Kabul – Rocked by Rockets

Rockets rocking the capital An early morning in Kabul was rocked when sound of blasts reverberated throughout the capital. 8:20 A.M. I heard a blast, sounds very near. Not as loud as a bomb blast, and even initially I thought it was a car incident. The second blast came afterwards. It was not at all car incident, but rocket attacks toward the Kabul police headquarters about a block away from where I am working. A reporter and I immediately ran to the site. A big fire was seen on the emptied road. The police tried hard to seal the area from onlookers and prevented the journalists, photographers, and cameramen to get closer. “The attacker is still here,” said a police, “he is running away and we are looking for him. It’s very dangerous.” Police is quick in cleaning up the debris The road is messy. This area was full of street hawkers and in the morning it was very busy of people shopping. I saw many shoes and sandals, offered at roadside, left away by the scared owners. The [read more]

December 15, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Give Us Women

For every victim, they want seven women as compensation. A journalist friend of mine just returned back from Taliban stronghold southeastern province of Paktika. He recounted to me his amazing experience in the surreal region. Mud-houses disappear in the capital, Sharana, because of the constructions of new modern buildings. Mud houses in the districts also disappeared, due to another reason. In this area security is just an empty talk. For security reason in Taliban controlled district, one at least should be Pashtun, bearded, and dress in turbans. But that’s not everything. Being non-local anyhow is dangerous. And my friend was just lucky to be able to drag a local to rent a car and bring him to the districts near Pakistan border. It was a near-to-death journey. The police were surprised to see this Kabuli Pashtun came to this off-limit region. He was so anxious because Taliban was still everywhere. Anybody here can be Taliban, because everybody looks the same – bearded, [read more]

December 9, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Rocket Rains

Winter is usually quiet months of bomb attacks. But it seems the formula does not work for this year. This week is the worst of this year in term of security in the capital. In recent days there had been several fatal bomb blasts all over the capital. It had been part of the daily life here. On November 27, when I was just walking on the street from the Afghan bodybuilding about 7:30 a.m, suddenly I heard a big blast. I am already used to this kind of blast or that kind of rocket rocks; I usually had no any more surprised reaction to this kind of happening. But I usually stay in my room when all of these things happened – in a safe place. Now, I am on road and the blast was heard much louder and shocking. I ran for some steps, but became completely normal again not more than a minute after. The blast happened somewhere near the Pakistan embassy, about 4 kilometer from the place I initially heard the blast. The target was a military vehicle in heavily secured area of Wazir Akbar [read more]

December 6, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – A Failed Mission,2933,312183,00.html A planned attack launched from Pakistan has been foiled, says the spokesman of the ministry. Afghan security forces, meanwhile, arrested a potential homicide bomber as he attempted to board an army bus in Kabul, Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary told reporters. Authorities have been wary of attacks targeting army or police buses in Kabul after two such attacks this year. The attacker was from the Pakistani city of Peshawar, Bashary said. Afghan and Western officials say many homicide bombers are trained in neighboring Pakistan and then cross the border into Afghanistan to carry out their attacks. An Afghan soldier kicked the man as he tried to board the bus, and when the attacker fell down, he was unable to detonate his suicide vest, said Kabul police chief Mohammad Salim Hasas. The officials displayed the defused suicide vest for the media and said the attacker was undergoing blood tests because he appeared to be under the [read more]

November 19, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Eid Mobarak

Afghan guards offer prayers in the Presidential Palace People were waiting with anxiety yesterday: whether they had finished their Ramadan fasting or they had to keep fasting one another day. Not until 10 p.m. Kabul time the decision was announced: Eid to be on Friday. President Hamid Karzai offers his Eid prayers in the mosque inside presidential palace compound. These years, as the security situation in Kabul is worsened, it is not wise if the President prays in public place. Two years ago the President still had his Eid prayers in Pul-i Khisthi mosque together with his people. But now any ceremony attended by the President will mean the arrival of armed bodyguards, area sterilization with the security dogs (it was introduced by the Americans to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan), some helicopters patrolling around, and tightened security on all main roads. Letting the President to pray in public mosque under current situation is too much risky. This resource and energy wasting, [read more]

October 12, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – A Blast in Baharistan

Bomb blast in the middle of holy month An early morning in the middle of Ramadan, the Muslim’s holy month, Kabul once again saw one of deadliest terrorism attacks this year. A crowded bus loading soldiers of Afghan National Army (ANA) was ripped into two parts. All passengers on-board were feared dead. Civilians were among the victims. The holy month has not brought quiet peaceful moment in the country. It is 6:45 a.m. I was slapped from my lazy sleep by a big blast. After living in Kabul for a while, I am pretty much used to bomb blasts. “It must be another bomb blast,” I thought. But considering that the blast was very loud, it should be a big one. But what can I do? Nobody arrived in our news office and for sure it was not recommended for me to go alone. I tried to go back to my sleep. I just wished it was not a bomb, but an accident from the near Chinese construction site. But I could not sleep. Sirens of police cars or ambulance could be heard from my room. I know it was [read more]

September 29, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – A Lunch in Chinese Embassy

The grand complex of Chinese embassy. Not big enough? This is just one among dozen of buildings in the complex. It’s grand. It’s just like a Chinese garden from the Middle Kingdom being transported to the middle of dusty Kabul. Mr. Yang, Mr. Li, and Mr. Yu were waiting outside the grand embassy building with strong Chinese-style architecture. Mr. Yang is the ambassador, Mr. Li is the counselor, and Mr. Yu is the protocol staff. They have been waiting for about 30 minutes. We came very late, due to jammed Kabul traffic. And we, two women and two men, felt very much embarrassed. How suddenly an ordinary man like me being invited to have lunch with his Excellency Chinese Ambassador? In a diplomatic function held for the Indonesian National Day, the Chinese Ambassador and his very two staffs paid a visit. A friend of mine, a Chinese Indonesian working in UN, expressed her curiousness on Chinese culture. The hospitable Ambassador then invited her to come to the embassy to have lunch [read more]

September 24, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – A Peace Day and A Bomb

Children celebrate Peace Day. “Peace is for all!” they say. International Peace Day may be just an ordinary day to most countries in the world, but in Afghanistan it is treated very seriously. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) declared September 21 as Peace Day in Afghanistan since July this year. This date, the one day of peace in Afghanistan, is the day without violence, one day of peace to start a peace era in the war-torn country. A series of activities were conducted to promote the peace day campaign extensively since the previous week. Yesterday, more than one hundred street children were collected to fly kites together from top of a hill. This, with media collaboration, became headlines in newspapers and brought the peace message through the TVs and radio. A day before, the Kabul Municipality inaugurated a Peace Junction: a simple junction transformed to be a pleasant green park. UNAMA also conducted an exhibition of 18 photos of an Afghan female [read more]

September 21, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Peace Day in Afghanistan

“It’s not enough to talk about peace. One should believe in it. And it’s not enough to believe in it. One should work on it.” A Taliban member was caught and now displayed to the journalists I read this strong message in a local newspaper today. Three days to go, and Afghanistan is going to celebrate the Peace Day in the country. What a beautiful day. Imagine a day without bomb blast, a day without fire and explosion. Peace, in Afghanistan where never-ending wars have crushed the country to its worst, is a dear thing that has been awaited for decades. UNAMA, the main UN agency in Afghanistan, declared 21 September to be celebrated as Peace Day throughout Afghanistan. They work together with a global campaign group called Peace One Day. The date is to be marked by a countrywide total cessation of violence. I also cannot wait to see the arrival of peace in Afghanistan. I am tired of news of bomb blasts and fire. I am tired of news of ethnic clash and demonstrations of the [read more]

September 18, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Massoud Day: An Unfinished Speech

“Massoud never left his country, and sacrificed his life for the fatherland” – President Hamid Karzai The supporters of Massoud remembering the 6th anniversary of the martyrdom Two day before the 9-11, a significant event happened in Afghanistan. On September 9, 2001, Ahmad Shah Massoud, one of the greatest and charismatic Afghan’s commanders, was assassinated in a suicide blast by Al Qaeda agents posing as journalist and photographer. He died on September 14, 2001 after few days in comma. This was the first time Afghanistan saw suicide bombing, which in later years become more popular. This was also the beginning why cameras are treated with full suspects as sensitive and possibly dangerous item in Afghanistan. But the most significant of all was Afghan-nation-in-struggle its great leader. Massoud was regarded as the hero who defeated the Red Army and successfully slapped Islamism fanaticism exactly in the face. His unexpected assassination by two Arab religious extremists [read more]

September 9, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Bom Blast (Again)

What? A bomb blast? Come on, it’s just a bomb blast. Let’s continue with the party and plenty of food here. It was like a morning call. A big blast even rocked me from my sleep. I opened my eyes, thought a while, “it might be a bomb blast”, and continued sleeping. Later I just found out that it was a suicide bomb. The location is nearby the airport, about 4 km from my place. But as the sound was very loud, this should be a big bomb, a car bomb. The attacker targeted a NATO-led ISAF military airport, just next to the main military airport. But the target seemed to be very miraculous, as always, as the attacker only killed two Afghan soldiers and injured some others. Suicide attacks have been quite rampant in Kabul in last three months, since the big blast which killed 35 Afghan police cadets and other minor blasts targeted to ISAF soldiers. Calculation on casualties shows that most of the attacks kill civilians or locals rather than foreign ‘enemies’. As it [read more]

August 31, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – An Afghan Style Swimming Contest

Who swims the fastest? The first time I see such a bizarre swimming contest, where many of the participants escape from the swimming pool in the middle of the race. The previous swimming exhibition 3 days ago brought me back to the crowded swimming pool of Youth Club (Klab-e-Jawanan). As before, they also made early announcement time for reporters to come. The original schedule for the competition was to be held at 9 in the morning, but not until 3 p.m. the swimming contest was started. The program organizer, a man in his 30’s and a body completely wrapped by stack hairs, requested the half-naked young boys to sit nicely in the provided benches. He, just like his swimming students, also dressed minimally. First time I saw an event organizer dressing only in singlet and pants, not even a swim pack. “OK, boys. Go back to your seat, we will start our program!” said him with the microphone. After noticing me taking photos of him only in white pants and talking on MC desk, he [read more]

August 30, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Indonesian Role in the Hostage Crisis

The diplomat-in-charge announces the detail of the story to the community of Indonesian expats in Kabul (which is less than a dozen) If there is one more reason to be proud as an Indonesian, then this comes from the southern part of Afghanistan. Yesterday we were very relieved to hear that a breakthrough had been achieved in the negotiation between Taliban and Korean delegates after a face-to-face meeting held in Ghazni city. The two sides agreed at 5 points of agreement: first, all Koreans will quit Afghanistan by the end of 2007; second, Koreans working for NGOs in Afghanistan will leave the country by the end of this month; third, no more Korean Christian missionaries are allowed to enter Afghanistan; fourth, Koreans will not be attacked when evacuating from this country; five, Taliban have canceled the demands of prisoners exchange. There is not much known by the media and international world, that Indonesia has a big role in this breakthrough of the hostage crisis. A quote from [read more]

August 29, 2007 // 1 Comment

Kabul – Midnight Rocket Attack

The target was US Embassy “Blaaaaarrrrrrr!!!” I heard a blast, quite shocking, when chatting with a friend. This friend is an Afghan journalist based in Wazir Akbar Khan area, about 2 km from my place, and heard the same strange sound. “Did you hear the sound? What is that?” he messaged me on my chat messenger. “Maybe it is a rocket,” he answered his own question, and disappeared immediately. It was 11.00 p.m. I was thinking it was a bomb blast, but who will blast a bomb at the middle of the night, and if it was indeed a bomb why it could be heard so loud both from Wazir Akbar Khan and from my place, which are separated by 2 km of distance. My friend was probably right: it was a rocket. I talked with a Pakistani colleague, Mr. Mudasser, about the sound. He didn’t hear anything. But when I said it might be a rocket, he just showed a very normal expression, “Well, in this kind of country, this is not something extraordinary. People are get used.” The second day (today) [read more]

August 25, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Another Kidnap Attempt

The roads of Kabul look normal today. But with the Korean hostage crisis is still in the air, and also some other foreigner kidnappings, no foreigners are supposed to travel freely on the streets. After the German woman hostage case which already brought earthquake to international media, today there is another similar case, but much more quieter. I received an SMS from a friend: “There has been a shooting within the last 30 minutes in the Qala E Fatullah area in an attempt to kidnap a local businessman. The attempt was believed to have been unsuccessful. However all personnel should be extra vigilant.” 19:51:12 23/08/2007 A local businesswomen interviewed by the TIME said, security in Kabul was merely a joke. In fact, kidnapping is not only towards foreigners. The Christina Meier case went to the news because it was a foreign woman kidnapped. But for local nationals, it’s just a routine occurrence, and this never goes to the news. In recent days, Kabul probably is not anymore a [read more]

August 23, 2007 // 0 Comments

Weekender (2007): The Traveler’s Tale

August 2007 Jakarta Post Weekender The Traveler’s Tale What does travel really mean to us – is it about the adventure and discovery, or just being able to say that we have been there and done that? Yunetta Anggiamurni gives her perspective. “And at night I like to love to listen to the stars. It is like 500 hundred million little bells.” This was how Antoine de Saint-Exupéry expressed his adoration of a beautiful starlit night in his masterpiece, Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince). Although it was supposed to be a book for children, the work has become one that adults should read because the writer’s message is clear: Are you an open-minded person? Above all, de Saint-Exupéry tried to encourage readers to do one important thing: travel. Indeed, we view traveling as the quest for freedom, of choosing the place we want to go, of having the luxury of not worrying about daily work obligations, of satisfying our thirst for new experiences, in visiting places and meeting new [read more]

August 23, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – School Inauguration

The President himself innaugurates the school A school inauguration in Kabul is attended by the President Hamid Karzai. In the situation when suicide bombing is rampant in the capital, violent attacks are getting common on Kabul streets, and foreigners are kidnapped, there should be something special that the Afghan President decide to inaugurate construction of a high school building. The Ghazi High School was among the oldest, famous, and historical schools in Kabul in its time. The school was originally built in 1923, just 4 years after the independence of Afghanistan from the British control. The civil wars in Afghanistan destroyed the school. In 1994 the school turned to be ruins with empty hollows and walls scattered by bullet holes. The school, the alma mater of current Minister of Higher Education Dr. Dadfar, hibernated. Today, American strip and stars flies proudly next to Afghan flag over a tablet written: “Ghazi High School – The foundation stone of Ghazi High School [read more]

August 21, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – The Afghan Independence Day

The happy parade inside the stadium When an independence day is celebrated with fading pride as an independent country… If Indonesia is still in splendor of the 62nd anniversary of its independence day, Afghanistan is celebrating its 88th today. The British Treaty of Rawalpindi on August 8, 1919 admitted the self-determination of Afghanistan, of which foreign affairs formerly under British subject. Afghanistan had been arena of power struggle between nations since the beginning of its history, and at the end of the 19th century it became arena of the Great Game between Russian and British imperials. As both imperial powers were almost equally strong, Afghanistan was used as buffer to delimit Russian empire from the British India. Under British and Russian influence, the northern border with Russia (Amu-Darya River), the eastern border with British India (Durand Line) and the border with Persia were drawn. Afghanistan, under subject of Russian-British agreement, was given [read more]

August 19, 2007 // 0 Comments

Elite Traveler (携程自由行): 他的 Avgustin.Net


August 19, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – My Red and White in Kabul

Red-and-White in Kabul What a feeling. I see the Red-and-White flag flying proudly on Kabul sky. Today we celebrate again our independence day. Indonesia is celebrating its 62nd anniversary. And for the Indonesian community in Afghanistan, this day is as special as it is for our other countrymen in Indonesia. Flag ceremony was a routine for most of us when we were receiving education in Indonesian schools. Who had never experienced boredom of attending flag ceremony? Who had never grumbled to be given task to be flag-ceremony commandant or national anthem choir? At least I did. When I was in elementary school and high school in Indonesia, I used to hate Saturday after-school time as it’s the rehearsal schedule for weekly Monday morning flag ceremony. I used to grumble for this so-called nationalism development, discipline training, citizenship building (bla, bla, bla) to justify the routine flag ceremony. I used to grumble when my headmaster forgot to stop his long and dull speech [read more]

August 17, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Indonesian Products in Afghanistan

Indonesian exhibition booth in Kabul, Afghanistan The first Asia-Europe International Trade Exhibition and Conference is held in Kabul for five days to commemorate the 88th anniversary of independence Afghanistan. The exhibition was attended by several Afghan national and international companies, but we may be proud as Indonesia joined the exhibition as the sole country participant. Indonesia, represented by the embassy, has quite a sizeable booth in the exhibition. The ambassador himself, with full contingent of all diplomats (we have 5), attended the opening ceremony. There were all ladies from the embassy wearing kebaya national dress. Compared to other booths (TV companies, supermarket, design company, carpet products, etc), Republic of Indonesia booth was an obvious distinguished one. Why Indonesia has to be represented as a country and not by any national companies? “It’s a pity that our businessmen are not interested at business in Afghanistan. Actually if we dare to risk, [read more]

August 13, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Lobotomy

Now I know the feeling if my memory is lobotomized. Actually I have been in depression since the last two weeks. I celebrated my birthday with smiles on my face but tears flooding my heart. I tried to hide this feeling, but I just could not. How it happened might be important, might be not. But the result is the same. I found my hard disk, full of my photos and writing which I have made during my journey, completely died. This happened one day after the funeral of the last Afghan King, Zahir Shah. The day before I had big quarrel with a fellow photographer who felt resented as the office didn’t allow him to go and chose me instead to cover the event. My hard disk is damaged. Suddenly my day turned dark. I just could not afford to loose all of the images I made in my traveling around Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. All of the photos were in the hard disk. And now the hard disk is broken. Along with the photos, I also lost my writing documents, [read more]

August 9, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – One Year Older

Chinese Food in Kabul Happy Birthday to….. me Today is my birthday. Well… it’s not something special. I have birthday once in a year anyway. One year pass, and I get one year older. I am used not to make my birthday as a special day. I am used to spend birthday lonely, on road, on mountain, in the middle of nowhere, with absence of family and close friends. I am used to it, and I am prepared to it. I was conditioned to live alone. My family sent me to study in China when I was 19. I remembered my last birthday celebrated, when I was 18, was just few days before being enrolled to a university in Surabaya. High school friends came and congratulated me. It was simple, but there were at least 20 friends coming to my little house. That was the birthday party with the biggest numbers of guests. The most terrific in my history, I think. The yellow rice ‘tumpeng’ replaced my birthday cake, and laughter of newly graduated high school students filled the air. That night I remembered [read more]

August 8, 2007 // 1 Comment

Kabul – Bodybuilding Fever (Again)

Ready to compete After the waves of bodybuilding craze when Mr. Kabul of the year was elected, almost exactly one month ago, now the national bodybuilding championship invites all bodybuilders nationwide to join the craze. Contestants from 24 cities in the country competed in 9 different weight classes in the championship. I had heard previously that the contest today was to choose Mr. Afghanistan of the year, but I was mistaken. A Herat contestant from 75-kg class said that Mr. Afghanistan title is abolished this year, in order not to make bad feeling on contestants who failed to win. The guy who won title of the man of Afghanistan last year was also from Herat, is absent from today’s final contest. Even the newly elected Mr. Kabul did not attend this contest either. So what is the contest for? This national bodybuilding contest is to choose the athletes for the Afghan national team. Quite a pride, isn’t it? The master of ceremony repeated the praise over and over, that [read more]

August 6, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Women Call for Justice

Blue Demonstration Under the scorching sun they yelled, they cried, they screamed. Many of them were completely wrapped by blue burqas. Many of them were invisible. But grieves and cries were heard and tears were felt. The message was clear: call for justice. A group of more than 100 protesters, mostly women, held a demonstration in front of a UN mission office in Kabul today. They brought photos of men. The photos, seen from the fading black and white, are presumed old portraits. Who are the women? Who are the men? Before we go further, let me introduced you to a happening in Kabul some weeks ago. A discovery of mass graves located in Dasht-e-Chamtala, a desert some kilometers away from Central Kabul, in early and mid-July, shocked the country. The last mass grave contained at least 1000 bodies. The human remains reminded all to the two and half decades of wars in the war-torn republic. Bones, skeletons, even scraps of clothes of various colors, each has their own history and [read more]

August 5, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – A Dilemma

Afghan government is really in dillematic problem due to the Korean hostage crisis Yesterday, in the party in the embassy, an Indonesian friend told me about the new announcement that foreigners in Kabul are requested not to do any unnecessary journey inside the city. Attack towards foreigners may occur, says the guy who is close to the American embassy. “Oh…ya…, if you believe American warning you will go nowhere. Even they put Bali in the travel warning,” said a guy. But I also believe Kabul is not Bali. Here, after the several kidnappings in just order of days, the security situation is tightening. It should be something behind it, and this time I prefer to believe announcement ‘from the intelligence source’. Today, there was a press conference held. Here, the presidential spokesman expressed the government commitment to do the best to free the Korean hostages. The details can not be unveiled yet, but the promise is for sure. The 23 Korean hostages, 2 males among which [read more]

July 31, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – The Indonesian Family

The only place to taste genuine Indonesian food in Afghanistan ‘If you are abroad, remember, embassy is your home,’ said my elementary school teacher, explaining the function of embassy in a moral education class. This, at least in Afghanistan, is proven true. Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Shahr-e-Nao Kabul is indeed warm shelters for small Indonesian community in this Islamic Republic. There are not too many Indonesians in Afghanistan, and for sure less in Kabul. Not more than 30 Indonesians seen regularly in the embassy in the capital, and that already includes the embassy staff. People come and go. This small community always welcomes newcomers with smiles and prepares farewell party (sometimes almost rained by tears) for those who leave. In the last three months of my stay here, already two long-term Indonesians leave the country. For small family like this, the feeling of losing a member always hurts. The embassy people dominate this little community. Not before [read more]

July 30, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Warning: Travel Ban in Afghanistan

No foreigners are allowed to take this road to leave Kabul overland, due to the Korean hostage crisis Following the worsening of the 23 Korean hostages’ crisis, Afghanistan government has instituted new strict security measures in order to protect foreign citizens in the country. Foreigners, de facto, are banned to travel outside Kabul overland. Any foreigners wishing to travel by land must submit first an application to police two days in advance of the trip. To enforce the travel ban, new checkpoints had been instituted at all of Kabul’s main roads. The ban is given to an unlimited time, or will be announced later. I am sure the recent hostage crisis will cause various indirect effects. South Korean government has already included Afghanistan in travel-ban list, forbidding any citizens to get into the country without permission from the government and Afghanistan government was requested not to allow Korean citizens to enter the country. Lonely Planet independent travelers’ [read more]

July 26, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Funeral Ceremony of the ‘Father of Nation’

I have the rare opportunity to attend the state funeral ceremony of Muhammad Zahir Shah, the former and the last king of Afghanistan, who died at the age of 92. The king reigned from 1933 to 1973, before being overthrown by his own cousin Muhammad Daoud who started the history of Afghanistan as a republic. The forty years of his monarchy leadership was always remembered as the peaceful era in Afghanistan history, which had been almost always carved by blood. His father, the king Nadir Shah, was assassinated by a student, which then brought the young Zahir, 19 years old at that time, to the throne. Assassinations and bloody coups are not new things in Afghanistan. Nadir came to power also due to a bloody civil war rouse by the controversial modernity programs promoted by the former king, Amanullah Khan. In 1929, there were three different kings sat on the throne consequently. People were sacrificed in struggle to power. It is blood which dominated history of Afghanistan. During the [read more]

July 24, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Long Holiday

King Zahir Shah on an old Afghanistan postage stamp. “Iran has banned national flag from flying at half-mast during mourning period, because the flag contains holy symbols of ALLAH, holy sentence of ‘la illaha ha ilallah (there is no God but ALLAH), and ‘Allahoakbar (Allah is great),” said an article on an Indonesian Internet newspaper today. I was interested by this topic, and asked my colleague whether Afghanistan has the same policy. My friend didn’t understand my question. “What is half mast?” he asked “It is the culture to fly the national flag at half portion of the pole, to show mourning,” I answered. “Why mourning?” he still didn’t get my question. “Well… for example, there is someone very, very important in the country, dies. Then all people in the country mourning. Then it’s the culture to put the flag at half of the pole.” “Why doing that?” he asked me more than what I was asking. “I don’t know. That’s the culture everywhere.” [read more]

July 23, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Women and Terror

The road of Ghazni, where the incident took place The most recent news brought from the southern part of the country, is the striking hijacking of a bus full of foreigners in Qarabagh district, southern part of Ghazni province, by the Taliban. 18 foreigners on board, all Korean nationals, are taken hostage by the hijackers on 19 July. Among the 18 hostages, 15 of them are females. Initially the people were reported as tourists traveling from Kandahar to go back to Kabul, but later confirmation from the news agency reveals that these Koreans are Christians working as volunteers for a Christian missionary group, Saemmul Community Church in Bundang south of Seoul. These people entered Afghanistan on July 13 and were supposed to return home right after they arrive in Kabul. But the incident on their way to Kabul not only delayed their return, but also put a big question mark on their live survival. This is the largest-scale abduction conducted by the Taliban after 2001. The spokesman of [read more]

July 21, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Thousands Pairs of Legs

Practising with new legs Afghanistan, a war-torn nation, is where the handicapped war victims dominate the scene. A bazaar with armless beggars lying on hot asphalt, or pedestrian path with men sitting next to plastic legs waiting for alms, or handicapped street children crawling for tomorrow, are common things here. Fate is just decided by a simple foot step. You step on the wrong stone, and you explode. Landmines, millions of which scatter the country, are hidden enemies to bring unwanted nightmares to people. But you also may mention dozens other evil things that come along with the war: rocket, bomb blast, gun fire, malnutrition, until polio virus – which bring more and more Afghans to physical disability. It was fate which brought Najmuddin Hemal, 43 years old, to his current position. In 1988, when he was just 24 years young, he drove his car through a river bed. What a fate. He went out to the sand, stepped on the wrong stone, and blasted. He had his two legs amputated. But [read more]

July 17, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Nine Afghan Prisoners from Bagram

Prisoners released from Bagram Nine Afghan prisoners, from various the provinces of Khost, Ghazni, Paktia, Balkh, and Farah, were released from the US military main airbase at Bagram today. They were in detention for various periods, from 8 months to two years, on the charge of having links to Taliban resurgent. I went there with a reporter to attend the ‘ceremony of freedom.’ I was expecting to see cruel faces of Taliban supporters, but what I saw was some thin old men with white beards, some younger bearded ones, all in Afghan dresses with Chinese luggage bags. Everybody was numbered from 1 to 9. Haji Inayatullah, the eldest among the nine, a 76 year old man with white and red beard, was telling his unjustified detention in Bagram. The former Mujahidin commander loyal to Sibghatullah Mujaddidi was arrested and served one year in the American main airbase. Ironically, he was served the painful days in the detention center when he, following the government’s disarmament [read more]

July 11, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Mengungsi di KBRI

I feel safe under the red and white Suatu pengalaman tak terduga yang membuat saya terpaksa mengungsi di ‘tanah air’ di tengah gelapnya malam Kabul. Seperti biasa, mobil yang mengantar para pegawai kantor kami ke rumah masing-masing berangkat pukul 7. Matahari mulai merunduk di Afghanistan. Senja mulai menjelang di Kabul. Perjalanan pada malam hari mulai mencekam di mana jalan-jalan gelap pekat tak diterangi lampu seakan menelan semua mobil yang berlalu. Saya tidak pernah ikut mobil jemputan, karena saya tinggal di kantor. KBRI juga sudah mulai menelepon, memberitahukan agar datang untuk mengikuti pertandingan olah raga menjelang Agustusan. Saya bilang masih ada sedikit urusan di kantor dan datang agak malaman. Tiba-tiba, teman yang tadi pergi dengan mobil kantor datang kembali. Pukul 8. Wajahnya yang hitam kini nampak pucat pasi. “Kita diikuti pelaku bom bunuh diri!” serunya dengan tergagap. Bom bunuh diri atau penculikan, tak seorang pun bisa memastikan. Namun memang benar, [read more]

July 11, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – The Americans and the Indonesians

Crushed Kalashnikov The US embassy has a very special program today, to celebrate the destructions of more than one million small arms or light weapons worldwide. That is to show to a bunch of Afghan journalists from selected media of how an AK-47 arm is being destroyed by their Ambassador. So important that the program is, a limited number of the selected media have to come an hour earlier and being scrutinized thoroughly before being able to cover the speech of the Ambassador (which last only for 6 minutes, compact and short, no Q&A session that a female reporter complained the program to be very bland), people from disarmament organization, followed by a demonstration of the Ambassador destroying a Kalashnikov being turned to pieces by an unforgiving drill machine box. Kalashnikov, the Russian branded automatic rifles, had been invented more than sixty years ago (1943), and the AK-47 has the reputation as one of the most reliable rifles. There were already 100 million of [read more]

July 9, 2007 // 0 Comments

Kabul – Mister Kabul, Mister Muscle from the Afghan Land

With this oil, the body will go “blink-blink” Bodybuilding and Afghanistan. For most of us this pair does sound kinda odd one. ‘Afghanistan and Gun’, ‘Afghanistan and War’, or ‘Afghanistan and Bomb’ all sound more familiar to us. The Afghan young men, whom foreigners might prefer to associate with AK-47, long beards, and Arab gowns, now are showing up their shiny smooth chest, bulging biceps, and packed stomach. Proudly they come out in body show contest, where hundreds of spectators cheer enthusiastically to support their Greek-god-bodied fellows. In a country where the posters of Tajik warrior Ahmad Shah Massoud and the president Karzai scatter the streets, Arnold Schwarzenegger – the governor of California – is the real king for the crowds in this hot old theatre hall, where the Mr. Kabul of the year is crowned today. At least 200 muscled hunks from 70 fitness clubs of the capital competed in the bodybuilding contest. In a city of 3 million [read more]

July 5, 2007 // 0 Comments



July 1, 2007 // 2 Comments

Globe Asia (2007): Solo Travel – Wealth of Experience

  SOLO TRAVEL: WEALTH OF EXPERIENCE Holiday season is approaching and perhaps it’s time to do something different. Try solo traveling. The trip might be more costly than joining an arranged tour but the joy of discovery is more than adequate reward, say Agustinus Weng and Nefransjah. BY MARY R. SILABAN Flying business class, staying at five-star resorts, joining a flock of fellow tourists in an air-conditioned bus and eating a sandwich while visiting an ancient temple is not how Nefransjah and Agustinus Wibowo like to travel. The two independent travelers, or what people usually call backpackers, demand the freedom to add their own flavor. While on the road, Nefransjah tries to be as close as he can to the street, and that means taking as few air flights as possible and avoiding the usual tourist sites. “1 want to absorb all the local ambience,’ says the 37 year-old. For Agustinus, 26, there’s no thought of joining a group tour. “When we travel solo, we have [read more]

June 29, 2007 // 0 Comments

The Jakarta Post (2007): Yustinus Wibowo—Going around the world on a shoestring

21 June 2007 The Jakarta Post People Yustinus Wibowo Going around the world on a shoestring Maggie Tiojakin, Contributor, Jakarta A hundred and fifty years ago, when so much of the world was still unknown to the majority of the earth’s inhabitants, exploring uncharted lands and seas was available only to a privileged few. Today, with the help of technology, it isn’t uncommon for one to travel the world in twenty-four hours by plane, or twenty-four seconds with the click of a mouse. However, there are others who cling onto the exotic dream of being an explorer crossing multiple frontiers. Meet Agustinus Wibowo. Born in Lumajang, East Java, on Aug. 8, 1981, the 26-year-old has been embarking on an around-the-world journey since July 28, 2005, as a backpacker with only US$2,000 in his pocket — the amount of money he managed to save while studying and working part-time in [read more]

June 21, 2007 // 5 Comments

Kabul – (Another) Explosion in Kabul

The victims of the blast Morning, 8:10 a.m., we just started our daily work. Suddenly we heard a big blast. It was obviously a bomb blast. The sound was very loud, and it should not be very far from where I was. My instinct as a photographer threw me away to the source of the blast. The explosion happened in front of the Police Headquarters, just about 500 m away from my office. It was a mess. I saw a big bus was completely destroyed; police and medical workers were evacuating victims; and other police rushed civilians (including journalists) not to get near. There was no fire. When we arrived (one reporter and two photographers), there were no other journalists there yet. Our office was the closest to the location. But not long after we arrived, police started to beat civilians with sticks to empty the location. This was a big blast. The bus belonged to local Police Academy and was carrying academy attendants. At least this terrorist attack claimed 35 casualties and injured others. [read more]

June 17, 2007 // 3 Comments

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