News / Asia

Kabul Traffic Cop Pays Price for Playing it Straight

Kabul Traffic Cop Pays Price for Playing it Straighti
|| 0:00:00
...  
🔇
X
Jeffrey Young
March 07, 2014 7:08 PM
A traffic policeman in Kabul has been described by The Washington Post as the most honest man in Afghanistan for steadfastly resisting corruption. And being “straight” has a price. Yet, he perseveres, as VOA’s Jeffrey Young reports.
A traffic policeman in Kabul has been described by The Washington Post newspaper as the most honest man in Afghanistan for steadfastly resisting corruption.  And being “straight” has a price - he has been locked into the same position in a dusty, exhaust filled traffic circle for more than two decades.  Yet, he perseveres.

It’s another day…in another week…in another year at the Sherpur traffic circle in Kabul for Abdul Saboor Khan.

Thousands of cars and trucks whiz by every day, directed by Khan’s whistle…and his ever-moving arms.

“When they hear my whistle, they say ‘Saboor Khan’ is here on duty.  When I am on the road, many people are happy and say 'thank God you are here.' People love the way I organize my tasks. They pay attention when I move my hands and feet," said Abdul Saboor Khan.

When someone disobeys his instructions and gets stopped, one thing does not work.  In a society where “give something - get something in return” is often the norm, Khan has made himself a notable exception.  He refuses to be bribed out of taking action.

“I don’t do any corruption. I work hard and work a lot. Thanks to my hard work, I earn a good salary and God helps me survive on that money.  And there are many people who appreciate me," he said.

Khan has paid a steep price for refusing to be corrupt.  After 24 years on the job, he has only been given one promotion, which he says he didn't receive.

“I am known as one of the most honest traffic cops in Afghanistan, in Kabul. But the promotion they signed for me, they refuse to give me," he said.

Khan’s salary is the equivalent of US $200 a month. And since he doesn’t take bribes to supplement his pay, he lives in a five-room house shared with 28 other people.

While his wallet is thin, his career has been thick with accolades.  Khan’s honesty has been commended by everyone from officials of the now-ousted Afghan Taliban regime to international organizations including the United Nations, which made a mini-documentary about him.

The price of Khan’s honesty is noted by Nathanial Heller, of the watchdog group Global Integrity.

“It’s a massive personal sacrifice. That’s the first thing to sort of embrace, is that he, or someone like him, is doing this at huge risk, and at huge cost professionally, and sometimes this turns into personal and family blow-back [reprisal]. Your cousin gets fired for no reason.  There is physical safety involved.” ((then)) It’s just a tough slog, and it’s a credit to people like them [Khan] to at least demonstrate what the other example [honesty] looks like," said Heller.

Khan says he has even had his toes crushed by cars driving over his feet. Yet he’s out there the next day, and the day after that.  In a dusty place where your lungs get filled with choking car exhaust.  But to Khan, it’s a matter of principle.  And that’s the clean air he breathes.

Jeffrey Young

Jeffrey Young came to the “Corruption” beat after years of doing news analysis, primarily on global strategic issues such as nuclear proliferation.  During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include VOA-TV, where he created the “How America Works” and “How America Elects” series, and the “Focus” news analysis unit.

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs