March 2001 – The little man in white Nothing happens for a long, long time. Every now and then we are led from our cell to the toilet, every now and then the motor oil can with drinking water arrives and in much too long intervals half-fermented potato slices are given to us. I have

March 2001 – The little man in white

Nothing happens for a long, long time. Every now and then we are led from our cell to the toilet, every now and then the motor oil can with drinking water arrives and in much too long intervals half-fermented potato slices are given to us. I have no idea how long we have been locked up here. Three days? A week? Longer? We keep hearing loud noises – we are not questioned. Not at all.

The vermin in our cell seem to be multiplying rapidly. They’re crawling all over our bodies. One of our “pets” must have bitten me in my sleep – I have a very itchy red spot on my shoulder. Our clothes are dirty, sweaty and need to be washed urgently. The shirt sticks to my skin, the trousers give off “spicy scents”.

It rumbles once again outside the door of our dungeon. With a slight squeaking of the hinges it opens and weak daylight falls into the cell; crushed by the eternally burning light bulb under the ceiling. A man in dazzling white clothing stands in the door frame. He is small, very thick and wearing a bright white turban. Very irritating, because all “policemen”, “judges” and other persons of the past days were dressed completely in black.

With a deep, sonorous voice and in fluent English “the white man” introduces himself. “Good Morning. I am the director of Kandahar International Airport”. He stands there all alone – no “black” behind him. And then he tells us that at the airport of which he is the director, a UN plane would be ready to take us to Pakistan. He wants us to hurry.

Sure, I’d love nothing more. We follow him across the courtyard. In the corner sit the “officials” who a few days ago actually wanted to drag us to a stoning and threatened severe punishments. I have the impression that they are kowtowing to the man in white – or at least showing respect. In front of the prison door is our car with driver. A quick look in the trunk: all our things from the hotel room are here. The camera, before in the hands of the Taliban police, lies in the back seat and looks unharmed.

A United Nations (UN) Beechcraft Super King B200 aircraft on a humanitarian flight over Afghanistan.

The little man in white gets in the front right, Mustafa, Kay and I squeeze ourselves to the camera on the back seat. Words fly back and forth between our driver and our rescuer. I don’t understand anything, but I see that Ali is accelerating. Mustafa, pressed close to me because of the tightness in the back seat, is shaking all over his body. The sun is almost directly in front of us. If what I suspect is correct it is still early in the morning, we are driving at breakneck speed through the streets of Kandahar towards the east.

Less than 10 minutes have passed since the airport manager picked us up in jail. Suddenly, he tells Ali to pull over and stop. ‘Shit, this was probably a Taliban trap’ crossed my mind. Now it’s getting really annoying for us… Escape is not an option here. And none of us want to be stoned to death – especially not our own.

He turns to us, his dark eyes sparkling. He takes a deep breath and tells us with his deep voice that he has nothing to do with the airport and that there is no plane waiting for us. We are supposed to drive back to Kabul on a direct route and report immediately to the passport office there. We would be expected. With an astonishingly quick movement for his girth he opens the door, jumps out of the car and disappears.

The next chapter of my Afghanistan Diary will be published on 26 May 2020. It will be titled “March 2001 – After 28 Years: Back in the Passport-Office” 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) (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

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