You choose, we deliver
If you are interested in this story, you might be interested in others from The Journal Gazette. Go to www.journalgazette.net/newsletter and pick the subjects you care most about. We'll deliver your customized daily news report at 3 a.m. Fort Wayne time, right to your email.

World

  • Small Iraqi peshmerga force enters Syrian town
     SURUC, Turkey – A vanguard force of Iraqi peshmerga troops entered the embattled Syrian border town of Kobani from Turkey on Thursday, part of a larger group of 150 fighters that the Kurds hope will turn back an offensive by
  • Africans worst responders in Ebola crisis
     JOHANNESBURG – The head of Africa’s continental body did not get to an Ebola-hit country until last week – months after alarm bells first rang and nearly 5,000 deaths later.
  • Japan expands stimulus to spur recovery
     TOKYO – Japan’s central bank expanded its asset purchases in a surprise move today to shore up sagging growth in the world’s No. 3 economy.
Advertisement
Associated Press
In this Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 photo, Afghan "Eagle" paintball club staff members load paintball bullets into a gas-powered gun in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

With a splat, paintball fires into Afghanistan

Associated Press
In this Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 photo, a man aims his gas-powered gun at his opponents while playing paintball in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

– The hidden gunman, dressed in long green coveralls and a SWAT-team-style vest and helmet, looks ominous as he takes aim and fires off a short burst.

But this isn’t a Taliban attack in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital – it’s just a friendly game of paintball.

The arrival of recreational paintball to Afghanistan may seem peculiar to outsiders, especially in a country that’s known decades of war, faces constant bombings and attacks by Taliban insurgents and is preparing its own security forces for the withdrawal of most foreign troops by the end of the year.

However, it shows both the rise of a nascent upper and middle class looking for a diversion with the time to spare, as well as the way American culture has seeped into the country since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to topple the Taliban.

“These people deserve to have more fun,” said Abbas Rizaiy, the owner of the “Eagle” paintball club in central Kabul.

Rizaiy brought the game to Afghanistan just a few weeks ago. He’s a longtime fan of the first-person shooter video game “Call to Duty” and stepped up to the next level by playing paintball in neighboring Iran where he was born.

He moved to Afghanistan 10 years ago and eventually decided to open the club this year in Kabul, a city more associated with real bullets than ones that splatter paint.

For those who have never suffered a welt from the game, paintball involves participants geared up in helmets, goggles and protective clothing firing at each other using gas-powered guns that shoot paint pellets. The games can be complicated affairs that last for hours or as simple as a capture-the-flag contest that lasts only a few minutes.

Naqibullah Jafari, a marketing officer in Kabul who came with his friends one day, acknowledged that they didn’t have much of a strategy when he took to the field – other than to shoot each other.

“It is my first time that I came here, and I don’t have any special tactics in this game,” he said, with his goggles pushed up to his forehead and his weapon at his side.

Rizaiy said he hasn’t had many issues with the neighbors, though he turned down the speed at which the weapons fire to reduce the noise. Instead, he said the biggest challenge was to get the paintball guns as the ones he imported from India got stuck for six months in Afghanistan’s bureaucracy-laden customs department.

Paintball is one a small number of leisure activities that have sprung up in Kabul since the fall of the Taliban. A bowling alley called “The Strikers” opened up a few years ago and a number of pools around the city provide a place for residents to splash around in the summer months. There’s also a 9-hole golf course a short drive outside of Kabul.

But most of these activities are geared toward the city’s small, upper- and middle-class elite who can afford the admission. And customers are overwhelming male because of Afghanistan’s conservative society, which deems it generally not acceptable for women to go to activities involving men who aren’t relatives.

Rizaiy said he’d like women customers, but said women don’t want to be stared at while wearing all the warrior gear.

This year is one of many transitions for Afghanistan, with a presidential election that is still undecided and foreign troops scheduled to leave the country. Rizaiy said he thinks at least some U.S. troops likely will stay, providing stability for Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, his customers seem to appreciate the irony of firing toy guns in a country flooded with the real thing.

“We can use guns for positive things and also for negative things,” customer Ali Noori said. “These guns are for entertainment.”

–––

Follow Rebecca Santana on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ruskygal

Advertisement