Video Duration 25 minutes 05 seconds
From: Witness

For Sardar: The Afghan Journalist

Friends of a murdered Afghan journalist search for answers as they come to terms with their loss.

Devastated by the murder of their best friend, Afghan journalist Esmat Kohsar and American reporter Courtney Body investigate the truth about what happened on the night of March 20, 2014.

Just two and a half weeks before the Afghan presidential elections, journalist Sardar Ahmad, his wife and their two children were killed while having dinner at a restaurant in Kabul’s most distinguished hotel. While the Taliban immediately claimed responsibility, Courtney and Esmat believe there is more to the story.

For Sardar: The Afghan Journalist tracks their struggles as they grapple with their own dedication to journalism and love for the country of Afghanistan, while finally coming face to face with the loss of their friend.

Afghan journalist Esmat Kohsar and American reporter Courtney Body believe there is more to Sardar Ahmad’s death than is currently known [Al Jazeera]


By Elissa Sylvia Mirzaei

When I met Sardar Ahmad in 2010, I found him immediately likeable. He was smart, funny and personable. He was a talented journalist and entrepreneur. I worked with him for several years, both at his budding media company Kabul Pressistan and at Agence France-Presse.

He loved his country and chose to stay when it would have been easy for him to leave. He was a doting father, too. When my husband, Gulistan, and I went to India for a week, Sardar asked us to bring back some medication for his son, Omar, which wasn’t available in Afghanistan.

Back in Kabul, we met Sardar at his office. He was wearing a bright red tracksuit, which only Sardar could make look stylish and dignified without any air of tackiness. Omar and Sardar’s daughter, Nilufar, were running circles around their father outside, their laughter ringing out over the din of late afternoon traffic. That image is etched in my mind.

Afghan journalist Sardar Ahmad and his children [Al Jazeera]
Afghan journalist Sardar Ahmad and his children [Al Jazeera]

When you live in a country like Afghanistan you are caught in the hyper-awareness of the precariousness of life and the constant imminence of death. You have to try to be prepared for loss of life – either your own death or that of your friends.

Despite the attempts at mental preparedness, you never really think either is going to happen. Gulistan and I lost numerous friends over the years in Afghanistan.

Sardar was one of them.

Even writing that, over two years after he and his family were killed, it still feels hard to believe. The moment of loss is ephemeral but the repercussions are permanent.

Since 1992, 29 journalists have been killed in Afghanistan. Sardar was a journalist, but he wasn’t killed for his work. Instead he added to the much larger number of Afghan civilian casualties which hit a record high of 11,000 in 2015. 

Why he was killed, why his family was killed, remains unknown even though the Taliban initially claimed responsibility. In some ways who did it is only nominally relevant. Even when the perpetrators are clearly identified, there is rarely any legal repercussion or semblance of justice served.

Sardar’s death left many in Kabul heartbroken, among them two of his best friends and former colleagues, Esmat Kohsar and Courtney Body.

Their attempt to investigate the Serena Hotel attack is as much about holding someone accountable for a horrific crime as it is about coming to terms with the loss of Sardar. It is their attempt to make sense so that they can make peace. 

As former Afghan Intelligence Chief Amrullah Saleh says in the film, “The mere passage of time kills a case. And the passage of time has killed thousands of cases.”

But the case does not die for those grieving the loss of an irreplaceable human being, struggling to make sense of the senseless as they try to continue to love a country that has given them so much and taken so much away.