Skip to content

The Sacrifices of the Slain Aid Workers (NYT, and Hilary Clinton video)

The 10 civilian aid workers killed Thursday in Afghanistan, from top left: Glen D. Lapp, Tom Little, Dan Terry, Dr. Thomas L. Grams, Cheryl Beckett, Brian Carderelli, Dr. Karen Woo, Daniela Beyer, Mahram Ali and Ahmed Jawed. Source: NYT

Their devotion was perhaps most evident in what they gave up to carry out their mission: Dr. Thomas L. Grams, 51, left a thriving dental practice; Dr. Karen Woo, 36, walked away from a surgeon’s salary; Cheryl Beckett, 32, had no time for courtship or marriage.

Most of all, the 10 medical workers massacred in northern Afghanistan last week — six Americans, one German, one Briton and two Afghans — sacrificed their own safety, in a calculated gamble that weighed the risk against the distribution of eyeglasses and toothbrushes, pain relief and prenatal care to remote villages they reached on foot.

The group that was attacked was returning from a three-week mission in Nuristan that included two veteran aid workers, Mr. Little, 61, an optometrist and the group’s leader, and Dan Terry, 64, both of whom arrived in Afghanistan in the 1970s. Mr. Little and his wife, Libby, raised three daughters there.

Dr. Grams …in Afghanistan had learned to negotiate the etiquette of the burka so he could work on the diseased teeth of women who may never have seen a dentist. In 2007 he gave up a thriving practice in Durango, Colo., to treat patients for whom an encounter with a dentist meant a life-changing release from pain.

Two years ago, after visiting a friend in Kabul, {Dr. Woo} quit her $150,000-a-year job to move there. … She was just weeks from her wedding. But it was her medical work that anchored her life. Her fiancé’s mother told The Sunday Times of London that Dr. Woo resolved to do more to promote women’s rights in Afghanistan after she treated a 14-year-old girl who had been burned after refusing to marry an older man.

One of two Afghans killed, Ahmed Jawed, 24, a cook, had been excitedly considering what to do with the $20 a day in overtime he would earn on the trip. Mr. Jawed was the main breadwinner for his wife, three children and extended family, and was known in his neighborhood for the collection of 500 audiotapes he would break out for weddings or parties. The second Afghan victim, Mahram Ali, 51, supported two disabled sons on his salary of $150 a month.

Mr. Jawed’s brother Abdul Bagin said of the killers: “They were infidels; not human, not Muslims. They killed my brother without any judgment, without any trial, without talking to him.”

Find the  full New York Times article here.

Hilary Clinton condemns the murders:

This entry was posted in In the news. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.


  1. Jacob wrote:

    “Mr. Jawed’s brother Abdul Bagin said of the killers: ‘They were infidels; not human, not Muslims.'”

    Yes, these murders were a group of craven scoundrels. And yes, they have committed ten despicable sins, at the very least. But they are human, unfortunately. And depending on what you consider to constitute a Muslim, they may have been Muslims as well. I hope that Mr. Jawed’s brother and people like him will one day come to understand that, or else the cycle of violence may never end. The type of thinking quoted above may well have been a part of what led to this catastrophe in the first place.

    Posted August 11, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Permalink
  2. The event in Afghanistan involving IAM is another reminder of the complex challenges that stand in the way of safe access to populations in need. These challenges require our attention and action. Several organizations are supporting an advocacy campaign aimed to prevent violence against aid workers. Join us at

    Posted August 13, 2010 at 11:15 am | Permalink

One Trackback

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by William Easterly, undispatch, Billy Williams, Jimmy Kainja, Jimmy Kainja and others. Jimmy Kainja said: The incredible sacrifices of the slain aid workers in Afghanistan […]

  • About Aid Watch

    The Aid Watch blog is a project of New York University's Development Research Institute (DRI). This blog is principally written by William Easterly, author of "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics" and "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good," and Professor of Economics at NYU. It is co-written by Laura Freschi and by occasional guest bloggers. Our work is based on the idea that more aid will reach the poor the more people are watching aid.

    "Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking." - H.L. Mencken

  • Archives