A year ago today, in one of the worst attacks on humanitarian workers of the war, ten medical workers and their support staff were murdered in Badakhshan. They had just trekked across 5000m passes to one of the remotest areas of the country: the Parun valley of Nuristan to give out free eye care, dental treatment and general medical care to villagers. They were ambushed and shot as they were driving back to Faizabad.
Those killed included Afghans and internationals, men and women. The youngest team member, Brian Carderelli was just 25. The oldest, Dan Terry and Tom Little, both in their early 60s had worked in Afghanistan for decades, pre-war and during the PDPA, had driven ambulances across the frontlines when Kabul was engulfed in civil war and had stayed on through Taleban rule and after 2001. The team leader, Tom Little was the moving force behind NOOR, the organisation known throughout Afghanistan for delivering eye care.
Their killers remain unknown, but as one Nuristani friend of Tom’s commented, the blood of the innocent cannot be silenced forever.
AAN covered the killings in a series of blogs a year ago (here, here, here, here, here, here and here) and today, we remember those who were killed.
Mahram Ali, 50, from Wardak had worked as a watchman at NOOR’s maintenance workshop since the end of 2007. He stayed guarding the vehicles in Nawa village when the rest of the team walked over the pass into Nuristan. He left behind a wife and 3 children, at secondary school age and below.
Cheryl Beckett, 32, from Ohio in the US, had been working in Afghanistan since 2005 with the agency, Operation Mercy. Her most recent work was in clinic in Pul-e Charkhi on the outskirts of Kabul, in the fields of mother-child health and kitchen gardening. Cheryl was a Pashto speaker had joined the team so that she could translate for women patients. She was survived by her parents, two brothers and a sister.
Daniela Beyer, 35, was from Chemnitz, Germany. A linguist and translator in German, English, and Russian, she also spoke Dari, had a good command of Wakhi and Munji, two languages local to north-eastern Afghanistan, and was learning Pashto. She worked for the International Assistance Mission (IAM), NOOR’s parent agency, between 2007-2009 carrying out linguistic research, before resigning to set up her own NGO, Samar, which was dedicated to researching and ‘rescuing’ local minority languages in Afghanistan. She had joined the eye camp so that she could translate for women patients. She was survived by her parents and 3 siblings.
Brian Carderelli, 25, from was Pennsylvania in America. He was a professional free-lance videographer. Brian served a number of other organizations in Afghanistan active in development and humanitarian efforts throughout the nation. Brian quickly fell in love with the Afghan people and culture and had hoped to stay within the country for another year. He had joined the trip so that he could film it for a documentary Karen Woo hoped to make (it was finished posthumously, see here) and for NOOR’s own outreach and fundraising efforts.
Jawed, 24, from Panjshir, was a cook at the Ministry of Public Health’s Eye Hospital in Kabul and had been released from there in order to join the team. Besides being the team’s cook, he also assisted with dispensing glasses. Jawed had been on several eye camps into Nuristan in the past, and was well loved for his sense of humour. He left behind a wife and three children, all below school age.
Dr Tom Grams, 51, from Durango in Colorado, US was a dentist and personal friend of Tom Little’s. From 2001, he had worked 4 months of the year, as a volunteer dentist with the agency, Global Dental Relief, work which had especially taken him to Nepal. When Tom turned 50, he retired from private practice to become a full-time volunteer. He first travelled to Afghanistan in 2005 and had come in July 2010, specifically for the trip to Nuristan.
Glen Lapp, 40, from Pennsylvania, US, trained as an intensive-care nurse and worked in Lancaster, New York City City and Supai, Arizona, and in the responses to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He came to Kabul in 2008 and initially worked in the IAM head office. After 5 months of Dari language training, he began his work with NOOR and was responsible for organising the mobile eye camps that reached the remote areas of Afghanistan. He was survived by his parents and two brothers.
Tom Little, 61, was from upstate New York and was the team leader. Affectionately known as “Mister Tom” among the many staff at the National Organisation for Ophthalmic Rehabilitation (NOOR), he first came to Kabul in 1976, with his wife, Libby. He worked as an optometrist and manager at NOOR, setting up clinics and ophthalmic workshops. He was the inspiration for many other IAM team members coming to Afghanistan. Tom left behind his wife and 3 daughters and, now, one granddaughter.
Dan Terry, 63, from Wisconsin, US, grew up in India. He first came to work in Afghanistan in 1971, spending several decades with IAM, before working independently. Dan had a heart for the rural areas of Afghanistan; he lived in Lal wa Sar Jangal in Hazarajat, Mazar and Kabul, working in community development, and as a counselling and peace-maker. He was a key person in the drive to get food aid across the frontlines in northern Hazarajat during the terrible drought of 2000/2001. He was survived by his wife, 3 daughters, and two grandchildren.
Dr Karen Woo, 36, from Stevenage in England, had been a dancer, before training to be a doctor and surgeon. She first came to Afghanistan in 2009, and, having given up her well-paid job in Britain and fundraised, returned later that year to work as a doctor. She joined the team as a female doctor who could treat local women. Karen was survived by her parents, two brothers and her fiancé.
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020