For another’s duty

In Afghanistan, foreign journalist Stephen Farrell was freed in a dramatic 'rescue' in early September. His interpreter, Sultan Munadi, is dead.

A guesthouse near the village of Astana has been a hideout of mine on several occasions in the past – a getaway from the mad pressures of Kabul, a city distorted by war, violence, immense population pressure and, in recent years, the influx of large amounts of money and the ubiquitous presence of foreigners, SUVs, armed men on hire and barriers separating out those who are in need of protection. In Astana, in contrast, the Panjshir River rushes swiftly past orchards sloping down from the guesthouse, the green grass shadowed by the branches of fruit-laden trees.

Until he died, I did not know that Sultan Munadi was from Astana. In fact, I did not know Sultan very well at all. He was another young Afghan journalist I would meet, on occasion, at press conferences and stakeouts while we waited for dignitaries to come and speak to us. As happens on such occasions, one whiles away long hours by chatting with colleagues, exchanging news and gossip, and berating the authorities for delaying the events. My interaction with Sultan was no more and no less – until early September, the week he died, while working as an interpreter for the New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell.

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Himal Southasian