Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Afghanistan: Sept ‘07

IWPR provide portrait of everyday life in the most war-torn province in the country.
September saw IWPR in the centre of what is fast becoming a war zone. While Kabul had been relatively safe over the past three years, suddenly a spate of suicide bombings inside the city made the capital a tense and gloomy place.

On September 29, a major attack just one block from IWPR’s offices brought the mayhem very close to home.

This was especially painful given the season: the last ten days of Ramazan, when most of the population is preparing for the Eid holiday.

IWPR prepared a report on the incident, in the process managing to elicit reaction from the Taleban, who claimed responsibility for the carnage.

In “Suicide Bomb Brings Taleban War to Suburbs”, Taleban spokesman Qari Yusuf told IWPR that the Taleban, rather than scaling down their activity during the holy month of Ramazan, had instead launched a new phase of their jihad against the government and foreign troops. Codenamed “Nasrat”, the operation was designed to cause the maximum of pain and demoralisation during the holy season.

The Helmand training and reporting project entered a new stage with the official launch of “Helmand Voices” on the IWPR website. These 19 stories are radio pieces created by reporters from the southern province, under the guidance of IWPR trainers and editors.

One of the journalists, Naweed Nazari, a 19-year-old school boy in Helmand, demonstrated an aptitude for computers and radio. IWPR trainer Josh Phillips worked with Nazari, who is now working with IWPR as a radio editor.

The topics of the stories range from motorcycle fanatics in Lashkar Gah to a new midwife centre where mothers can give birth in safety.

IWPR trainees are able to go places and gather sound where few have been able to venture: they have recorded interviews with Taleban, with victims of suicide bombings, with ordinary people who have been too long ignored.

Some of the outstanding pieces that IWPR reporters generated over the month included “Crossing the Taleban Line”, a deeply personal account of a reporter’s journey into Taleban country; “Northern Afghanistan: the Enemy Within”, about the extremely dangerous situation surrounding warlords in the north; “Rough Justice in Helmand”, about the Taleban’s Sharia courts; and “Marriage Swaps End in Tears and Blood”, about the all-too-common practice of giving girls in lieu of the bride price when a cash-strapped family wants to marry off a son.

Ramazan is taking its toll: as everyone gets just a little thinner and more dehydrated, tempers grow short and days grow long. But Eid is on the horizon, and with it the three-day holiday of feasting and visiting that marks the season.

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