Balloons bring smiles in war-weary Afghan capital

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Artists and activists handed out 10,000 bright pink balloons to residents in Afghanistan's war-weary capital on Saturday, bringing smiles to surprised Kabul residents a day after a major Taliban siege on an international compound in the city.

Each balloon contains a written message of peace from volunteers around the world, said Colombian-American artist Yazmany Arboleda, who organized the "We Believe in Balloons" day.

More than 100 Afghan artists and other volunteers were up before dawn Saturday to put the messages inside and fill the balloons with helium. Then they took to the streets of downtown Kabul's riverfront to distribute them to passers-by.

The colorful spectacle clearly delighted many Afghans, even as the war with Taliban insurgents grinds into its 12th year since the U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban's hard-line regime.

Just the day before, a militant assault in the heart of Kabul killed four people plus the six attackers.

"This brings color to Afghanistan and I want to see my people smiling and happy, said 22-year-old Afghan volunteer Nargis Azaryun as she passed out the balloons.

She added "We hope that by giving away 10,000 pink balloons, we will give this city 10,000 ideas of life beyond war."

Arboleda, who has launched similar events in India, Japan, and Kenya, said the Afghan version is important to allow the world to see the country's people, not just the conflict. "I see this project as a platform that transforms the single story of catastrophe that the world sees in Afghanistan into multiple narratives that highlight our shared humanity," he said.