September 1973 – Farewell From the mirror in our hotel room my howled face looks at me. Our night had started wonderfully – later I was overcome by the great sadness. At first it was just a few tears, but later I cried snot and water – and Monika and Michelle were also anything but
September 1973 – Farewell
From the mirror in our hotel room my howled face looks at me. Our night had started wonderfully – later I was overcome by the great sadness. At first it was just a few tears, but later I cried snot and water – and Monika and Michelle were also anything but in a good mood.
Our irrevocably last day together has begun. Michelle wants to take a flight to the west in the late afternoon. To Frankfurt or Paris or better directly to London. Her time became increasingly scarce.
Monika and I want to go further east by car. Across Pakistan and through the north of India we want to go to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, which was only founded two years ago. Breakfast is cancelled, addresses and last caresses are exchanged, Michelle is looking for some souvenirs for her family.
In the afternoon we take her to the airport, promise us mutual visits in London and Berlin. Later, we see her a little depressed as she lines up at the counter of ARIANA, the Afghan airline.
The next day we drive on via Jalalabad up to Khyber Pass. About 220 kilometres. It takes us only a little more than five hours. The road is okay, leads through fertile valleys and over bone-dry mountain passes. The last 50 kilometres are steep uphill. Dozens of narrow serpentines screw up the mountain slopes. It is pleasantly cool but the many trucks pollute the air with their black smoking diesel exhaust fumes.Twice we overtake camel caravans, which are heading east on the unpaved side strip of the road. About five kilometres before reaching the pass and the border crossing to Pakistan we see a really extraordinary road sign. The road divides here. Motor vehicles have to drive straight on while camels on their way to Pakistan have to take the road that branches off to the right.
This is the land of the Pashtoons. Officially it is under the control of Afghanistan in the west and Pakistan in the east – but in fact even the British, who were the colonial rulers here until 1947, “didn’t get a foot on the ground” in the area around the Khyber Pass.
Rarely have I experienced such rapid border clearance outside Europe. After a good hour we are in Pakistan – and thus in left-hand traffic. We drive on via Peshawar to Rawalpindi to the new capital Islamabad, are held for a long time by a life-threatening flood and reach the Indian border. We are not allowed to go to Bangladesh – instead we travel via Patna to Darjeeling and then to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.
But all this is another story that has nothing to do with Afghanistan.
I never heard from Michelle again.
The next chapter of my Afghanistan Diary will be published on 30 April 2019. It’s title will be “September 1996 – Koranic School in Pakistan”. New chapters will follow fortnightly – more than 60 will be published in total.
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