Economy

Former Faryab government employees turn to carpet weaving to make ends meet

By Muhammad Qasem

image

In this picture taken on November 21, Afghans weave a carpet in a house on the outskirts of Herat province. [Hector Retamal/AFP]

KUNDUZ -- To provide for their families, some former government employees have turned to carpet weaving in Faryab province following the collapse of the previous government in August.

Abdullah Qarqin, a former official who worked at the police headquarters of Faryab province, told Salaam Times that he turned to carpet weaving because he does not want his children to end up begging on the streets.

"I have been jobless for almost four months now. I have no income, and there is no work. I had to start carpet weaving to provide for my family," Qarqin said on December 6. "I learned carpet weaving and can now weave all kinds of carpets."

Qarqin said he has been working in a carpet factory in Maimana, the provincial capital of Faryab, since October, earning 500 AFN ($4.81) daily.

Mohammad Ali Baihaqi, a former employee of the Faryab Revenue Bureau, said someone else has replaced him in his old office since September and he can no longer work for the government.

He turned to carpet weaving in November, he told Salaam Times on December 7.

"One shouldn't lose hope," he said. "I didn't know how to feed my children after I lost my job. I started carpet weaving, and now I am hopeful for the future."

"I make 500–600 AFN ($4.81–5.77) daily, and I am happy that I can support myself," Baihaqi said.

Industry challenges

The valuable work is precarious, however, as carpet traders say that the industry has been facing serious challenges since the fall of the previous government.

The carpet industry is in decline in Faryab province, Abdul Nazar Nazari, a carpet trader, told Salaam Times, adding that both production and sales have dropped in recent months.

"I used to trade three or four rugs a day, but now I can't sell that many in two months," he said. "There are tens of thousands of dollars worth of carpets in every shop, but there are no buyers."

The carpet industry will be destroyed if the situation continues, he said.

Carpet weavers and traders in Faryab province say that factors such as low-quality dye and the abundance of cheap Iranian rugs in Afghan markets are the main reasons behind the decline of the carpet industry.

About 90% of the population of Andkhoy district, Faryab province, earn their living from the carpet industry, but some families have had to leave the industry because of economic problems, said Khudadad Affandi, a carpet factory manager in the district.

Annual rug exports from Andkhoy to Pakistan used to number in the hundreds, with each carpet costing up to $1,000 (104,000 AFN). But now, exports have dropped by more than 90% and the price of each carpet has decreased to as little as $400 (416,000 AFN).

Customers are poor and prefer to buy foreign carpets for lower prices, he said.

"The price of a square metre of Iranian carpet is 100–150 AFN ($0.96–1.44) in the market, but a square metre of Afghan carpet costs up to 2,000 AFN ($19.23)."

Ming Murad, a resident of Bagh-e-Bustan village in Qaisar district, Faryab province, told Salaam Times that four of the eight members of his family weave carpets.

"The carpet market was very good in the past. A lot of people, including women, worked in the industry, but it declined, which has left traders concerned about the its future," he said.

"The centuries-old culture of Afghan carpets will disappear in Faryab if this situation continues," he warned.

Efforts to revive the industry

The Carpet Exporters Union in Faryab says that it is trying to help revive the industry.

The carpet industry is now at risk from negligence and increasing poverty and unemployment, Mohammad Saleh Qalinbaf, a member of Faryab province's Carpet Weavers Union, told Salaam Times.

No measures have been taken to support the industry to help recover it from its decline, he said.

"Members of the Carpet Weavers Union held several meetings to discuss supporting the industry by improving carpet production and export processes," he added.

"We are working hard to support the carpet industry and carpet production in Faryab so that we can create jobs for thousands of unemployed Afghans as we did in the past," Qalinbaf said.

He expressed concerns about the slow market, adding that the price of carpets has dropped by 70% compared to the past, discouraging carpet weavers and even prompting some to quit the industry.

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The carpet weaving project was run by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development under the Rural Economic Strength's program for the returnees during the presidential era, which has started in May 2017 in eight provinces of Afghanistan. It was funded by the Ministry of Finance of Afghanistan which's purpose was to create work opportunities for the returnees and develop the country's industries. As per that time's estimations, during the project, a total of 5000 carpet weaving machines were distributed in various provinces, including 1000 in Nangarhar, 370 in Laghman, 1000 in Kabul, 500 in Parwan, 500 in Baghlan, 630 in Balkh, 720 in Herat and 280 machines in Kandahar province. Together with a raw carpet material, the machines were distributed to 5000 families in 35 districts of the eight provinces. The project covered 72% females and 28% males, which was a development in the area of providing work opportunities to the women; however, upon the Taliban's takeover of power, their honor which was protected in the carpet weaving centers, was destroyed. Everything was destroyed, and many honorable women were forced to beg on the streets. The Taliban, who have promised to bring an Islamic system themselves, do not know the meaning of Islam. Anyway, now the Taliban are responsible for developing the carpet weaving industries and working in a way that they can provide vast work opportunities for both the males and females because it was they who cut people's loaf of bread. No

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It is good news that people returned to weaving carpets, especially when there are few or no work opportunities. Instead of begging and other inappropriate works, it is better to do such works. This will make the family members busy. The government's job is to find an international market for the products. On one side, the country's industry will develop, and on the other side, the jobless people will find work opportunities. Those of the people who have spoken here are true, their positions were occupied who even do not know how to run it, but they only have occupied the positions. They don't care whether they know or not, but they have created problems for the people and the country. However, suppose one is not feeling guilty to his conscience and can do his duty properly. In that case, it is considered worship when a seminary pupil considers himself as the dealer of Islam and still has no capacity for work. This is not worship and offends the people.

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Working in the office, weaving carpets, or doing similar other works are not prohibited in the religion and are considered worship. It makes Allah pleased and causes progress and development for humans. Not all people need to work in the offices, but doing other things like weaving carpets has its role. However, I don't mean that the Taliban should fire the professional people and recruit only Mullahs.

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