|Written by The Afghan Hound|
|09 Jul 2009|
“Alcohol... Now there’s a temporary solution.”
In a country full of half-measures and empty promises the wisdom of Homer Simpson definitely hits the spot here. The Islamic Republic Afghanistan has never been Destination Numero Uno for cheap-booze-seeking western holidaymakers but it does host somewhere in the region of 15,000 ex-pat NGO workers, spooks, journalist and various other meddlesome logo-splashing, flag-planting do-gooders. Lets call them legal non-combatants. The majority of whom, judging by the various parties and shindigs I have attended over the last year, have a predilection for getting shit-faced on a regular basis.
This place is awash with highly educated, influential movers and shakers. People who are shaping the future of this fragile nation and responsible for helping allocate the billions of dollars of Foreign Aid that is pouring into Afghanistan ($30 billion at the last count).
These erstwhile members of the development community, ‘let go’ with such gusto that they put the ladies and gents of Newcastle’s Bigg Market to shame. The dress code here is slightly more conservative but it’s not an uncommon sight to see flashes of ‘Booze Britain’ in the compounds, offices and embassies of Kabul over a weekend. Only these aren’t minimum wage slaves getting lashed on alco-pops. That guy passed out in the garden is more than likely to be the Head of Counter Narcotics for the EU Commission or a finance director of The World Bank. On Thursday nights we fit the infidel stereotype like a silk glove.
I’m not excluding myself in this particular slating about the debauched behaviour. Guilty as charged your honour! And to be fair it’s not exactly ‘Apocalypse Now’ with Playboy Bunnies hanging out of Chinooks over the Kabul River, but once the cork comes out of the bottle it pretty much stays there. It’s a stressful business working here and people need to let off steam. Most people would agree that alcohol is a necessary lubricant to life out here.
That is until now. A new law going through parliament this week aims to change all that. Afghanistan's parliament has passed a tough new bill mandating harsh punishments for alcohol. Those who buy, sell, or consume the evil brew can be fined, imprisoned, or given 60 lashes with a whip, all in accordance with Sharia law. Apparently that’s anybody caught with alcohol. That means you Mr Infidel Kharaje.
The international community is reacting to this crisis with the usual mixture of fear and over-reaction. I have witnessed first-hand colleagues ordering well over $1000 of alcohol from their various sources who have warned them of the impending drought. Apocryphal tales of planes full of vodka being seized at customs and Chinese whispers of the impending prohibition and crackdown abound at dinner parties across the city. There is also a sense of disgruntled pious outrage; “this is a bit bloody galling coming from a government whose country provides 90% of the world’s heroin” said one anonymous diplomat.
Like any commodity in short supply this will also possible mean possible price hikes. For the overpaid contractor it’s not an issue but for this member of the journalistic community who’s already balking at $5 for a small can of beer it’s a disaster. So what can be done? I suggested a protest march in Massoud Square. I can see it now… What do we want? Al Co Hol… When do we want it?... Right Fucking Now!
I started with a quote from Homer Simpson so I think another alcohol-addled celebrity can lead us out… Over to you Liam, “it’s a crazy situation, but all I need are cigarettes and alcohol”
The Afghan Hound