Facing a severe lack of facilities for the treatment of addicts and the mentally ill, Afghan people often resort to the medieval methods employed at the Mia Ali Baba shrine.
The shrine, located about 30 kilometers east of Jalalabad, was founded over 300 years ago by Mia Sayed Ali Shah, known also as Mia Ali Baba, an adherent of the Chishti order of Sufism who also developed the treatment methods employed there.
Since its founding, the shrine was used to treat people suffering from mental disorders or suspected of being possessed by evil spirits.
In this photograph taken on May 7, 2017, a mentally ill Afghan patient eats bread as he sits chained to a wall at the Mia Ali Baba holy shrine in the village of Samar Khel on the outskirts of Jalalabad
Those seeking treatment only receive bread and water for sustenance, and are only allowed to wash their faces, hands and feet; their hair and nails must be left uncut, and they aren’t permitted to change clothes or to use soap during their ablutions.
In this photograph taken on May 7, 2017, a mentally ill Afghan patient drinks water as he sits chained to a wall at the Mia Ali Baba holy shrine in the village of Samar Khel on the outskirts of Jalalabad
The 'patients' are being held at the shrine for at least forty days. Those who get discharged have to drink a broth made of simmered ram’s head as part of the cleansing ritual.
In this photograph taken on April 25, 2017, a mentally ill Afghan patient sits chained to a wall at the Mia Ali Baba holy shrine in the village of Samar Khel on the outskirts of Jalalabad
However, if their relatives are not in a hurry to collect them, or if the staff deems that their charges require further time to be cured, patients may remain at the shrine for months. Those who end up dying during their confinement, as the diet of bread and water often proves inadequate in terms of sustenance, are buried at the shrine’s courtyard.
In this photograph taken on May 2, 2017, a mentally ill Afghan patient has his lunch of bread and black pepper as he sits chained to a wall at the Mia Ali Baba holy shrine in the village of Samar Khel on the outskirts of Jalalabad
The shine is currently being managed by a group of about 70 people, the descendants of its founder.
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