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Dr. Farzin Harim had been up since six ministering to his students, until his research assistant Mahsa had finally warned that somebody would murder him unless he left immediately. It was too late now – no further improvements could be feasibly made at this point – and all of his fussing seemed increasingly like an attack from a frantic little moth. Would it not be altogether better if Dr. Farzin was at the President’s side during the ceremony, to represent the University and address any of the statesman’s questions? If anything went wrong, Dr. Farzin would also be needed to defend the University from the pointed observations which would invariably come from the direction of the clerics…

And so Dr Farzin had been stuffed into a taxi and driven off to the Presidential palace. Today marked the first full century since the founding of the Republic, but it was not until the prayers at noon were over that the celebrations could begin freely. At two o’ clock, Dr. Farzin was invited to join the President as he rode in state to the Ghazi stadium to survey the University’s re-enactment of the great battle which a hundred years ago had secured the nation’s independence.

“Splendid day for a bloodbath!” the President remarked cheerfully.

Dr. Farzin smiled. But he was not going to be disarmed by the President’s affability.

The President thought that he might as well have a go at behaving himself, if only to appease this grumpy little academic. “So I trust that this display will not be too educational – an afternoon of screaming and disembowelments, eh?”

“Well…” Dr. Farzin frowned. “It was actually not so much a battle as a massacre…”

“A massacre?” The Presidential entourage were now taking their seats in the stadium’s executive box. The President was momentarily absorbed in the colourful battalions of students which were arranging themselves on the field beneath him. And then Dr. Farzin was at his ear again.

“Yes, it’s left a terrible logistical headache for my students. I mean, in most re-enacted battles both armies gather on either side of the field and then meet in the middle for the fight…”

“Right.”

“But in this battle, the Taliban chased the American and British soldiers over quite a lengthy stretch of terrain. The coalition soldiers who could run very quickly reached the helicopters, of course, but the slower ones… well, you will see…”

The President turned to the doctor. “It won’t be very horrible will it? Unpleasant things like this tend to upset me…”

“It will be less horrible than the reality.”

After a while, the President wanted to criticise the unfolding proceedings without appearing ungracious. At a loss, he finally abandoned all diplomacy. “The coalition troops look a sorry lot, don’t they…?”

To his surprise, Dr. Farzin agreed. “Yes, at first many of the students wanted to be coalition soldiers because they thought that they would be wearing unusual costumes and brandishing strange weapons. But I had to insist upon authenticity. If you could have seen them, you would have thought little of the coalition forces… particularly the British…”

“They look like a pack of beggars,” the President laughed. “I can see the British troops now – there’s scarcely one gun between three of them!”

“Of course, we could not be completely true-to-life,” Dr. Farzin continued. “For example, the coalition forces had a significant number of female soldiers…”

The President shook his head. “Oh these people were barbaric… savages!”

“They were not women in any real sense. They had few feminine attainments. Indeed, most of them were almost men.”

Below them, the “battle” was beginning. The stadium was full and the crowd cheered as the coalition forces ran desperately across the field with the Taliban at their heels. There were rattles of synthetic machine-guns and choreographed detonations of improvised explosive devices. The yells of the crowd soared whenever an American or British soldier was hit. The wounded soldiers would fall to writhe and expire extravagently in pools of fake blood.

“Thank Allah we live in more Enlightened times!” said the President. “Those poor young soldiers didn’t suffer too much, did they?”

“Many were killed,” Dr. Farzin informed him airily. “Some of the things which happened to them are unimaginable.”

“How awful!” The President had lost interest in the feats of his forefathers and he was now scrutinising something on his mobile phone.

“Well…” Dr. Farzin muttered to himself, “I suppose you shouldn’t fuck about in somebody else’s country…”

[There is insightful writing on the present Afghan conflict here and here. Tychy has hitherto referred to the war here. Ed.]

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