The Innocent Children Whom The World Has Forgotten
by Asli Selcuk
The children come towards you from the darkness of the night: They are in rags, barefoot, their faces extremely tired. They carry sacks containing stale loaves of bread. These children fled from the cities of Kandahar and Herat, which were bombed by the US forces. In their struggle for survival, these hungry and forgotten children keep smiling despite all difficulties. When they are asked “Where do you come from?”, “From Heart”, they reply; to the question “Are you hungry, what do you eat?”, “We eat only bread which we can find only by begging”, they answer.
Maslakh (Slaughterhouse) is a refugee camp where 150 thousand Afghan refugees live under extremely difficult conditions. As if we live in the stone age: people try to sleep on the ground in caves, in tents, or in buildings once used as a slaughterhouse. For them, each new day begins with hunger, cold and despair, just like the day before. A father, who lost his one-and-a-half-year old helpless daughter at night because of storm and cold, sends the little girl to her last journey, trying to conceal his deep sorrow; her mother stays in the tent. These children lost their fathers, mothers and even their limbs; but they did not lose their joy of living with childish innocence, even amid the overwhelming poverty and destitution. They fly simple kites made of nylon and wood; they use shells to whistle as if composing a mysterious piece of music against injustice; they swing on their wooden swings. Their teachers teach them how to read and write by using cardboard. All the girls and boys are interested in learning; they take notes on scrap papers they collected from around. In their drawings, there are warplanes, bombs and dead people. The world seems to have forgotten these beautiful, innocent children who cannot live their childhood. Everybody promised them help, but no help has reached them so far…
Majid Majidi, the Iranian director, says he made his film “Barefoot to Heart” (2002) to throw some light on the continuous plight of the Afghans and to remind the world that their life has not changed a bit since all the world suddenly talked about them and promised to help. Majidi visited two refugee camps (Makaki and Mile 146) in November 2001 and went to the city of Herat and to Maslakh, the largest and oldest refugee camp in Afghanistan, in March 2002. His film reflects the impressive quest for survival of these proud people who are striving to recover from war and to form a new way of life; the film captures the reactions of the refugees expressing their memories, disappointments, despair and their unending resistance, hoping for a better life. In the twenty-first century, the age which is said to be the highest stage of humanity, Majidi depicts an unbelievable tragedy in a forsaken region of the world, where forgotten people and particularly innocent children living in unbearable conditions are crying for help. Hit by the atrocities of war and lost in physical turmoil, they say: “We are here, hear our voice and help us”.
© FIPRESCI 2004