March 20, 2013

Sunday
The typical work week here is Sunday to Thursday, although government offices work Saturday to Wednesday. Up early to feed my Twitter addiction. Quite a few Afghan journalists and activists use it, so it is great for breaking news. Then swamped in press calls and media interviews on a statement we put out about a 13-year-old boy sentenced to a year in juvenile detention for 'moral crimes' after he was arrested having sex in a park with an adult man. Afghanistan has no age of consent for sexual relations, and although a 2009 Afghan law made rape of a woman or girl a crime, there is no law to specifically prohibit rape of a man or boy in Afghanistan. The dinner with a friend at Kabul's best French restaurant.

Monday
Government commission releases report on torture in Afghan jails, in response to a recent United Nations report finding widespread mistreatment of Afghan detainees. Of 284 prisoners interviewed for the report, the commission found that 136 had been tortured or abused. This is the first time the Afghan government has acknowledged widespread torture – although curiously, the task force suggests that torture is not "systematic". The task force recommends prosecution of officials involved in torture. We will watch closely to see if that happens – if so, it will be a first. Meeting with defence lawyers. Help with media outreach for the impending One Billion Rising event in Kabul, a protest spotlighting violence against women. Dinner at a Chinese restaurant – it is crowded for quiz night, so we share a table with two correspondents from the Associated Press.

Tuesday
Interview with a new Afghan television station. A young female reporter asks how women's rights will be affected by the 2014 international troop withdrawal, a question on almost every Afghan woman's mind. I argue that the international community has an obligation to Afghan women, to pressure the Afghan government to respect women's rights, and to fund essential services such as schools, clinics, hospitals and shelters – an obligation that goes beyond 2014. We talk about the worrying government crackdowns on the Afghan media in 2012. The TV team offers me a lift back to the office, but I walk instead since the weather is beautiful. Afghanistan is called 'the land of endless sunshine'. TV Hill, one of the city's highest hills, covered in TV towers, is glistening in the sun, although the city is awash in mud. Quiet night at home – as quiet as things ever are in a house with eight housemates, two dogs, one cat, four chickens and the world's noisiest generator.

Wednesday
Meet with head of an organisation of journalists. He worries that the government will make a peace deal with the Taliban and give the Taliban control of the Ministry of Information and Culture. He tells me he had a chance to claim asylum in Europe but decided to come back. Afghanistan's flourishing media is a real achievement from the last decade – but its future is in jeopardy. Meet with a high-level government friend – he thinks the question of immunity for United States soldiers is getting worked out, but has no faith that Pakistan is pressuring the Taliban to negotiate. Arrange interviews for Sunday for an assistant. One candidate lives outside Kabul and will leave Friday to try to arrive Sunday but the road he will take goes through insurgent-controlled areas, and the weather forecast is also worrying. Coffee with a journalist. Dinner with friends at Kabul's worst French restaurant.

Thursday
Go to One Billion Rising march. It is mainly women but many men too. The route is from the derelict king's palace, on the edge of town, to the parliament. Marches like this, while still drawing relatively few participants, have become more common in the last two years – an exciting development. The atmosphere is great and the organisers are excited for next steps. Special Valentine's Day dinner at a friend's restaurant.

Friday
My day off. Breakfast with friends. Then answer some emails but mostly curl up next to the wood stove to read – the cold in Kabul in February encourages hibernation. Today is The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly and The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton. Have Chinese food delivered for dinner.

Saturday
Some catching up on news, but the internet keeps crashing. The man travelling to Kabul for an interview tomorrow emails to say he has made it here, after a 40 hour drive. Work a little, pet the dogs, chat with housemates, more reading. Today: Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway. I always return from trips outside Afghanistan with suitcases bulging with books to read and then give away.

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