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Kabul Korrespondence

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

Previous Aina Photo student wins award!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Photographer Safia Safi, who landed the third prize at the Photo Contest in the Second World Congress of News Agencies held by EFE in Spain, was also honoured. In the contest more than 200 photographs from around the world were placed.

A photograph of the dead body of Zakia Zaki, directress of the US-funded Radio Peace, was declared as the third best by a majority vote. Safia studied at Aina Photojournalism Institute in 2005-2006. Safia now works for Pajhwok Afghan News as photographer.

Well done Safia

Photo: Safia Safi (1st from the right) learns photography at Aina training center, Kabul, June 25, 2006. Photo by Dimitri Beck
posted by Travis, 4:27 am | link | 1 comments |

Two wrongs don't make a right.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Nov 27
Norway has raised strong complaints against the decision by Afghan authorities to release the five Afghan bombers who attacked the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Northern Afghanistan in May this year.

"It just gives a wrong signal that people who have been sentenced for such acts are allowed to walk free," Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said in a statement.

Stoere added that an explanation is needed of how it is possible for someone who was first sentenced to death to have the sentence reversed to 20 years in jail, only to be released because of a religious festival.

The five Afghan bombers were sentenced to 20 years in jail, but Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a decree to release them after they spent just three months in prison, Norwegian broadcaster NRK reported.

The bomb attack killed one Finnish and one Afghan soldier, and injured three Norwegian soldiers.
posted by Travis, 5:26 pm | link | 0 comments |

Mistakes that should not happen.

US forces mistakenly killed at least a dozen road construction workers in air strikes in eastern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said today.

As many as 14 engineers and labourers were killed in the incident on Monday in Nuristan province, which officials blamed on faulty intelligence, possibly fed out by the Taliban.

The workers, who had been contracted by the US military to build a road in the mountainous province, were sleeping in their tents when they were killed, according to Sayed Noorullah Jalili, director of the road construction company Amerifa.

"All of our poor workers have been killed," Jalili said. "I don't think the Americans were targeting our people. I'm sure it's the enemy of the Afghans who gave the Americans this wrong information."

The company has asked the US military to investigate the information that led to the air strike, Jalili said.

The Nuristan governor, Tamim Nuristani, said US troops had been tipped off that a feared local Taliban commander was in the area but they hit the wrong target.

The US-led coalition said it was investigating the incident. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed it had conducted air strikes against Taliban fighters in the area, but did not say when.

The incident is likely to fuel Afghan resentment at the presence of international forces. Earlier this year, foreign troops came under scathing criticism for conducting air strikes based on poor intelligence that caused a number of civilian casualties.

Afghanistan has seen a steady rise in violence over the past two years since the Taliban renewed its attempt to overthrow the pro-western Afghan government and eject more than 50,000 foreign troops.
posted by Travis, 5:18 pm | link | 0 comments |

3 attacks in Kabul District in 3 days

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

November 27 2008
KABUL (Reuters) - A suicide car bomb targeting a foreign military convoy in the Afghan capital Kabul killed two civilians on Tuesday, a senior police official said.
Several people were also wounded by the blast in central Kabul outside a Defence Ministry building close to the British, Canadian and Pakistani embassies.
(Unconfirmed reports say that the two killed were CIA personal and another person was also killed by the explosion)

Images by Karin Mayer

Images by Elissa Bogos

November 26 2008
KABUL (AFP) - A bomb planted on a dust road used by Italian military forces on the outskirts of Kabul tore apart a car Monday, killing four Afghan men, security officials said. The bomb, apparently remotely detonated, exploded as the car passed through farmland in the Charasyab area, about 15 kilometres (10 miles) southeast of the city centre. General Zalmai Uriakhail, a city police chief, said the four men were local farmers and it was unclear why their vehicle had been targeted.

November 25 2008
PAGHMAN, Afghanistan (AFP) - A suicide bomber blew himself up Saturday in a scenic Afghan town near Kabul, killing six people -- most of them children -- and wounding 12, officials said. Four of the wounded were Italian engineers, they added.
posted by Travis, 9:33 am | link | 1 comments |

Shhhhhh, see it works!

posted by Travis, 3:42 am | link | 1 comments |

New edtions to our library

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanks to the hard work of previous volunteer Gitta van Buuren, the generosity of World Press Photo and the excess luggage of the Dutch embassy, I was proud to receive 22 Kgs of top quality photo books from the Netherlands.

Gitta organised all the logistics for getting the invaluable books from A to B. World Press Photo donated countless photo books form their extensive archives. And the Dutch Embassy in Afghanistan couriered the books through their man Miguel Braet.

So now we have a new collection of the best images in the world to put on our shelves for the new class of 2008!

posted by Travis, 10:45 am | link | 6 comments |

The Most Dangerous War in the History of Journalism

People ask me would I ever work in Iraq......
my answer is always: "Not unless i was paid a considerable salary."

By Kim Sengupta
The Independent UK
Monday 19 November 2007

Three times more journalists have been killed in Iraq than in both world wars - many deliberately targeted by militias. Kim Sengupta reports on a forgotten death toll that is still rising.

There were a number of "landmarks" in Iraq in the past few months: the Petraeus report into the US army's "surge"; the withdrawal of British forces from their last base inside Basra city; the decision to bring security companies under the law following the incident involving guards from Blackwater.

But one landmark which passed virtually unnoticed was that the Iraq conflict has become the deadliest by far for the media trying to cover it, with more than 200 journalists killed to date. To put this in perspective, two were killed in the First World War, 68 in the Second, 77 in Vietnam and 36 in the Balkans. And the toll in Iraq shows no sign of declining. It is, if anything, rising. Five journalists were killed in separate attacks in just one day last month. "Covering Iraq," says Chris Cramer, the president of CNN International, " is the single most dangerous assignment in the history of journalism."
posted by Travis, 10:03 am | link | 2 comments |

Toyota Corolla named most reliable car!

London, Nov 23 : Japanese automaker Toyota's car model Corolla was named the most reliable car, while Honda emerged as a company with most number of dependable cars, in a recent survey.

posted by Travis, 9:53 am | link | 29 comments |

Presenting the New Aina Media Centre

Ok, so we have cleaned up and this is now how it looks!

not bad huh.....
posted by Travis, 5:56 am | link | 2 comments |

Where does all that money go......?

Andrew Mayeda and Mike Blanchfield CanWest News Service Thursday, November 22, 2007
KABUL -- Six years after the fall of the Taliban, the reconstruction of Afghanistan is a booming business for the private sector, but much of the work is still going to big foreign firms, say Afghan officials and development workers.

The building boom is no more evident than in Afghanistan's capital, where a five-star hotel, western-style mall and revamped U.S. Embassy have sprouted up in recent years.

"Construction is one of the motors of the economy," said Afghan Economy Minister Mohammad Jalil Shams. "Four years ago, Kabul was nothing like it is now."

Reconstruction is also moving forward in the more secure regions of the country, such as the areas around Herat in the west and Mazar-e-Sharif in the north.

But much of the rebuilding is funded by foreign aid agencies, which often award contracts to a select pool of multinational companies based outside Afghanistan.

"The biggest amount, let's say about two-thirds or even three-quarters, is going through the foreign budgets," Shams explained in an interview. "They, of course, choose their contractors."

Major donor nations, including Canada, spent about $1.36 billion in official development assistance to Afghanistan over a one-year period ending March 2006.

But only $424 million, or about 31 per cent, had a "local impact," according to a study released this spring. Peace Dividend Trust, an Ottawa non-profit agency, conducted the study for the Afghan Ministry of Finance. Local impact is defined as the proportion of aid money spent locally on goods and services.

Even Canada, where the Conservative government frequently trumpets the importance of development alongside security, has spent only 43 per cent of its development money with Afghan companies.

Compared with the U.S. and Germany, Canada generated much more local impact through its development aid, but was well behind the leader, Britain, which had a local impact of about 60 per cent.

"You can hire someone in Virginia, or you can hire someone locally," said Gilmore.
"When you hire locally, it has so many positive multiplier effects on the economy."

"It's the path of least resistance," said Gilmore. "It's often easier for the procurement officer to pick up the Dubai yellow pages than it is to find an Afghan company to do the job."

Germany and the United States relied most on international contracts. In fact, nearly half the aid money spent by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) went to five big U.S. firms.

Peace Dividend declined to identify the firms, due to confidentiality agreements with the countries that provided data. But the big U.S. names in Afghanistan's reconstruction industry are well known: firms such as Bechtel, Louis Berger Group and BearingPoint.

A 2003 study by the Center for Public Integrity also found that most companies awarded the biggest contracts in Afghanistan or Iraq employed former high-ranking U.S. officials or had close ties to the government.
posted by Travis, 5:37 am | link | 0 comments |

A message from an old friend

Dear Najibullah Jan,
I do not know if where you are now you have a chance to see or hear these words. But if I write these lines today from Paris it is in memory of you.
At Aina Kabul, everyday from early morning till night, you were the one bringing and sharing your smile all around the centre. I still remember that day when you told me you wanted to become a journalist and learn photography. You followed the classes at Aina Photo agency and you did it with all your positive energy. You were always ready to jump and to go everywhere to take pictures as you did when bomb attacks happened in the neighbourhood. You learnt from others and you were always ready to help your friends. Aina was your second house and you were the friend of all of us. I still remember when you gave me your letters that you had written yourself in French to be sent to your friends in France. These friends that helped and supported you as much as they could, until your last breath. It was probably a strong one as you were.
Najibullah Jan, thanks so much for so much kindness in all kind of situation. We will never forget you and your smile. Continue Najibullah. Please, continue to smile where ever you are. Wish to see one day your nice smile on every Afghan people�s face.
Khoda hafez Najibullah Jan
Dimitri, former Aina staff in Kabul.

PS: thank you very much Travis to keep us posted about Afghanistan. Even, if it is sometimes for sad news. But if no news cross the borders, Afghanistan may stay for a while a lost isolated world. Good luck.
posted by Travis, 5:21 am | link | 1 comments |

Cant teach an old dog new tricks

Friday, November 23, 2007

The New York Times:
Drawing from its experience in Iraq, the US military has developed a plan that calls for recruiting Pakistani tribal leaders to fight Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The United States has used this tactic in Anbar province in Iraq, where the military has been able to enlist some local Sunni tribal leaders to back it in combating Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other foreign fighters.

Citing unnamed US military officials, the newspaper said Sunday the plan had been outlined in a strategy paper prepared by the staff the Special Operations Command, but has not been formally approved by the command's leaders.

However some elements of the strategy, The Times said, have already been given the green light in principle by the Pentagon and its Pakistani partners.

These include a 350-million-dollar proposal to train and equip the Pakistani Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force that currently has about 85,000 members coming mostly from border tribes.

The report came amid unrest in Swat, a scenic northwestern valley, where pro-Taliban cleric Maulana Fazlullah is leading a campaign for the imposition of harsh Sharia law in the valley.

Fazlullah is nicknamed "Mullah Radio" because he runs a pirate FM radio station that calls for a holy war on government forces.

Up to 500 Islamist fighters were believed to be holed up in the Swat valley, led by a "hardcore" of 50 mostly foreign militants, especially Uzbeks, according to the Pakistani military.

Insurgent advances in and around Swat have embarrassed the government of President Pervez Musharraf, who cited growing Islamic militancy as one of the key reasons for imposing emergency rule two weeks ago.

He has since ordered the regular army -- rather than the locally recruited paramilitary forces -- to take the lead in tackling the unrest.

In light of these developments, The Times said, some US counterterrorism experts are wondering if Anbar-style partnerships can be forged without a significant US military presence on the ground in Pakistan.
posted by Travis, 4:00 am | link | 0 comments |

Another injustice within the 'War on Terror'

Thursday, November 22, 2007

On April 12, 2006, Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein was detained by the US Forces in Iraq and has been held in prison ever since.

No formal charges have been presented yet against Bilal, who is behind bars for having the courage to photograph Iraqi insurgents. Bilal was part of an AP team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for its coverage of the Iraq war.

Bilal's arrest and imprisonment are a serious affront to the press as a whole, as well as to democratic traditions.

We, colleagues around the world, are seriously concerned for the life of Bilal Hussein, especially in view of the amount of time he has already been locked up and the prison conditions to which he is being subjected.

For these reasons we demand his immediate release.

sign the petition to free Bilal at: www.freebilal.org/english.htm
posted by Travis, 8:38 am | link | 0 comments |

Condolences to the family of Najibullah

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I am very sad to announce that one of the family members of the Aina Family passed away today. After loosing his 1st kdiney, Najibullah had been fighting for his life with a failing 2nd kidney. Najibullah was a successful student of the photojournalism course and also a long term employee at Aina. He was loved by all and even a last minute fund raising effort was not quick enough to save him. We all know that he is now in a better place and we hope that we will guide us with his wisdom and integrity.

posted by Travis, 5:44 pm | link | 2 comments |

Worst suicide attack since the fall of the Taliban.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Up to 41 people, including six MP's were killed in a suicide bombing Tuesday at a sugar factory in northern Afghanistan, one of the worst attacks since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Many more were also injured in the attack including students that were there to welcome the ministers. Government officials said the bomber blew himself up in the factory in the northern province of Baghlan just as a parliamentary economics committee was visiting.

Officials were not immediately able to provide a breakdown of the dead and wounded in the immediate aftermath of the late afternoon blast in the town of Pul-i-Khumri, about 150 kilometres (90 miles) north of Kabul.
Afghan media cited witnesses saying mutilated bodies littered the scene of the attack, which was covered in blood. Many of the wounded were in a critical condition, they said.

Those dead included Mustafa Kazimi, who headed the parliament's economics committee and a former government commerce minister, she said. "The president condemned this attack in the strongest terms possible," said Hamidzada, spokesman for President Hamid Karzai.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast but there have been around 120 suicide attacks in Afghanistan this year, most of them blamed on the extremist Taliban movement waging an intensifying insurgency. However, one of the Taliban's main spokesmen, Zabihullah Mujahed, said his organisation was not involved in the latest attack. Northern Afghanistan, including Baghlan, has seen relatively little of the daily violence plaguing Afghanistan and blamed on the Taliban.

The hardline Islamic Taliban were in government from 1996 until they were ousted in late 2001 by a US-led coalition following the September 11 attacks that year in the United States. In the past week, insurgents have also driven security forces out of three districts in southern and central Afghanistan, and claim to have captured the areas. The government says it will launch operations soon to drive them out.

For all concerned I'm currently in the West of the country and safe. T
posted by Travis, 9:02 pm | link | 1 comments |

Ag-Fair Rocks Kabul

Sunday, November 04, 2007

More than 170,000 Afghans packed into the country's first pop festival this week, in a gig that has been dubbed Glastonbury Afghanistan. A far cry from suicide bombs and house-to-house fighting, it was the Afghanistan's biggest recreational gathering since the fall of the Taliban almost six years ago, and like Glastonbury it shared an agricultural theme.

More than 170,000 Afghans packed into the country's first pop festival this week, in a gig that has been dubbed Glastonbury Afghanistan. A far cry from suicide bombs and house-to-house fighting, it was the Afghanistan's biggest recreational gathering since the fall of the Taliban almost six years ago, and like Glastonbury it shared an agricultural theme.

"I came to the fair because I love pop music," said Said Ahmed Rahik, a 17-year-old student from Kabul. "I'm not a farmer and I don't want to do farmer's work. My father told me not to come because he wants me to study all the time. But I came without permission, because there is nowhere else to see music like this in Kabul."

Headline acts, on the purpose built stage, included winners of Afghan Star, the country's fledgling imitation of Pop Idol, circus performers, stand-up comedians and traditional Afghan folk singers. Around the arena were dozens of stalls showcasing everything from live fish, from Jallalabad, carpets from Herat, and sweetcorn from Bolivia.
"Bolivian corn needs less water and grows 20cm bigger than Afghan corn," explained the farm manager Jawid Ahmad.

The Kabul festival, which ran from Wednesday to Friday passed off without incident – Organisers claimed the secret to
a peaceful festival there was feeding more than 300 policemen lunch.

posted by Travis, 9:46 pm | link | 10 comments |

Fardin Waezi's French Expose'

Fardin has just returned from France where he attended the World youth Forum, along with two other Aina staff. Fardin had an exhibition of 60 images on display at the forum entitled "Through Afghan Eyes".

This conference was attended by youths from over 25 countries, with the intent of sharing their eperiences of working in the media industry.

This was Fardin's 2 nd trip to France. He went there in 2005 to be part of the Perpignan photojournalism festival: Visa I'image

Fardin exhibited images from his protfolio that spans 6 years of progress in Afghanistan, since the fall of the Taliban.

Congratulations Fardin on a successful expose' and we hope it strengthens your name in the busiiness as one of afghanistan's finest photojournalists.
posted by Travis, 9:42 pm | link | 0 comments |

Countries that the U.S. is currently 'involved' with.

As of Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2007, at least 387 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to the Defense Department.

Outside the Afghan region, the Defense Department reports 62 more members of the U.S. military died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Of those, two were the result of hostile action. The military lists these other locations as Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba; Djibouti; Eritrea; Jordan; Kenya; Kyrgyzstan; Philippines; Seychelles; Sudan; Tajikistan; Turkey; and Yemen.
posted by Travis, 9:39 pm | link | 1 comments |

Afghan Sweatshops

HERAT, 30 October 2007 (IRIN) - The Safi fur and wool factory, in Herat city, western Afghanistan, has more than 350 female and 300 male workers who earn only 300 Afghanis (US$6) for their 48-hour, six-day week. The factory produces coats, jackets, hats and other garments for the European and North American markets. There are more than 1,500 women working in four such factories in Herat city.

The air in the Safi processing plant is full of dust from dirty furs, which workers tear to pieces with their bare hands. Jamila (not hear real name) has worked in the factory for more than a year and recently experienced an unrelenting pain in her chest. “First, I was coughing and now I feel a terrible pain in my chest,” the 32-year-old said.

“Doctors and medicine are expensive,” she said. The modes amount she earns helps to supplement the family income to help feed her four children. Less than 2m away from where Jamila is working, her baby has fallen asleep on a thin piece of straw. Jamila brings her youngest son to the factory every day, because there is nobody to look after him at home.

Ahmad Zia Rahmani, a lung and chest diseases specialist at the Herat city hospital, says workers in fur and wool factories are vulnerable to virulent microbes, which harm the respiratory system and cause chest infections. Almost all workers in factories in Herat province have no written contract with their employers, particularly in the private sector. Workers and employers have only verbal agreements, which do not cover medical and hazard insurance.

In the past 12 months, seven women workers of the wool and fur factories in Herat have died due to respiratory diseases and chest infections, workers and Mohammad Ibrahim Ghafori, an official at the Safi factory, said. “We are not in a position to offer medical insurance or any financial assistance for health problems. We tell this to our workers before they start a job with us,” said Mohammad Ibrahim Ghafori, an official for the Safi wool and fur factory.

Some workers, meanwhile, acknowledged that they are exposed to health hazards in the factory but said lack of employment opportunities and economic needs force them to accept the risk.
posted by Travis, 9:26 pm | link | 11 comments |

She's as tough as nails!

This weekend we rode the bikes up into the lush Shomlai plains behind Kabul.

We were lucky enough to have only have two flat tyres, thanx to the rough roads of this barren land.

While we stopped by a beautiful river to wet our feet, our newest companion, Elissa decided to try and feed a near by horse.
Before we knew it, Elissa was on the ground nursing her knee after being kicked by the jumpty horse.

"Limpy" hobbled up the hill and continued the ride. When we got back to our bikes we found a member of the nortorious Kandahar Hells angels sitting on my bike!

The Kabul Knights roll on every Friday.....all welcome!
posted by Travis, 8:21 pm | link | 4 comments |