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Kabul Journal: There Are No Chickens on Chicken Street. Now There Are No Customers Either.

April 21, 2018

“They’re fakes,” the shopkeeper cheerfully explained. “But real brass.”

Almost anything can be found carved from lapis lazuli, a semiprecious, deep blue gemstone native to Afghanistan. Globes of the world, tables, crockery, necklaces of thousands of beads are all typically sold by their weight in lapis, $41 a pound to those in the know, often no extra charge for workmanship.

Outside, the mouthwatering smell of kebabs grilling over charcoal in long metal trays on the sidewalks wafts along the street, although nowadays it mingles, probably more than ever, with the odor of raw waste running down open sewers.

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When Chicken Street had its greatest boom, in the years right after the American-led invasion in 2001, enterprising developers tore down many of the little two-story shops with their corrugated metal awnings and replaced them with multistoried emporiums, homes to dozens of shops each. But they didn’t build new sewers.

“The newly rich came, and destroyed Chicken Street,” Mr. Abdullah said.

That was not what drove Mr. Abdullah to pull up stakes for Turkey. “In the end, children make the decision,” he said. He worried constantly about his own being snatched on the way home from school. “It wasn’t even the bombs so much. Worse than that was the fear of kidnapping.”

Shukrullah Ahmadi, a jeweler, learned the hard way about that.

He and his brother Noorullah had just bought an expansive new building on Chicken Street for half a million dollars, complete with a secret covered passageway in the back, leading to a rug and antique furniture shop down the street, which they also owned. This way they could run both shops, popping up in whichever one had patrons.

Kidnappers abducted Noorullah Ahmadi at gunpoint, then sent Shukrullah Ahmadi a video of his brother being tortured; they cut off Noorullah’s ear. Shukrullah sold his family’s home to raise the ransom money. When he met the kidnappers to hand it over, they were in police uniforms, their faces unmasked.

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