On a snow covered plain close to the airport on outskirts of Kabul, fringed by the Hindu Kush Mountains, an illegal dog fight takes place. Banned by the Taliban, this historical and brutal sport has been on the rise since those fundamentalist days.
Unlike dog fighting in the west, where animals fight to the death, in Afghanistan, dogs are pulled apart when one begins to dominate, and likely damage its opponent. Dog’s are worth as much as $10,000, prize money can be the same, and so in fact the health of the dogs in this gladiatorial arena is always put first.
It is the spectators that are most at risk, both from the proximity of the powerful fighting dogs, the jostle of the frenzied gambling crowd, and the stick-beating of the commander-in-chief of the fights, a former refugee, toothless and prolific in the swinging of his baton.
As a western journalist, he extorts fifty bucks for the favour of photographing these canine battles, and he is the arbiter of fights, announcing winners and losers to the assembled thousands.
When I photographed these henna painted dogs, and published them online and in a UK magazine, I received fairly brutal treatment from fair-weathered dog lovers. An image can and most always does mislead, and most mistook the henna markings for the blood of injuries. And most assumed that the dogs died, which they don’t. So this portfolio has remained offline for four years.
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