UN post­ing de­tailed in book

As­sas­si­na­tion mars first days in job

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

She grew up on a dairy farm out­side Toko­roa and her work as a hu­man rights mon­i­tor saw her at the helm of a United Na­tions of­fice in Herat, Afghanistan in 2006.

While she was lead­ing her of­fice, a lo­cal tribal leader was as­sas­si­nated, re­ac­ti­vat­ing fe­ro­cious con­flict, events that are doc­u­mented in her book Zen Un­der Fire.

Toko­roa au­thor Mar­i­anne El­liott re­lived the mo­ments lead­ing up to and be­yond the as­sas­si­na­tion as she sat down with the South Waikato News be­fore her book launch in Toko­roa last week.

The very ti­tle of the book is an in­di­ca­tion of the dif­fi­cul­ties in main­tain­ing in­ter­nal peace in a war zone.

‘‘The zen part refers to the fact that in Afghanistan I had some fairly in­tense ex­pe­ri­ences in­clud­ing mis­siles com­ing over my com­pound so there was a sense of which I was di­rectly un­der fire and part of the chal­lenge of my ex­pe­ri­ence in Afghanistan was how to find a per­sonal equi­lib­rium in those kinds of cir­cum­stances,’’ Mar­i­anne said.

She said the chal­lenge was to stay at peace with her­self when there was a lack of peace around her. ‘‘It was fairly chal­leng­ing to stay calm,’’ she said.

Mar­i­anne’s boss had left her in charge and said she would be fine as long as no one killed lo­cal tribal leader Aman­ul­lah Khan.

‘‘As you know from read­ing the book I had just started a new job and I had been left in charge of the of­fice, my boss had gone on hol­i­day. I tried to pre­pare my­self in tak­ing con­trol of the of­fice and I was not en­tirely sure that I was ready.’’

Mar­i­anne con­stantly asked her su­pe­rior if she was ready to lead the of­fice, and he re­as­sured her that she would be fine.

‘‘ As you know within three hours of him leav­ing, Aman­ul­lah Khan had been as­sas­si­nated.

‘‘His as­sas­si­na­tion was part of a larger tribal con­flict and it re­ac­ti­vated that con­flict and very quickly there was a high level of vi­o­lence and con­flict.

‘‘My of­fice was sup­posed to help find some kind of peace­ful res­o­lu­tion.’’

Mar­i­anne said she felt out of her depth.

‘‘I felt un­pre­pared to be in that po­si­tion.’’

Mar­i­anne’s job also re­quired her to in­ter­view fam­ily mem­bers who had lost a loved one in the en­su­ing con­flict.

‘‘I felt very torn my­self. I was do­ing my job as a hu­man rights mon­i­tor, which meant that it was my job to find out the de­tails of what hap­pened.’’

The for­mer For­est View High School stu­dent said she re­mem­bers her col­leagues the most, not­ing their strength and courage.

Zen Un­der Fire not only shares de­tails of Mar­i­anne’s United Na­tions role, but de­tails the ef­fects that stress had on her re­la­tion­ships.

The South Waikato News has one copy of Zen Un­der Fire to give away.

To en­ter, sim­ply tell us why Mar­i­anne named the book Zen Un­der Fire, along with your name and con­tact de­tails to go into the draw.

Sub­mit your en­try on the back of an en­ve­lope and post to PO Box 89, Toko­roa 3444, or email swaikato.ed­i­tor@wrcn.co.nz.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.