Taliban, war, corruption: for many, Afghanistan is one of the worst countries in the world. Not for Daniel Juzi (53) from Gossau. To Blick he says: “For me it is the most beautiful country with the friendliest people.”
Juzi lived with his family in Kabul from 1998 to 2015, from where he flew transport missions as a pilot for the humanitarian aid organization Pactec and, as a security officer, trained colleagues in how to fly to mountain airports. His delicate mission also included negotiations with the dreaded Taliban, who have been on a conquest tour since the withdrawal of American troops. “I had to be sure that I could get my cargo to its destination without getting into a shootout,” he says.
Christian negotiates with Taliban
A pilot must always remain calm. Juzi does the same when he talks about his work and the Islamists. No, these negotiations were never dangerous. “The Taliban won’t cut your head off,” he says. It is important that as a representative of a humanitarian aid organization you remain neutral and respectful – even if that is sometimes difficult. «You have to pay homage to important people. Small gifts, like food, relax the situation, ”he says.
The fact that he is a believing Reformed Christian also plays no role for the Taliban. “They stay calm if you respect them and don’t want to dissuade them from their belief. In addition, they are happy and increase their reputation among the population when they allow humanitarian aid. It also benefits their own people. “
Aviation is extremely demanding in a country as big as France, but with mountains rising over 7000 meters into the sky. Technical support is also lagging years behind. «We have very little information on the weather. We have to orient ourselves when we are flying through the narrow Hindu Kush in snowfall and fog or aiming for a runway over 4000 meters above sea level. A look into the clouds helps us a lot. “
Marmot destroyed airfield
Juzi is not a daredevil in his job. Taking chances is prohibited while getting into the air with a Kodiak 100. «We always have to know an alternative. When we realized shortly before the planned landing that marmots had churned up an airfield, we had to move to another place. ” Because they couldn’t make it back home, he and his pilot student had to spend the night at 3200 meters in winter and then, with great effort, de-ice the machine and get it ready the next morning.
He particularly enjoys it when slopes can be inaugurated in remote locations. “It is very impressive to see how the representatives of the local authorities beam when they realize that they are now connected to the big world and that humanitarian aid can reach them directly,” says Juzi.
Juzi’s principles include: Wrong time, wrong place. You always have to plan your missions as well as your private life in such a way that you are never in the wrong place at the wrong time. That means, for example: never drive behind a military convoy, never stay too long in an embassy and avoid restaurants with foreigners. Juzi: “These are all popular attack targets.”
Finnish woman married
Juzi (whose father was a tropical doctor in Thailand) met his wife in a language course in Kabul. Tiia (53) is Finnish and worked for another aid organization in Afghanistan. The two are now parents of Lukas (18) and Matteo (16).
Six years ago the Juzis moved to Gossau ZH to give their sons a better education. It was a culture shock. Juzi is particularly amazed at the “first world problems” that one makes oneself here. “Why can you get upset about not being able to go on vacation for a year because of Corona?” Asks Juzi.
Afghanistan is still alluring
Since returning to Switzerland, Juzi has been traveling to Afghanistan once or twice a year to fly missions. The last time was at the beginning of 2020, shortly before the outbreak of the pandemic. He is already packing again: he plans to leave for Kabul next week.
Even after the rapid advance of the Taliban, he is not afraid. “You just have to re-evaluate the cooperation with them and obtain permission for our missions,” says Juzi confidently.
Now that the sons are growing up, he and his wife could even imagine living in Afghanistan again for good. “The issue of Afghanistan is not over for us.” Because: “It is a beautiful country!”