The phone rang the other week, a number I didn’t know. The voice was unmistakable. “John it is --------. I am in Australia.” The voice was the Afghan-accented English of the translator (and journalist in his own right) I had worked with on my many trips to Afghanistan as a reporter in the mid to late 2000s.
“I am just so happy to be alive,” he said. So many times over the last eight years I had read with dread the reports of another Afghan journalist killed by the Taliban, by coalition forces or fallen victim to crime, extortion and murder expecting to see his name. We had covered the deaths of his colleagues together, killed by both sides in that interminable war. We had covered the back-and-forth flows of the war against the Taliban, the deaths of civilians at the hands of both sides, either by mistake or targeted assassinations. I hadn’t heard from him for a long time. In a way I had written him off as dead. The life expectancy of those Afghans who work for the foreign media in the area where he did is very short. The constant flow of reports detailing the deaths of local journalists made me think the worst.