Friday, September 22, 2006

Herat Part Two - Taliban Sport

I was to learn that if you wanted to film in Taliban Afghanistan, then it would almost always be done undercover, with a small video camera pointing out the window of a moving car, only a very few times in remote areas could I get my large Betacam out to film with. The bottom line was if Vice and Virtue were around then all work was done on small cameras.

With Imtiaz in the front seat and me in the back we slowly drove around town, trying not to be conspicuous but at the same time trying to get some sense of life in Herat under the Taliban, as one of the features we had slated was a general piece of Life in Afghanistan under the Taliban, so we needed video and more than anything we needed video of women in Burqas, driving around Herat that afternoon we got lucky and managed to get some good video of women filming secretly from the car. However the lure of the football game that afternoon was hard to resist.

Picture : Taken secretly from inside the car , of women in Burqas in Herat

We thought that it would be best to wait till near the end of the game before we tried to get in and film some scenes. To give you a sense of the mob mentality that pervaded under the Taliban, the previous year the Pakistani Football team had come to Herat to play a friendly match against the National Afghan Side, neither teams in an way being a world football force of any distinction and the match was a low key event.

But when the Pakistan team went onto the field the word was that a riot almost ensued, but the mob was getting angry. It had nothing to do whatsoever with the actual game, but to the horror of the crowd, the Pakistanis were wearing normal shorts and showing skin on the legs and to add insult even further several of the Pakistani Players did not have beards. In contrast the Afghan Team had shorts down to the shins and long socks to ensure modesty and beards naturally. The Taliban had issued a decree that all males where to have beards. The game had not gone well for Afghanistan and eventually the mob had had enough so they stormed the field in the name of Allah (apparently they were also losing) and started attacking the Pakistani Team for the lack of respect for religious matters. They shaved the heads of some of the players as a punishment and the team managed to flee the mob with new haircuts, battered and bruised

There were only three countries that ever officially and diplomatically recognized the Taliban as a legitimate Government, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. So the chances of another friendly football match had been agreed to a year later and as we stood outside the ground we could at least hear the hysteria of a crowd watching a match rather than the baying of a frenzied mob. Imtiaz went in and looked around then came out got me to come in, the stadium had perhaps 5,000 men watching the the game all with beards.

Picture : Taliban Foot Soldier at the Football,

I quietly filmed the general scene trying more than anything not to be noticed which in that crowd was not an easy job, but at least the Pakistani team were wearing very long shorts well past their knees and long long socks, plus I did notice they all had beards. This was not football of any high standard but since the only other sport normally held in Football Stadiums were public beheadings , whippings and stoning's at least football was by any standard a far more normal spectator sport. Everytime the ball was kicked there seemed to be more dust in the air than anything else.

When arrived Afghanistan was down one nil, but managed to score an equalizer in the last few minutes, now not being a cynic but lets say diplomatically it was better for the home team fans to be happy and celebrating a draw rather than taking out the anger in a riot. It was better to be equals, with a late minute goal than to go home with shaven heads.

I got a few decent shots of the crowd as I thought it might be one of the few chances of large groups of men together. Even the officials seemed happy for a few minutes and allowed me to film a few of the local leaders who were on the sideline. However there reached a point when I was getting more hands on the lens than anything else,

Picture - The hand on the lens " No More Pictures"

Imtiaz and i both agreed that that rather push our luck filming the crowds it was time to leave and get back to the hotel before it got dark and the curfew was enforced by the Vice and Virtue Patrols.

Night Picture of the Taliban Vice & Virtue Patrol during curfew in Herat.

There is not much to do at night in Herat and the next morning we wanted to head out to Refugee Camps close to the Iranian border, the main reason for coming to Herat was to get to the camps and try and see what misery existed in the deserts of no hope.


21st Century Mom said...

I'm glad you have words to describe the horror that is the Taliban because all I can do is shake my head and cringe.

Is any of your footage being used for a documentary?

Mal said...

Rest of deries is being written apologies for delays but having to go back thru all my notes and diaries from 2001
And I keep finding more research and memories flood back that I want to include
Most of the material aired back in June 2001 in a series of specials on Fox News and Star News Asia
Cheers and Thanks again