Thursday, December 27, 2007

BENAZIR BHUTTO KILLED (1953-2007)



Am preparing some stories here on Harryzzz on this major, major event.

Check via the Pakistan label earlier posts on Pakistan and Benazir Bhutto.

Harald Doornbos

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

ENTIRELY OFF TOPIC...

Not a lot of news during X-mass. Pope says something in Rome. Guy blows himself up north of Baghdad. A Hollywood church catches fire on X-mass eve.

So time for something entirely off topic. Watch this hilarious sketch of the Medieval Help desk. It was done by some Norwegian comedians, translation is in English. Very funny.


Harald Doornbos

Sunday, December 23, 2007

THE BULLSHIT THEY TELL YOU (2)

I've been away for a short while and when I came back to Beirut, my Internet connection had stopped working. Thus: Ten days without any new postings on Harryzzz.

But OK, I'm back, the Internet is working again and even the electricity situation here has improved (At least, in my area of Beirut).

Very recently I started the series: The Bullshit they tell you. The first culprit was the BBC, now it is the main Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant.

As I live in the Middle East, I did not manage to read a Volkskrant for about a year. So I was truly exited when I recently got my hands on a copy. Even better; in it was a story on Lebanon. The article was on some Lebanese people using humor to deal with the current political crisis. Written by Beirut based Volkskrant correspondent Ferry Biederman, it was an OK story. So far so good.



But here comes the bullshit. The article was printed with a huge picture of a Beirut bar, called 1975 (see pictures above). The caption in De Volkskrant goes as follows: CUSTOMERS IN THE NEWLY OPENED BAR '1975' IN BEIRUT CAN FULLY RELIVE THE BLOODY LEBANESE CIVIL WAR, WHICH STARTED IN 1975.

Uuuuups. Volkskrant, we have a problem! Newly opened bar? Huh??? I've been to bar 1975 around 2.5 years ago. Would not call that newly opened. And the hilarious thing is that bar 1975 did so badly that it went BANKRUPT and CLOSED a year ago. So it wasn't even closed recently.

This wanky mistake, to be clear, wasn't made by the correspondent. He did not even mention bar 1975 in his text. Here clearly a photo editor of De Volkskrant is to blame.

I know how these things work. Picture this: Office in Amsterdam. Outside it's shitty weather, inside its boringly warm. Some kind of Volkskrant photo editor needs a picture for Biederman's story. So he searches his/her database and types in the key words Lebanon/humor/civil war. Ah, got it! AFP has a picture of some weird looking bar in Beirut where Lebanese have a drink in a war-like environment. Goes well with the story. And let's just write in the caption the bar was recently opened. Now it immediately proves Biederman's story that Lebanese are using humor to deal with the current crisis.

Why do I make such a big deal about this? Well, because it just shows a total lack of interest/knowledge/passion for the facts. Because who cares if its true or not. You know, it is only Lebanon, a place we really dont give a fuck about. And who will ever find out about some kind of bar in Beirut?

Sorry mate, but here are two pictures I made a couple of days ago of the current bar 1975. Looks pretty closed to me. And not a lot of humor around.



So this photo editor is trying to sell the readers bullshit. By the way, if you do a search on the Internet, you will find that AFP (the same agency which made the photo) did a story about bar 1975 back in early November 2004.

Either photo editor had a very bad day or he/she tried to lie to the public. Verdict: Guilty!

Harald Doornbos

Sunday, December 09, 2007

THE BULLSHIT THEY TELL YOU (1)

Here on harryzzz, the start of a new little series called: The Bullshit they tell you...

Because, just like you, I'm reading and watching the world news. But, not just like you, I'm actually sometimes running around in these parts of the world.

This gives me the possibility to tell you when a journalist or media company is telling you BULLSHIT or not. I cover the Middle East and Pakistan - so I'll keep a close watch on stories from there. Note: I'm picking on any mistake I come across, I don't have anything against any specific media outlet.

Ok, here BULLSHIT REPORT Nr. 1. And the suspect is the good old, very reliable BBC.

Step 1: Go to this web page (right click and open in new window):

Step 2: Click on: audio and video news: On patrol with the army in the Swat Valley.

Step 3: Watch the video report. It starts with: Until earlier this year Pakistan's Swat valley was popular with tourists...

Immediately after that, from 08.00 sec onward, the BBC guy aboard the helicopter says: "Now a military helicopter is our only way in."

BULLSHIT!

A military helicopter the only way in? Yeah, right. Bullshit! BBC guy flew from outside Swat to the city of Mingora, inside Swat. I did, very recently, the exact same route by car. And not in some kind of 4-wheel drive vehicle, but in this one - together with my taxidriver!!! (see picture).

The trip, by car, from Islamabad to Mingora takes around 6 hours. The Taliban militants are mainly active north and east of Mingora, not south and west (the way you get into the area). All roads from Islamabad or Peshawar to Mingora are open. Of course, way too many details that TV can't be bothered with.

Hey, I immediately agree that it is much cooler to fly in by a helicopter, than to drive in with a little taxi. But to claim that "now a military helicopter is the only way in" is total bullshit.

So, yes, the report wants you to believe a lie. It misinforms the public by sexing up a story. Verdict: Guilty!

Harald Doornbos

Monday, December 03, 2007

DISTURBING - THE ARREST OF FATAH AL ISLAM MEMBERS

The following video's aren't particularly nice to watch. I did not shoot this stuff, I only found it on the Internet where these clips started appearing between 6 weeks and three days ago.

The clips, basically, show Lebanese and, possibly Palestinians, roughing up arrested members of Fatah al Islam, the Al-Qaeda-inspired terror group responsible for the violence in and around the Nahr al Bared camp (May 20th - September 2nd 2007), in northern Lebanon. Fatah al Islam killed around 170 Lebanese soldiers - which largely explains why these terrorists are being roughed up after they got arrested by the Lebanese authorities.

To some viewers the pictures may look terrible or cruel. To all of us, it will look disturbing.

But this story is all about context. It might be a good idea to remember how 'we' treated traitors after the Second World War. Yes, the body of Mussolini was hanged - up side down - on the roof of a petrol station. And to keep him in that position, they used a meat hook from a nearby butcher.

Not very nice indeed, but rather understandable. Same with the treatment of these Fatah al Islam guys (No meat hook though, 'only' some beatings). Do not forget that most of these fighters are actually foreign islamists who came to Lebanon to fight, kill and behead Lebanese civilians and soldiers who definitely did not ask for this kind of madness.

Again, I did not shoot these video's. Soon more on this though. I'm working on an English translation so people who don't speak Arabic (like me!) can understand what is said. I also will try to find out who is who in these video's and where and when did it take place. As so often with stuff from the Internet - you easily lose track of basics like: What, where, when, why and who.

Video 1:


Video 2:


Video 3:


Video 4 (first 50 seconds shows the blowing up of a building at Nahr al Bared, as of 0.51 the 'interrogation' of four Fatah al Islam members in the back of an ambulance):


The first three clips were originally published here: http://www.liveleak.com/user/khallass10542

The last one came from here: http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=VeQLWFx8DdY

Most Fatah al Islam-members are currently detained in the Roumieh prison, nearby Beirut.

Harald Doornbos

Saturday, December 01, 2007

SOURCE: HARIRI, LAHOUD AGREED ON GENERAL MICHEL SULEIMAN AS NEW PRESIDENT ON NOVEMBER 21ST

While Lebanon's saga of choosing a new president continues, this Harryzzz exlusive news might shine some new light on the whole thing.

According to a well informed source here in Beirut, the following:

Future-leader Saad Hariri and president Emile Lahoud met, in the presidential palace, on Wednesday 21st November [two days before Lahoud was to resign] and agreed on Michel Suleiman as Lebanon's new president. According to this source, Suleiman himself was present, as were the army commander for the north and the army commander for the south. A member of Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement also attended the meeting, but it is unclear to me who. Hezbollah wasn't there.

According to this source, the meeting wasn't very much about negotiations, but more about celebrations. In other words: Hariri came to the palace (which is highly awkward, as he and his party boycott the president) to congratulate Suleiman on his new job while at the same time, Hariri took the opportunity to make a last moment peace with outgoing president Lahoud.

Considering this information is true, I personally don't get it why it wasn't publicly announced and why Hezbollah, being close allies of Michel Aoun's party, still need more time for consultations (next meeting on electing the president is scheduled for December 7th).

At the other hand: He or she who truly understands Lebanese politics, please contact harryzzz for cake and drinks....

Harald Doornbos

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

TALIBANS LATEST HOBBY IN PAKISTAN: STONING THE BUDDHA

Pakistani taliban in the Swat-area have a new pastime: Throwing rocks and dead birds at one of the last remaining Buddha statues in a village called Barikot.

You surely remember the Islamist' rage and threats against the pope, the Danish cartoons, Egyptian writers, Iranian ex-muslims and - only this week - against a Bangladeshi feminist writer in India and a British teacher in Sudan after her pupils named a teddy bear Muhammad.

So Islamists themselves would never ever insult other religions - right?

Well, wrong.

I recently travelled through Northern Pakistan, where the Pakistani taliban has taken over large parts of the Swat- and Shangla-area's. The latest fashion here is: Stoning the Buddha with rocks, empty packs of cigarettes and, believe it or not, dead birds.

It is all happening close to the village of Barikot, right along the main road between Malakand (Thana) and Swat (Mingora). The statue is about three meters high and carved out of a rock. As you can see on the picture, the Pakistani authorities have placed - a long time ago - an iron fence around the Buddha to protect the rock carving. By the way, most parts of the Buddha have been destroyed by the locals through the years. Because, in this part of Pakistan, have no illusions; even before the arrival of the taliban, the people here (rather fanatical Sunni muslims) consider statues to be blasphemous.

Ever since the taliban has taken over the area (a couple of weeks ago) all worldly things have been banned. No TV, schools closed, music and dvd's banned. Basically, the only thing left to do in the area is throwing stones at a statue of the Buddha, which many local people consider to be Satan.

Until the year 1000 A.D. northern Pakistan, and parts of Afghanistan, were major Buddhist centers. The tirangle Islamabad-Peshawar-Swat is where the Gandhara era flourished. But the arrival of Islam has, more or less, destroyed most of it. Afghan taliban, in 2001, blew up the giant Buddha's of Bamyan. Recently, at least three Buddha statues in the Swat area were blown to pieces by the Pakistani taliban.

People from the Swat valley specially drive to Barikot to stone the Buddha. While I was there, a man in a car (from Kalam, in Swat) and his three children (of course sons; girls and women are not allowed to leave their houses anymore) visited the Buddha. In very much a picknic atmosphere, he explained that local people view the Buddha as un-Islamic and, thus, as a devil, as Satan. Throwing stones at it, he said, was a popular pastime.

I could see around thirty rocks, one dead bird and one empty pack of cigarettes laying in front of the poor Buddha. All of this had been previously thrown at the statue in a ceremony that, very much, resembles the stoning of the devil (stoning of the jamarat) by muslim pilgrims during the Hajj in Mina, close to Mecca.

The man with the three children (see pic), obviously, was a Taliban supporter. "We need the full implementation of the shariah [Islamic law] here," he said. "It is a shame," he continued, "That nobody gets hanged anymore after they commit a crime. Luckily the taliban is correcting that."

Most Pakistanis I spoke to (normal muslims, not loony Islamists stuck in puberty), were appalled by the stoning of the Buddha. "These people are just so primitive," one man told me. Another described them as behenchod - which basically means: Sisterfuckers. My translator asked me for a print of the Buddha picture so he could show it to his father. "Shameful behaviour by these taliban," he added.

Harald Doornbos

Monday, November 26, 2007

BEIRUT BY NIGHT...

14th of March, 8th of March. President this, no, president that. I really don't understand why the Lebanese want any of it.

I never ever hear a Lebanese politician talking about fighting poverty in the country. Or battling unemployment. What a about a minimum wage for workers? Or it might be a good idea to force the two phone companies to abandon their outrages - no, criminal - rates of 0.5 dollar a minute which is crippling already poor people. Or what about the endless power cuts (between 3 and 8 hours a day now and it is only getting worse)? Since a couple of days, there's even trouble with the water supply in most parts of Beirut.

But no, the only thing in the mind of Lebanese politicians is the defense of either American-, Saudi-, Syrian- or Iranian interests. It is kind of shameful these Lebanese politicians even dare to call themselves Lebanese... (and don't worry, they all have second passports of various countries).

Yesterday I received an email from a friend which sums it all up. While many places in the world look beautiful by night, please take a look at romantic Beirut.

PARIS BY NIGHT:


Singapore by night:


Amsterdam by night:


Beirut by night:


Harald Doornbos

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

EXCLUSIVE TO HARRYZZZ READERS: BUY A PAKISTANI MADE THE HUNTING PARTY DVD FOR 5 EURO'S

I've been kind of dying to see the movie The Hunting Party (people who have read this blog before know the reason...).

So during my stay in Pakistan I walked into this CD/DVD store in Islamabad.

Do you have a copy of this movie The Hunting Party? - I asked.

Yes, came in last week - the salesman said.

Great, I told him. How much?

100 Rupees.

Even better, I thought. A little over 1 euro!

They still had two copies. I bought both of course (see pic).

As the movie came out in September this year and did pretty badly in the US, I'm hereby taking orders from Harryzzz readers to get your own Islamabad-made copy of The Hunting Party. 5 euros a DVD!

Beware though: It is an illegal copy, made by some guy (somewhere in the world) who took his little camera into the cinema. So, yes, you hear the audiance laughing every now and then. An at around 45 minutes into the movie some kind of tall guy moves into the seat in front of our cameraman. And yes, the rest of the movie you see a part of a human head on the left bottom of your screen. The overall quality of the movie is kind of crappy.

Why do these kind of illegal DVD's appear in countries like Pakistan (Really, every movie, ever made is for sale in Pakistan for 100 rupees a piece)? Well, there is no way that a Pakistani can and will pay 40 euros for an original DVD. And watching the movie in the cinema is no option anymore because the only cinema in Islamabad was burnt down, three years ago, by Taliban militants.

(Some additional info. I was wrong claiming there isn't any cinema left in Islamabad. Stupid mistake. A friend from Pakistan informed me there actually still are two cinema's operating in Islamabad - called the Twin Cinema's in the F6/1 area. The Melody cinema was burnt down by sunni radicals (I was actually there when it happened.)

Pakistan zindabad!

Harald Doornbos

Sunday, November 18, 2007

COMPARING PAKISTAN AND DUBAI

Short observation. I travelled today from Islamabad in Pakistan to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

A weird experience.

Because in Pakistan, a terrible political crisis because president Musharraf has declared emergency rule. Demonstrations of lawyers, students and journalists. Anger about the media-blackout. American diplomats harshly criticizing president Musharraf for blocking TV stations. And one of the opposition leaders, Benazir Bhutto, creating drama after drama in front of the word's cameras. Well, I'm a journalist, so I naturally support demonstrating journalists.

But to call the current situation in Pakistan a full media blackout is utterly silly, to say the least. Yes, a couple of television stations have been taken off air, but many TV stations are back on (also the critical ones) and the print media have never been blocked or censored at all since the introduction of emergency rule.

Compare that to Dubai, where I'm now. All business as usual - happy money hungry people. Indians, Pakistanis, Arabs, Americans, Europeans. No protesting journalists here (the media is totally censored, basically no criticism has ever been allowed ). TV channels stuffed with action movies, papers full of 'man rescues cat'-stories. Yep, great place.

So here no demonstrating journalists, no screaming opposition leader (there is no opposition in Dubai) and no angry American or European diplomats (the diplomats here are way too busy playing golf..).

Of course, Pakistani democracy might be in danger. But with a literacy rate of only 37 percent, 74 percent of the population making only 1.5 euro a day and 42 religiously inspired suicide bombers killing hundreds of innocent people this year, Pakistan might have bigger problems on its hands than a couple of TV stations going black.

Emergency is, indeed, terrible for the 25.000 or so Haves in Pakistan, but most of the remaining 159.975.000 Have Not's would choose a humane life over voting once every four years in a democracy that has never functioned and never delivered.

Harald Doornbos

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

CURFEW LIFTED, ARMY MASSING AT KABAL

Ok, this might be way too much detailed information for most readers, but the curfew in the Malakand and the Mingora-area was lifted at noon, Pakistan time, on Wednesday.

The Pakistan army is massing its troops in the village of Kabal, west of Mingora. According to good sources, there are around 10.000 army troops. And, believe it or not, they are based at a golf course (yes, only a year ago, the Swat area was a very popular tourist destination in Pakistan). So except for heavy artillery, helicopter gunships and machine guns, the pak army might use golf balls!

In the mean time, Pakistan Taliban militants loyal to Maulana Fazlullah have captured a place called Alpuri, in the Shangla district. This is very dangerous, since the militants are getting now very close to the Karakoram Highway. This is the one and only land connection between Western-China and Pakistan, heavily used by Chinese- and Pakistani businesses. The capture of parts of the Karakoram highway would be a major, and i repeat, a major blow for Musharraf. No way ever, will Musharraf let this happen, since it would cripple Pakistan economically.

The talibanisation of northern Pakistan is still going on, if Musharraf and his army do not respond quickly a rather limited rebellion might get really out of control and spill over into eastern area's.

By the way - if all these names are abracadabra to you, please search on the web for a detailed map of northern Pakistan, Swat area. You might wanna use this, zoom in on greater Mingora-area. Golfcourse is bit west of Mingora. Militants are basically between Mingora and Kalam, around 100 kms north. Karakoram highway a little bit to the east (at Besham).

And don't underestimate the importance of this islamic insurgency - the future of Pakistan depends on it.

Harald Doornbos

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

HARRYZZZ EXCLUSIVE: PAKISTAN ARMY OPERATION TO LIBERATE SWAT-AREA IMMINENT

It's been silent at harryzzz for a couple of days. Good reason for that. I just came back from Malakand/Swat, semi-tribal area in Pakistan (east of Peshawar).

The Swat-area was recently captured by local Taliban. Since two months the central government has been overthrown, police and para-military forces kidnapped, killed or kicked out by local Taliban.

The deteriorating security situation in the Swat-region was one of the main reasons for president Pervez Musharrafs' declaration of emergency rule (another reason was of course the high courts refusing to confirm Musharraf's election, by parliament, as president)

But things are about to change in Swat. The army is moving in and army units already based there are preparing to go on the offensive against local Taliban forces. On Tuesday evening, an indefinite curfew was announced for Malakand and Swat. The curfew went in effect at Tuesday 24.00 hr local time.

This of course gives the army a free hand to move around and perform operations against the militants, who have beheaded Pakistani police, scouts and rangers. The army though is very different from those local forces. Pakistan Army is very professional and capable of going into a conflict 'the hard way'.

I saw on Tuesday army helicopters flying over the area, especially close to the house/madrassa of Mullah Fazlullah, the leader of the local Taliban here. Police stations south/east of Mingora-city where either abandoned or reinforced with extra troops, sandbags on the roofs and armoured vehicles. It wasn't possible to go further than Mingora, this because of Taliban checkpoints on the road between Mingora and Kalam, 100 kms north.

Fazlullah's village was, on Tuesday, almost completely empty. Locals have left, fearing an attack. Mullah Fazlullah's illegal radio station has been off air since four days, apparently blocked by the authorities.

On my way back from Swat to Islamabad, several jeeps with Pakistani soldiers. Army helicopters flying high in the sky.

With president Musharraf having sweeping powers due to declaring 'emergency' on November 3rd, it seems the Talibanisation of Pakistan will be stopped soon - especially in the Swat area.

Harald Doornbos

Friday, November 09, 2007

BENAZIR AT HOME, RAWALPINDI SEALED OFF, HARRYZZZ HIT BY STONE

With Benazir Bhutto placed under house arrest on Friday (according to latest report will be lifted again tomorrow, Saturday) and Rawalpindi almost entirely sealed off by 9.000 policemen,the anti-Musharraf opposition had no chance to massively protest. Smart move by Musharraf, but very discouraging for the opposition.

After a visit to the surrounded Bhutto residency in Islamabad, Harryzzz though managed to sneak into Rawalpindi (using a labyrinth of very small roads that weren't blocked and by walking some distance) and hang out with the police and a couple of hundreds of demonstrators who also managed to get in.

99 percent of Rawalpindi was just deserted and quiet, but at one place, close to the park where Bhutto was suppose to hold a speech, pretty heavy rioting between cops and demonstrators.

Unfortunately I was hit by a stone (thrown by the police). And it literally hit me about ten centimeters from a very sensitive male spot. So my right upper leg hurts a bit, which is of course much better than having a high pitched voice the rest of your life...

Here some pics I made today:

Bhutto residency under siege:


Innocent passerby with goat send away by police near to Bhutto residency:


Trucks and police block all roads in and around Rawalpindi:


The PPP slogan of the day: "Musharraf is a dog!"


After having thrown stones, a Bhutto supporter gets seriously beaten up by Pakistani cops and an undercover policeman:


Bhutto supporters ready to face the police:


Stones and rocks thrown at the police:

Thursday, November 08, 2007

ON EVE OF CERTAIN CONFRONTATION, PAKISTAN SET FOR IRAN 1979-SCENARIO?

Prepare yourself for big riots in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, on Friday. Supporters of Benazir Bhutto will defy a ban on public gatherings there. And since the protests will start right after Friday prayer, there is a very big chance religious right wingers will join in.

Just to be clear; Bhutto's PPP-party is a, more or less, left leaning, secular party. The Islamists are extreme right wingers, trying to establish Sharia law in Pakistan. Both sides, again more or less, work together these days because of their common hatred towards president Pervez Musharraf. It all smells a little like Iran in 1979 on the eve of the fall of the American backed Shah and the start of the Shi'ite Islamic revolution.

What many, especially secular demonstrators, do not seem to realize is this: What if Musharraf is ousted? What then?!

Compare it to three people fighting for one chair.

At the moment, Musharraf sits on it. But two other persons - who formed an alliance -really would like to kick his butt and take over his seat. Let's assume Musharraf's butt is indeed kicked. What will follow is a fight between the two others, because - hey - there is only one chair and one seat available.

We've seen this before in Iran 1979. Secular left and Islamic extreme right together against the shah. And after his fall, the secular leftists were wiped out by the islamists. 28 years later, they still run the show in Iran.

In Pakistan too, there is only one chair. And although secular Islam can count on my support, they have no chance of winning the battle with the islamists, who have shown - over and over again - to be extremely ruthless in dealing with an enemy they consider anti-Islamic.

Anyhow, on the eve of this almost certain violent confrontation between Musharraf's police and anti-Musharraf protesters, just enough time to post two innocent pictures from Pakistan.

The first one I took today, in Rawalpindi (with mobile phone) and shows how the Pakistani police deals with parking violators. Hilarious but effective! Will they use this tomorrow as well to remove demonstrators? Who knows...


I took this second pic some days ago, while aboard a PIA plane travelling from Karachi to Islamabad. It´s around 05.20 in the morning, we just took off. It is praying time. Old man walks up to the stewardess, asks if he can role out his prayer rug. No problem, she says. He starts praying next to the front door. I took the pic from my seat. Just to be clear: We were 10 kms up in the air of course. Pretty cute actually. Only in Pakistan!


Harald Doornbos

IN PAKISTAN, THERE IS TENSION (AND A LITTLE BIT OF TEARGAS) IN THE AIR

Situation here in Paki 'martial law' stan is still rather normal. Daily life continues uninterruptedly.

But after Benazir Bhutto's announcement of street protests for tomorrow (Friday) against Musharraf and possibly a Long March on the 13Th (next Tuesday) you can feel the tension is rising in this country.

On Wednesday I attended Benazir Bhutto's press conference, in a garden in front of a villa, in Islamabad. Here she strongly denied any rumours of a meeting between her and president Musharraf. She also announced the street protests.

This was the first time ever I saw Benazir Bhutto live (see picture, above on the right, I made of her). It is always interesting to to be around a living legend and - after the Karachi bomb attacks which killed 139 - live to tell the story. As she announced her Long March against Musharraf, I got this feeling: Hey, this might be history in the making. Because clearly, if she and her followers go for massive protests, today's Pakistan might be very much different from tomorrows'.

Bhutto is clearly adored by her followers. BB in the West might stand for Brigitte Bardot, in Pakistan BB means Benazir Bhutto. During her speech, fans and party members kept on interrupting her by shouting slogans like Long live Benazir . This even led to some annoyance among Bhutto's personal assistants.

"Shut up, it's enough now," one of them yelled at a supporter as he, again, wanted to raise the slogan "Long Live Benazir."

After the press conference, around 250 BB-supporters walked to the presidential palace, around 500 meters down the road. Riot police stood by and watched. Everything was more or less calm, until some Bhutto-supporters started to attack the cops. The policemen got their bamboo-sticks ready, hit a few people and made some arrests during minor scuffles.

At one point demonstrators pushed an iron barricade into the police lines. The cops pushed it back. Followed by the demonstrators who pushed the thing back towards the police. This was getting a little bit silly, as it looked very much like a rope pulling contest. I even could see some policemen smiling while pushing the barrier back towards the protesters (and getting the thing back five seconds later of course).

The cops then fired some five rounds of teargas over the crowd. As I stood right between the police and the protesters, the teargas did not effect me much. But it created white clouds as the sun set in Islamabad.

Until now, this country has not seen any serious protests. This of course can change tomorrow (Friday), as the first Bhutto demonstration will start in Rawalpindi, around 15 km's from Islamabad and the place where Musharraf lives. Since it will start after Friday prayer, there is a rather big chance religious right wingers might join hands with BB.

On Friday, everything will depend on the turnout. A couple of thousand and some minor riots - no worries for Musharraf. But in case tens of thousands of demonstrators show up and massive disturbances take place, Musharraf might have to seriously start to worry about his own position.

Let's wait till Friday.

Harald Doornbos

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

IN ISLAMABAD, MORE NORMALITY THAN EMERGENCY

It is already pretty late here in Islamabad, so have to keep it short.

But the situation in Islamabad and Rawalpindi (the places where I've been today) is actually rather different than most media reports suggest. Emergency rule in Musharraf's Pakistan isn't some kind of Pinochet- or Burma-style crackdown on the opposition.

Well, what is it?

Let me tell you what I saw today.

- At Karachi airport - everything entirely normal. Nobody even spoke about emergency rule. No sign of tension whatsoever.

- Islamabad airport - same situation as always. No extra checks, no soldiers. Outside no tanks, apc's or extra security forces. Just business as usual. A lot of people outside picking up loved ones from an airport.

- Islamabad -Airport to Islamabad (20 km):
No difference with any other day. I've lived here, so I really know. A lot of people on the roads and streets - they all went to work. Halfway Pindi-Islamabad a police checkpoint, well, not a checkpoint actually, just four cops standing next to the highway (this is a permanent police post, already there for many years). Saw some other policemen trying to hitch-hike between Pindi and Islamabad.

- Islamabad.
All shops and schools open. Phones and Internet work. Mobile phone network was NOT cut off. Actually, I got today a new pak mobile connection, took 15 minutes.

Haven't seen any demonstration. Did not notice any lawyers, just nothing. No army, no extra police, no checkpoints.

All newspapers are published regularly. And the comments are extremely critical of Musharraf. "Pakistan's blackest days" and "A power hungry Musharraf" are words frequently used in papers like Dawn, The News, The Nation. More or less a free press during a state of emergency - strange, but very Pakistani. Because although military rule is nothing new to Pakistan, the country has a tradition of very open and critical debates. I reached Pakistan via Dubai. Hell, I'd rather have a Pakistani paper during martial law than these crappy Dubai-long-live-the-ruler-newspapers.
Honestly, had a tourist visited Islamabad and Pindi on Tuesday, he or she would not have noticed anything out of the ordinary.

So is everything totally normal?

NO, definitely not.

Around the presidential palace in Islamabad, police has blocked two main roads. Riot police is on stand by. But, honestly nothing dramatic. Just 50 cops with helmets sitting nest to a road. I guess, the White House is better protected on regular days.

Around ten TV channels are still blocked from broadcasting. Actually, TV stations like GEO or Dawn News can still broadcast, but their signal is not being transmitted by the cable companies (on government orders of course). But later on Tuesday I heard from several people who live in the country side (outside Islamabad) that they had access to all channels again. In the cities though many news channels remain blocked. As I flip through my channels in my room, I get around ten black channels. Cartoon Network and PTV (Pakistan's state TV) still are on air. PTV showed some silly show on different kind of food from the country. Really interesting of course in times of martial law...

Spoke to many ordinary people today. Except for one, nobody supported Musharraf's action. But none of these people told me they were willing to demonstrate. Some were scared to be arrested, but most of them just did not seem to care too much. "Whatever we say or want," a man told me, "In a country like Pakistan the leaders never ever listen to us. So it is the same song all over again."

I was though surprised that 99 percent of people were so negative about Musharraf. It will be very difficult for Pakistan's president to win back the hearts of minds of ordinary Pakistanis. Most of them are convinced Musharraf is just a power hungry ruler. And a lot of people told me that the emergency situation had nothing to do with fighting radical islamists, but everything with controlling the lawyers and judges.

Last, but not least: The mass arrests. True, hundreds (maybe up to 3000) people have been detained. Many though are under house arrest (which is of course not so bad). Others were put into government guesthouses. Compared to home sweet home, not a nice play to stay of course. But, at the other hand, it is also not the end of the world.

And let's not forget. Except for lawyers, judges and a couple of left wing human rights activists, a lot of arrests were made among extreme right wing islamists. Retired general and former head of Pakistan's ISI, Hameed Gul, was arrested. He is a notorious right winger, supporting Taliban and Al Qaeda. Also, the leader of Jamaat e Islami, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, was arrested. He is a notorious hardcore right winger/islamist.

Just this: Since Musharraf has declared martial law, nobody has been killed. Around 5 to 10 people received minor injuries during scuffles between police and demonstrators (mainly lawyers).

Tomorrow more.

Harald Doornbos

HARRYZZZ FROM ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN

I arrived today, Tuesday morning, in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. This of course because of the current controverse surrounding president Musharraf's decision to declare martial law.

Later today the first story; live from Pakistan.

But don't get too exited...

Honestly, there is hardly anything going on here. Stories of "a brutal crackdown" seem highly exaggerated. Situation very, very normal. No this isn't the same as Burma a couple of weeks ago - far from it.

As said before, a more detailed story will follow within a couple of hours.

Harald Doornbos

Sunday, November 04, 2007

EMERGENCY RULE IN PAKISTAN!

A major, major development in Pakistan. Although many people thought he did not dare to do it, on saturday November 3rd 2007, president Pervez Musharraf has declared emergency rule.

Hopefully soon more on harryzzz on this amazing development.

Harald Doornbos

Thursday, November 01, 2007

IN LEBANESE CANNABIS VILLAGE, PROUD TO BE DUTCH

It is great to be Dutch. Especially after arrival in Boudai, a cannabis- or marijuana growing village in Lebanon's Beka'a valley. "Hey," the villagers tell me, "We're expecting the Dutch dealer only in December."

As I wasn't the dealer but just a Dutch journalist, they explain me how things work here.

"We'll be harvesting anytime soon," Abu Ali, the owner of a cannabis field, says. As we walk towards it, you can smell the marijuana.

"This must be a relaxed village," I ask.

"Oh, yeah, it is," replies Abu Ali. In the meantime, another chap, named Bessam, walks along. "Top quality goes for 1000 usd a kilo," Bessam claims.

Boudai's return to cannabis production started - as with almost everything in nowadays Lebanon - with the killing of Lebanese ex-PM Rafik Hariri. Or, in other words, with the collapse of the Lebanese state.

Until his killing, in 2005, Boudai had been clean. It did not grow cannabis for over ten years. Almost fifteen years of relative peace in Lebanon had strengthened the state. Even here, in the notoriously lawless Beka'a valley, police and army men patrolled the streets. Cannabis, massively produced here during the civil war, became a forbidden fruit, or better, plant. Without cannabis, the villagers of Boudai grew potatoes.

So Hariri got killed. And anti-Syrian members of parliament, politicians and intellectuals started, involuntarily, to drop dead on Beirut's streets. Then, a Summer war between the radical Shi'ite militia Hezbollah and Israel. Followed by an overly confident Hezbollah trying to overthrow the Lebanese government by boycotting parliament and starting violent street protests. The result of this was clear: Hatred between Sunni's (mostly pro-government) and Shiites (anti-government). To make matters worse: Lebanon has to choose, by the end of November, a new president to replace the current pro-Syrian and pro-Hezbollah one. Government and opposition can't agree on a candidate. Hezbollah and its christian allies of Michel Aoun have threatened to set up a parallel government with a president of their own.

This remarkable downward spiral has made the central government even more of a lame duck.

"Because of the the Summer War and the political chaos in 2006," continues Abu Ali, "We though: Hey, screw these potatoes and let's plant some cannabis. More or less as a test. Let's see if the police will come and try to destroy the crops."

But the cops did not show up. Instead, a Dutch drug dealer arrived. Cannabis was back in the Beka'a valley. "We said to each other: Damn, why did we not plant more!."

So this year, almost everybody in the village exchanged potatoes for cannabis. And not only here in Boudai (which is a muslim shi'ite village), but in at least ten other neighbouring villages (both shi'ite and christian).

A couple of weeks ago, policemen tried to enter Boudai and burn down the crops. But the men from the village got their rifles and Kalashnikov ready and opened fire on the police. "Well, not at them, but above their heads," says Abu Ali. "They all went down and fled," he smilingly claims.

So now everybody here is waiting for the Dutch drug dealer. Because the Dutch guy means money and there is a chronic lack of money in this part of Lebanon.

"Most people are very poor," says Bessam, "Potatoes alone just do not do it."

"Hezbollah is, due to religious reasons, against cultivating cannabis," claims Abu Ali. "So we told them: Ok, we'll stop growing this stuff if you supply us with jobs and a monthly salary of 500 usd. They told us they did not have the money to do that."

Last question: Will 2008 be another cannabis year for Boudai?

"For sure," says Abu Ali, "We are probably one of the few people in Lebanon who hope for continuing political turmoil. To us it would be good when they can't elect a new president."

Harald Doornbos

Friday, October 26, 2007

POLL: MUSHARRAF AND BHUTTO SHOULD WORK TOGETHER

Ok, for what it is worth: A majority of Harryzzz readers wants Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf and ex-PM Benazir Bhutto to join ranks and fight Islamic militants together.

This is the - surprisingly - reasonable result of a recent Harryzzz poll (see right side on your screen). The Musharraf-Bhutto tango was supported by 55 percent of voters.

But 33 percent wants Musharraf to "screw it" and declare a full scale war against the jehadi's. It seems Musharraf is listening, check out here.

Only three percent (actually, just one voter) thinks it is high time for Musharraf to pack his bags and resign. (Harryzzz will try to find out if this voter is a certain Saudi chap hanging out in Pakistan's tribal areas)

Seven percent of voters (two persons) answered: What or where is Pakistan? It seems pretty obvious where these two votes came from.... Check here. (But why vote twice Mr. President - this ain't Florida!)

Harald Doornbos

INTERESTING REPORT ON SUSPICIOUS SYRIAN FACILITY

Readers interested in Syria, should check the following AP report, based on an investigation done by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS). It shines some light on the possible target which Israeli planes recently bombed in Syria.

CAIRO, Egypt - Commercial satellite images show construction in Syria that resembles the early stages of a small North Korean-model nuclear reactor, a report said Wednesday, speculating that it was the site hit last month by an Israeli air strike.

The photos, taken nearly a month before the Sept. 6 strike, show a tall box-like building near the Euphrates River that the report said was similar in shape to a North Korean five-megawatt reactor building in Yongbyon.

It cautioned that the Syrian building was "not far enough along in its construction to make a definitive comparison." The photo also shows a smaller building that the report says appears to be a pump station, which would be needed to provide water to cool a reactor.

The report was written by David Albright, a former U.N. nuclear inspector and now head of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, and researcher Paul Brannan.

In Damascus, a Syrian Foreign Ministry official denied the satellite photos in the report showed a nuclear reactor.
(read whole article here)

It really is a must to keep track of the ISIS website. Very well informed and knowledgeable people. ISIS here.

Download their PDF report (with pictures) of a possible Syrian nuclear installation here.

After you've seen those pictures, my advice to every freelance journalist who feels bored: Move your ass and get to that location! If you manage to make pics of that installation after the Israeli raid, your reward will be eternal fame. There's one but. If the Syrians get you before you "click" your camera, you might end up "eternal" in a more philosophical way. Simply put, you might get killed.

Update:

To all bored freelance journalists: Don't travel to Syria (see above)! As it turns out, the ISIS already has pictures of the post-bombed side which were put online today. Below the satellite pictures before and after the Israeli strike (pics from ISIS-document):


Download the latest PDF file with more info on the pre- and post-bombing side via ISIS here. Interesting stuff!

Harald Doornbos

Thursday, October 25, 2007

IN THE WORLD OF AIRPORTS, SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL

There is a big chance you have visited large airports like Heathrow, JFK or Charles de Gaulle. Big is beautiful – isn’t it?

But the chances are even bigger that you almost got a heart attack – or something similar like foam bursting out of your ears - during endless periods of waiting, yet another security check and frustratingly long delays (see picture on your right; a random customer at a large airport).

Ever tried to get from East-London to Heathrow?

Two hours of travelling on the tube in order to get there three hours before departure which is commonly delayed by an hour and a half. In other words: Seven hours of stress before you even board your plane. The same time it takes to travel between New York and Paris. Or read a medium seized novel. Or smoke a pack of cigarettes, which is of course strictly forbidden at most airports.

So, if you have the chance, you might want to try something different. Because when it comes to airports my motto is: small is beautiful. Actually, the smaller the better. That said: I understand that an airport without a runway would be too small.

Recently I flew, with Malev, Hungarian Airlines, from Beirut in Lebanon via Budapest in Hungary to Sarajevo in Bosnia. Agreed – not the most common route. But, my god: joy! hurray! What a pleasure! (see picture left for a, mildly exaggerated, view of the toilet ladies at Beirut airport)

In Beirut I live almost as far from the airport as possible. So it took me, travelling by car, exactly eight minutes to reach it. Ok, it was night and I’m a fast driver. But even by day, it won’t take you more than 20 minutes.

Since Beirut is a city along the Mediterranean the developers were so clever to build the airport right outside the city, not 80 kilometers away (see picture, right, below). Still, there is hardly any noise pollution. This because planes arrive from and depart to the side of the sea. Basically, planes here keep fish awake, not people.

Beirut’s airport is, more or less, 200 times more modern and clean than, let’s say, Heathrow. Yes, with around 20 gates it is much smaller. But much more convenient too. One big hall where people arrive. And, you guessed it right, one big hall where people depart. It took me, quite literally, ten minutes to get through security, check-in and customs.

Only airport-fanatics or invalids arrive here two or three hours before departure. In reality, one hour will do. Time enough to deal with formalities, shop in the well stocked duty free area, surf the net via a wireless connection (ok, you have to pay for this service). As it never takes longer than three minutes to reach your gate, you even have time to taste a freshly made cappuccino in the coffee shop. And remember – this all after having arrived only one hour before departure.

Another major PLUS at Beirut airport: You are allowed to smoke! How is this possible? Well, one half of the coffee corner is non-smoking, the other half is smoking. Everybody happy. Life can be so simple. (Non-smoking airports are, by far the Mother of all silly Ideas. Sure, a cigarette pollutes. But what to think of ONE AIRPLANE – which basically has a polluting equivalent of 4 BILLION cigarettes).

Anyhow, 2 hours 50 minutes later we landed at Budapest airport. You think London is centrally located? Well, maybe to get you to Brighton or Liverpool. But if you want to travel Europe, Budapest is the place to start. London at 2 hours, Paris at 1.40 hr, Istanbul at 2 hr. And direct flight to the US.

That morning at Budapest-airport (pic left), luggage arrived within five minutes. Going through customs – literally 10 seconds. Before heading for the center of town (for only 19 euros, not 70 euros like in London), another cappuccino at a very decent snack corner. Here, check your email on your lap top, read your favorite online newspaper, watch some youtube. Yes – access to very fast wifi Internet is FREE at this airport. In the meanwhile, smoke your morning cigarette. Again: Half non-smoking, half smoking (Do only Arabs and Eastern Europeans think logically these days???). After relaxing at the airport, I reached the center of Budapest in 35 minutes - not bad for a city with two million people.

A couple of days later, my plane for Sarajevo was suppose to leave at around 12.45 pm. As I woke up in a Budapest bed at around 10.30 I realized I did not have a ticket yet for Sarajevo. 45 minutes later I jumped in a taxi and - with some lucky green traffic lights - reached Budapest airport around 11.45, one hour before departure. At the Malev ticket counter, it wasn't a problem at all to buy one at such short notice. It almost seemed like the friendly saleswoman was surprised I did not arrive later.

Of course, the flight to Sarajevo left on time. Well, to be honest, there was a six minute delay. Arrival at Sarajevo airport (see pic) 50 minutes later. Again - just like Beirut and Budapest - shiny, new and clean. And - again - so convenient. It did not surprise me at all that Sarajevo airport has won the award for Best Airport under 1 million passengers. As I was really enjoying this trip, I now used a stopwatch. From plane through passport check: 2.20 min. Waiting for luggage: 3.45 min. From luggage, through customs to first coffee at the airport: 32 seconds.

Of course, I felt happy to have reached destination Sarajevo. But secretly I thought: Wow, can't wait for the return part of this trip.

Some useful links:

Beirut Rafic Hariri international airport here.
MEA (Middle East Airlines - the national carrier of Lebanon) here.

Budapest international airport here.
Malev (Hungarian Airlines) here.

Sarajevo international airport here.
BH Airlines (I have to be fair, a pretty crappy airline. Fly Malev, Turkish Airlines or Lufthansa instead) here.

Harald Doornbos

Monday, October 22, 2007

IN A LEBANESE JAIL, AL-QAEDA PRISONERS AREN'T HAPPY CAMPERS

Killing 170 Lebanese soldiers doesn't make you popular when you end up in prison. It now seems that regular Lebanese prisoners are beating the crap out of Fatah al Islam terrorists in a Lebanese jail.

[As I did not get this story fully confirmed by authorities yet, I have to use the phrase "it seems they are being beaten up" instead of "they are being beaten up".]

This, according to sources, is currently going on in the Roumieh prison, Lebanon's main penitentiary facility, located close to Beirut.

"The atmospfere in the prison is very tensed," says a well informed source, who wants to stay anonymous. According to this source, non-political inmates (basically regular criminals) are beating and fighting the pro-Al-Qaeda-inmates of Fatah al Islam. Because of the sensitivity of the matter, it is unclear how many Islamic militants have been beaten up. And, if so, how serious the beatings are (or were).

Lebanese soldiers have gained a true hero's status in Lebanon after they successfully fought these Islamic militants. The 170 or so soldiers who died are considered martyrs by most Lebanese. Subsequently, their murderers are among the most hated in the country (let's not forget, Fatah al Islam beheaded some soldiers).

Due to safety reasons, the Fatah al Islam-terrorist were put in several different cells in order to mix them with regular inmates. This because the authorities are scared of a prison break (with possible outside help of Al-Qaeda units) in case the Al-Qaeda supporters are put together and in only one part of the prison. Generally, eight inmates share one prison cell in the Roumieh-complex.

"There are fights taking place between the two groups," says yet another source here in Beirut, "Fatah al Islam guys aren't very popular in jail; to say the least."

According to a Lebanese army officer, the Fatah al Islam militants are lucky to be in Roumieh prison, which is controlled by the ministry of Interior, not the ministry of Defence. "If we could pay them a visit," he says, "We for sure would know how to deal with them."

Prison life is never fun ("Pick up the soap, boy!"). But it seems easier to be a pedophile in a Thai jail than a Fatah al Islam guy in a Lebanese prison.

Harald Doornbos

Thursday, October 18, 2007

THE VOLLEYBALL CHEAT OF ABDULLAH OCALAN - APO

Or: How I, many years ago, played volleyball with the PKK-leader in his guerrilla camp in Lebanon's Beka'a valley. And believe it or not: He and his buddies cheated...

After Wednesday's parliamentary vote in Ankara, it is official now: The Turkish army may and will cross the Turkish-Iraqi border to go after PKK militants.

But let me take you back to spring 1992. In April of that year I stayed, with a colleague, for a week in the main PKK guerrilla camp. It was located in the, then Syrian controlled, Beka'a valley in Lebanon. Here I waited for an interview with PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan (see picture right). And - to get the feeling of guerrilla life - me and my colleague were asked by the PKK militants to join them during their military training in and around the camp.

So we woke up at seven and did exercises with the rebels. We marched with the rebels. we climbed wooden structures with the rebels. We ran through mountains with the rebels (From nearby positions PKK instructors would shoot with live-ammunition right in front of you and scream: "Come on, come on - you would have been killed ten times over in Kurdistan!").

So yes - it was an amazing time.

And most of the PKK-militants seemed truly nice guys.

That said: We weren't free to do what we wanted. We had guards. We had to ask permission to go to the toilet. And yes - there were child soldiers in the camp (a couple of fourteen year old boys). And yes - most people were total fanatics. Like one Kurdish man in his fifties, who came up to me and said, speaking in German:

- Oh, I have such good news to tell you.

- So I asked him: What is the good news?

- "I just heard that my daughter was killed by the Turkish army," he answered, "You know, she was fighting, with us, you know. She completed her training here. And now she got martyred. I am a happy man. This is such good news. She is a martyr now."

I stared at him in amazement. First I thought: This guy is joking. But he wasn't and I would lie if I told you that he was not speaking the truth. Because at that moment, he was truly happy and proud his daughter got killed.


This was the scary and, to me, the sad part of the whole camp. Everybody you spoke to was ready to die. I don't mean a little bit ready, but very, very ready to die. First - for a free Kurdistan. Second - for Abdullah Ocalan, Apo, the Great Leader. During the first days I would tell people: "Well, I mean, ehh - Dying doesn't seem like something nice?!" But all of them would smile at me. "Sorry, but you are not Kurdish, you can't feel what we feel." After a while I did not even try anymore. Of course everybody here wanted to die - and there was not a single person who had a percentage of doubt in his heart or mind.

But the most interesting event during my time in the camp wasn't the military training, the camp life, the utter commitment to country and leader or - even - the interview with Abdullah Ocalan, Apo. No, the most interesting - and for sure most sobering - event was a volleyball match with Abdullah Ocalan. Especially because he and his buddies cheated.

One afternoon, me, my colleague and around ten militants were playing volleyball on a sports ground in the center of the camp (Which was surrounded by mountains with anti-aircraft guns on the peaks for protection against possible Turkish- or Israeli fighter jets). After playing volleyball for around 15 minutes a bunch of armed men walked towards the field (I did not notice them at first, as I was busy playing). The guys carrying guns were bodyguards, the only man without a weapon was nobody less than Abdullah Ocalan - the PKK leader. As they approached the field, all players fell silent.

"Apo is a man of the people," one bodyguard said, "He would like to play volleyball too."

Now everybody got extremely exited. The players nodded like "Yes, yes, yes", while many other militants who were drinking thee or discussing Marxism ran towards the volleyball field to see the Great Leader play. I only thought: "This is hilarious - I'm about to play volleyball with Abdullah Ocalan!"

Mr. Ocalan walked onto the field and joined the team at the other side of the net. As we were suppose to start serving, one of our team members hit the ball very gently to the other side. There, the ball was - again extremely gently - hit into the direction of Mr. Ocalan who immediately smashed the ball into our direction. Nobody from our side even tried to block him or return the ball.

After Mr. Ocalan scored, the players and the crowd applauded all very loudly. They clapped with such enthusiasm that it seemed something huge had happened in the History of the World.

Because of Mr. Ocalan's smash, his side got to serve now.

As of that moment it went all the time according to the same pattern. Apo's team served, we hit the ball back, two player's from Apo's team prepared the ball (almost handed it over to him, like it was made of velvet) and Mr. Ocalan smashed and scored yet another point. This, of course, was followed every time by a big applause.

After five minutes and at already 7-0 in favour of Apo's team, I looked at my Dutch colleague.

"This is getting silly, let's block him," I said.

"Good idea," he replied.

So they served again. Followed by our team's predictable response. And - surprise, surprise - two of Apo's teammates who politely played the ball in his direction. As Mr. Ocalan was about to smash and secure a certain 8-0, me and my colleague jumped high, stretched our arms and and blocked Mr. Ocalan. The ball hit the ground in Mr. Ocalan's part of the field.

"Oh, yes!," we yelled. Because now at least we would get our service back in order to make the match a little bit less one-sided and a bit more interesting.

But there wasn't any happy clapping.

Before we even could start celebrating, furious bodyguards ran onto the field and grabbed us by the arms and shoulders. We were literally dragged off the field. A couple of seconds later a PKK militant shouted at us: "Don't EVER, EVER do that again!". While the bodyguards kept us away from the field, we now were surrounded by hundreds of angry eyes.

"Sorry," we stuttered.

"Just stand here and don't play anymore," somebody told us.

"Just shut up," another militant said.

While we silently watched from outside the lines, we could see Apo score point after point. Everytime there was applause. At 15-0 the game was over. Apo's team had won. All the PKK fighters were happy, although delighted is a better word. Not only was he a great military leader, an incredibly wise Marxist and a fantastic leader of one of the worlds' fiercest guerrilla clubs - he too proved to be a natural born sportsman.

And I just could not believe that after the volleyball game, Mr. Ocalan wanted to play soccer. So around 20 militants and Mr. Ocalan started a match. All balls went, immediately, towards Apo who would - literally - pass ten, sometimes even 15 players (it was very much unclear who belonged to which team). All players (of both teams) either did not attack Mr. Ocalan or staged fake attacks at him. As I could see from a distance, Mr. Ocalan scored time after time. And just like during the volleyball game - every point scored was followed by a huge applause.

Mr. Ocalan was arrested in 1999 by the Turkish authorities. Today, he spends his days as the sole inmate of a jail, located on a Turkish island and guarded by 1000 Turkish troops.

While most Turks view Mr. Ocalan and the PKK as a bunch of terrorists (and now ready to follow them into northern Iraq), many Kurds still consider Mr. Ocalan their leader and the PKK an organisation which represents freedom.

I can't help it, but when if I think of Mr. Ocalan and the PKK I do not think of terrorism or freedom, but only of volleyball.

Harald Doornbos

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"A Handful of Sadness" - Afghanistan 2007

Well, this isn't a blog about documentaries. But it really wouldn't hurt to check out the trailer of A Handful of Sadness, a documentary about Afghanistan. It's made by my Slovenian buddy Bostjan Slatensek.

This year he travelled for three months through Afghanistan to document the destruction of large parts of Southern Afghanistan by NATO-forces. "It's like the Russians are back," he says.

But it ain't only destruction on the part of NATO troops. Afghanistan's backward traditions and customs seem to play an important role too in keeping it a violent and destructive place. Picture democracy here? Well - maybe in a 1000 years...

As Slatensek writes, "It is a country where being alive has a different meaning."

Luckily for the Taliban, they did not try to kidnap Slatensek while on his way in southern Afghanistan. Slatensek is one of the toughest journalists I know, a weapons expert and a very experienced rock climber (Among many other peaks, he has frequently climbed El Capitan, a 1000 meter high vertical rock formation in the US - see pic). Had the Taliban tried to kidnap Slatensek, I wouldn't be surprised with the following newspaper headline: Lone Slovenian reporter uses camera and tripod to capture 130 Taliban fighters.

Anyway, check out the trailer. Try to see the full documentary later on TV, cinema or youtube...



Harald Doornbos