KABUL: Haji Mirzaman was just a teenager when he started taking photos using a homemade wooden box camera in his cousin’s studio in downtown Kabul.
He took black-and-white portraits of people for passports, identity cards and other documents using his “magic box” on a sidewalk, producing prints in a couple of minutes.
Now in his 70s, he says the instant camera — or “kamra-e-faoree” as it is known in Dari — has survived wars, invasions and a Taliban ban on photography, but is now in danger of disappearing because of digital technology.
“These cameras are retired now,” he told AFP at his small house in Kabul as he set up the box on its wooden tripod.
“I am just keeping this last remaining camera.”
The box is both camera and darkroom, and to show how it works Mirzaman put photographic paper and developing liquid inside the device in preparation for a shot.
He then briefly removed the lens cover and instantly created a negative.
Reaching inside the box through a light-proof funnel, he processed the negative and then developed a print.
In a few minutes, the photo was ready.
“Nowadays, photographers all use digital cameras… fewer and fewer people know how this camera works,” he said.
The boxes were made by local carpenters, he said, but the lenses were imported.
The golden age of box cameras in Afghanistan came when compulsory national service was introduced in the 1950s, meaning thousands of recruits needed photos for military identity cards.
The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 and forbade images of people, allowed Mirzaman to take official photos with his box camera.
After the group’s ouster, the machines thrived again when millions of students returned to schools and ID cards were made compulsory.
Since their return to power in August, the hardline Islamists have made no public declaration on taking pictures — and young fighters are frequently seen snapping photos of each other, or selfies, with their mobile phones.
Mirzaman has taught all four of his sons photography, but none now uses box cameras.
The family’s last remaining kamra-e-faoree is now on display outside their studio — a striking reminder of Afghanistan’s photographic history.
STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania: A 19-year-old Penn State student who had been reported missing probably died after falling 11 stories down a trash chute in her campus apartment building, authorities said Friday.
Justine Gross, a sophomore from New Jersey, was reported missing Nov. 11 after not returning to her room the night before.
Police said a municipal trash hauler had emptied a dumpster at the base of the chute early Nov. 11 and took the trash to a dump, where officers found her body early Nov. 12.
Officers reviewed surveillance recordings showing the woman was alone when she entered a trash room on the 11th floor of her building, campus police said. They believe her death was an accident but await toxicology and autopsy reports.
Gross’ mother said to NJ.com that she had been told by her daughter’s friends that she had met a man who gave her “a smoke” — referring to illegal drugs — shortly before she fell. She also raised concerns about some of her last communications with her daughter.
JERUSALEM: The reigning Miss Universe said Wednesday the long-running beauty pageant shouldn’t be politicized, even though its next edition is being held in Israel amid pressure on contestants to drop out in solidarity with the Palestinians.
The 70th Miss Universe pageant is being staged in the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat in December. Dozens of contestants from around the world will arrive there in the coming weeks to compete in national costumes, evening gowns and swimwear. They’ll also have their public speaking prowess tested with a series of interview questions.
But the pageant is in the spotlight for being held in Israel amid boycott calls against the country over its treatment of the Palestinians. At least one country has already called off their participation.
“Everyone with different beliefs, with different backgrounds, with different cultures, they all come together and when you are in there you forget about politics, about your religion,” Andrea Meza, the current Miss Universe, told The Associated Press ahead of a tour of Jerusalem’s Old City, the epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “It’s just about embracing other women.”
Meza, 27, represents Mexico and was crowned in May, during a COVID-delayed ceremony in Florida, where contestants accessorized their sparkling gowns with face masks. She hands over the crown in Eilat on Dec. 12.
Hosting the show is a coup for Israel, which for years has been confronting a grassroots Palestinian-led international campaign calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions. Israel hopes the pageant will help draw tourists and project an image of Israel as a safe destination during the pandemic.
Paula M. Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization, has said Israel has been on the shortlist of host countries “due to its rich history, beautiful landscapes, myriad of cultures and appeal as a global tourist destination.”
But contestants are facing pressure to boycott the event and set aside hopes for the crown to make a political statement.
PACBI, a Palestinian activist group and founding member of the boycott movement, called on contestants to “do no harm to our struggle for freedom, justice and equality by withdrawing from the pageant.”
Citing COVID, Malaysia has announced it won’t send a contestant. And South Africa’s government said it was withdrawing support for the country’s representative over her participation in the event.
“The atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians are well documented,” the government said in a statement, adding that it “cannot in good conscience associate itself with such.”
Both countries are strong supporters of the Palestinians.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment and requests for comment to the country’s Tourism Ministry, which hosted Meza’s visit to the Old City on Wednesday, were unanswered.
The boycott movement’s impact has been a mixed bag. It has notched a number of successes over the years, with major artists like Lorde and Lana Del Ray canceling appearances because of Israel’s policies. But big stars still have made stops in Israel and major events like the Eurovision song contest — which included a performance by Madonna — have been held in the country despite high-profile boycott calls.
The Miss Universe pageant will draw contestants from Morocco and the United Arab Emirates — Arab countries that recently normalized ties with Israel.
The boycott movement, known as BDS, promotes boycotts, divestment and sanctions of Israeli institutions and businesses in what it says is a nonviolent campaign against Israeli abuses against Palestinians.
Israel says the campaign is an effort to delegitimize and even destroy the country, and claims its motives are anti-Semitic. BDS leaders deny allegations of anti-Semitism, saying their campaign is against Israeli policies.
Meza said she didn’t fault women who wanted to sit out this year’s contest but she said she had no problem with the competition being held in Israel.
Jerusalem’s Old City, home to sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, lies at the heart of the decades-long conflict. Israel captured east Jerusalem, including the Old City, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war.
Israel later annexed east Jerusalem — a move not internationally recognized — and considers the entire city its capital. The Palestinians seek all three territories for a future independent state, with east Jerusalem as their capital.
Wearing a flowing, full-length dress with flat sandals, Meza meandered through the mostly empty cobblestoned alleyways of the Old City, stopping to peek into shops as a media scrum followed. Vendors, unaccustomed to seeing throngs since the onset of the pandemic, stared and wondered aloud about the attention Meza was drawing.
Meza, who is a software engineer, said she was “just a girl,” from a small town in Mexico who was not a “perfect and flawless” beauty queen. She said she had worked hard to become Miss Universe and that the competition wasn’t only about parading women in bikinis but also about testing their intelligence.
Asked if she could offer a solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, she said she didn’t believe in violence and that communication was key.
“People have to make compromises and I really hope that we can make this through talking and conversation,” she said.
LONDON: An online service dubbed the “Uber for Imams” has launched a diagnostic tool that promises to streamline access to tailored Islamic services.
ImamConnect launched last year during the height of the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown, allowing Muslims in the country and all over the world to access critical Islamic services such as counseling, wedding ceremonies and bereavement support online and from anywhere.
By linking imams, Qur’an teachers and other service providers with Muslims online, ImamConnect propelled Islamic-service provision into the digital-first world that the pandemic created.
The latest update to the platform, the Diagnostic Centre, allows users to quickly get to the root of their issues and connect with an imam or other relevant professional in order to help them quickly access the services they need, tailored to them.
“The Diagnostic Centre currently offers three tests that judge knowledge of the Qur’an, assist parents in analyzing how they interact with their children, and help married couples judge the health of their marriage,” said ImamConnect, adding that more than half of its thousands of users visit the Diagnostic Centre before accessing other services.
“The Diagnostic Centre enables people to understand their level of proficiency with the issues they face,” Muddassar Ahmed, the company’s founder, told Arab News.
“If it’s studying the Qur’an, they can figure out their level of proficiency. If it’s about their marriage, they can figure out how much intervention it needs. It helps them better understand where they need help.”
The company has been growing rapidly since its inception a year ago. “There’s a demand for people to access religious services in non-traditional ways,” Ahmed said.
“The pandemic accelerated societal trends in moving things online, but the trend was already there.”
As the world emerges from lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions, the company will offer both online and in-person services, Ahmed said.
DUBAI: Iran’s national football team have faced ridicule over the large amount of luggage they were carrying shortly after arriving in Beirut for their Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifier match against Lebanon.
The team landed at Beirut International Airport on Monday for the match on Thursday. Soon after touching down, images quickly spread on social media of Iranian players, administrators and coaching pushing airport trollies stacks with three or four large travel bags each.
The photos were accompanied by a barrage of comments ridiculing the players. Some even suggested the team could be smuggling drones and military equipment to the Iran-backed militia of Hezbollah.
Activists, bloggers and media and public figures joined in the frenzy.
One cynical Twitter user posted images in response of opened bags with cash inside and a comment saying the money was being smuggled to Hezbollah.
Others tweeted that since Hezbollah controls Lebanon’s borders and airports, the players may have dodged security checks to smuggle military equipment into the country.
In a reflection of Lebanon’s political divides, some social media users tweeted their support for the Iranian team and apologized for what they described by “politically motivated tweets.”
Some boasted that as Shia Muslims that they would cheer for Iran against their own country during the match at the Rafik Hariri Stadium in Saida.
Lebanon are riding high in third place in their World Cup qualifier group after a thrilling 3-2 victory over Syria in October. Iran are the group’s leaders.
Renowned Lebanese playwriter and actor, Ziad Itani, criticized the social media campaign against the Iranians and described it as “shameful and disguised” racism.
“It is a sports mission accustomed to their special food and training equipment, so there is no need for what happened … we don’t want our national team to face the same,” he said.
A Lebanese Football Association official told Arab News: “We are a sports body and Iran’s team came to play a football game … we don’t comment on issues that are obviously related to politics. Any team is free to bring as much luggage as they need.”
A security officer at Beirut International Airport, who spoke to Arab News on condition of anonymity, denied the team had sidestepped the normal security procedures.
“Any visitor is free to bring the luggage he or she needs, as long as they don’t contain illegal items,” the official said, adding that sports teams usually carry extra luggage and equipment.
However, the speculation caused such a stir that Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi contacted the head of airport security requesting an official investigation into the security checks and oversized luggage.
On Wednesday evening, Lebanese media reported that the contents of the bags was sports equipment and food for 10 days, and that Iran would be heading to Jordan after their game in Beirut.
LONDON: Malala Yousafzai, the campaigner for girls’ education and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who survived being shot aged 15 by a Taliban gunman in her native Pakistan in 2012, has got married, she said on social media on Tuesday.
The 24-year-old, who lives in Britain, said she and her new husband, who she named only as Asser, had wed in the city of Birmingham and celebrated at home with their families.
“Today marks a precious day in my life. Asser and I tied the knot to be partners for life,” she wrote on Twitter, adding four pictures to her post.
Malala gave no other information about her husband apart from his first name. Internet users identified him as Asser Malik, general manager of the Pakistan Cricket Board’s High Performance Center. Reuters could not confirm this.
Malala is revered in many parts of the world, especially in Western countries, for her personal courage and her eloquence in advocating for the rights of girls and women. In Pakistan, her activism has divided public opinion.
As recently as July this year, Malala told British Vogue magazine that she was not sure if she would ever marry.
“I still don’t understand why people have to get married. If you want to have a person in your life, why do you have to sign marriage papers, why can’t it just be a partnership?” she was quoted as saying in a lengthy profile.
The comment drew criticism from many social media users in Pakistan at the time.