“Buskashì” by Gino Strada

This article is also available in: Italiano

Buskashì is one of the most beautiful texts ever written by Gino Strada, able not only to make us discover his post-11 September trip to Afghanistan, but also to make us question the meaning of the war


Buskashi is the Afghan national game: two teams of knights compete for the carcass of a beheaded goat. It is a violent game without rules: the only thing that matters is the possession of the carcass, or at least of what remains of it, at the end of the race. It is like the tragic game in which the numerous protagonists of the Afghan conflict participate, a game still in progress, except that instead of the goat there is the people of Afghanistan. Buskashì is the story of a journey into the war, which began on 9 September 2001, with the assassination of the leader Ahmad Shah Massud, two days before the attack in New York. A ‘clandestine’ journey to reach Afghanistan while the country is abandoned by all foreigners and the borders are closed. The arrival in the Panchir valley, the crossing of the front under the bombing to reach Kabul on the eve of the defeat of the Taliban, the conquest of the capital by the mujahideen of the Northern Alliance, the ‘liberated’ Kabul: the experience of war seen by the only Western witnesses to the capture of Kabul. A journey into the tragedy of the victims, and at the same time a reflection on war, international political politics, information and the world of humanitarian aid.

“Be the change you want to see in the world”

The sentence is one of the most famous ever produced by the great Mahatma Gandhi and I believe it is the most suitable for understanding the extent of the actions carried out by Gino Strada and Emergency, gestures of simple humanity which, however, cannot fail to strike the eyes of the rest of humanity which, out of ignorance, fear or convenience, has decided to turn away. Strada and Emergency were the only humanitarian association that, while everyone was fleeing Afghanistan after 11 September, decided not only to return, but even to reopen the hospital in Kabul, a place that would soon be filled with countless dead and wounded. The journey, however, was not at all easy and will put a strain on the nerves and safety of Strada and his team, giving even more value to this enterprise of simple love for one’s neighbor. With the cancellation of all flights to Afghanistan, in fact, the team first had to go to Pakistan and then from there cross the border through the Hindukush mountains, finding makeshift agreements with various figures of the local army.

“Justice is queen of virtues, so that whoever became righteous was freed from all vanity. Practicing justice is preferable to an entire existence of prayers and genuflections. And generosity itself is not, in both worlds, a higher virtue than justice. secretly cultivated. […] The chosen men did not obtain justice from anyone, but they did justice to many. “

From “The Word of the Birds” by Farid ad-Din Attar

However, due to the clashes, they were unable to go to the capital anyway, but found themselves spending whole weeks in the Panchir in one of Emergency’s hospitals, already starting to give medical care to the distraught population there. It will only be on 8 November that, thanks to some agreements with mujahideen and the Taliban, they will finally head to Kabul, overcoming a war zone and managing to reopen the hospital thanks to the support of the local government. It should be noted that Strada and his family also experienced firsthand one of the most difficult and dramatic moments of the 21st century in Afghanistan, as, just after they entered the city, it was abandoned by the Taliban and partially bombed by the USA & co. ., making doctors and hospital staff experience some of the heaviest and most dramatic days of their entire life.

War sucks.

Not just a diary of those dramatic days, “Buskashi” is a text that serves above all to reflect on what war really is and what its consequences are. We are used to reading in the history books that the army x defeated that y, but very few wonder about the effect that shooting, bombing, embargo or terrorist attacks leave to the population, the most numerous, defenseless and statistically the most hit. Buskashì throws all this in our faces and takes us off our pedestals, bringing us to touch the men and women who for the most part have turned into numbers. What is the fault of the students of a bombed school, a child who became an orphan even before he was born or even simply those who were forcibly forced to choose which side to take? Are anti-personnel mines really essential for “strategic goals”? But above all: are these goals really more important than human life?


The answer, at least on a personal level, seems to me quite obvious, but for this reason we must never stop applauding Gino Strada and the reality of Emergency, the only one not to abandon Afghans and other peoples in times of need, the ‘only one that, when everyone and I repeat ALL for comfort, fear and convenience, left Afghanistan, not only did he return, but also made false papers to enlarge and give as much support as possible to those who saw only a black tunnel in front of him. Wherever you are, may the hearts of those you have helped, with actions, example or writings, never stop thanking you, without you and your association the world would certainly be a worse place and perhaps we would have lost our hope.

If you are curious to read this book or “Green parrots” I warmly invite you to buy it on the Emergency website, in this way you can turn part of the funds to the realization of the projects of this great humanitarian association.

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