Some identifying information
has been altered.
Sent: Thursday, October 11, 2001 6:15 AM
It is 3 a.m. in the morning in Islamabad and I've just got off the phone
S in Kabul for the umpteenth time tonight. He is speaking
me on a Satphone from from under his bed as the seventh air raid of the
evening rages around him. He is calm, lucid and utterly charming.
S is 30 years old and married with two children. He has been with
(our news agency) for eight years, although he only became a full-time staffer two
years ago. He takes pictures for us, shoots video and also writes stories.
If you see a photograph of him, you'll notice a mischievous glint to his
and a handsomeness that the big bushy beard which the Taliban insist he
grows cannot hide.
Every day, better paid (news agency) staffers speak to him from Pakistan,
Singapore and London in American and British accents -- the same accents
that are crackling over the airways between the warplanes that are bombing
his home. S is a good Muslim, a proud Muslim, and also an Afgfhan. He
loves his country and despairs that there has not been a moment's peace
there in the three decades since he was born. He abhors what happened on
September 11 as much as anyone who lost a relative there. He never voted
the Taliban -- there hasn't been an election in Afghanistan for decades.
wants his daughter to be able to go to school and his son to play
Both are banned by the current regime.
Under the most incredible pressure, in the most trying circumstances,
the bravest man I know continues working because he believes that the
has the opportunity to emerge from this nightmare in better shape than
before. If I could join him there now, I would do so in a heartbeat --
to shake his hand.
Why am I telling you this?
Speaking to you last night it was evident you were very frustrated at
the possibility of not being allowed to return to Indonesia. I fully
sympathise with you on that.
Along with bombs and food aid, the Americans are also dropping
of cheap transistor radios with the tuning fixed so that you can listen to
one station only -- Voice of America. S tells me that the constant
message being broadcast by VOA is the speech by George W. Bush insisting
that Muslims are not the enemy, Islam is not the target. S knows that,
which is why he speaks with no rancour when he talks to us British- and
American- accented colleagues. We talk to each other because we trust each
other. We can look each other in the eye and know that while what is going
on around us may affect us, we did not cause it and it won't interfere
When you return to Jakarta, you have to be able to walk back into your
office and look your colleagues in the eye and be able to say "This is
about us. I trust you." If you don't do that, why on earth should the
Indonesians, ever again believe you are genuinly committed to trying to
them? If you don't trust them, why should they trust you? The world is
of lunatics, but they don't all cloak themselves in Islam. Not to return
would suggest you think otherwise.
I appreciate that your return may actually be out of your control, but
hope you will keep pressing the point. Perhaps as a journalist
in hostile environments I am not the best person to proffer advice on
but as your husband and your friend I still think it is the right thing to
S told me earlier that as he was trying to film some of the bomb
damage for Wednesday's raids, a Taliban tank drove towards him and its
gestured for him to stop. Obviously he did -- they would have shot him
otherwise. He stood by as the tank then deliberately and methodically
towards his little blue Renault and, despite his protestations, crushed it
like a tin can. You should see the picture he took once the tank left.
Go back to Jakarta -- if only for S.
All my love