In September of 2011, Taraneh was caught in a crossfire in Kabul when the American Embassy was attacked by the insurgency. The conflict lasted for over 20 hours. Taraneh wrote the following letter to her family and close friends as events were unfolding.
There were multiple suicide bombings and attacks in Kabul today; it is still going on as I write. One of the major areas was where I was having a meeting, Ministry of Public Health (MoPH). For some insane reason the MoPH is right next door to the US Embassy and today was caught in cross fire.
All women and children at the Ministry were directed to a room on the 3rd floor while rockets where passing above our heads. From the window you could hear the machine guns nearby. A bullet hit the window of the room next to me.
At first we were told to stay put. Then they decided that during a rocket attack we are not safe there. Shockingly the MoPH has NO emergency plan or threat assessment in place. So when I asked the head of the reproductive health department Dr …, who was sitting next to me with her two daughters ( 7 and 9 ) trying to console the younger one who cried at the sound of every rocket, she said they have no idea where the safest place is in this 3 story large building! And they have never had an emergency plan!
I called the US embassy line and asked if they think we should leave the building or stay where we are. The operator said not to leave the building at all, when I told her that everyone is leaving she said follow what you think is the best way. I decided to leave with my Afghan colleagues. As we were directed to go outside in groups of 5 rockets and gun fire was getting louder. We entered Wazir akbar kahn main street and were directed by several different security personnel to keep low and move forward. No clear direction what to do. At one point a soldier asked me and the other two women with me to get in his car so he can drive us away from the area. I refused and told the others BAD idea to get in an army car now.
There were some journalists on the side taking pictures of us running, you may see me on TV :) I used my I phone to film as I was running too but was too busy figuring out which direction to go so I put it away.
As we were running I had to duck as a rocket went by over our heads followed by a bullet. I think this was the scariest moment for me as the sound of the bullet was so close. We entered a residential area where armed private security guards and army were directing us away from the area. Sharp shooters on every roof. The doctor with me was on the phone trying to tell a friend about our location so we can get picked up.
After running a few blocks a white Toyota Land Cruiser pulled up and I was instructed by my Dr friend to get in, all 9 of us drove away. The car belonged to the husband of one of the MoPH's doctors. She was also in the car. This was his 3rd trip to the area to load up and move MoPH people away. He is a surgeon, a brave and a gentleman.
As the car started to speed away from the area I received a call from a man from the US Embassy. After asking some questions he said to tell him where I am so he can send a team to extract me. I thought being near a bunch of American soldiers and perhaps Marines may not be the best option at the moment. I felt safe and secure with my Afghan friends who were concerned about my safety since the ordeal started. So I said I will call him back if there is a need.
I was taken to a safe area where I called my poor driver, who had gotten close to the fighting area twice to try and get me out and I missed his numerous calls as I was running, to pick me up. I have never seen a person I just met so relieved at seeing me safe. I am back at my guest house now. There are helicopters and planes flying by and I can hear the sound of rockets, not so close this time. I am not sure what the extent of the attack is but this is what I heard: there were 3 simultaneous attacks, a mini bus carrying school children and a middle school was hit.
It is amazing these health workers get anything done. I wish there was a way to bring peace to these warm courageous people.
On a lighter note, the male involvement in family planning program is going strong.