October 1996 – Praying as a government program He won’t be talked to at all. Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the speaker of head of state Mullah Omar remains stubbornly sitting in front of the sunlit window. Then we start and hope that the result will be at least usable. My first question: “Mullah, your government
October 1996 – Praying as a government program
He won’t be talked to at all. Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the speaker of head of state Mullah Omar remains stubbornly sitting in front of the sunlit window. Then we start and hope that the result will be at least usable. My first question: “Mullah, your government wants to bring peace back to Afghanistan. How can that be achieved in a country that is currently in a situation as yours? He hardly seems to have to think, just takes a breath and starts to speak. But I can’t understand anything. It’s not English, it’s probably Pashto. After about half a minute I notice that he is praying. Again and again terms like Allah-u-Akbar occur. As always with interviews for reports, I had asked the Mullah to look at me during the entire interview. So far he hasn’t done that for a second. He also doesn’t look into the camera-lens. Instead, it looks like his head is circling. He takes turns looking at the ceiling, at one of the walls, once even briefly out of the window behind him.
After 10 minutes he suddenly switches to English: “We only do what people in Afghanistan have been praying for for 14 years. They want to live, as the prophet of 1,400 years did. We want to restore the Prophet’s time here with us.” He still doesn’t give me credit. What is he looking for up there on the ceiling?Whether the population will soon have the opportunity to hold elections, I want to know from him. He answers: “The Sharia, our only law, does not allow politics or political parties. That is why, for example, civil servants or soldiers are no longer paid. But they get food, clothes, shoes and weapons from us. That is enough. That’s how they should live in god.” “But, if they don’t vote, who will decide who is the head of state? “No one can determine that except Allah. And he has determined that Mullah Omar is our emir, our leader. We are sure that this is in accordance with Sharia law. There will be no president, the law does not provide that. Our Emir will ultimately make all the decisions. The Sharia does not provide for elections and therefore we reject them.”
We continue in this way for another 10 minutes. Turning in circles, his answers say again and again that Allah and Mullah Omar will determine the future fate of the country. Everything done in the interest of the population, but without ever asking them. Orhan, the cameraman whispers to me that the cassette is almost over. We have now spent about 30 minutes with Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, without him having looked at me once. Out of the 30 Minutes of “Interview” about 10 minutes are prayer. I politely thank the Mullah who gets up and leaves – again without even looking at us.
Back in the embassy bunker we screen the filmed material. It can’t be broadcast the way it is at the moment. The contrast between glistening sunlight behind the head of the mullah and his face makes his face totally black. Invisible. Here in Kabul we have no possibility to technically edit the video. A good editor in Berlin might be able to do that. I wonder if we just wasted a few hours. No! We didn’t. For me, the interview with Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil was an important experience – albeit one I will remember with a shake of my head. And I am glad that he was even ready and willing to talk to us. A few days later, filming people is forbidden under penalty.
The next chapter of my Afghanistan Diary will be published on 17 September 2019. It’s title will be “October 1996 – Kicked out from Paradise”. 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