With great shock and deep sadness, we have learnt about the sudden demise of our valued colleague and good friend Dr Bernt Glatzer, member of the AAN Advisory Board, in the night to 08 December at his home in Schriesheim, Germany, only a few days before his 67th birthday.
There are not many amongst our members whose links with and knowledge about Afghanistan go as far back and deep as Bernt’s. While studying ethnology and sociology in Heidelberg and Vienna, Bernt travelled to the country in 1968 for the first time, been lucky enough to witness it when still in peace.
For his ethnological studies, that resulted in his dissertation and 1977 book ‘Nomads of Gharjistan: Aspects of the economic, social and political organization among the Durrani Pashtuns of Afghanistan’, Bernt travelled with and shared the hardships of Pashtun Kuchis and became familiar with their ways of live and thinking. As a scientist and as an NGO worker (with the Danish DACAAR, based in Peshawar) during the Soviet occupation his interest was always motivated by humane considerations.
After 2001, Bernt again travelled to Afghanistan frequently, to Kabul, Kunduz and Uruzgan provinces. He co-authored a comprehensive conflict analysis published in late 2003. His article ‘The Tribal System of the Pashtuns’ (Delhi 2002) sheds a lot of light on the reality of Pashtun tribes – as opposed to the myth constructed both by Pashtuns themselves and post-2001 ‘experts’.
In a 2008 newspaper interview, Bernt – the son of a Quaker family who described himself as a pacifist – called the German military engagement in Northern Afghanistan ‘sensible and necessary’. As he did between 2000 and 2006 when preparing development workers for their mission abroad as a tutor at InWent, he passed on his enormous knowledge on Afghanistan and Afghans also to Bundeswehr soldiers in order to facilitate understanding (read the interview in German here).
Our sympathies are with his wife Ursel and his son Tommy. We will miss Bernt, his wisdom, friendliness, passion and his good Bavarian humor.
Thomas Ruttig, for AAN
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020