The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Getting good news at Christmastime, the 21st Century way

This weekend The Black Rod got a terrific Christmas present.

It was an e-mail telling us of the latest news about Mohammed Niaz, an interpreter with the Canadian forces in Afghanistan who we had written about six months ago.

At that time, life looked grim for the young man.

He had been horribly wounded in an ambush on Canadian troops. He was in the hospital at the Kandahar air base where both his legs had been amputed below the knee.

He was depressed and feeling abandoned as he watched others who had been wounded in combat flown to Germany and Canada for treatment. He was begging Canada for help.

Our e-mailer brought us up to date.

Niaz is out of hospital and back working as an interpreter with Canadian forces.

His home has been rebuilt by Canadian troops to make it wheelchair friendly.

And he was standing on his new prosthetic legs when he received a medal from Commander CEFCOM, (Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command) Lieutenant-General J.C.M. Gauthier as his proud father looked on.What a terrific turnaround.

And it stands as testament to how influential the Blogosphere has become in the 21st Century, how a blog in Winnipeg, Canada, can have an impact on the life of a man in Kandahar, Afghanistan, 4000 miles away.

We first learned about Niaz's existence while researching a story on the first stage of Canada's military commitment in Kandahar. Published news reports told of the Canadians wounded in the ambush. Some of them mentioned that an Afghan interpreter had also been injured. Only a few said his injuries were severe. None of them identified the man.The Black Rod was the first to put a name and a face to the injured translator. (

We had come across a story on National Public Radio (URL is in our story) about a man named Mohammed Niaz in the military hospital in Kandahar. His story about an ambush sounded familiar. We did some more digging, and confirmed that he was the translator in the G-wagon with Canadian troops in Panjwayi District on May 24, 2006, when they got ambushed.

We wrote his story. But we felt it deserved more exposure, so we sent our story to Small Dead Animals, which then provided a link to us.

Soon SDA readers joined ours in e-mailing the defence department to insist that Canada had an obligation to Niaz and to his fellow translators should they, too, be injured on duty.

We also sent our story to national columnists Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star and Christie Blatchford of the Globe and Mail. They had both been in Afghanistan and we thought they might remember Niaz.

DiManno picked up on the story and began making calls to defence department officials. She also wrote a column about Niaz.
DiManno: Canada owes maimed Afghan <20060613/dimanno_canada_owes_maimed_afghan>

Over the months the interest in Niaz's fate didn't diminish, and Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor himself wrote to one of the Canadians who was pressing the military establishment to tell him that Canada was committed to doing everything it could for the injured Afghan.

And then, days ago, we got this e-mail.

Subject: Afghan interpreter follow up
You two (The Black Rod and SDA - ed) both followed the story of Niaz Mohammed Hussaini, the Afghan interpreter whose legs were taken from him by a Taliban RPG in the spring of this year. I've gathered some additional information on his current situation, and put it up here:

On his blog, Damian Brooks wrote:

Since the fateful day Mr. Hossaini had his legs taken from him by a Taliban RPG, Canadians have been diligently but quietly working to help this man. After his medical treatment and recovery at the Coalition medical facility at KAF, the Canadian mission commanders struggled with how best to come to his aid. A cash payment would have simply made him a target in Kandahar, so instead, they decided to make some changes to both his home and his workplace at Camp Nathan Smith, and bring him back to work full-time as an interpreter and translator at the camp.

This entailed buying him a wheelchair, pouring concrete sidewalks and ramps around the camp, and making sure he can properly access the medical station, the kitchen, the washroom, and his office without trouble.

Some might say we owe Mr. Hussaini more than that, and they're certainly entitled to that opinion. The truth is that the CF has not had to deal with this situation before, and is currently reviewing options and developing standards that could be applied to compensate foreign employees such as Mr. Hussaini who are injured in the service of the CF. In the meantime, the fellow has received medical care and full-time employment, which is a lot more than many Afghans can say. For now, it will have to be enough.We found yet another story about Niaz in an official government publication The Maple Leaf.

It contains Niaz Hussaini's (for that appears to be the true rendering of his name) own account of the ambush where he lost his legs, as well as some nice photos of him receiving his award from Lt. Gen J.C.M. Gauthier.

And Christie Blatchford, who is back in Afghanistan, mentioned Niaz Hussaini in her Saturday column:

"Similarly, inspired by Mohammed Niaz, a PRT interpreter who lost both legs in a May 24 battle and who is back at work at the compound, the cobbler program is about to get started.
A cobbler paid by the PRT will come to Kandahar from Kabul, teach amputees how to make custom dress shoes on equipment bought by the PRT, and the amputees will set up shop at markets at the PRT and perhaps later at the much-bigger air field at Kandahar, with their captive audiences of foreigners looking for bargains."

We're proud to say that we had a small part to play with our fellow bloggers and members of the MSM, in reaching a happier conclusion for Niaz and his family.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all our readers across the globe.

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