Kabul, My Black Day

The police who slapped me, checked my camera, and slapped me again

The police who slapped me, checked my camera, and slapped me again

I cannot reckon any day worse than today.

In the morning, there was another bomb blast in Kabul, in Mikroyan area. The suicide bomber was a young man in Western dress, who planted the bombs on his body, and blasted himself. There were 6 casualties. Two days before there was another bomb blast in front of the ministry of interior, which killed 16 people and wounded 50 others.

Now is the Muslim’s holy month of Ramazan. But why are there bombings now? The extremists urge their followers to do the suicide bombings; for them it is jihad, as being a martyr in the holy month guarantees their place in heaven. Secondly, the winter is coming soon, and in winter terrorist actions would be more difficult to conduct. The extremists were in a hurry to complete their mission.

The situation in Afghanistan is getting worse. Security is tightening up. But I still cannot accept the justification of what happened to me today.

4:30 p.m. I went out of my office to buy some postcards. My office is located near to the Ministry of Interior, where the blast happened two days before. There were many police along the road. I kept walking as I knew that I did nothing wrong, and just went out for shopping, and I was foreigner. I walked on while reading some sms from my mobile.

Suddenly, near the Mustafa Hotel, a soldier from an opposite direction told me to stop. I stopped. And on very sudden, I was slapped from my behind. PLAKKKKK!!!!!! It was powerful slap, very violent, that I almost fell down, and it hurts two days later(when I am writing this blog). I protested and I screamed, all in English, condemning this action. The police who slapped me from behind wanted to check my bag. My big camera was with me in my handy bag. I was wearing Afghan traditional dress with a vest at that time.

When he checked my camera (all action was done in very rude attitude as I was a suspected terrorist) he asked me to turn it on and I took this chance to photograph his face. I think this photo will be useful later.

He didnt find anything wrong with me, and just let me go. I couldnt accept this. I wanted him to apologize for the slapping. I spoke in English mixed with Farsi (my mistake, shouldnt use local language when involved in trouble like this). The soldier who stopped me told me that the police asked me to stop but I didnt stop. I didnt know at all about this. I was busy with my mobile and when I stopped suddenly a police slapped me from behind.

“I am a Foreigner!!! What work you were doing!!!!” I was angry and screamed to the police and pointed my finger to his face.
He almost slapped me again for the second and third time, and with the handle of his gun. The soldier prevented him of doing so.
“Passport! passport!” said the soldier to me.
Ough…, damn, I didnt bring my passport this time. In fact I rarely have passport with me when I am in Kabul as I worry of losing it. And the photocopy was forgotten in my other trousers. I was no-identity-person at this very time. But still it didnt justify to be slapped on public place like that. I was surrounded by many passers-by as if I was indeed a criminal.

I was then dragged to the guard room in front of ministry of interior. I was interrogated as I was a terrorist. They didnt believe that I was Indonesian nor that I worked in Pajhwok.
“I will call my embassy!” They grabbed my mobile.
“I have the embassy card. Call the staff from my embassy,” I showed one of the commander the card of a staff of Indonesian embassy. He grabbed the card and did nothing.
They confiscated what I had, and it seemed that nobody believed I was foreigner.
“If you are foreigner, show your passport then,” laughed the soldier as he was in winning position.
“Call to my embassy! They can prove me,”
“Call to Pajhwok! My office is just here. Everybody can prove my identity.”
It was indeed useless to argue.
They just then forced me to sit down and quiet.
“OK, if later you cannot prove anything wrong with me, you should write a letter of apology!”
They agreed.

They were waiting for a police car to take me to the head office for further interrogation. It was an unbelievable scene.

I was sitting at the back seat of the car, between the two police as they were worried I would escape. I was indeed treated like a criminal, minus the handcuffs. Hey, can you believe, a tourist trying to buy postcards being treated like this in Kabul, the capital of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan?

Soon I arrived in the office of the head. Before entering the gate, there was another body search, and it was done in a very rude way. When I was dragged into the head office, they interrogated me.

I told the director, I was a photojournalist and taking pictures for Pajhwok. They called the Pajhwok office and nobody answered.
“Do you know Shafia Milat?” asked them.
Shafia Milat was a female journalist on criminal news working for Pajhwok. She left the office about a month ago and founded her own news agency. Of course I knew her, I took pictures together with her when she made coverage of the criminals being caught by the police. And guess what, now I am in the position suitable for her to make news.
They called Shafia. They asked whether Shafia knew me.
She still remembered me and told them that I was a good boy. They laughed.
They let me go.

I still couldnt accept the situation. I asked the letter of approval that they promised before. Nothing was given, and they forced me to leave the office. “Boro!!! Boro!!!” (go away!)

The soldier who promised the letter of apology was still with me. We were in the car back to the Shar-e-Nao area. Then when we arrived in front of the hospital where the slapping happened, he tried to escape.
“No, you should go to my embassy and make the letter you promised,” I held his hand.
He took off his handcuffs and wanted to put my hands in them.
Another police came, and slapped me.
This was the second slapping.

I got very angry. He came to slap me again, on my right neck. While slapping me, he mocked me, “Bi akhlak! Bi akhlak! (amoral! amoral!)” I tried to call my embassy consul (Mr Hamdani) but he didnt answer my call. The police came to slap me again for the last time, threatened me to beat me with the gun, and then left like nothing happened. The other police just watched me like a circus.

At 5:45 two embassy staff ran to the spot to rescue me. It was Mr Kasim, a staff, and Mr Hari, a diplomat. Then I was brought to my embassy. I was indeed crying when I saw them. I never cried when I was in confrontation with the police. The other police just asked me to forget what happened, “Nothing is special, they just got crazy.” Nothing is special with the slapping and violence? Maybe he was right, in a country like Afghanistan.

I told everything to the consul. He took sympathy on me. He said that it might be the culture of the Afghans after long wars. People were tough. Even children played though games, beating each other. When they came as guests, they knocked the door violently as though they were to rob or what. The police think they can do anything when wearing their uniform. Beating the civilian is not something important here. I saw many scenes where the police rushed the people from the bazaar by beating them. On the same day, my other Indonesian friend was dragged by a police until he fell down when he tried to enter the Ministry of Interior, where he works. The police also threatened him with an unlocked gun.

The consul then called the police commander for information. We were talking in the embassy area. The commander knew me before as I was staying in the embassy. He was talking about the recent situation with the bombings, how the security was tightening up. He also talked about the Inteligence spies everywhere, who did anything to anybody they suspected. He also said that under this condition it was allowed to beat, or even to shoot on spot, anybody suspected. The beating was becauses the police wanted the bomb to be exploded so he would die as a sacrifice and prevent others from being victimized. Listening to his explanation, it was as though the Afghan police were the best people in the world, sacrificing their life for the civilians.

I regarded this just my bad luck day. And it still hurts.

About Agustinus Wibowo

Agustinus is an Indonesian travel writer and travel photographer. Agustinus started a “Grand Overland Journey” in 2005 from Beijing and dreamed to reach South Africa totally by land with an optimistic budget of US$2000. His journey has taken him across Himalaya, South Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, and ex-Soviet Central Asian republics. He was stranded and stayed three years in Afghanistan until 2009. He is now a full-time writer and based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Contact: Website | More Posts

9 Comments on Kabul, My Black Day

  1. Serem…
    Deso mowo coro, Negoro mowo toto…
    Mungkin itu cara mereka melampiaskan stres berkepanjangan ya 😀

    Ati2 di jalan om!

  2. wes Gus…sing sabar ya. Ati-ati.

  3. Walaah, aku jadi ikut ngerasa sakit nih… Kabul belum berubah ramah ternyata yaah …

    Kalo menurut penduduk setempat, galak mana dg taliban dulu???

    = wahid =

  4. simply a matter of being at the wrong place at the wrong time…with the wrong people.

    may peace be with you and the world.

  5. OMG.. kaciaaan deh loe..
    btw ur experience makes me think thousands times to go to kabul.. how scary….

    take care.. be more carefull.. :)

  6. assalamu’alaikum bang! dahsyat betul perjalanan ente.
    Afghan memang panas. Taliban gimana kabarnya? Mudah2an ente selamat n sehat2 di sana.
    Gak kebayang kalo ane yg ditampar sama polisi afghan. Hehehe

  7. Hmm.. bulan puasa malah jd garang petugasnya. Laper kali gus… drpd mukulin kamu mending mereka buka puasa aja kali ya, sama2x batal 😀 hehehe

  8. take care bro…

  9. Good to hear you are fine, Ming. Afghanistan is certainly in the middle of an insurgency now, Iraq style. How much longer are you planning to hang around there? Everybody will be suspect, and everyone will be in a high state of stress. Many of those in security positions will be uneducated and trigger happy. Take care. Don’t want to hear about you on the news for the wrong reasons, ok?

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