Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Everything For My Bike

Young men in Helmand spend all their cash on motorcycles and accessories.
Motorbikes are popular in Helmand, especially among young people. In fact, some young people spend everything they have on their bike.

Hassan Hamkar is an IWPR journalism trainee but he also works as a motorcycle repairman. We sent him out to talk to some obsessive bikers:

I’m standing in front of a motorbike repair shop. Some people have brought their bikes in for repair, but just as many bring them just to make them more beautiful.

Here comes a young guy whose bike is covered in flowers, mirrors, and extra lights.His name is Khudai Nazar, and he says, “I’ve put a lot of extras on my motorbike. Here’s a security switch, a cell phone charger, and some stuff just for looks. If there’s no electricity I can charge my phone off the bike. I put some extra lights and mirrors on, too. I’m spending 100 to 150 afghanis every day on my motorbike.”

That kind of expenditure isn’t much for Khudai Nazar. But others are spending money they don’t have. I’ve repaired motorbikes for people who say they’ve gone without food to pay for it. Others borrow the money.

Matiullah rides an expensive Honda. He’s just a poor student but he says he’s obsessed with his bike.

“I love my motorbike. I clean it every day. I’d never let anything happen to it. And I never forget to change the oil,” he says.

The motorcycle business is on fire. Mahmad Naser imports bikes from China and other countries to Lashkar Gah. He says he sells ten to 15 a day in the city, and consignments of 100 at a time to dealers in the districts.

“We bringing a lot of bikes in from China and Iran. The most popular brands are Niko and Herman Guester Part, because the bikes from these companies are very robust and perform well in remote areas,” says Naser.

Naser sells twice as many motorbikes in summer, as that’s when young Helmandis spend the money they’ve earned harvesting poppy on new bikes.

Hamkar Hassan, for IWPR radio in Helmand.

More IWPR's Global Voices