According to the American Medical Association, around 70 percent of the Afghan population suffers from psychological disorders. Mentally challenged people face discrimination and their families suffer.
"Mohammad! Madman!" the children cry after him. They laugh and make jokes. Mohammad does not know how to answer and shouts back angrily at his tormentors: "Not me! You!"
The 16-year-old is just one among many mentally handicapped in trouble-torn Afghanistan. The authorities are not in a position to supply any reliable numbers. Mohammad lives with his parents and two sisters in one of the poorer areas of Kabul. The whole family suffers with him - when he is restless, his mother orders him out of the house so that she can have some respite. No school will accept him because of his hereditary mental disability - and there are no special schools for people with mental illness in Afghanistan.
Mohammad was very often sick in his childhood, his mother relates. Local doctors told her that he could be cured, but that the treatment would cost a lot of money. "We don't have any money and cannot afford that kind of treatment," she sighs.
"Otherwise we'd have sent him to the doctor." An alternative would be to bring him to a "marastun," a psychiatric clinic but these are only to be found in big cities and they do not have a very good reputation when it comes to treating patients.
What is more is that prospective bridegrooms get cold feet Afghan women with mental disabilities have a further problem - it's very difficult to find a husband for them. The mother of 22-year-old Fereshta says that all prospective grooms bowed out as soon as they found out that she was disabled. Fereshta managed to finish the fifth class in school, although she was laughed at by her classmates.
Medical treatment didn't help. Her mother took Fereshta to the local mullah out of desperation. He told her he would cure her daughter. "He gave me an amulet. But when I came home Fereshta was even more difficult. I threw it away."