On my most recent visit to the Mesopotamian marshes, in March, I arrived at Sayeed Hitham’s for breakfast. The pandemic had kept me away for more than a year.
The sun was just rising, the sky pink and golden. Hana, Hitham’s wife, stood smiling near the door to their reed house. “Tea is ready, bread is ready,” she said. “Come on in.”
We sat on the worn-out carpet around a glowing kerosene heater, sipping tea and dipping the flat naan Hana had just baked into hot buffalo milk. “What took you so long, Emi?” Sayeed asked with a tone of reproach. “We haven’t seen you in forever.”
battle for Mosul was raging, I took the opposite path and headed south. I was in search of another view of the country, something different from the war I’d been covering for the previous year and a half.
It was a moment of real discovery for me — one of those few times when you connectwith a place, with a people.
The Mesopotamian marshes, a series of wetlands that sit near Iraq’s southeast border, feel like an oasis in the middle of the desert — which they are. The ruins of the ancient Sumerian cities of Ur, Uruk and Eridu are close at hand. The broader region, known as the cradle of civilization, saw early developments in writing, architecture and complex society.
The marshes are home to a people called the Ma’dan, also known as the Marsh Arabs, who live deep in the wetlands, mostly as buffalo breeders in isolated settlements, a majority of which are reachable only by boat. Others live in small cities on the banks of the Tigris or Euphrates rivers, which feed the marshes.
Many of the Ma’dan left decades ago, when the marshes were ravaged by war, famine and repression.
During the Iran-Iraq war, waged between 1980 and 1988, the wetland’s proximity to the Iranian border turned the area into a conflict zone, a theater for bloody battles. Later, in the early 1990s, in the aftermath of a Shiite uprising against his Baath Party, Saddam Hussein intentionally drained the region — where many of the Shiite rebels had fled — as a punishment and a way to stifle the insurrection.
The marshes turned into a desert for more than a decade, until the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
By then, damage had already been done. By the early 2000s, less than 10 percent of the area’s original wetland existed as a functioning marshland.
Today, after being re-flooded and partially restored, the marshes are once again endangered — by climate change, lack of ecological awareness on a local level and, perhaps most dramatically, by the construction of dams in Turkey and Syria and upriver in Iraq.
In 2018, an extremely hot summer followed by a lack of rain caused a serious drought. In some areas, the water level fell by more than three feet.
“That’s it,” I remember thinking, as the small boat crossed the marsh where corpses of young buffaloes floated in the water. Buffalo breeders like Sayeed Hitham lost about a third of their livestock, and many had to leave when areas turned into a desert. They migrated to neighboring cities — or farther still, to the poor suburbs of Karbala, Basra or Baghdad.
But then, a few months later, the water began to rise. People returned. I photographed the renewal, just as I’d photographed drought the year before. But it felt then — it still feels now — like a sword of Damocles hung over the region.
The stakes are high, both ecologically and for the people who live here. If the already-depleted marshes dry up again, the Ma’dan may have no choice but to leave, to cast away from a peaceful enclave into a troubled land.
Still, I’ve kept coming back. Over the years, I’ve seen drought and abundance, freezing winters and burning summers. I’ve seen children born, and watched them grow up. I’ve followed Sayeed Hitham and his family as they moved around the marsh, the location of their new home dependent on the water level — and each time built out of reeds.
I’ve even gotten used to the huge water buffaloes, known locally as jamous, which represent the main source of income for most of the Ma’dan.
The buffaloes scared me at the beginning. But I’ve learned to walk through a herd of horns, to let them smell me, to pet the fluffy, friendly calves — the ones that try to lick my hand like oversized dogs.
When I outlined my progress to Sayeed, as we wrapped up breakfast, he burst into his wonderful, exuberant laughter. “You still know nothing, Emi,” he said. “You can’t even tell the mean jamous in the herd.”
Then, serious, and still smiling, he said: “It’s OK. You have time to learn.”
HAIFA, Israel — The wild pigs of Haifa might not fly, but they seem to do almost everything else.
The boars snooze in people’s paddling pools. They snuffle across the lawns. They kick residents’ soccer balls and play with their dogs. They saunter down the sidewalks and sleep in the streets. Some eat from the hands of humans, and they all eat from the trash.
The wild boars of Haifa, in short, are no longer particularly wild.
Once largely confined to the many ravines that slice through this hilly port city on the Mediterranean, the boars have become increasingly carefree in recent years and now regularly venture into built-up areas, undeterred by their human neighbors.
“It became like an everyday thing,” said Eugene Notkov, 35, a chef who lets his dog play with the boars that putter around the local parks. “They’re a part of our city,” he added. Bumping into one is “like seeing a squirrel.”
animal sightings increased after the pandemic began and people deserted public spaces. But Haifa’s boars started their conquest well before the coronavirus wrought its havoc. In 2019, residents reported 1,328 boar sightings to the city authorities — almost 40 percent more than the 2015 total. The Haifa City Council declined to release data for 2020.
Palestinian citizens of Israel, who form about 10 percent of the city’s population. It is the home of the leader of the country’s largest Arab political party, and its residents elected a female mayor before Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.
“I wish we could all in Israel learn to live like they live in Haifa,” said Edna Gorney, a poet, ecologist and lecturer at the University of Haifa. “It’s an example of coexistence — not only between Arabs and Jews, but also between humans and wildlife.”
For dreamers like Ms. Shahar, the painter, it feels almost unsurprising that boars should live cheek by jowl with Haifa’s humans. After moving to Haifa in 2008, she found a city that lends itself to the surreal, and began a series of paintings and drawings that explored what it would look like if the city were overrun with friendly tigers.
“I just had no idea there would actually be wild animals roaming the streets,” said Ms. Shahar. “It seems appropriate in some way.”
highly aggressive, particularly when with their young. In January, a boar bit a pensioner in the leg — the day after another boar made off with a schoolgirl’s pink school bag.
“They are controlling the streets now,” said Assaf Schechter, 43, a port worker confronted recently by a boar on his porch. “It’s a very crazy situation.”
Mr. Schechter’s teenage daughter sometimes calls him for moral support after late-night boar encounters, he said. His mother-in-law, Esti Shulman, has taken to carrying a stick in the street, after being run off the sidewalk recently by a pack of boars.
“They should collect the little ones and put them in a park,” said Ms. Shulman, 75, a retired bookkeeper. “Or take them to the Golan Heights! Or shoot them!”
This ire has been increasingly aimed at the mayor, Einat Kalisch-Rotem. At a recent public meeting convened by the Council to discuss the boar issue, hundreds of residents showed up to harangue her for three hours.
“This past Saturday,” said an Sarit Golan-Steinberg, a lawyer and Council member, “my husband came running back home because he ran into a 150-kilogram female boar!”
“Tell me,” Ms. Golan-Steinberg demanded, “do you think this is funny?”
Ms. Kalisch-Rotem has hardly been idle in the face of these powerfully built animals, which can top 300 pounds. Under her watch, the Council has fenced off parks and ravines, to choke the access points to the city — and fixed chains to trash cans, to limit access to food waste. But since the municipality has declined to release more recent data about the presence of boars, it is unclear whether these strategies have had an effect.
In the meantime, amateurs have attempted their own solutions. One group tried to build an app that could deter boars with subsonic sound waves. Others discussed leaving lion dung near boar hot spots, in the hope that the smell would deter the pigs.
Prof. Dan Malkinson, a wildlife expert at the University of Haifa, investigated whether boars could be repelled with urine, conducting his own informal experiment beside the lemon and loquat trees at the bottom of a friend’s garden.
“At night, I would go out, after a drink, and recycle the beer,” Professor Malkinson said. “It’s two for the price of one — you fertilize the trees and you try to deter the wild boars.”
Sadly, however, the boars kept coming.
But Professor Malkinson, who has researched the boars for years, and even tracked them with collars fitted with GPS devices, wonders if the boars are really Haifa’s biggest problem.
The tension that most needs a solution, he said, is not between boars and humans — but among the humans themselves.
“Essentially the conflict is between those who oppose having wild boars in the city and those who don’t,” Professor Malkinson said.
“It’s not an ecological problem,” he added. “It’s a social problem.”
Myra Noveck and Irit Pazner Garshowitz contributed reporting from Jerusalem.
Fifteen months ago I traveled to Portland, Ore., to visit the childhood haunts and homes of Beverly Cleary, the beloved and award-winning author of more than 40 books for children and young adults. I was accompanied by my husband and our daughter, all three of us aficionados of Ramona Quimby, us parents having read all the books as children, before rereading them aloud to our kid.
With an overseas move on the horizon, we had decided to visit the city that plays its own subtle but essential role in the author’s most popular novels: Portland, with its moody rain and splashy puddles, its streets named after regional Native American tribes, its welcoming libraries and worm-filled parks. The Oregon of Ms. Cleary’s childhood clearly inspired her imagination — among her books, close to half of them are set in Portland.
So in the last days of December 2019, we took a trip to the City of Roses, visiting the northeastern Grant Park and Hollywood neighborhoods of Ms. Cleary’s childhood. I didn’t know then that it would be our last family vacation before the coronavirus pandemic — and I couldn’t have imagined how often I would return to those memories during the months of our confinement.
When Ms. Cleary died on March 25 at the age of 104, my sorrow at the loss of an adored author who was declared a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress in 2000 was coupled with memories of our journey. Scrolling through the photos of our trip, the simple scenes of Craftsman homes, verdant parks, and crowded children’s libraries evoked a lost innocence.
As a child, I loved Ms. Cleary’s books because they didn’t condescend. Her characters are ordinary kids succumbing to ordinary temptations, such as squeezing an entire tube of toothpaste into the sink, or taking the first, juicy bite out of every apple in the crate.
As an adult, rereading the books aloud to my daughter, I was struck by their sense of timelessness — sisters struggling with sibling rivalry, parents grappling with financial worries and job loss. The author’s own father lost his Yamhill farm when she was 6, moving the family of three about 40 miles northeast to Portland — the “city of regular paychecks, concrete sidewalks instead of boardwalks, parks with lawns and flower beds, streetcars instead of a hack from the livery stable, a library with a children’s room that seemed as big as a Masonic hall,” she wrote in her 1988 memoir, “A Girl From Yamhill.”
I thought of that when I saw one of Ms. Cleary’s cherished childhood homes, a modest,bungalow near Grant Park, on a block lined with closely set houses. She romped with a gang of “children the right age to play with,” and their escapades made her yearn for stories about the neighborhood kids. “I longed for books about the children of Hancock Street,” she wrote in “A Girl from Yamhill.” In her stories, she changed Hancock Street to Klickitat Street “because I had always liked the sound of the name when I had lived nearby.”
We found the Klickitat Street of the books nearby, along with Tillamook Street, both named after Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest. As my 6-year-old daughter raced along, searching for vintage hitching rings, I pictured Ramona — or even a young Beverly — on these same sidewalks, stumping on stilts made from two-pound coffee cans and twine, or perching on the curb to watch the Rose Festival parade.
Over the next few days, we found the author’s former elementary school, a brick building now named the Beverly Cleary School, Fernwood Campus. We stopped by the Multnomah County Central Library, a stately brick structure downtown where she did summer “practice work” as a student librarian (and where the children’s section also bears her name). We ate doughnuts and pizza. We visited Grant Park, where the local artist Lee Hunt created a trio of bronze sculptures depicting three of Ms. Cleary’s cherished characters: Henry Huggins, his dog, Ribsy, and Ramona, posed, as if in motion.
Though it was a typical Portland winter day — wet — nothing could dampen my daughter’s joy when she saw her favorite characters rendered slightly larger than life. She ran to hold Ramona’s hand, beaming, and the picture I snapped will be forever burned on my heart.
For my daughter, the best part of the trip was our visit to the Willamette Valley town of Yamhill, where we glimpsed the turreted Victorian house in which Ms. Cleary spent the first six years of her life. We spent the night in a vintage trailer park nearby, sleeping in a 1963 Airstream Overlander, as I imagined the author might have done with her own young family. For dinner, we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, a meal that my daughter still describes as one of the best of her life.
These are the memories I’ve turned to over the past year as the pandemic has stolen away life’s simple pleasures. A wet afternoon at the park. Warming up at the library story hour. A cup of hot chocolate sipped at a crowded cafe. The rain beating on the metal roof of our camper van, reminding me of the creative inspiration that Ms. Cleary described in “A Girl From Yamhill”: “Whenever it rains, I feel the urge to write. Most of my books are written in winter.”
Before our trip, I had wondered if my daughter was too young for a literary pilgrimage — and perhaps she was, for there were moments when searching for yet another filament of the author’s girlhood tried her patience. And yet, though it was only a few days, our trip has captured her memory. She speaks of it now with crystalline precision, reminiscing of the last days before the strangest year of our lives began.
Our last morning in Portland found us a weary group of travelers as we waited to board our pre-dawn flight. We queued at the airport coffee counter for muffins and hot drinks — but when I tried to pay, the cashier told me that an anonymous stranger had bought us breakfast.
“Mama! It’s just like in the book!” exclaimed my daughter. It took me a few minutes to realize she was talking about a scene from “Ramona Quimby, Age 8,” when the Quimby family — worn down by financial worries, family squabbles and dreary weather — try to cheer themselves up with a hamburger dinner they can barely afford, only to have a kindly gentleman anonymously pick up their check.
That moment seems like a dream now, disconnected as we are from one another, all of us existing in our bubbles. But one day soon we will meet again and touch each other’s lives, not just as friends and family, but also as strangers. In the meantime, we have Beverly Cleary’s books to remind us.
Ann Mah, the author of the novel, The Lost Vintage, lives in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Bats, humans, monkeys, minks, big cats and big apes — the coronavirus can make a home in many different animals. But now the list of potential hosts has expanded to include mice, according to an unnerving new study.
Infected rodents pose no immediate risk to people, even in cities like London and New York, where they are ubiquitous and unwelcome occupants of subway stations, basements and backyards.
Still, the finding is worrying. Along with previous work, it suggests that new mutations are giving the virus the ability to replicate in a wider array of animal species, experts said.
“The virus is changing, and unfortunately it’s changing pretty fast,” said Timothy Sheahan, a virologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who was not involved in the new study.
only animals known to be able to catch the coronavirus from humans and pass it back. In early November, Denmark culled 17 million farmed mink to prevent the virus from evolving into dangerous new variants in the animals.
More recently, researchers found that B.1.1.7 infections in domesticated cats and dogs can cause the pets to develop heart problems similar to those seen in people with Covid-19.
To establish a successful infection, the coronavirus must bind to a protein on the surface of animal cells, gain entry into the cells, and exploit their machinery to make copies of itself. The virus must also evade the immune system’s early attempts at thwarting the infection.
Given all those requirements, it is “quite extraordinary” that the coronavirus can infect so many species, said Vincent Munster, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Typically, viruses have a more curtailed host range.”
Mice are a known reservoir for hantavirus, which causes a rare and deadly disease in people. Even though the coronavirus variants don’t seem to be able to jump from mice to people, there is potential for them to spread among rodents, evolve into new variants, and then infect people again, Dr. Munster said.
black-footed ferrets. “This virus seems to be able to surprise us more than anything else, or any other previous virus,” Dr. Munster said. “We have to err on the side of caution.”
Dr. Sheahan said he was more concerned about transmission to people from farm animals and pets than from mice.
“You’re not catching wild mice in your house and snuggling — getting all up in their face and sharing the same airspace, like maybe with your cat or your dog,” he said. “I’d be more worried about wild or domestic animals with which we have a more intimate relationship.”
But he and other experts said the results emphasized the need to closely monitor the rapid changes in the virus.
“It’s like a moving target — it’s crazy,” he added. “There’s nothing we can do about it, other than try and get people vaccinated really fast.”
MOSCOW — Russia’s state veterinary service said on Wednesday that it had become the first regulator in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine for animals, intended for use on fur farms or for pet cats and dogs.
The agency said it had developed the vaccine for animals in part as a public health tool, lest the virus spread from animals to humans or — in a worst-case scenario — mutate in animals and then spread back to humans in a more virulent form. It could also revive fur farming after infections on mink farms devastated the business last year, it said.
The agency, the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision, said it did not recommend routine vaccination of animals, for now. The World Health Organization has found no instances of infections in humans caused by pets, the agency said. Though cats and dogs do rarely catch the coronavirus, neither species gets very sick. Lions, tigers and snow leopards can also catch the coronavirus.
The Russian agency noted four reports of pet infections just in the last week, in Italy and in Mexico. It that said a vaccine for pets was needed as insurance against variants that might spread more easily.
culled millions of the creatures because of infection.
Denmark killed all farmed mink — some 17 million animals — after the virus spread from a mink to a human. Separately, a farmed mink in Utah seemed to have passed the virus to at least one wild mink. Scientists have raised alarms about the virus establishing a “reservoir” in wild animals that could later spread back to people.
Russia last August also claimed to be the first country to approve a human vaccine, Sputnik V, though other candidates were in fact further along in clinical trials at the time. It has since promoted Sputnik V to countries around the world, bolstering the Kremlin’s soft power.
Life can change in an instant, as I experienced when I first laid my eyes on a tall and bizarrely striking bird known as the greater adjutant.
It was India in 2018, in the northeastern state of Assam. I’d ended up there partly because of absurd circumstances, which involved being filmed for a reality television pilot while navigating a motorized rickshaw through the Himalayas. After traversing some of the highest and most dangerous roads in the world, including the Tanglang La mountain pass, I ventured off to see a traditional selection of endangered animals: Asian elephants, greater one-horned rhinos, western hoolock gibbons.
While en route to Guwahati, Assam’s capital, I saw a 5-foot-tall bird towering near the roadside. I was so taken by its appearance that I asked the driver to pull over so I could have a better look. It had piercing blue eyes, an elongated electric-yellow neck, a wobbly, inflatable neck pouch, long legs that moved with a stiff military gait, and spindly black hairs atop its (mostly bald) prehistoric-looking head. Little did I know that this outlandish animal — also endangered, though not famously so — would change the course of my professional life.
ecologically important water storage basin threatened by pollution and encroachment.
cattle egrets, were the spectacular greater adjutants, who were circling and stiffly marching alongside the other foragers.
rare and endangered scavengers.
taxonomic bias, since humans generally favor attractive mammals with forward-facing eyes. “The more people who see hargilas as a bad omen, disease-carrier and pest,” Dr. Barman told me, “the more I am obsessed.”
towel-like textile — with transfixing speed and expertise.
Carla Rhodes is a wildlife conservation photographer who lives in the Catskills. You can follow her work on Instagram.
Though Margo Price has long seen herself as a counterculturalist — especially within Nashville’s country scene — she has been spending the pandemic like many people: stuck at home and patiently waiting for it to be over.
“It’s kind of like the rug’s been pulled out from under me,” Ms. Price, 37, said in a recent phone interview. “I felt like this third album was going to be so fun to tour and play at festivals, and I had just taken so much time off after having a baby, too. I was really ready to get back to work.”
Her third studio album, “That’s How Rumors Get Started,” was released in July, but on May 28 she’ll get to perform it live for the first time, at an outdoor concert in Nashville.
Ms. Price is among many hopeful musicians who are collaborating with venues that allow space for social distancing.
Cash Cabin in Hendersonville. I’ve been working on two albums;being in the studio has given me a sense of purpose while I’m unable to play live shows.
11 a.m. Jeremy and I tune our guitars and do some vocal warm-ups. We play through a song a couple times to get a tempo and begin tracking it. We can overdub the rest of the band later.
1:15 p.m. We stop for lunch around the fire pit that’s burning here 24/7.
2 p.m. We track two more songs.
3 p.m. Jeremy leaves to pick up Judah. I stay to lay down guitar and vocals for another song.
5 p.m. I get home and take both children on a walk to the local church while my husband cooks dinner. (He does most of the cooking and is a phenomenal chef.)
5:30 p.m. We play hide-and-seek in an abandoned church. They don’t have services in here anymore, but our neighborhood pod is using it as a space to teach our children in.
6:30 p.m. We sit down to a home-cooked dinner. For the last five days, Jeremy was off recording his next album, so we’re celebrating him being home.
Frothy Monkey to grab some breakfast outside on the patio. I’m editing my memoir for the next few hours — I’m on the second draft and have to turn it in at the end of the month. (I’m on Page 30 of some 500.)
1 p.m. I take a Zoom interview with the “Poptarts” podcast for Bust Magazine.
2 p.m. I start editing the book again. Currently drinking my fourth cup of coffee.
Golden Hour Salon for my first haircut since the pandemic started.
Noon Back home drinking more coffee. I’ve been editing my book in a large walk-in closet that we converted to be a part-time office.
1:30 p.m. Jeremy took Ramona to the pediatrician to get immunizations.
2 p.m. I took advantage of the empty house and worked on a song. It’s so nice today, so I took a guitar outside to the swing and practiced finger picking while listening to the birds.
4 p.m. Everyone’s home, and we’re hanging out on the couch reading. Judah is whittling and sanding a stick he found — he wants to make a sword.
5 p.m. Jeremy and I pick up some suits from a place on Music Row called Any Old Iron. It’s owned by a local designer, Andrew Clancey, whose designs and beading are so psychedelic and artistic. I adore him. (He also makes great sequin and rhinestone masks.)
6:15 p.m. We pick up dinner from Superica, a great Tex-Mex restaurant, where I always order the shrimp tacos. They’re sinfully good.
7 p.m. My mom already put Ramona to bed since she missed her nap, so Jeremy and I are reading to Judah. It’s nice to give him extra attention when we can because the toddler demands so much.
8:30 p.m. I pour a tea and draw a bath.
9:30 p.m. Turned on the new “Unsolved Mysteries,” and I’m doing a little stretching and a free-weight workout. I used to go to the gym all the time, but since the pandemic, I’ve been forcing myself to work out at home.
Northern Americana. I made a playlist for International Women’s Day.
2:30 p.m. Ramona woke up from her nap, so we’re jumping on the trampoline.
6 p.m. My mom took the children on a long walk, but everyone’s back for dinner.
6:05 p.m. My daughter throws a huge tantrum (terrible twos are coming early here) so I spend some time calming her down. We take some deep breaths and sit in a quiet room.
6:20 p.m. I finally get her calmed and sit down to a cold plate of delicious food.
7 p.m. I give Ramona a bath and distract her with some washable bath crayons to paint on the bathtub while I sing and play guitar. Jeremy and Judah play Zelda in his bedroom.
7:30 p.m. The toilet overflows, Jeremy fixes it with a few choice four-letter words, I laugh.
8 p.m. We’re all reading books, kissing foreheads and saying good night.
10 p.m. We turn on “Judas and the Black Messiah.” The house is trashed, but I don’t care — I’ve cleaned all week, and I’m tired. We can worry about that tomorrow.
Julie Pomagalski, a two-time Olympian for France in snowboarding and a former world champion, was killed in an avalanche in the Swiss Alps on Tuesday, French sports officials said on Wednesday. She was 40.
The accident occurred in the canton of Uri, according to the Swiss authorities, who said that Ms. Pomagalski was among a group of four people who had been freeriding on a mountain, Gemsstock, when a slab of snow broke loose for unexplained reasons. Freeriding is snowboarding or skiing on ungroomed backcountry terrain, in contrast to a course.
Three of them were swept away by the avalanche, with two dying and one person hospitalized, a police report said. The French ski federation identified the other person who was killed as Bruno Cutelli, a guide and a mountain rescue unit member.
A helicopter and two search dogs responded to the mountain, but Ms. Pomagalski and Mr. Cutelli had been completely buried by the time they arrived, the authorities said.
European Avalanche Warning Services, 85 people have been killed in avalanches across the continent so far in the 2020-21 season. Europe averages about 100 avalanche fatalities annually, the organization said.
Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which tracks fatalities in every state. The total number of fatalities for all of last season was 23.
Ms. Pomagalski was born Oct. 10, 1980, in La Tronche, France, which is near Grenoble. Details about her survivors were not immediately available.
She came from a line of alpine sporting enthusiasts.
In 1934, her grandfather Jean Pomagalski, a 29-year-old engineer at the time, invented the first surface lift in Alpe d’Huez in the French Alps, according to a history of the Poma Group, a company he founded. The lift carried skiers about 705 feet and a vertical distance of about 210 feet, according to the company’s website. The Poma lift name became widely associated with chair lifts.
KABUL, Afghanistan — Civilians in Afghanistan’s capital live in constant fear of being killed in a targeted attack as the war with the Taliban and other extremist groups drags on. But at night, a different war is being fought — against criminals, and packs of stray dogs stalking the streets.
The shop owners in one Kabul neighborhood speak of a shadow government.
“There are dogs and armed thieves who make people’s lives here hell,” said Fahim Sultani, a local elder who works from the empty dusty hulk of the run-down Aryub Cinema in the northwest part of the city, which he has converted into a makeshift office.
As Afghanistan’s economy has been battered by the coronavirus, crime has flourished in Kabul. Just after the lockdown last year, the dogs on Mr. Sultani’s street, and a handful of security guards, watched what has become a staple in the city: An ice cream vendor in front of the theater was shot at and robbed, he said.
The stray dogs roam throughout the city and are a strange and sad fixture of Kabul, known for snapping, snarling and attacking people passing by, mostly those just trying to eke out a living. By day, the animals rest, conserving their energy until twilight, when they, along with the criminals, command the streets.
report from the Afghan Analysts Network. The Ministry of Interior Affairs declined to provide crime data for the past year, but in early 2020 the uptick in incidents pushed government officials to ban the use of motorbikes — the primary method of travel for many criminals — though the ruling was barely enforced.
Bearing the brunt of such lawlessness are shop owners like Mohammed Ibraheem, whose small shop that sells drinks and snacks less than a mile from Aryub Cinema is swathed in darkness after sunset. The few streetlights and the steady glow from nearby restaurant signs quickly fade as the road edges along a hill. At the top of the hill is a decaying palace from the 19th century.
Mr. Ibraheem, 20, has worked in his shop for at least seven years. His tired voice sounds as if it comes from someone three times his age.
In the last year, he has been forced cut his hours, coming to work late in the morning and leaving in the early evening to try to avoid both the dogs and the thieves. There are now fewer hours during which he can make a living, he said, as he stood near the cardboard boxes in his shop filled with chips and sodas.
“The government and the police, they do what they can,” Mr. Ibraheem said. “But they don’t have the capacity to fight dogs, terrorists and thieves.”
Two shops down, Jawad, 50, who like many Afghans uses just one name, said he was earning half of what he usually made in the past because he too has had to shorten his work days.
“It’s mentally traumatizing,” said Maryam Sultani, 19, a woman who lives next to the theater but bears no relation to Mr. Sultani. She has heard stories from her father about when they used to show movies there decades ago.
“From one side there are the dogs that keep you from leaving the house and from the other it’s the thieves,” she said.
The animals are easily identifiable, the criminals not so much.
Near the shopkeepers’ neighborhood, atop a hill-turned-graveyard-turned-kite flying-arena, a group of friends have opted for peace with the pack of dogs that live among the headstones. On a recent day, a gaggle of half a dozen or so children — all local boys from the area between the ages of 9 and 14 — have appointed one of their own as their certified dog whisperer. Sometimes the boys feed the dogs; other times they play with them. Mostly they just try to coexist.
It is a move rooted in strategy they reckon, so that Four Eyes, Red, Big Feet and Rex — as they’ve come to call the dogs — won’t attack them at night. And maybe, just maybe, the dogs might defend them against any of the nefarious two-legged species lurking in the dark.