Friday, February 23, 2007


Yesterday was extremely tense. We kept receiving security emails warning us about the demonstration scheduled for today. Each email was more urgent than the one preceding it. It started with notification of a peaceful demonstration, and a recommendation not to travel around the city today. Next came a suicide bomber warning because of the demonstration - the more people gathered in one place, the bigger the bang, so to speak. Then we started getting notifications that the former warlords were busing in supporters from the provinces, and that the demonstration could have between 30,000 and 300,000 participants - many of whom would be armed. Movement restrictions for us were moved up, our lockdown began yesterday at 6pm instead of today.

We took some security precautions besides staying in which I won't detail here, picked up a case of beer and settled in for a long night. We heard rumors that the UN and US government staff were preparing for evacuation if necessary. We talked about grab bags (pre-packed bags in case of emergency evacuation) although none us have bothered to do that. Nathan, Scott and I stayed up late watching movies, and the first thing I did when I woke up this morning was check the news and my email. There was nothing about any of this on the international news. I guess it's only a story is something blows up.

Text messages were flying between internationals all morning, and there has been a lot more air traffic than usual. I hate hearing the airplanes flying low - it creeps me out even though I know they are international planes. The demonstration is over now, and initial reports say about 35,000 people attended. Nothing has happened so far, although we are under lockdown for the rest of the day. I'm relieved, of course, but also frightened by how quickly the environment changed. Practically overnight my feelings about security here went from tolerably unstable to scary as hell. My boss described today as feeling like we are in the eye of hurricane - things are happening at an alarming pace all around us, even though it is quiet where we are. The worst part is the feeling of helplessness. We are dependent on other people to provide us with information, to protect us and to get us out if necessary. Of course, I'm lucky. As an expat and as non-essential staff, I'll be one of the first evacuated in the situation gets too unstable - our Afghan staff won't.

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