Dead man in sea – Osama talks to medium

Dead man and the seaWe asked world famous occult medium, Mr. Abdul Qadir Awami Badami, to connect and communicate with Osama bin Laden’s soul, to ask him what really happened on the night he was shot dead in Abbottabad …

Mr. Osama, can you hear me? Mr. Osama?
Bubble … bubble … bubble

I think I have made contact with the departed soul. Mr. Osama, can you hear me?
Yes, where am I? Is this heaven?

No, sir, you are at the bottom of the sea.
Sea? Hmmm … yes, it does seem that way. Am I dead?

Well, yes. Kind of.
Hmm … how did I die?

I was hoping you could tell me that.
All I remember is that it was night and I was waiting for the Kakul guys to get my dinner, and then I heard these ’copters and thought maybe the Kakul guys were throwing me a surprise party or something and I got very excited, and …

The Kakul guys used to give you dinner?
Well, yes. Biryani on Mondays and Tuesdays, chicken chowmein on Wednesdays, steak on Thursdays, mixed veggies on Saturdays and Sundays …

And on Fridays?
On Fridays I used to call them over for dinner. One of my wives makes a darn good Yemeni stew.

I see. So they knew you were hiding there?
Of course, they did! They’re my wives!

I mean the Kakul guys.
Oh. Well, according to their intelligence reports, I was some rich Arab camel breeder and exporter.

Really? They didn’t bother to cross-check?
Let’s just say, I was not on their radar.

Must be the same radar that failed to pick the American ’copters …
I tell you, my men have better radars, hehehe … bubble, bubble..
By the way, you said that I was in hiding?

Weren’t you in hiding?
Not at all!

Then why did the Americans take 10 years to find you?
Those fools don’t know much about caves.

But you weren’t hiding in a cave, sir.
My friend, let me tell you, all of Pakistan is one big cave!

Then did the Pakistanis really know you were in the country all along?
My friend, they wouldn’t have been Pakistanis had they not known. Hehe … bubble, bubble.

Never mind.

So you are saying they knew?
Well I was … excuse me, I think I have a fish stuck in my ear. *Plop!* Ah, a red snapper! So, what were you saying? By the way, what is your name, brother?

Abdul Qadir Awami Badami
That is a strange name. Are you by any chance a Hindu?

Hmm … I guess I will have to kill you anyway.

But you are dead.
Oh, right, of course. Then I guess I will kill some fish instead.

Are you a seafood fan?
No, I just like killing infidels.

Infidel fish?
Yes, you have a problem with that, you idol worshipper!

How can fish be infidel?
Look at them! Swimming in the sea, all naked!

But they are fish!
And stark naked! Shameless.

Whatever, tell us about your stay in Pakistan
It reminded me of home.

Saudi Arabia?
No, Afghanistan, but with better cars and escalators.

But you’re a Saudi.
I’m a Muslim first. The best there was. And if you disagree I will get you killed. You are a Christian Crusader anyway.


Human being.

Any difference between human beings and Muslims?
Of course there is. That is why we only kill human beings.

But you and your al Qaeda and Taliban friends have killed thousands of Pakistani Muslims.
They were all bad Muslims.

How can you say that?
I don’t say. I blow!

No, you say, while others blow...
Those who blow have true faith.

Even the small children and infants who have died in these attacks?

So people who blow themselves up in mosques, shrines and markets are the only true Muslims?
It is much more complicated than that. A very complex concept.

Please explain.
You see, only those Muslims who blow themselves up in mosques, shrines and markets are the only true Muslims.

But that’s what I said.
You did?

I see … you Hindu!

Why did you say that?
Because you worship idols.

But to some, you are an idol too.
I am an ideal.

A pretty violent one though.
Yes, mashallah.

But I’m not forcing my beliefs on you.
That is because you are a chicken!

So I should impose them on you?
Yes. Come on, I invite you to convert to my faith. Where is your suicide jacket?

Where’s yours?
I deal in suicide jackets, not wear them, fool.

I know so many Muslims who are nothing like you.
They are not Muslims!

Then who are they?
Human beings! Ugh!

But I thought a good Muslim also meant being a good human being.
Jewish propaganda!

Well, as I … excuse me, I think I see a shark approaching.

Why don’t you move from there?
No worries. You know that red snapper that got stuck in my ear?

Well, I trained it to become a suicide bomber. It just exploded over the shark’s head!

But the shark did not attack you!
But it could have.

You’re sounding like George W. Bush. He, too, was into pre-emptive strikes, remember?
Ah, good ol’ Bushy. He was good for my business. But this Obama guy turned out to be different.

Different, how? In policy and in strategy?
No, in colour. He is black.

A human being, nevertheless.
That is the problem. The whole world should be Muslim, instead.

Yes, just like Bush wanted the whole world to become American.
Ah, good ol’ Bushy. Those were the days. Right, I guess I’ll kill you now.

But you’re dead. Buried deep in the sea.
They buried me here?

Yes, the Americans buried you in the sea.
Wow! Has Obama converted to Islam?

What do you mean? You were a Salafi, right?
Yes. I am amazed. How did he know we didn’t believe in marked graves?

But some of your fans around the world are criticising him for not giving you a decent Muslim burial.

So you are happy that they buried you in the sea?
Of course! Otherwise bad Muslims would have made a shrine at my grave. We blow up shrines, you know.

Yes I do. But this is amazing. You are actually happy at what Obama did?
Yes, but minus the shooting-me-in-the-head part, of course.

So you do remember that you were shot in the head?
Well, I really do have this bad headache and … well, I’ll be dammed! There’s a hole in my head! The buggers did shoot me!

The Americans?
Yes, who else? The Pakistanis?

So Pakistanis weren’t at all involved in your assassination?
Well, their only contribution to this was that on that fateful, tragic night they delayed my dinner. Buggers. Had to be shot on an empty stomach.

But the Taliban are blaming them and saying that now their top target is Pakistan.
Really? What was our top target before my death? Guatemala?

You tell me.
Hmmm … better warn Mullah Omar.

Why, is he hiding in Pakistan too?
Follow the dinner trail, follow the dinner trail …

So the Pakistanis did know you were there, right?
Pakistanis don’t know where they themselves are, forget about knowing where I was. What is the Pakistani media saying?

Some of their TV anchors seem shocked and sad.
Yes, one of them once worked as a cook for me and another used to give me great massages.

Can you name them?
No. Don’t want to give them undue importance. Let the ISI do that.

The ISI gives them importance?
Sort of. They give the ISI great massages too.

Can you be more specific?
Yes, I can. I. Want. To. Behead. You. You. Hindu. How is that for being specific, you cunning Jew?

Human being.
Same thing.

Chicken! Come on fight me, you Buddhist coward!

I am disconnecting from you now. May God deal with you in whatever way he thinks you are to be dealt with.
Darn. I almost forgot. You are right. Now I will have to meet the maker. Do you think he likes seafood?

All the wisdom of this world in one song: Baz Luhrmann – Sunscreen

This song has a lot of meaning to me. One of our wise Belgian employees in Afghanistan played it one evening in the ICRC guesthouse in Mazar-i-Sharif. I could not handily read the lyrics as in this video, so I listened to it over and over again. Finally, I came to the conclusion that all the wisdom in a human lifetime is contained in this song.
Sorry for those, who like complicated things. I like simple things.

My favorite lines, which are almost all…

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as

effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that
never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm
on some idle Tuesday. 

Do one thing everyday that scares you.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes
you’re behind… the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your 
life… the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they
wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year
olds I know still don’t.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children, maybe
you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky
chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary… what ever you do, don’t
congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your
choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s. 

Enjoy your body,
use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, or what other people
think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.. 

Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the
people most likely to stick with you in the future. 

Understand that friends come and go,but for the precious few you
should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and
lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you
knew when you were young.

Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will
philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize
that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were
noble and children respected their elders. Respect your elders.

Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of
fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the
ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

Deadly protest exposes cracks in Afghan strategy – BBC

Afghans chant anti US slogans during a demonstration in Mazar-e- Sharif on Friday, April. 1, 2011
The protest began after Fridaz prayers in Mazar-e-Sharif
After protesters in the normally peaceful Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif turned their wrath on the UN, killing seven foreign staff, the BBC’s Paul Wood in Kabul examines what might have been behind the attack and what it means for Nato’s strategy.

No one saw this coming. Not the UN, not Nato, not the Afghan police.

Mazar-e Sharif was the last place in Afghanistan where such an attack might have been expected.

The city usually has a bustling air about it. The local economy is thriving. It is usually quiet and calm. You might even see the odd tourist wandering around the famous Blue Mosque.

Outside the Blue Mosque yesterday, an imam began to harangue the crowd. Hundreds of Korans had been burned in the US, he said, not just one.

He was referring to events at a church in Florida on 20 March, when Pastor Wayne Sapp set light to a copy of the Koran. He was supervised by Pastor Terry Jones, who last year aborted a plan to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. 

Taliban “infiltrators”

At the main Friday prayers in Mazar-e Sharif, the worshippers had been told to demonstrate.

But then it was the street sermon, outside, which seemed to inflame them.

What happened next is a matter of dispute. The provincial governor insists that the (so-far) peaceful protesters had not even intended to march on the UN until Taliban “infiltrators” diverted the crowd.

For some Afghan – and international — officials, this was a pre-planned attack, carried out by the Taliban, using the anti Koran-burning protest as cover.

People carry an injured person in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan (1 April 20110
Officials said the protest had been peaceful before the attack

If that is true, it shows how the insurgency retains the capability to strike even in places where it traditionally has very little support.

Despite some Pashtun-Tajik ethnic tensions in Mazar, the Taliban has never really had a foothold there.

The city was considered so safe, it was among the first seven locations named as ready to be handed over from Nato to Afghan security control in July.

The Afghan police could not protect the UN mission on Friday.

Questions will now, inevitably, be raised about security transition in Mazar-e Sharif, and perhaps elsewhere too.

The Taliban denies it was behind the attack there or the trouble in Kandahar on Saturday.

These were “the pure acts of responsible Muslims,” said a spokesman – foreigners burning Korans had brought down the wrath of ordinary Afghans upon their heads. 

Latent hostility

This is a deeply conservative, deeply religious country. An insult to Islam will inflame passions as no other issue.

If the violence was spontaneous, that is perhaps more worrying for the international community than if there had been a Taliban guiding hand.

It would show how precarious is the position of the international community here; even how much latent hostility there is for the international presence in Afghanistan.

A statement by the Afghan police that some UN workers were beheaded may in fact not be correct. But at least one of the victim’s throat may have been cut; others were stabbed, it seemed, rather than shot.


The UN is not, so far, evacuating its personnel. The US military, for its part, is worried not just about Afghanistan but about many other Muslim countries where it has troops.

That is why General Petraeus, who is in charge of US forces in Afghanistan, personally appealed to Pastor Terry Jones last year not to burn a pile of Korans, as he had been threatening to do.

When the Koran was burned in a Florida church two weeks ago, there was little immediate reaction.

But news is getting out and spreading now and the fury – in Afghanistan – seems to be building.

Even if the Taliban did not orchestrate the events in Mazar-e Sharif, it may be strengthened by them.

And here’s what the pastor head to say afterwards: Not feeling guilty at all.

Ready for departure from Afghanistan

dear friends and family,

I am sitting in the midst of litterally hundreds of pages of paper, trying to get rid of most of them. due report for tomorrow not yet written, yet tomorrow, sunday, is the day of my departure. at 11.40 h, if there is not too much sand in the air, the icrc flight “Red-121” will take me from mazar, afghanistan, to peshawar, pakistan – via a large detour of herat (12.55 h) in the west and kabul (15.05 h). after a short night in peshawar (getting up at 3.30 a.m. or so), a commerical flight will take me to dubai, where I will spend the entire day waiting, then at night 1:45 h departure to zürich, onto geneva, to arrive, inshallah, at 8.35 h on tuesday there. as things are ever-changing in the icrc and in afghanistan particularily, what follows is a bit different then foreseen.

10.-13 october geneva
14.-17. october anywhere
18.-19. october geneva
20.-22 october anywhere
23 october departure again to afghanistan
7 november arrival back from afghanistan (zürich)

haven’t been in europe for half a year and would enjoy hearing from you. the best is if you call me or send me an sms on this number:
+41 76 336 42 22

see you soon… I am going back to the papers….!

Mobile phone direct (time zone: GMT +4.5 hours):
Skype: livingstone2004

icrc (at) stoessel (dot) ch. (absolutely no attachments)
marcel (at) stoessel (dot) ch. (attachments possible)

Snail mail, parcels up to 1 kg (no alcohol):
Marcel Stoessel; ICRC Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan;
19, Av. de la Paix; 1202 Geneva; Switzerland
* Personal e-mail – not an official ICRC communication *

From Afghanistan, five days after 9/11, 2006

Dear family and friends,

I hope you are all in the best of health and happiness. I am less than a month from my EoM (End of Mission) here in Northern Afghanistan, and I know I have not written for a long time.

Today is 14/11, 2006. Five days and five years after the world has changed. Today, five years ago, the last expatriate had already left Afghanistan, which was under bombardment. Today, parts of Afghanistan are still under bombardment. Of course, the world has not changed five years ago. It has changed long before, and is constantly changing. But this incredible event and what followed has changed the perception of millions, if not billions.

Five years later, I am not telling a professional secret if I say that it´s not over here. One can´t say that the Afghans, who are so incredibly hospitable and whom I adore (I finally realize why some delegates stay for years, including one who stayed for 17 years), have been born in the best of places.
If we would forget 26 years of conflict and millions of landmines, they would still have spring floods, land slides, mud slides, earth quakes, very hot summers and sometimes very cold winters, let alone that few (legal) things grow in this natural environment.

Some of you wrote that there was no news lately, except the ones on BBC. It´s true that I was busy and made myself even busier. But it´s also true that I do not know what would interest anyone living outside this peculiar world of humanitarians precisely, and how I could explain it.

It´s also a bit more than five years since I have started my adventures with the ICRC in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Israel and the Occupied and Autonomous Territories (as we, once again, call it politically correctly), Chad, and Afghanistan. I am not sure if I will continue this life/type of work for a matter of weeks or decades, but I know that it is meaningful I enjoy it. Most people on Planet Earth are concerned with self-subsistence, survival. The growing middle class – and obviously the upper class – is still concerned essentially with making and spending money, and having fun. So who can say that he is doing something mostly meaningful and mostly enjoying it at the same time? On the other hand, not changing your room, all people around you, the cultural environment, on a yearly basis, also has it´s advantages 

Despite all of this, I will travel back to Switzerland with an open mind – maybe to other ICRC missions, maybe to other organizations (it´s easy to fall into a self-congratulatory kind of mood when you work half a decade for the Red Cross, which is better known than Coca Cola and hopefully less harmfull to health), or to private projects. I will see what destiny has in mind for me. I need holidays, and time to think.

Time goes by so quickly. When I last wrote, I still had a blue eye from a robbery in Uzbekistan. Believe it or not, I have almost completely forgotten that story, and I have been back there since. The time was so intense, that I don´t know which memories will last, or what I should write. As you know, the really interesting things are confidential.

After medical treatment and a course in Geneva in February, I got back to Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the situation has gradually deteriorated in the Northern Region, which was previously considered as a safe haven. Things like VBIEDs are well-known abbreviations nowadays. VBIEDs? Vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. Unfortunately, several Afghan staff members of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have been killed in our region, so security remains the prime concern. Life is cheap in Afghanistan. We have lost one expatriates in 2003, and we do not want to loose another one. But life is somehow …normal. Shops are open, people go after their business, wedding parties are celebrated, and no, we are not avoiding any bullets on the way to work, and we even laugh a lot. Most of the time, it´s very quiet.

Talking about normal life. This reminds me of one of our staff. He is not even 35, but he is the elder of the family (his father died in 1998, due to concern about the situation, he said). As the elder, our young dynamic field officer has to be consulted on all important matters of a large family. What seems very macho, has also another side of the medal: He also has to pay the bills. His brother got married, which set him back around 6´000 USD – you could compare that to 60´000 USD for a European or North American. More than 200 people attended the ceremony, which has been prepared for a long time, and it didn´t seem to bother him that there was no light due to electricity failure on the first day of the celebration.

As far as work goes, we have just intensively discussed our general and specific objectives for 2007 in Afghanistan. Proposals from the field have been discussed and approved in Kabul, and are in the process of being approved by our HQ in Geneva. Apart from that, we.keep up our regular activities (visits to detainees, the orthopaedic center, the water program, spreading of IHL, etc.), unfortunately we were always a bit understaffed, and I try to keep this boat with 200 crew floating and at the same time tell our interlocutors who we are and what we do – and sometimes what we want. It´s not so obvious anymore at a time when civilian and military action is mixed by some actors. As in Iraq, some civilians are embedded in international military forces to do what purely civilians would normally do. So we have to constantly explain that we are different, neutral and independent and, of course, unarmed.

Or maybe the times of Henry Dunant have long passed? With the asymmetrical and total “war against terrorism” (as some call it – we use the politically correct formulation “global confrontation”), the laws of armed conflict, the protection of non-combatants (like the wounded, the detained, or simply civilians) and the limitation of the means and methods of warfare, are just not relevant anymore? We don´t think so. With the signature of Pacific island state of Nauru and the newly independent Montenegro, the four Geneva Conventions, which contain most of the codified laws of armed conflict, have become the only absolutely universal treaty in the world. Is it universally observed? Of course not, as any law isn´t. Is progress being made to change that? Yes, there is. Is there still a need for a neutral and independent organization watching over those rules and reminding the parties about their obligations? Definitely, there is. I´ve had some interesting conversations with Mullah´s recently, who will participate in a conference, which we will host on “Sharia and International Humanitarian Law”. These discussions also reminded me just how rich this culture is. It´s much more complicated than what you hear in the media. And it´s all the more sad in which situation the people still are in many parts of the country.

In April, we got reports of the usual spring floods affecting thousands of people in some remote Provinces. Some agencies, including the Afghan Red Crescent Society, with whom we work closely, had supposedly assisted the most seriously affected people. However, when we went to Fariab Province, some 325 kilometres from Mazar, we realized that the assistance was not properly assessed and far from enough. Initially, we just wanted to do some random checks on what was distributed in one valley. There was no road, we had to use that very river, which took many houses away, in order to reach the end of the valley. It is a district under the control of nobody. Too remote. When we arrived, we were immediately surrounded by desperate people. I think few if any of them have ever seen a foreigner. Elders, Mullahs, and Commanders, told us that they were without sufficient shelter and were soon running out of food. We sat down with them, talked about security, promised nothing except a re-assessment of the needs, and slept in a half-destroyed house without toilet or bathroom, but in an astonishingly beautiful mountainous green environment. None of us had clothes for more than three days.

We ended up staying for a full week, until two teams had completed a house-to-house assessment all along the river, climbed up the mountains with donkeys, and until our Adminstrator/Logistician arranged (quickly) for trucks to bring food, blankets, tarpaulins, and other essential household items to that end of the world (forget my Email from Chad… or… yes maybe as much the end-of-the-world as in Chad).

I slept in the same room with I don´t know how many Afghans, and every morning, I watched donkeys and curious Afghans while I was taking my bucket shower behind a house, which was destroyed the previous year. It was enough to stick my head out of my sleeping bag, and at least four children (or elderly people for that reason!) would stick their heads into the non-existing windows to see this strange creature. He sleeps. He eats. He takes showers. He goes to shit behind the trees. He has an electronic device, with whom he calls probably some other foreigner. After a few days, I started observing them, in their amazing Usbek and Tadjik dresses, their “agro products” (…) in the countryside, their donkeys. I will never forget that week in that village, and I can´t describe it properly.

On our way back, I had my I-Pod in the ear listening to Tory Amos and had only one thought: This evening, I will sleep in a bed. But then we were surprisingly stopped by what I would call once again in a politically correct way… “international military forces”. They were stuck with a turned-over truck and blocked the road with that truck, so we decided to make a turn-around and take the other way to Mazar, which takes one day longer.

There was another natural disaster in July – an earthquake in the North-East. I spare you that story how we got the 69 metric tons to those mountains. It took a few hundred donkeys.

The best is to see the smiles on peoples´ faces. In our orthopaedic center in Mazar-I-Sharif, since 1991, we have treated more than 12´000 patients, supplied them with artificial arms or legs, given home care to paraplegics, organized vocational training or micro credits to reintegrate those, who have been wounded by mines or other ammunitions. To see the smiles of those people on their faces, to hear some of them saying through a translator: “I hated myself. Now I don´t hate myself anymore”, is a fabulous reward. Sure, most of my own job has nothing to do with treating ortho patients and – if we were not understaffed – with bringing stuff to flood and earth quake victims -, but rather with solving political and administrative problems – with authorities, other arms carriers, staff, etc. But it´s good to see sometimes for what we work.

Even if a lot of people focus on the dangers we sometimes face, about the difficult cultural environment we have to work in, and about the family and social life we most of the time don´t have or only in a limited way, the pros still outweigh the cons. I am known to have become a chain-smoker (Don´t tell my mother, I´ve told her to stop since 25 years). I used to joke with our staff that I will stop once I will get married, i.e. once I will get out of this life. One Afghan replied: “Trust me, when I got married, my smoking increased big time!”.

Well, this was really an Email without a guiding thread or any objective, other than to say: I am safe, happy, and I need holidays. Hope to see some of you in October and November around Europe.

Greetings from Afghanistan, five years and five days after 9/11.


PS: Yes, one politically incorrect remark is allowed. In the valley where we distributed stuff for the flood victims, several people were killed in fractional clashes a few days ago. Can´t they ((CENSORED))?

If at least they could rob you in a civilised way in Usbekistan

Dear friends and family,

Two more months have passed since my first Email from Afghanistan. Many things have happened since. If you do not want to receive this Email, please wire the unsubscription fee or … just… bugger off!

25.12.05 Christmas Day surrounded by around 40 strangers from different humanitarian organizations. All of them came to the basement of our Residence 2, to eat tasty turkey, drink , and replace the non-existent or far away family.

26.12.05 After three hours of sleep, a working day starts with a field trip to Pul-e-Khumri, Kunduz, and Taloqan, in the North-East of Afghanistan. At least that was the plan, until a roadside bomb went off just a few hundred metres in front of us, targeting a military convoy.

Blood was all around. We stopped all of our vehicle movements in order to find out what happened. Then, we all safely return to Mazar. The trip is for another time…

31.12.05 The 40 or so strangers are already a bit less strangers at the New Year’s Eve Party at IOM. We changed the curfew from 22 h to 30 minutes after midnight…. It’s incredible that it’s already 2006.

3.-6.1.06 Finally our trip to Pul-e-Khumri, Kunduz, and Taloqan can take place without problems. In Kunduz, my assistant gives a radio interview in Dari about the prevention of mine accidents. Last year, 200’000 persons received mine risk education from ICRC and ARCS in the North of Afghanistan. Kunduz and Taloqan are heavily mine-infected areas – several former front lines have passed in the area, including the very last frontline between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. Driving in the Landcruiser through the snow-covered mountain road, which looks like Switzerland, is mind-blowing. Especially with my assistant, working for us since 1994, who tells me the story behind every burned-out Soviet tank, every green flag for a dead Mujahedeen fighter, and every hill that was an IDP camp. “Behind there, we assisted 20’000 displaced people a few years ago”, he said as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

Afghan warriors are legendary, but so is Afghan hospitability. In Kunduz, we get again a huge Afghan breakfast at the ARCS Branch. It’s enough food for more than a day, and we have to try of every plate a bit. At the end, the ARCS President says: “You didn’t eat much again”. In Taloquan, it’s time for lunch, and as expected, huge amounts of goat meet, rice, and all kinds of other things are piled up in the ARCS office for us. I struggle with the food. At the end, the ARCS President says: “You didn’t eat much”. Please! In the Kunduz Hotel, it’s below Zero degrees even at night, and they charge 50 US$ for it. We decide to renovate the ARCS guest house and spend our nights there in the future.

10.1.06. It’s the Muslim holiday of Eid – no local staff except security guards and radio operators are working. I use the time to fix a small dental problem in Termez, Usbekistan, just 1.5 hours away from Mazar. The border must be about 3 km from the first Afghan to the last Usbek checkpoint, going over a long bridge. My Russian is limited, Usbek friendliness also, but I make it to the other side, am met by the field officer of our office in Termez, and am happy to be somehow in civilization in that former Soviet Republic.

After the dental appointment, the field officer drops me at a restaurant, and we agree to meet again the next morning at the Hotel for transfer back to the border. When I leave the restaurant, an English-speaking employee helps me find a taxi. We walk on the main road, with many people around us, when I see that two strange young men in their early 20ies have followed us from the restaurant. I ask if it was not better to turn back. No sooner than I ask, both of the guys are on my side of the road. They don’t say a word, they just walk next to us. I feel uncomfortable and want to turn around. Without saying a word, one of them smashes his fist in my face. I fall to the snow-covered ground. Faced with the infamous “fight or flee” alternative, I choose flee. But I can not even get properly up, when I am again punched into the eye and the mouth. I am lying on the ground and just wait for the punches to be finished. I was not hit more than five or six times in total, but it was an eternity. The last kick was with the foot in the face. I barely felt a hand in my right pocket, taking away the equivalent of 20 US$ as well as an “Oral B” mouth rinse I got from the dentist. I bleed heavily, not realizing if it’s out of the eye, the nose, or the mouth, that I am bleeding. Instinctively, I check if all teeth are still in. All are in, even if one is loose. A taxi stops and takes me to the Hotel, to which our field officer rushes.

Remark 1: In civilized countries, we rob each other by putting a gun at someone’s front and by saying politely: “Give me money or I kill you”. Why can’t they do it that way in Uzbekistan?

Remark 2: Being beaten in the face is one of those things that you see ten thousand times happening in a movie, but that you never think would happen to you. So how does it actually feel? Surprisingly maybe, at 10 below zero centigrade, you don’t feel anything. Let’s be honest, it’s a bit humiliating if you just wait for the other to stop. But it was over in less than a minute, and in the first moments, it was just something out of this planet, something unbelievable. However, the physical pain started, when I was in the hotel room.

The F.O. rushes me to the hospital, where four ex-Soviet doctors with white hats like cooks receive me. “No problem, we keep you here only one or two days”. That was a good one. Give me another one. I turn to my F.O. and tell him that he should ensure sterility in whatever they do, just in case I fade into unconsciousness. I feel a needle in my a… The doctors clean the wounds around my right eye. The nose is not broken, they say.

Then, four police officers in leather jackets rush in and start to take my formalities and wanted me to tell them the story. I told them to go back to the restaurant and ask the owner for the two guys. I remember that they also had been at the restaurant before. Off the KGB-types went.

At 1 a.m., I am back in the hotel, the police calls. Two persons arrested. I need to identify them. At the police station, they rush me into a first room and tell me not to say anything inside that room, just to look at the guy. It was clearly the one, who beat me up. I recognized him from his face, his golden teeth, his “Lucky Strike” sign on the jacket. The second type took me more time to identify, but finally I was also sure that he was in the team, although I was not sure if he beat me.

Yes that’s me, in the morning after.

11.1.06. The night at the hotel was short (the plan is to go to the Capital City Tashkent for treatment) – at 7 a.m. the police call me again to the police station, for a cross fire interrogation (or however that is called), which was videotaped. They denied having done anything to me, and they didn’t know where the blood on the shirt came from… At the end, the investigating judge says: “Can you confirm that all your statements are true and have been taped with a Panasonic video camera?” – “I swear to God and Panasonic that everything I said is true”. I am just ready for the nine-hour drive to Tashkent, when the police tell me to go to the “governmental medical expert”. OK, I am beyond being tired. Since I looked into the mirror in the morning, I realized that a few tooth had quite some corners missing. I looked somehow like Frankenstein with my black-blue eye and my broken tooth.

And that’s one of the culprits, easily recognizable by (my) blood on the Lucky Strike jacket. Photo taken from mobile phone during the Panasonic-video-camera filmed interrogation at an Usbek police station.

Then, we drive for nine hours throughout Usbekistan to Tashkent, over a 3’000 m mountain. Very beautiful landscape, in as far as I saw it. The snow started to hurt the eyes. On top of the mountain, the F.O. forces me to eat something. “I can’t eat. My teeth are broken”. I get some soup and see that I am in good hands. My spirits start to go up. To the hell with it, I am alive. At 10 p.m., still on the road, I am way beyond being tired. I am just up in space with my Ipod competing for the Russian music the F.O. plays through the sound system. At 10.30 p.m., he says: “We are in Tashkent”. I look out of the window: Wide open landscape. “That’s not how I imagined your 3 million Capital”. It’s Tashkent Province, he explains. At 11 p.m., we arrive at a quite nice Hotel.

12.1.06 Appointments with dentist and eye doctor are planned, but the F.O. doesn’t show up at the hotel. He slept too long, being tired himself, and the the car had the Diesel frozen. In the restaurant at breakfast, nobody wants to sit nearby Frankenstein. I recognize a guy from Mazar. He looks unbelieving at me, clearly thinking that I committed some kind of crime. Dentist fixes the most important corners. Eye doctor: Eye will be 99% ok, but a CT wouldn’t be a bad idea. In the afternoon, flight back to Termez.

13.1.06 Back to the safety of Northern Afghanistan. All the officials at the border already know the story – formalities are very easy this time.

Oh gosh, it’s almost two months later now. This Email will be without end. So let’s keep it short: I am fine now again, went to Geneva for a course, medical treatment, as well as the burial of my grandmother, temperatures are slowly starting to rise here in the North, the snow has melted. More bombs have exploded, some others have not exploded. We discovered an unidentified object in front of our office – it turned out to be garbage, through empirical investigation of the Afghan National Police.

Stay in touch !


Merry Christmas from Afghanistan

Dear friends and family,

I hope you are all doing well in the pre-Christmas time, which can’t really be felt here where we are in the Muslim year 1382… At least it’s cold. I send you the best greetings from the North of Afghanistan.

If you expect anything interesting about, t.erroris.ts, Americans,, and the like, click delete now. As usual, these are only the politically correct news about Mazar-i-Sharif, the place I am most likely going to spend at least most of 2006.

The time between missions is usually a time to reflect, when “normal people” (probably those I don’t know well enough, so I consider them “normal”) ask plenty of questions, including the famous one: “How long are you still planning to do this?”. The weeks go by very quickly, and all of the sudden, while the memories of Eastern Chad are still very present, it’s time to get going again.

25.11.05: Someone comes to the door to collect everything of my personal belongings I consider important enough to take along in order to survive 9-12 months: two suitcases with 46kg of cargo, containing 27 books, 40 DVDs, a video projector (to organize cinema afternoons), and some other stuff, worth 3’200 US$ (rounded up for insurance purposes). Inshaalah, it will arrive here. In my other baggages will be, apart from clothes, my deer laptop computer, as well as an I-pod with 7’056 songs and 2’741 pictures. Behind remains only what I forgot. Who needes more?

28.11.05: Train to Geneva.

29.11.05: Briefing day at our Headquarters about political and humanitarian situation, as well as our programs in Afghanistan. It seems that almost anyone in the ICRC had passed at least once through Afghanistan since 1979. And everybody loved it and will never forget it. Some stayed for years, like the manager of our ortho programs in Kabul (since 1993) or his counterpart here in Mazar (since 2002). Others returned for a second, third or fourth mission . There must be something magic about this place – I hope I will get to know it.

30.11.05: The alarm clock rings at 6 a.m. It will not be until about 21 hours later that I arrive in the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul. Geneva – Munich // Munich – Doha (Qatar). Surreal overcrowded luxury transit area in the airport, where you can even buy a BMW. Some women covered in their Burkha sit on the ground.

01.12.05: Doha – Peshawar (Pakistan), after a short night flight, at 4.30 a.m. local time, a Pakistani guy with an ICRC sign picks me up and makes me feel – somehow – at home or at least familiar. A few hours later, one of our two small planes leaves Peshawar for Kabul. Sleep wasn’t much. Briefings start the same afternoon in our main office. Over the next few days, people from various departments tell me about their programs (protection, Health, orthopedics, water and sanitation, cooperation with the Afghan Red Crescent Society [ARCS]), as well as – again – about the situation. We are always very careful about security, especially since our expatriate collegue Ricardo was killed in 2003. So: No risks. A lot of international money seems to go into the reconstruction of Kabul, a City which has grown from 1 to 3.5 million people. Thousands of expatriates are living and working there today. I only see Kabul through the windows of our regular shuttle between the delegation and the compound, where we live. Strict security rules and almost no possibility to go out. That’s why the people create their own life at home. Today, it’s Thursday (beginning of the weekend in a Muslim context). That means we meet at our bar in a kind of underground bunker inside our compound. Good atmosphere in the team. A few beers in the bunker. Sometime after midnight, I try to find my way in the labyrinth of this immense compound in order to go to the house, where I spend my first night in this infamous mystical Afghanistan, which has only seen 40 years of peace in its 5’000-year history (1933-1973).

02.12.-04.12.05: More briefings and discussions with my bossman in Kabul. All of the Afghan staff seems to be nice, despite having seen hundreds of expatriates come and go over the decades.

05.12.05: Again an overcrowded waiting area of Kabul international airport. Many people busy with their mobile phones. Some Afghan men with beards, most without these days. Few women. Then, our little plane arrives and takes us on one of the most wonderful flights I had in my life, going North over the wonderful Hindukush mountain range, where the clouds are just at the height of the snow-covered peaks. After 50 minutes, the eight days of travel come to an end and I arrive in “my” City”, Mazar-i-Sharif. Famous for the Blue Mosque, the (presumed) grave mosque of the Muslim calif Ali, son-in-law of the prophet Mohamed, and therefore a pilgrim site for Muslims from all over the world. Famous also for the production of carpets and textiles. Sadly, Mazar is also famous for the events of 1997, 1998, and 2001. But today, international troops keep a relative calm in the North of Afghanistan. It’s a big City of close to 1 mio inhabitans (according to rather exagerated claims of locals), also growing due to people, who returned from the refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan. However, many are not finding what they were looking for. Few jobs, high prices, even no shelter for some of them. Traffic jam, almost only men on the street, or women that are completely or partially covered. It seems that most men were happy to shave their beards, but are still not happy to let “their women” out alone. One of our female staff has to travel to Kabul for a seminar. She will be accompanied by her husband…

My nice and humerous predecessor greets me at the airport (“I hope you like flat lanscapes” – Mazar is on a big plain North of the Hindukush), and again, a series of briefings. And once again, the Afghan staff of many different ethnic groups are very nice (a lot of them are highly qualified, some are medical doctors, others have studied abroad, and most have worked for many years with us), and the same applies for the expatriates. Over the next two weeks, we visit six of the eight provinces we cover from the sub-delegation. Meetings with various interlocutors, governors and Presidents of ARCS Branches, speaking about everything and nothing for hours, drinking tea up to the level of overdose, and eating “Khabuli” everywhere.

12.12.05: Earthquake in a neighbouring province bordering Pakistan. Fortunately, no casualties reported. I didn’t even feel it because I slept so deeply. Yes, it’s the same zone here.

14.12.05: Explosion in front of the Blue Mosque. The perpetrator dies of the explosion – he’s the only one. According to the authorities, a visiting Minister may have been the target. A reminder that not everything is over.

During the travel, local staff tell me about the most important cultural rules in this country, whose proud people have never been successfully colonized:
1. Don’t fart anytime, especially not in meetings. Learn to control it. [An expatriate to whom this happened in the past during a meeting, was asked by the Chairman: “Is this a habit from your country?”]
2. Don’t sneeze while in a meeting. Leave the room when you have to. [However, it seems to be completely acceptable during travel to open the car window and sneeze it all out onto the ground, making a sound that resembles farting very much.]
3. As a guest, always sit the furthers away from the door.
4. As a guest, never refuse a tea or food, even if offered to you minutes before your next meeting. Lie to your hosts about how much you like it, if necessary. (Actually, about Afghani breakfast I didn’t have to lie – never had such an extensive nice breakfast, including goat, fish, fruits, vegetables, etc. Not even the Israeli breakfast was so nice – dare I to compare two so different places?)
5. Never shake the hand of a woman, unless she initiates the handshake.
6. Dress formally. Even most drivers wear some kind of jackets. Always cover your arms and legs, even as a man. [It’s quite easy when it is 0 degrees Centegrade like now, and you need a lot of clothes – how it will be in June, when it is 45+ degrees almost day and night? Ah yes, I just read the temperature extremes on a national level: Max in summer +50 degrees, minimum in winter -50!]. Don’t wear very shiny colours.
7. Don’t stretch your feet while sitting.
8. If they look like they want to go for it, kiss men on their cheecks and hug them. [If you were to do the same to a woman – an idea so foreign here as going for a weekend to Saturn -, expect … very bad consequences, to put it diplomatically].

Well, these are just the ones I know about so far. There must be many more. Update in next Email.

So, what are we doing here in the North? In the good old days, we had 500+ staff in Mazar alone. Today, thanks to many international actors – unarmed and armed – who are engaged in reconstruction, our activities are focussed on visiting detainees, re-establishing family links, urban water rehabilitation (and hygiene education) as well as water sanitation works in prisons, some support to a hospital in one of the provinces, spreading the knowledge about international humanitarian law to tribal and religious leaders, all kinds of arms carriers, and everyone else who cares, and supporting the ARCS in every way we can. Staff has decreased to 190. A big focus is on land mines and unexploded ordonances (UXOs). Mine risk education teams go out and sensitise people about the risks. But still, every month, in our area alone, about 50 additional people step on a mine or an UXO and make it to our orthopedic center, one of six in the country.  It’s an amazing scene to see amputated people come into the center, and see them walking again with an artificial leg afterwards. Most of the employees of the center are themselves amputees. We also try to be ready for disasters – earthquakes also happen here (see above), and if the winter is not freezing, then there are often floods. If you’re really interested to learn more:

Exactly 200 persons are working for us in the North, 193 Afghans [no chance I will ever know a third of their names, but “Mohamed” and “Ahmed” are good bets] and 7 expatriates. All the programs are running normally. My job will mainly be to go around and meet people, not forgetting the above points 1-8…

I guess you can do without a description of the landscape.

Social life is a bit limited here, to put it again excessively mildly. The “Mazar Social Club” organizes some evenings for expatriates, often cut short by curfews or other security restrictions. We have a fitness center, a pool table, and – hopefully – soon my video projector…

Cheers from Mazar, and stay in touch,

* Personal e-mail – not an official ICRC communication *