British Council back to work in Afghanistan one week after deadly attacks
30 August 2011
(Kabul, Afghanistan) The British Council in Afghanistan is proud to announce that it was ‘open for business’ from a temporary base on the British Embassy compound in Kabul on Sunday 28th August, just five working days after a devastating Taliban attack that destroyed its compound and attempted to kill its staff.
Paul Smith, the British Council’s Director of Afghanistan, was on leave in the USA when the attacks happened. Mr Smith immediately returned on the first available flight to Afghanistan, to support his Afghan colleagues and to restore work as soon as possible. Just one week after his return to Kabul, the British Council was welcoming Afghan friends and partners and continuing its mission to work with young leaders in Afghanistan to help rebuild the country and establish stronger relationships with the UK.
Paul Smith said: "As soon as I knew my colleagues were physically safe after the attacks, I was filled with determination to continue our work there – because I knew that our Afghan partners would expect it. The last week has been a tremendous challenge. Every room of every British Council building on our compound was destroyed by fire resulting from grenades pitched into every space. Buildings in a 300 metre radius of our compound were severely damaged. Virtually no assets, vehicles, furniture, equipment or office belongings survived. The residual inventory list took us three minutes to compile on a postcard."
Martin Davidson, Chief Executive of the British Council, said "There’s no better tribute to our brave staff in Kabul that we’ve been able to withstand such a horrendous onslaught and continue our work. An intelligent, strategic cultural relationship is not limited to delivering events or providing individual educational opportunities. It should be about igniting ideas and creating new ways of working together. Our work is too important to let this appalling attack stop us."
The British Council’s work in Afghanistan focuses on improving the capacity of the Afghan government’s education sector at all levels, and training up to 45,000 state English teachers through TV, radio and the web, to improve the ability of Afghans to understand and build relationships with the outside world. The Afghan Deputy Education Minister Patman’s planned visit to the UK next week is going ahead, and a new programme to involve UK Higher Education sector specialists mentoring their Afghan counterparts over the next twelve months will begin as planned this September.
Paul Smith said "Our first priority has been care for everyone affected by the trauma – our staff trapped in the safe room, the injured, the families and colleagues of those who died to protect the British Council and its staff. It has been a week of counselling, gratitude and condolences to many individuals and many organisations. For some of us this has been the most emotional week of our lives.
"Our second priority has been the logistics of carrying on," Mr Smith added. "This is a step by step exercise - we have literally been flattened by this experience - laid as low as one can go. But the team's refusal to surrender our values, ambitions or purpose to this attack can be palpably felt here in Kabul. Our determination is that - yes, with new means and methods - we will have restored and grown our current level of impact in Afghanistan by 19 August 2012. This dreadful incident simply reaffirms the need for deeply nurtured cultural engagement and educational and social solidarity with people in the world's most fractured places."
For more information on our work in Afghanistan and to interview Paul Smith or Martin Davidson, please contact Tim Sowula (London) firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 207 389 4871
Notes to Editors
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide. We work in over 100 countries in the arts, education and English and in 2010/11 we engaged face to face with 30 million people and reached 578 million. We have 6,800 staff worldwide. Our total turnover in 2010/11 was £693 million, of which our grant-in-aid from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was £190 million. The remainder was generated through trading activities such as English language teaching. For every £1 of taxpayer money invested we earn £2.65 in additional income. For more information, please visit: www.britishcouncil.org