Afghans Cope With Violence In Kabul
GUY RAZ, host:
Among the thousands of international workers, journalists and volunteers now living in Kabul, daily life is becoming even more challenging. On Wednesday, Taliban militants attacked a guesthouse used by U.N. employees killing eight people. That day, militants also launched a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades at the city's best known hotel, the Serena.
Jean MacKenzie was in the hotel at the time of the attacks. She covers Afghanistan for globalpost.com and is program director for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in the country. And Jean's on the line from Kabul.
Jean, first, describe where you were during the attack on Wednesday.
Ms. JEAN MacKENZIE (Reporter, GlobalPost.com; Program Director, Institute for War and Peace Reporting): Well, I had just finished my morning workout and was taking a shower when the mortars hit. A woman who works at the Serena rushed in and had forgotten all of her English, so in Dari, was screaming at me to get out. Get out. Get out and follow her.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. MacKENZIE: So I did the best I could, threw on some clothes and we rushed out of the locker room and down into the basement and we just had no idea what was going on for several minutes.
RAZ: Jean, of course, that morning as well, eight people were killed in the attack on that U.N. guesthouse. It's just a few blocks from your office. What is the mood like right now among foreigners living in Kabul - people that you know?
Ms. MacKENZIE: Well, people are leaving in droves and among the people that I know who work in the elections, the mood is one of, I don't want to say disgust, but I would say that that is as close as possible.
The day after the attack on the Serena, I ran into a friend of mine, she's an election monitor with an international organization and she said that she could no longer justify risking her life for what she saw as no better than a sham, so she left the next day.
RAZ: Jean, I would imagine that for people like you, these kinds of attacks on civilian targets are starting to feel almost inevitable now, like it's just a matter of time before they become more regular.
Ms. MacKENZIE: They have already become more or less regular. When I came to Kabul five years ago, we had a suicide bombing in October and that pretty much put everyone in a panic for the next six months. Now, we're having suicide attacks almost on a weekly basis and people go on as usual. I think that although at the back of our minds we understand that the situation is getting worse, there's a certain amount of denial that is kicking in.
RAZ: You say denial. I mean, I've been to Kabul so I know that there are bars, for example, that are frequented by Westerners where alcohol is served. Are those still crowded?
Ms. MacKENZIE: Yes, they are. Thursday night, of course, is the big night in Kabul. It's our Friday night. And the two major watering holes in town were completely full. And I would say, among those people, there were quite a few from organizations that should have been locked down - people who are not supposed to be leaving.
So I think that there is an atmosphere of we know this is happening. There's nothing we can do about it. We have got to get on with this and people just are desperate to let off some steam.
RAZ: That's Jean MacKenzie. She covers Afghanistan for globalpost.com and is the Afghan program director for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
Jean MacKenzie, thanks and be safe.
Ms. MacKENZIE: Thank you very much, Guy.
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