Afghanistan’s Economy Blooms
By ANN MARLOWE
Except for the clothes, Amiri Park could be any park in the United States: kids jostling for positions on swings and seesaws or chasing each other over the grass and gravel paths. One boy makes long arcs with his inline skates; teenage girls parade new clothes. Families picnic on the grass, and others dine al fresco at a Turkish restaurant. The air is fresh and cool, while in the city, it’s dusty and hot.
This is Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh Province in northern Afghanistan. Mazar is an eight-hour drive from Kabul and a different cultural region, dominated by Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkmen and Hazaras. Amiri Park occupies one-sixth of a “new town” of 648 acres planned to accommodate 30,000 people. It’s an Afghan version of a gated community, though anyone well off enough to own a car or hire a taxi to get here can use the park without charge.
Its creator, Khaled Amiri, an unassuming man of 49, has never lived outside Afghanistan and speaks no foreign languages. But through private enterprise, he is showing Afghans a new way to live, which represents just about everything the U.S. would like to see in Afghanistan.