Friday, July 3, 2009

I am not afraid (…… that's obviously a lie)

I guess when writing about Afghanistan you don’t get around a blog about security. The reason why it’s so late is that I didn’t really care to actively delve in all the threats we are surrounded by. Then yesterday we were briefed that, with elections coming up, there have been new concrete threats on our organization. So yesterday we had a security exercise and there’ll be more to come. The fear of something happening is omnipresent, though even an easily frightened individual like myself, learns to blank it out after some time. Here some noticeable things:

Work Rules:
You are taken everywhere by an official work car with a driver. They take you to work, sports, restaurants, everything. For those who like the idea of a chauffeur it rocks, for those who like to cycle and be as independent as possible, it, well, takes some getting used to (and around). As a female staff I am not allowed to walk outside alone. I must be accompanied by either one international or two national staff and can walk maximally 150m (no joke). Shopping is only allowed in certain places and you must be taken there by car. You are only allowed to sleep (or go to) houses which meet security regulations (razor wired security wall, guards, a bunker or safe room). There’s a curfew between 11pm and 6am. The city is divided into parts, and you need permission to leave the area marked the ‘security box’. You are issued a radio and must check in every night (and in theory tell them wherever you go should be recorded) – this is cool in the beginning because you get to say stuff like “alpha kilo 775 to base” and you finally get to use the word “roger” – a life’s ambition).

Play Rules:
Ignore all of the above restrictions and just be cautious is pretty much the first rule everyone teaches you. Depending on the person, some appear to stick to more to the Work rules, many others just try to stay alive while living an acceptably normal life. There are some very good private car services (more reliable than any Western taxi service I’ve seen a million times cheaper) which take you safely wherever you want to go. People figure out very quickly, that you are much more visible (and stared at) when in a UN car, than on foot. I’m usually thought to be Afghan or from Pakistan at work, so the further from internationals, the safer you feel sometimes. But every time you want to do something like go to party (which never end at curfew time), go somewhere fun outside, walk to a shop, buy a mango yourself, or even just walk a street to take in the air --- always a judgment call.

The scary stuff is very real here. The first day I arrived my housemate lost a colleague to a road side bomb (it had been his last month on duty in Afghanistan). Last week a Philippine colleague lost a good friend from the UNICEFstaff to the same. The gym I go to (the only one available to women or internationals) is in a hotel that was target of a major attack just a year ago. They bombed themselves through the gate, then the next bunch of them ran into the hotel, its gym and sauna and killed eight people. Two weeks ago there was a memorial service for a Norwegian journalist who was killed there. Each time I sweat away on the treatmill I think of where to run should something happened. Have now reduced my visits there to once a week because as elections are coming up, the risk level of that place is going up (last time I was there, there was a high profile ministerial celebration in the garden—just screamed TARGET to me). Everyday you read or hear of someone or something that reminds you of why this place is not only fascinating, beautiful and inspiring but also downright scary.

Any place that Westerners go to will be somewhat fortress-like. Most have 1-3 rooms (or walled off areas) you have to go through and be searched in before you enter. Only guys get body searched, women just open their bags. All restaurants have signs reminding you not to bring in guns and they always check through a little barred window in the door whether you are a crazy person or a customer.
At work it’s a real fortress. You first drive into a gated area with a huuuugge fat security wall (was recently built due to the heightened threats). The car is searched thoroughly with mirrors etc. for bombs and everyone shows their IDs. Upon leaving they then check all the car doors are locked and that the windows are tightly shut even if it’s burning hot. The compound has several Gurkha and Afghan guards and a watch tower with more armed guards. The glass of all windows of all the buildings in the compound has been removed. Super ugly, but safer I am told… There are signs pointing out the bunkers and security assembly points everywhere.
And as said, we practice the various If-scenarios: suicide attack, intruders, compound evacuation, country evacuation, etc. Still, anyone who’s experienced an attack here –and among the national staff the number is scarily high – tells you there’s not much you can practice… it just comes down to luck.


  1. I think mimicking popular posts on other blogs is one of the best ways to get a good idea which will be popular.Such a lovely blog you have shared here with us. Really nice . Symptom tracker is based on the Track My Stack Easy to use, tried and tested, track improve your health and now available free to patients.

  2. The Two Birdees infant and toddler apparel line is based on the idea that children should feel unrestricted by their clothing, even when they are dressed up.And Many Kickee pants clothes Coverall, Kicky Pants, Kickee Pants Coupon Code, Kickee Pants Clearance Etc. In This blog is very nice .

  3. Thanks for the valuable feedback. I think that strategy is sound and can be easily replicable.Great posts. I love this article. Alarm Response Security - My security services 1300 788 828 is security monitoring company that provides cheap venue security, business security, Event security, building construction site security, crowd control services and helps to hire friendly personal security officer, security technician, private bodyguard in Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and The Gold Coast Australia.

  4. Esteeming the determination you put into your online diary and point by point information you give.Online Cheap Eye Mask

  5. YouTube movies are famous in entire globe, as it is the biggest video sharing web site, and I become too happy by watching YouTube video tutorials.
    Cctv camera Sydney

  6. A promise of appreciation is all together for the OK information. I am sure, I will tweet this to my twitter account. This will help a lot of users.Very motivational to get a couple answers concerning some individual hunting down after their dream and convincing the opportunity to be able instead of taking after the standard way.
    Cheap Women Design Store

  7. I have to thank you for posting such an edifying online diary. Furthermore will sit tight for your next post.I in all likelihood getting a charge out of every last bit of it. It is a shocking site and captivating offer. I have to thankful.
    Website traffic

  8. Very informative and well written post! Quite interesting and nice topic selected for the post.
    Also checkout Security services Melbourne

  9. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.
    car service