October 1996 – Fire in the airport building That was our last night in the bunker of the Turkish embassy. We don’t want to mess with the Taliban after all. In the afternoon a UN plane will leave Kabul for Pakistan’s capital Islamabad. We would like to fly with it. Via my satellite telephone I
October 1996 – Fire in the airport building
That was our last night in the bunker of the Turkish embassy. We don’t want to mess with the Taliban after all. In the afternoon a UN plane will leave Kabul for Pakistan’s capital Islamabad. We would like to fly with it. Via my satellite telephone I contact the responsible office in the UN building in Islamabad. “No problem at all”, they say. There is enough space in the plane and we should simply be at the airport at 15:00 hours.
Shortly after lunch our driver drops us off at the airport. Again we notice how destroyed the terminal is and we are surprised that the airport’s only runway is still usable. With our heavy luggage we pant into the hall, which offers some protection from the sun despite the partially destroyed roof.
Loud voices resound to us. Obviously there is a dispute. And indeed there are two European-looking women standing there discussing with several men dressed all in black. A smoking fire burns next to the small group. Another European is approaching us, addressing us in French. Ali reacts immediately, asks what is going on here and can explain everything in a few words.
One of the two women is probably from BBC television. She wanted to leave a few days ago, but did not get a flight. Yesterday, according to the Frenchman, who is himself from the French channel TV5, a Taliban command destroyed the BBC camera. Thrown from the third floor of a house. Do the Taliban know that such a device costs around 100,000 marks? Would they even be interested?
The French were at least as badly hit: The other woman who argues with the Taliban policemen is the TV5 reporter. And what’s burning on the floor a few metres away are the video cassettes of the French camera team… I have an idea of what lies ahead.
Little Ali, the quiet, reserved bald man; the man with several years of experience as a cameraman in the Vietnam War, proudly and confidently approaching the Taliban police, greeting the English-speaking man with a polite, Islamic salutation, making a few hand movements to his heart and head and asking if we could sit back there in the corner to wait for the plane.
A clear nod, an “Inshallah the plane will come soon” and we are discharged into the sitting corner. We never see the policemen again, the plane arrives around 16:00 o’clock and shortly before sunset we and the two other television teams are in Islamabad. All our tapes and the complete equipment in our luggage.
The next chapter of my Afghanistan Diary will be published on 15 October 2019. It’s title will be “February 2001 – Reporting from the “Islamic Emirat of Afghanistan”. 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