For centuries mystics have channelled hopes and fears of Afghans. With the nation in turmoil, their services are as popular as ever. But can they survive the latest crackdown by religious hardliners?
Last November, Abdullah Sharifi visited a spirit medium. By his own admission, Sharifi was the last person you would expect to indulge in mysticism. Twenty-two years old, tall, handsome, with slicked-back hair, Sharifi usually wears blue jeans and a leather jacket, and walks with a swagger. But by that autumn, he had lost the spring in his step.
Five years earlier, Sharifi had begun working as a shopkeeper’s assistant in Kabul selling carpets, gemstones, and other souvenirs. His customers were the hundreds of thousands of foreigners who came to Afghanistan following the US-led Nato invasion in 2001. They were experts, advisors, aid workers, and adventurers, each with their own ideas about what Afghanistan needed the most. Sharifi sold them chapan robes with vertical stripes, the kind worn by former president Hamid Karzai, or Jinnah caps made from the fur of aborted lamb foetuses – things foreigners could bring home and brag about. Business boomed.
Shah’s most popular service is a taweez, a tailor-made amulet containing Qur’anic verses that serves as a talisman
To summon djinns, you must go to a deserted area – ideally a cemetery, but an unattended construction site will do Continue reading...