Afghanistan’s postal service trudges along despite decades of conflict

Afghanistan’s postal service trudges along despite decades of conflict

Every morning for the last 27 years, Ahmad Zaki has gone to work without fail; come rain, sunshine, or the years of war that have plagued his country, Afghanistan. 

Zaki joined the Afghan postal service – or Afghan Post – right after high school and has worked out of the Central Post Office in the Afghan capital of Kabul since. 

“Sometimes, we would be out delivering post and there would be rockets and bullets flying over our heads,” said Zaki, recalling his days working as a postman during the Afghan Civil War in the 1990s.

“We had to take shelter until the crossfire ended, and then we would continue our work.” 

Zaki, who is roughly 45, is one of a handful of employees who stayed in the service of Afghan Post despite the myriad wars and regimes his country has experienced – keeping the rusted wheels of the country’s waning postal service churning along, albeit slowly.

As the rest of the world fondly reminisces about the golden age of writing letters and postcards with colourful stamps, for the employees of Afghan Post, there is not the same appetite for nostalgia, given their memories of the recent past.

During a quick break from work, Zaki spoke to TRT World at the Central Post Office, located in a busy market area in the heart of the capital. He describes the hardships, pitfalls, and attempts to rejuvenate an institution he has dedicated his life to. 

“The civil war hurt the postal services the most,” he said, continuing: “But the Taliban regime that followed later did not do anything to develop Afghan Post.”

“It was so unorganised that if you came to the post office, you would see the employees lying on toushaks (traditional Afghan floor mattresses) with a glass of green tea.”

Capturing history through stamps

Afghan Post was established in 1878 by Afghanistan’s then ruler, Emir Sher Ali Khan, and was accepted into the Universal Postal Union in 1928.

Up until the conflicts that have plagued the country for the last three decades, the organisation was known for its reliability in connecting the country to the wider world, despite changing regimes and rulers. 

“You can trace the history of my country through the stamps we have catalogued here,” said 27-year-old Noor Rahman who has been working in the Central Post Office for the last five years, managing stamp sales. 

Rahman opens a large, thick, faded brown cardboard folder that holds thousands of stamps that have been issued over the years. Some honour the country’s many kings and leaders, others mark important days, and some provide a glimpse into Afghanistan’s past glories. 

“I love my job because it allows me learn and share little pieces of Afghanistan’s history and culture,” Rahman told TRT World while showing off a copy of the first stamp ever issued by Afghan Post.

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