Doing His Job: RIP Shah Marai

All photos by Shah Marai

As journalists stateside squabble over a comedian's jokes, long-suffering media in Afghanistan mourn the deaths of ten colleagues among the at least 25 people killed in twin suicide bombings in Kabul. Among those killed was Shah Marai, Agence France-Presse's much-esteemed chief photographer, who for 20 years documented the devastation and resilience of his homeland. In a gruesome twist, the second bombing deliberately targeted journalists who had come to cover the initial attack. Among those killed were three journalists with Radio Free Europe - Abadullah Hananzai, Sabawoon Kakar and Maharram Durrani, who worked on a weekly women's program - Yar Mohammad Tokhi with Tolo News, andreporter Ghazi Rasooli and cameraman Nowroz Ali Rajabi with Afghanistan's 1TV; BBC reporter Ahmad Shah was also killed in a separate attack in the Khost region, making for the deadliest day for media in Afghanistan in 15 years. In a third attack, 11 children were also killed in a bombing in Kandahar province.

For some longtime journalists, the loss of Marai, a "hero photographer," was particularly painful. In over 18,000 images distributed by AFP since 1998 - here, here, here - he captured the horrific violence gutting his country, as well as the enduring humanity of its people, beauty of its land, and hunger for peace. In 2016, after the U.S. pulled out, he wrote “When Hope Is Gone,” describing "the golden years" after the Taliban was gone, when the streets were filled with foreigners, "children would run ahead of them (and) everywhere was safe." But it didn't last. Reportedly haunted by the losses all around him, he was also buoyed by his humor, his love for his six children - most recently, his new-born and only daughter - and his organizing of ping pong and volleyball games to keep up office morale. After his death, colleagues expressed resolve and anguish at the "devastating blow." "NO, we can't lost Marai," said one. "On days like this, truth sucks," said Mujib Mashal with the New York Times. "He was doing his job, like he had over two decades." Above all, they said, "Please look at his pictures - he lost his life trying to show us."

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