With a variety of warlords and religious factions all with shifting loyalties the country for decades has been complex, confusing, and very often deadly-Here, Afghan security forces personnel are seen at the site of a car bomb attack in Kabul on May 31, 2017. PHOTO: SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images

Foreign correspondents and immigrants: what they leave behind them


It may seem an unusual connection − foreign correspondents and immigrants, but it turns out they both leave a lot behind them, though not really the same kinds of things.

Carol Off- All We Leave Behind- Publisher: Penguin/Random House Canada

Carol Off, Canadian journalist and radio host, spent significant time reporting from an often dangerous, complex, confusing and violent period in Afghanistan’s history.

She has written a book about that experience, called “All We Leave Behind: a Reporter’s Journey into the Lives of Others”.


Reporters travelling into new countries, cultures and societies understand that they don’t know the complexities of the particular society.

They almost invariably hire “fixers”. These are local  individuals who may have a network of contacts, but who at the very least can guide the reporters through the society whether through the politics and bureaucracy, the underworld, or physically through the country.

Carol Off with her “fixers” Sher Shah Sarbaz (L) and interviewing Asad Aryubwal in Dehdadi, Balkh province. Asad’s life and his family were later threatened for speaking to the western media. PHOTO- supplied Carol Off

As reporters are often drawn to conflict zones, the fixers also help navigate them through what are often very dangerous situations.

But it’s not without risk for the fixers. Various sides or factions may strongly resent their guiding the foreigners and what they may say in reports and their lives and that of their families may be in jeopardy, sometimes by several factions at once.

Foreign correspondent through some deadly times in AFghanistan, Carol Off is now a radio host and author- PHOTO supplied

Nevertheless, most reporters come in, stay a short while and go back, leaving the fixer to deal with the consequences of their having helped.

Carol Off however, became closely involved with her fixer and his family ,who were often facing mortal threats.

In the book she explains the complexity of the Afghanistan situation during the years of conflict before and after the Soviet invasion, and the Western Allied arrival.  She explains how the outside powers simplistic views of the situation only made things worse.

She goes on to describe the confusion, frustration, and corruption of the international immigration process as she tried for years to get her fixer and his family out of danger and into Canada.

Carol Off hugs Hossai Aryubwal, Asad’s daughter, as the Aryubwal family arrives at the Toronto airport, Nov. 15, 2015. Working with Carol Off and also speaking out on Canada put the lives of Asad and his family in mortal danger. Off worked for nine frustrating years to bring the family to safety in Canada. PHOTO: Lana Šlezić

It’s a fascinating inside look at a situation little understood from simple TV news reports or politicians explanation of why so many billions of dollars were spent, and so many lives lost, in that distant country, which no outside power has ever truly conquered or tamed.

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