Kapisa carpet imports Afghan carpets have experienced a shortage of carpet imports

Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

Shams Frough opened Kapisa Rugs, a rug store in Evanston, in March 2020 to earn some money before starting medical school and to support weavers in Afghanistan.

When Shams Frough graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago, he had two major goals: to earn a little money before starting his medical studies and to support the weavers in Afghanistan.

The Taliban took control of the Afghan government and captured the capital Kabul on August 15, 2021.

“I knew that the economic situation and the personal situation were going to deteriorate,” he said. “I wanted to help in any way I could. I didn’t have the money to help a significant number of people, but I thought if I could sell the products, I could help people find jobs.

He opened Kapisa Rugs, an Evanston rug store, in March 2020, and began selling hand-woven rugs imported from a number of countries, including Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan, to achieve these goals.

According to The World Bank, economic growth in Afghanistan was “weak” at the start of 2021, as the Taliban took control of much of the country amid a pandemic and severe drought. In early August, the World Bank said the Taliban had earned 57% of total customs revenue, or about 27% of total government revenue.

Frough sought out rugs from Afghanistan in part because he feared the industry was dying. He said the trend in recent years has led to a decline in carpet production in Afghanistan.

Herat, a city in western Afghanistan, was once a major carpet exporter, Frough said. In the past few years, he said Herat production was dead.

All of these changes affected Frough’s business. After the fall of the US-backed government in Afghanistan last year, countries like Pakistan closed their borders in anticipation of a wave of refugees. Some of the rugs he had purchased could not make it to Pakistan, and by extension, to his shop in the United States.

Until September, Frough said there was almost no chance of getting rugs directly from Afghanistan, so he was only able to buy Afghan rugs that had already been exported to Pakistan or the states. -United.

“Once I was able to buy from Afghanistan again, I did,” he said. “Weaving is one of the only industries that was strong enough during the civil wars in 2011. We have to keep the activity going, so people can continue to weave and don’t have to migrate.”

Frough said it was important to boost the local economy. A UNHCR report published in December noted that 23 million people in Afghanistan faced hunger, with 70% of teachers working without pay.

Mo Jamali, owner of Connoisseur Oriental Rugs in Evanston, said it was also important to continue buying rugs to support a creative outlet in countries at war.

Growing up, Jamali said he didn’t understand the impact of the carpet trade. He worked for two years in Iran after college and learned about the ins and outs of the carpet industry there.

“It was my first introduction to weaving products,” he said. “It took me more than twenty years to realize that I was stupid for not understanding the right of expression of the person who creates and sells art from his own imagination.”

Even given the civil war in Afghanistan, Frough hopes the efforts of carpet shop owners will help create opportunities for this creative outlet and revitalize the weaving industry in the country.

He said the presence of aid organizations in the country, in addition to massive unemployment in industries like the government, could even develop the industry.

“Rugs are one of the few things in war that support families,” he said. “If we are not able to continue importing carpets, people will have to leave. Already around two to three million people are involved in the carpet trade in Afghanistan –– we have the potential to save many people from losing their lives.

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