n many ways, the luck of where you are born dictates the course of your life: Some passports are simply more powerful than others.
A recently updated index from Henley & Partners, a London-based consulting firm that specialises in citizenship services, attempts to quantify the power of passports, judging the top passports in the world by the amount of visa-free travel they entitle their owner to. For 2016, the index found that Germans held the most powerful passports in the world for the third year in a row, closely followed by a slew of other European nations and the United States, Japan and Canada.
The least powerful passport listed? Afghanistan.
In fact, in the 11 years that Henley & Partners has been ranking the power of passports from recognised nations, Afghan passports have come in last seven times - every year since 2010. The only countries that have ever placed below it are South Sudan and the Palestinian territories - one is among the youngest sovereign states in the world, and the other is diplomatically recognised by few countries in the West.
But while the Afghan passport is perhaps the least useful in the world, for Afghan citizens it is usually all they have.
Last summer, as the security situation in the country worsened, many Afghans headed to the country's lone passport office in Kabul in a bid to prepare for a journey abroad. Australia's ABC News reported that some Afghans were camping outside the passport office overnight to get their documents, with the office overwhelmed as applications skyrocketed. "If you come after 5am, you have no chance to file your application," one man told ABC (the office later bought some new passport printing machines to help with the surge in demand).
Many of those who get their passports will try to make it to Europe, travelling along a notorious migrant route that goes via Turkey and has become known as the "Black Route." After Syrians, Afghans are among the most common nationalities seen among the wave of refugees reaching Europe. But they face an unpredictable response from authorities - unlike Syrians or Iraqis, they are often not granted refugee status and are forced to return home.
BRIEF HISTORY: SINCE 2002, PRESS RESTRICTIONS WERE GRADUALLY RELAXED AND PRIVATE MEDIA DIVERSIFIED. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND THE PRESS IS PROMOTED IN 2004.
SINCE THEN MORE THAN 30 AFGHANISTAN BASED TELEVISION CHANNELS BOTH TERRESTRIAL AND SATELLITE AND AROUND 100 RADIO FM STATIONS STARTED OPERATION IN THE COUNTRY.
FOREIGN RADIO STATIONS, SUCH AS VOICE OF AMERICA AND BBC WORLD SERVICE, ALSO BROADCAST INTO THE COUNTRY.