Archive for January, 2011
New York- Friends and filmmakers Havana Marking and Phil Stebbing have a follow-up to their award-winning documentary Afghan Star called Silencing the Song: An Afghan Fallen Star, in which they follow Setara, one of the primary characters from the first film, in the wake of her fame and notoriety in an intolerant land. If it’s anywhere near as riveting as the first film, it will be well worth watching. Afghan Star can teach more about Afghanistan than a thousand insular policy wonks with Master’s degrees put together. Watch!
New York- I had kind of a busy week with (background) appearances on PBS Frontline on Tuesday with Canadian journalist Martin Smith’s interview with Amrullah Saleh where they wove in shots from the fourth annual Jamestown terrorism conference at the National Press Club back in December and Thursday on CNN, again at the Press Club for the debut of the Pearl Project report in a story titled “Who Really Killed Daniel Pearl?” As someone who’s existed in journalism’s underground for the better part of the last decade, this is more exposure than I often have within the course of a few days. Here are a few frame grabs from the stories and the videos themselves. One day I’m gonna show this world a thing or two…
Washington D.C.- This morning the Pearl Project- an investigation into the murder of WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan nine years ago-debuts today and I’m proud to say it received top billing on today’s Washington Post homepage. I worked on the investigation at its outset in February and March of 2008 in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad, Pakistan. The project was produced by a group of 32 students and two professional correspondents at Georgetown University in conjunction with the Center for Public Integrity. The report in its entirety can be seen here. Jane Perlez has a piece in today’s New York Times here and Ben Farmer from The Telegraph has a piece datelined from Kabul here. The investigation was run by Asra Q. Nomani and Barbara Feinman Todd and again, I’m happy to have had the opportunity to be a part of it. Additionally, Nomani has a piece on the Daily Beast here and Bloomberg’s Tony Cappacio and Flavia Krause-Jackson have a piece here.
NewYork- This Tuesday, PBS Frontline will be airing a segment on Amrullah Saleh who was a the keynote speaker at our December 9th annual terrorism conference and departed the Karzai administration in June of last year. There should be some footage of the conference I helped to put together and the word on the street is that I might have a background cameo. Should be interesting…
New York- There is a good article titled “Death of the Tiger” in this week’s New Yorker on the end of the Sri Lankan war, which meant the end of the LTTE, the death of Velupillai Prabhakaran (the LTTE’s late supremo/cult leader), and ultimately the end of the concept of Tamil Eelam, a sovereign, separatist ethnic Tamil homeland in northern and eastern Sri Lanka which has vanished. Anderson does an idea I’ve contemplated since the war’s bloody end in May of 2009. He travels to some of the recently conquered parts of the island where the LTTE had for years a functioning, de facto state which I always found the most fascinating aspect about the situation, When most people discuss the Tigers, they talk of their innovations in suicide bombing technology or the hackneyed bit about the cyanide capsules dangled around the neck in case of capture. But the image of that war that made the biggest impression on me some years ago was of a Tiger courtroom with LTTE judges wearing white wigs and black robes practicing Anglo-Saxon style law and meting out sentences. And then of course there were the neatly dressed traffics cops in Jaffna. Tamil Eelam was more interesting in form than the LTTE itself. Anderson points out that it was such an unusual end to a war like that where there was a decisive military victory (slaughter) on the battlefield. Of course, though the Tigers were a transnational organization at least across the narrow Palk Strait to Tamil Nadu state in India, and the fundraising in Canada, Norway etc, their ideology did not reach beyond the bounds of their territorial aspirations on the island of Ceylon (what Sri Lanka used to be called). Part of the reason the LTTE was such a successful terrorist organization is because they were not opposed to any government other than the Sinhalese one in Colombo (with the exception of India for a few years following the Indian military intervention in Sri Lanka) and therefore it was not terribly difficult for them to operate in the West because the West cared little for the various governments in Colombo during 26 years of war. There are some interesting bits in the article about the last days of Prabhakaran and the end of the war as well as what it’s like to travel in the area now, something I have been very curious about. Sri Lanka is a damn dangerous place for journalists of any stripe but like a beautiful siren strapped with a suicide belt, alluring and irresistible in her deadly gaze.
New York- And so begins a new year and an as yet unnamed new decade (the twenty teens?). Old conflicts from the disaster that was the last decade will irreversibly spill into this new one and nightmares from the 1990s and 1980s continue to haunt the Sykes-Picots of our memory. In today’s Times, there is an interview with the PKK’s acting commander, Murat Karaylian in Iraq’s/Kurdistan’s Qandil mountains. I was psyched to see that Namo Abdullah, a young Kurdish journalist who’s assistance was essential in my trip out that area in 2009, had a credit in the article by Steven Lee Meyers. There was also a quote from Roj Welat, whom the piece describes as the PKK’s spokesman, who arranged for my interview with a PJAK leader (as well as providing translation), stating poignantly: “For the first time in history, the Kurds have a breathing space” in regard to both the area controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) as well as that out of the KRG’s control effectively controlled by PKK/PJAK commanders. Let’s hope this next decade brings more such breathing space, albeit in a more sustainable manner, to the oppressed and stateless people throughout the world. In the meantime, enjoy U2 singing in 1982 rural Sweden mixed with footage of an advancing Soviet tank regiment.