CALGARY — A dramatic photo of a young Afghan boy sitting by a wall with his two prosthetic legs in plain sight offers a rare glimpse at the human side of the conflict that has racked Afghanistan over the last decade.
“It’s my favourite,” says Stephen Thorne, a reporter for The Canadian Press, who took the photo. “I think at the time I was there it was about 100 Afghans a month who were killed or disabled by landmines. We were in a traffic jam in Kabul and I looked out the window of the truck and there was this kid.
“He’s got two prosthetic legs and the look on his face just tells his story.”
It’s just one of the arresting photos and gripping videos now on display at the Military Museums in Calgary as part of the exhibit “Afghanistan: A Glimpse of War.” It will be in Calgary until July.
It was originally unveiled at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa and is mostly comprised of photos from Thorne and video from documentary filmmaker Garth Pritchard from Priddis, Alta. Both men have made several trips to Afghanistan.
Dean Oliver, director of research and exhibitions at the Canadian War Museum, said the exhibit is unique and continues to be updated.
“It is unusual in that Afghanistan is an ongoing conflict,” Oliver said. “It has had a beginning in which we are gathered, but it hasn’t had an end. So there were some challenges for us as a museum in presenting historical material that was open-ended.
“It isn’t a narrative or a chronology. We made no effort really to try and tell the history of Canada’s involvement in the Afghan war, in large part, because the records aren’t yet available.”
Thorne came back from Afghanistan with a load of memories and a deep appreciation for what people there have been going through.
“Two things impressed me about the time I spent in Afghanistan: one is the commitment and bravery of our troops — I saw them do things I couldn’t believe — and the other was the strength and fortitude of the Afghan people who at that time had been through 25 years of war.
“This was kind of the pinnacle of my career.”
Lt.-Col Dan Drew, who served three tours in Afghanistan, said the exhibit will help Canadians understand what soldiers are doing over there.