter cold at the onset of winter, however, many did not survive.
Hussein Dad’s father was frail with sickness and his older brother was fighting the Taliban so he was responsible for caring for his family, though still only a young teenager. He spent days walking through the Koh-e-Baba, avoiding the Taliban-controlled lower valleys, to reach Kalu, a community with access to food and other supplies. He loaded donkeys with essential supplies and trekked back through the mountains to bring food to villages in the Dukani Valley and the hundreds of displaced people they were hosting. Hussein Dad undoubtedly saved many lives and was a hero to the people he served.
In 2010, for the first time since the fall of the Taliban, Hussein Dad returned to the upper Dukani Valley where he and his family had first fled eleven years earlier. He loaded donkeys again, not with relief supplies this time, but with skis. As a member of the Bamyan Social Tour Guide
Association, Hussein Dad was organising the first multi-day, donkey-supported ski tour in the Koh-e-Baba. With the return of peace, he hopes to supplement his farming income by helping skiers and other tourists to explore the Koh-e-Baba.
The Koh-e-Baba mountains hold painful memories of struggle and loss for the people of Bamyan. These mountains, however, are perhaps their greatest asset. They provide food, water, medicine, fuel and grazing for domestic animals. In times of conflict, the Koh- e-Baba provide security and refuge. In times of peace, the mountains can be a valuable tourism resource. Today, once again, Hussein Dad hopes the Koh-e-Baba will help support his family.