Microeconomics

A Security Guard in Afghanistan

Text: Benjamin Hiller
Photo: Johanna-Maria Fritz

Mohammed Isah is 40 years old. He and his wife have seven children. He comes from Ghazni, a town about 150 kilometres south-west of the Afghan capital, Kabul. Because of the fighting there between the army and the Taliban he and his family moved to Kabul eight years ago. Now he works as a security guard at an apartment block in the west of the city. Isah has no special training, but he learned how to use firearms as a boy.

Earnings, basic costs, provisions for old age

Mohammed Isah works every day and is paid €157 (£142) a month. The rent for his apartment in a working-class district is €28 a month. His two oldest children attend a free state school, but it costs about €8 a month for extra courses and materials. The rest of his money goes on food and clothing for the family. In winter, Isah often has to borrow €20 to €30 a month to buy charcoal for heating. He has no health insurance or pension provision. His employer pays his taxes.

What does work mean to you?

I don't like my job. But unemployment is very high in Afghanistan. And as I have only ever worked as a mercenary or security guard since I was 17, I can't find anything else.

What is the most important thing in your life?

It is enormously important to me to have a permanent job. I want to earn enough so that my children will be able to study one day. I want them to have a better life than mine.

What would you like to change about your life?

I would like to be able to live in peace. And I would like to have a house of my own again.

What are your biggest problems and how do you cope with them?

I have trouble breathing because of an injury to my neck and I ought to have an operation. But I can't afford that. I also had to sell my house to pay debts. Now it's just a question of struggling for survival.

What do you do for a special treat?

I haven't got the money for that.

What do you expect from the future and what are you doing to achieve it?

I hope that one day there will be lasting peace in Afghanistan and that I can do a job that I don't need a firearm for.

Do you feel fear when you are working as a security guard?

I have been doing it for eight years and I am always afraid of being killed in a terrorist attack and my family having to manage without me. Before I became a security guard, I escorted US army supply convoys to Kandahar. During a gun battle then I was wounded in the neck. That still gives me nightmares and I am afraid that something bad like that will happen to me here in Kabul.

Afghanistan

Population: 33 million
Currency: afghani (AFN) (73 AFN = €1= £0.90)
GDP per capita: €513
Human Development Index 2015: 169th place
(Germany is fourth, UK is 16th out of 188 countries)

Current average costs

1 litre petrol: €0.67
1 chicken: €4
1 kilo beef (boneless): €5
1 cabbage: €1.14
1 egg: €0.11