Children of Kabul (Review)

April 17, 2012 | Monique Marie DeJong

When a mother awakens her children, it’s usually to usher them to school, but for Omid in Children of Kabul, his mother’s voice awakens him to a harsh reality: “Omid, my dear. Get up. Go to work.” Over 1.5 million children in Afghanistan are forced to work for their families’ survival, according to UNICEF reports. In Omid’s case, the Taliban killed his father and cousin, and his mother injured her back and was subsequently fired from work. Because his family has no head of house, he, like so many Afghan children, is the family’s breadwinner.

Co-directed and produced by Jawad Wahabzada and Jon Bougher, Children of Kabul is a short documentary with a humble and rare look into the lives of four Afghan child laborers: Fayaz pounds metal at a blacksmith shop, Omid washes cars, Yasamin scavenges through dumpsters, and Sanabar cooks food to sell in the market.

Jawad knows these children’s stories all too well: At the age of seven, he worked eight-hour days in a factory making Persian rugs. “I was born two years after the end of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. After the Taliban took control of Kabul, things changed for worse. They closed schools to females and only taught us hateful materials to brainwash us. Since I was not learning anything useful in school, my father put me to work in a rug factory so that I could learn a trade. At age seven, I had to work long hours in the sweatshop, while my friends played soccer just outside the rug factory. Our working conditions were terrible, especially during the hot summer days, when we would sweat all over and the factory provided no fans or air conditioners. I worked for four years, but I was fortunate enough to move to the United States, where I received an education.”

Jawad Wahabzada and Jon Bougher on location in Kabul

It was not difficult for filmmaker Wahabzada to find children for his documentary. “Walking around Kabul, it is hard not to notice so many kids as young as five or six working in the busy and dangerous streets of the city. Some sell candy, shine shoes, and beg to help their family survive, while others take jobs in mechanic shops or vend in the crowded markets,” he said. When Wahabzada asked what the children dreamed of becoming, they said professor, engineer, or doctor, even though they do not attend school.

Yasamin wants to be a teacher, so she can teach respect and morals and rebuild her country—but without an education, her future, and the future of Afghanistan, isn’t promising. “Each of these children, affected in different ways by the war, provide a snapshot of the country while hinting at a dangerous future,” said Wahabzada. “I knew that, without help, they would never get that chance to become a professor, engineer, or doctor. So, it was heartbreaking to listen to their sad stories and not to be able to do anything help their situation.”

Wahabzada wants to change this ominous outlook not only by raising awareness, but also by raising funds to help the children in this film. “Our goal is to enhance the lives of these children and empower them as individuals,” he said. The film was screened at RiverRun International Film Festival, and Wahabzada hopes it will travel throughout the US.

If you would like to make a donation or sponsor one of the children in this film, please visit

For information on screenings of Children of Kabul, visit the film’s website

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One Response to “Children of Kabul (Review)”

  1. [...] few months. Check the film’s website for a schedule of screenings. Monique DeJong has written a review of the [...]

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