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Kabul Korrespondence

Fresh, factual, and funky view of Afghanistan and the surrounding Central Asian region

Kolourful Kabul.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

We had a pretty "colourful" week in Kabul this week. We kicked it off with the Annual Afghan Drug Burning Ceremony. (Nah this is for real) Four tonnes of opium, heroin, methodone and hashish was set alight in front of the Minister of Counter Narcoics and a gang of foreign diplomats.

Look at my Aina photographer Fardin gettin in for a real close up. Damn it was hot!

Two days later a US convoy was attacked in the east of the city. The suicide bomber rammed his car into the S.U.V. Two foreigners and an Afghan died, many injured.

And we topped off the week with a visit from our Minister of Foriegn Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer. Alex made a 48 hour tour of Afghanistan that included a whopping 10 minute press conference! Alex was put up against the wall with some sharp, direct questioning from the Afghan press corr. Good work guys.

posted by Travis, 9:39 pm | link | 8 comments |

Different Prespectives

We were lucky enough to have two guest speakers over the last weeks. Fredrick from Felix Features in Norway and Peter a freelancer from Belgium.

Fredrick showed us two features stories he created in between assignments in Norway. The student's learnt that even the everyday, non sensational stories can make your bread and butter earnings. These earning can become the savings for your next big project.

Peter showed us a film he made while in university that centred around water as a resource. The colours and compositions of the scenes were like frames from a roll of film.

Both speakers ignited class discussion. The main issue was where to draw the line between photo-art and photo-journalism.

So with the success of our recent guest speakers we put out a call to all photographers passing through Kabul. We asked them to find a little time to talk to our students. These little snippets of life as a international photojournalist are invaluable exposure to our students.

We hope to have many more guests in the months to come.....
posted by Travis, 9:10 pm | link | 2 comments |

Spring Cleaning

As part of Aina Photo's revamping for the 21st century, we gave the entire school a clean up. So here is a quick virtual tour of the of our little microcosm:

Our library, students work stations and museum of old cameras. (We could use more laptops couldnt we!)

Our conference room

Fardin's archive room

My office

So now that we have cleaned out all those dusty shelves, we can get down to the important business of cleaning out the data archives. This wil help bring Aina up to scratch with the global media standards.

Thanks to Fardin and Gitta for their hard work on the spring cleaning.
posted by Travis, 8:39 pm | link | 3 comments |

Military investigates press report of detainee abuse

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

From the HQ ISAF Public Information Office :

On June 10, during the conduct of a combined patrol, the article alleges
a detainee was tied to the back of a military vehicle. According to the
article, the vehicle's engine was then turned on, and the man was told
he would be dragged across the road if he did not cooperate.
Additionally, the article alleges threatening of the detainee's family
members. ISAF and U.S. military officials are conducting formal
investigations into the matter.

"This alleged behavior goes against everything the U.S. Military stands
for and believes in," said Col. Martin P. Schweitzer, commander of ISAF
forces in the region of the incident. "We take these accusations very
seriously. The United States commander has appointed a senior officer
to investigate the allegations in coordination with Afghan National
Security Forces officials and local community leaders. The soldier in
question has been temporarily removed from his post, pending the outcome
of the investigation."

KHOWST, Afghanistan (June 22) – Taliban extremists have been desecrating cemeteries and burial sites, using children as bombers, and violating Islamic tradition, according to ISAF officials here.

“They placed explosives on a 6-year-old boy and told him to walk up to the Afghan Police or Army and push the button,” said Capt. Michael P. Cormier, company commander. “Fortunately, the boy did not understand and asked patrolling officers why he had this vest on.

“This type of action is not tolerated by any culture or any people,” said Maj. Donald A. Korpi, ISAF’s Regional Command-East spokesman. It was the people in the area who first reported these activities to the Afghan security forces in the Andar district, he said.
posted by Travis, 12:11 am | link | 1 comments |

"Friendly Fire"

Sunday, June 24, 2007

BBC: 24.06.07

Anger against foreign forces is rising among ordinary Afghans. Nato has said it needs to do better in its operations in Afghanistan, after coming under criticism from Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Mr Karzai accused Nato and US-led troops of failing to co-ordinate with their Afghan allies, thereby causing civilian deaths.

A Nato spokesman said Mr Karzai had a right to be "disappointed and angry" over the scale of civilian casualties. It came after a week in which up to 90 Afghan civilians were killed. More civilians have been killed this year as a result of foreign military action than have been killed by insurgents, correspondents say.

Separately, rockets fired by coalition forces in Afghanistan killed at least nine Pakistani civilians, the Pakistan military said on Saturday. Mr Karzai said innocent people were becoming "victims of reckless operations" because foreign troops had ignored Afghan advice for years. "You don't fight a terrorist by firing a field gun 37km (24 miles) away into a target. That's definitely, surely bound to cause civilian casualties," he said.
posted by Travis, 8:32 am | link | 2 comments |

The Birth of the Afghan Skatboarding

Friday, June 22, 2007

I have been lucky enough to hook up with some amazing national and international crew here. You've met the nationals, my Afghan boyz. But I'd like to introduce the internationals, friends from Oz who were wise enough to bring boards with them to Kabul. So after many a night of discussing how and where we could start the first ever skate scene in Afghanistan, we finally planted the seed. And oh my how it has grown.

The first challenge was to find smooth conrete areas. After 20 odd years of conflict, there is'nt much in Kabul which hasn't been blown up or pot-holed by endless motar rounds.

Our first location was the Olympic Stadium, which was in the past another arena for the Taliban's brutal public executions. After some quick talking with the local police, we got access to a semi-smooth piece of concrete at one end of the stadium.

So we gave the boyz the boards and gave them their first lesson: "balance".

Second lesson was "tick tacking" and we finshed off with "how to fall", one of my personal fav's.

We were all impressed by the learning curve and their stern determination to get it down. Not only did they rip it up on their first day, but they convinced the local cops to give it a go too.

AHHHHH, so proud I almost burst with joy!

We finished off the day with some extra curriculm, watching the Lords of Dogtown skate film.
posted by Travis, 10:38 pm | link | 898 comments |

Kabul Bomb Blast

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Today at 8.10 AM a bomb exploded infront of the Police HQ, only 500m from our Aina Office. More that 35 people were killed in the attack.

We all wait now to see if this is a onc off incident or the start of a new offensive...........
posted by Travis, 11:00 pm | link | 7 comments |

If my Dad finds out......

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

After seeing my friends bike "The Corolla", I fantasised about buying my own for weeks. This week I purchased my first (and last) motorcycle: "The Super Kabul". Yes that's the actual name embossed on the motor. It rides like a authentic Chinese bike should, nice and slow.

But on a serious note. My Dad in Australia is going through some heavy chemotherapy at present. Id appreciate it if you could keep him in your thoughts in the coming weeks.

I know he is fighting as hard as a Beard can.
posted by Travis, 8:43 am | link | 9 comments |

At The End of the Rainbow

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

This week we started our advanced class with an excursion up TV Mountain, located in the centre of Kabul. After thrashing the taxi drivers cab to the peak, we stepped out onto a vista second only to Everest…..well…...

Our first volunteer for this year is Gitta from the Netherlands. She is here doing a project working with the female photojournalist, but is also helping us around Aina Photo. She came along to on excursion to give the students a Dutch perspective on photojournalism.

Some started to fret as the weather changed to a light rain, so we started to head down the hill. Then from nowhere a huge rainbow appeared over Kabul City. One of the students yelled out, “Teacher, how do we expose for a rainbow?” Gitta replied “over expose and make a wish!”

I asked one of the student’s Nasim, “Did you know that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?” He said, “Ahhhh, in Afghan tradition it is said that if you pass under the end of the rainbow you will change into the opposite sex!”

That’s so “Afghan”………
posted by Travis, 3:37 pm | link | 4 comments |

A Simple Trim

As you may or not know, Afghans are a tad obsessed by their looks. I guess that’s what happens after a society is suppressed for so long. The men are more vain than the women, because at least the men can express themselves openly in public.

So, when I was asked to join my Afghan brothers at their local “salon”, I thought I’d go and along and check it out. The moment we entered modern Afghan tunes filled my ears and I knew I was in a pioneering establishment of Afghan style.

The brothers who ran the joint had their own unique style. I asked for a simple beard trim and ended up with the deluxe trim that included nose hair trim, ear hair trim and head massage. (well there was not much work to do on the nose and ears...)

My buddy Hameed, asked for a “Fro Trim” and after they had shaped his fro into a work of art, he was given a Afghan back massage at no extra cost!

I still cant decide which era the Afghans are lost in, the 70's or 80's.....maybe its both.....?
posted by Travis, 2:53 pm | link | 0 comments |

Yes we do do work here too

Monday, June 04, 2007

This week we were lucky enough to have a visit from Iranian photojournalist Zohreh Soleimani. She was here doing an assignment on Afghan women. We helped her and her husband Martin Ebbing from D.W. Radio with some logistical support.

In return Zohreh did an afternoon workshop with our students, showing them her work form Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Brazil.

The structure for this semester's classes is to be more practical based than last semesters. We will conduct workshops and excursions for the students with photographers from Holland, Belgium, America and the Germany

Our aim is to sharpen the students skills and to expose them to different international perspectives on what photojournalism is.
posted by Travis, 4:25 pm | link | 8 comments |

Weekends in Kabul

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic. Alcohol is forbidden but drug use is common. Men and women have nowhere to meet but interact like you and I do in our home towns. The question is. What do Afghan boys do on the weekend?

Chat with the national hero Massoud who is always up for a laugh.

Go cruising in your Toyota Corolla with treble infested Afghan hip hop blasting through your pussy stereo system.

Hang out at the City Centre shopping mall. Here you sip watermelon juice and discuss whose cyber girlfriend is going to get them out of the country.

Take your Corolla up to Tapa Bibi hill, where there is an Olympic sized diving pool that, the Taliban used to execute people.

Drop into the "Blue" billiard hall for a game on a full size snooker table and wash it down with a 7 up.

And to top the weekend off you can sneak Afghans into a NGO party (Westerner only) where the cakes are huge and the music is straight out of Eurovision.

I just can’t get enough of this country..........
posted by Travis, 6:27 pm | link | 12 comments |