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Friday, September 18, 1998 Published at 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK


'God's blessing was with me'

Allahdad Shahsavan-Qarahosyeni recounts his ordeal

An Iranian diplomat who escaped after his colleagues had been killed by Taleban fighters in Afghansitan, has given a graphic account of the events surrounding the take-over of the Iranian consulate in in Mazar-e-Sharif in August.


Iranian diplomat, Allahdad Shahsavan-Qarahosyeni (in Persian): "difficult and terrifying moments"
The diplomat, Allahdad Shahsavan-Qarahosyeni, was responsible for the secretariat and for immigrants affairs at the Iranian consulate.

In an interview with Iranian television, he said that while all his colleagues were shot dead by the Taleban, he was only hit in the leg.

Pretending he was dead too, the diplomat later managed to escape back to Iran.

These are excerpts from the interview.

The Taleban arrive

Having established with confidence that according to international diplomatic regulations and as a result of liaison with Pakistan and the Taleban, that the Taleban would not create problems, we were doing our job.

Our job being to help the innocent and oppressed people of Afghanistan, we were solving their problems in connection with medicine, food and visa issues.

At about 1200 midday, a group of Taleban forces came to the door of the consulate, knocked on the door and started shouting and trying to enter. One of our colleagues went to the door to talk to them. They savagely and forcibly entered the representative office.

They then gathered together all the employees of the office, who numbered 10 in all, counting Mr Mahmud Saremi, the IRNA correspondent, in a room.

They asked how many we were and once they were confident that there was no-one else in the building, they asked for our weapons. They asked us how many we were.

Once they were confident that there were no others and we did not have any weapons they took us to another room. There they frisked us again and took all our money ...

Lined up against wall and shot

The next stage in the incident was that, in spite of our hospitality and kindness, they transferred us to the basement of the consulate. We did not do anything against their wishes, whatever they wanted we gave them.

They asked for the keys to the cars belonging to the office, they asked for water and fruit which we gave them. The basement of the consulate was a small area. There was also a table there too. They stood us behind the table.

A few moments later, when they had inspected the premises of the consulate, they seemed to have a premeditated aim and, following a set plan, three of their leaders entered the room, held their weapons up and threatened to kill us.

They lined us up against the wall. There was no opportunity left for us to make a decision, analyse the situation and talk to each other. They immediately opened fire on us, in the same basement.

With the first or maybe the second bullet they fired at us, I decided immediately to throw myself on the floor. I used the table, the only table which was there. I pulled the top part of my body under the table and pressed myself onto the floor.

Since the table was closed on three sides, my body, the top part of my body, was protected. My legs were outside the table. My friends, our brothers who were there, fell on the floor one after the other and some of them were martyred as they did so. These were difficult and terrifying moments.

One of them was brother Mr Rigi who was responsible for the consulate, he was the chief consul at that point. He fell on my leg, my shin, and died.

'I said my prayers and waited for death'

I tried to control myself and even tried to control my breathing. I closed my eyes and waited. I said my prayers and waited for them to fire a bullet at me and kill me. I was waiting to be killed.

In any case, God's blessing was with me. God decided that it was right for me to live, to act as a messenger from them. To come back and tell the truth given that they [the Taleban] tried to represent the issue in a different way.

In any case, I was lying on the floor at that moment. I realised that they had stopped firing and my friends were martyred. They were about to leave the area, the room. I was aware of the movement of their feet from my position under the table. I noticed that they calmly left the room.

I waited for a few moments and felt that the whole office had gone quiet. I could not hear any noise. I decided to stand up. I noticed that I had been hit in the leg. Until that moment, for various reasons, I had not noticed that I had been shot in the leg. I moved my leg and established that I could walk without difficulty.

I stood up and climbed over the table. From the top of the table, I looked out of the window which overlooked the yard of the consulate. I saw that there was no-one in the consulate and that the door was left open.

I climbed down and tried to contact Iran using the phone. I dialled twice but did not succeed.

Wounded colleagues

When I was trying to make a phone call, I noticed that two of my colleagues were alive. One was seriously wounded and had moved only slightly. It seemed as if he was praying.

Another brother who asked for help was seriously wounded in the leg. I went to his help, held him up and brought him to the front of the table. He had lost consciousness by the time he got to the front of the table.

Given that he was somewhat well built and my own circumstances, I could not carry him. I lent him against the table and told him that I would go to get help and would come back to save him.

From that point on I decided to leave the consulate since at any point there was the possibility of the group coming back ...

In disguise

When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I realised that someone was calling me in a low voice from the kitchen which faced the stairs. I felt that it was one of us calling me towards him.

If it was one of the Taleban he would have opened fire already given their savagery and what they had done to other brothers.

I went towards him and realised that it was one of the consulate guards who had taken refuge in the kitchen when the Taleban entered the building. Somehow, he had survived. He was one of the Shi'i Afghans.

When he saw me alive, he said that if I could find Afghan clothes he would help me leave the consulate. I found the clothes which I wore and went back to him. Together, we left the consulate, taking precautions ...

Since I had the background and had no problems in speaking the languages, I could find people I could trust and ask for food and dressing for my leg. Fortunately, the bleeding stopped quickly and was bearable ...

Nineteen-day journey

The morning of the following day I got to the buses going towards Sheberghan. I disguised myself completely by wearing a scarf, a hat, a waistcoat and sandals which I has managed to find.

I even disguised my face and resembled someone from Kandahar or Kabul without attracting suspicion. I got on the bus to Shebergan. Although they asked me where I was going, they did not suspect me.

I spent a night in Sheberghan and the next day I caught a ride in a Taleban car which was going to Maymana with some other Pashtu passengers.

Eventually I reached Maymana and then Herat. In Herat, since I knew the area, I succeeded in entering the territory of the Islamic Republic of Iran from Eslan Qal'ah border point ... It took 19 days.

Gunmen 'ordered to kill us'

It was quite obvious that they had a plan. They did not ask us who we were. They obviously knew they had to come and take the money which we had in the consulate. This was one of their objectives.

They had also been ordered to eliminate us. That was what happened. Up until the last minute there was no confrontation or argument. They came and immediately decided to commit that atrocity.

International bodies to confront the Taleban

Naturally, not just me but any free-thinking person believes that those who talk about civilisation and do not agree with such savage acts, should go to the defence of the people of Afghanistan who are being murdered in the most tragic way.

In this connection, Iran, the families of the martyrs expect the international bodies to adopt a very serious approach. Unfortunately, there has not been a serious reaction so far.

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.



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