Notes from Afghanistan: Saying goodbye

21/09/2019 Posted by admin

by Francis Silvaggio

We said goodbye to our fixer, Noor Khan, today. He’s the local Afghan journalist who has been helping us get the Afghan perspective throughout much of our time in this country. He risks his life every day gathering information for us, and diligently provides us protection and guidance every time he takes us into the city and various districts.

Over the years, he has been directly threatened, received cryptic night letters from the Taliban, mistakenly attacked by coalition soldiers and almost blown up twice.

His family no longer lives in Afghanistan. He could have left with them but instead chose to stay. I’m not sure I would have made the same decision.

Noor Khan, though, has always said he has a duty to his country. By helping shed light on the Afghan story, he believes more people will understand why his homeland still needs help.

Francis, Noor Khan, and Global National photojournalist Mike Gill. 

There are a handful of men, just like Noor Khan, who have risked their lives with the hope their sacrifices will someday help make Afghanistan a better place. The photos of two of them hang on the wall at the Kandahar Press Club. I recognized one of the men. Javed Yazamy used to be our fixer before we met Noor Khan. We called him Jojo. He was gunned down, execution style, in 2009. He was just 23 years old.

The men at the Press Club say they’ve accepted these risks because they don’t want to leave their country’s future entirely in the hands of the international community. They say Afghans must participate in order to ensure real change.

As Canadian journalists leave with the conclusion of the Combat mission, Afghan journalists will need to play an even bigger role. The American media interest peaked during last year’s surge, but has since fallen sharply. Those journalists who do come are confined to a restrictive two-week embed program that gives them access to the fight in the field but very little of the plight of the people.

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It’s a scenario that worries the Afghans who have risked so much to help Canadian journalists in the past. Some will continue to help tell the Afghan story to the world, others aren’t yet sure. Noor Khan has made his decision. He’ll leave when we leave and rejoin his family. He’s been named tribal leader of his village and will use the same passion he had to help his country to now help his immediate community.

Kandahar will remain in his heart and in his prayers just as Noor Khan will remain in ours. The reality is that we said goodbye to more than just Global’s fixer today…we said goodbye to a friend.

We wish him well, and hope his dream of a better Afghanistan finally comes true.

Thanks Noor Khan.

Francis is Global National’s Alberta correspondent based in Calgary. He is currently at Kandahar Airfield, reporting on Canada’s withdrawl from Afghanistan. Follow him on Twitter: @FJSilvaggio. 

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