October 1996 – Thrown out from the new paradise We still live in the bunker underneath the Turkish embassy. Of course it wouldn’t be necessary any more, bomb attacks and artillery raids haven’t happened for days. Urgently we now have to look for a suitable hotel. At least one more week we want to stay,
October 1996 – Thrown out from the new paradise
We still live in the bunker underneath the Turkish embassy. Of course it wouldn’t be necessary any more, bomb attacks and artillery raids haven’t happened for days. Urgently we now have to look for a suitable hotel. At least one more week we want to stay, observe the development and report about it. The interview with the representative of the head of state is the way it is, really useless. I would like to shoot a bit more on the subject of “mines”, which seems to be one of the most pressing problems here at the moment.
Once again we make our way to the hospital where we filmed a few days ago. Very briefly I would like to talk again with Dr. Ahmadzai, the French speaking Pashtun. He is sitting in the small doctor’s room where he cooked his lunch with us a few days ago. “Doctor, you have told us about amputations that you have to perform,’ I ask him. “Do you know if the patients who lost a leg are getting prostheses anywhere?” Of course he knows. Only a few hundred meters away is a clinic where employees of foreign aid organisations work. Dr. Ahmadzai says that leg prostheses are manufactured and adapted there.The building is easy to find. The guard at the entrance only asks us if we have weapons and then opens the gate. With a friendly smile on his face. In the inner courtyard it immediately becomes clear that we are absolutely right here. On horizontal poles and ropes, men are climbing along, learning to walk with a prosthesis. Biting faces, curses, tears. Orhan wants to shoot, but I stop him. “Let’s ask the boss here first, then we can take our time filming afterwards,” I ask him. The director is quickly found and he is a very friendly man.
Kemal, our driver, translates for us. We are allowed to shoot, but we have to work in a way that it is not possible to watch us from outside. And the hospital manager would also like to show us around in his clinic. Wonderful! We would like to see everything that has to do with prostheses. “We actually only make leg prostheses here, almost only lower legs,” translates Kemal. The reason for this is that almost all patients who come here are victims of anti-personnel mines.
Where the artificial limbs are made, it looks like a carpentry workshop. After the requirements of the individual patient have been precisely measured in advance, the prosthesis is made here. In the classic way, with saws and files, the rawly joined wood is brought into a shape that is quite similar to a natural lower leg. Even before the thigh and foot are precisely formed, the wooden limb is fitted for the first time. It looks as if this is sometimes quite a painful process for the patient.
A girl sits in front of me on a high chair. There is only a short stump left of her right lower leg under her knee. She looks at us with huge black eyes when we speak to each other in a foreign language. I estimate that she is about 12 or 13 years old. “She stepped on a mine while washing her clothes on the river,” the director reads from the medical record, “a lower leg had to be removed from her, the wounds on her stomach and hands healed well, and the residual limb also looks as if she can now start practising with her prosthesis.The residual limb is tightly wrapped in a padded bandage as the man who just filed the wooden foot touches her over the rest of her lower leg and straps the prosthesis in place. Very carefully and with the help of the nurse, the girl gets up and tries to put weight on the “new leg”. Obviously whimpering in pain, the little girl holds on to the pole attached to the wall and takes a first step. Prostheses have been made and fitted here for almost 10 years. For both female and male patients. “I don’t know if it can go on like this,” the director tells me, “now that the Taliban have taken over the government of Afghanistan, I don’t think we’ll be able to treat girls and women anymore.”
The next morning there is another message from the Taliban Foreign Ministry for us “bunker dwellers”. Again we are called in and are supposed to arrive immediately at the press office there. No problem, shortly before nine o’clock we are back where we were twice before. This time the man is wearing a black turban. He only has one simple information for us: “You have violated the new laws and have to leave the country within 24 hours”. No discussion is possible, questions are not answered.
The next chapter of my Afghanistan Diary will be published on 1 October 2019. It’s title will be “October 1996 – Fire in the Airport Terminal”. New chapters will follow fortnightly – more than 60 will be published in total. Please scroll further down for subscription.
Dieter Herrmann, the author of this Afghanistan diary, lives in Australia, reports from there for German television stations and is editor-in-chief of the only German-language newspaper in Australia. He is known as a media trainer for radio and television stations all over the world as well as media trainer for senior managers, officers and pilots. To get in touch with the author and for further information on media training by Dieter and his crew please use the “contact”-button or send an email to dieter(at)australia-news.de (please replace the (at) with the @-sign!)
My first trip to Afghanistan started in the early summer of 1973. Since then I have been to the country at the Hindu Kush more than 100 times and in total have spent several years in Afghanistan. I got to know all political systems from the kingdom up to the today’s Islamic Republic. In about 60 chapters, based on diaries and memories, I describe my experiences in the country, which has not come to a rest since 1973. Among many other experiences, I was arrested and imprisoned twice during this time, had to live temporarily in the bunker of the Turkish embassy and had an amazing interview with Mullah Muttawakil, the personal spokesman for Taliban leader Mullah Omar and later Taliban Foreign Minister. I describe my personal feelings and doubts as well as political and human events, movements in the population and developments in the country. Nothing about this manuscript has been invented or added – however, to avoid endangering anyone, I left out some of my experiences. I changed some names to protect friends and informants. Whether the last chapter will ever be finished is questionable. I was supposed to be back in Kabul in 2018, but the security situation is so bad that my clients are unlikely to get me into the country. “German media trainer murdered by Taliban” would be a catastrophic headline for everyone involved. Dieter Herrmann
Translation from German to English with the help of www.deepl.com