UNHCR praises murdered French aid worker

18th November 2003, Comments 0 comments

GENEVA, Nov 18 (AFP) - From Rwanda to Afghanistan, Bettina Goislard, the young French woman murdered on Sunday by suspected Taliban, was a "tireless" aid worker, according to tributes from senior officials at the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

GENEVA, Nov 18 (AFP) - From Rwanda to Afghanistan, Bettina Goislard, the young French woman murdered on Sunday by suspected Taliban, was a "tireless" aid worker, according to tributes from senior officials at the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

"Her appointment in 2002 to the operation in Afghanistan was for her, in many ways, the answer to a dream," the high commissioner, Ruud Lubbers, said about the 29-year-old.

"She was devoted to the Afghan people and to the work that she was doing in helping to bring people back to their homes," he said in a statement.Born on November 11, 1974 in Saumur, western France, to an English mother and a French father, Bettina Goislard arrived in Afghanistan in June 2002.

She spoke fluent Dari - a variant of the local dialect - which she had picked up while in the war-torn country.Goislard had been responsible for helping about 50,000 Afghan refugees return to their homes in the Ghazni area, some 130 kilometres (81 miles) south-west of Kabul.

It was at a local bazar that the young aid worker was shot dead in her car at point blank range by two attackers on a motorbike who were later arrested by the police and identified as members of the Taliban regime, which collapsed at the end of 2001.

"Bettina was young, but she had much experience and her performance was of outstanding quality," said Filippo Grandi, head of the UNHCR mission in Afghanistan.

"She worked tirelessly. She spoke out whenever necessary. She was not afraid to tackle difficult protection situations," he continued. "I went to Ghazni last July and everybody - from the governor to our colleagues to other agencies to individual returnees and displaced people - had only positive things to say about Bettina."

Just before moving to Afghanistan, Goislard spent three months working in Kissidougou in Guinea where she helped look after some 200,000 refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia.

She has worked "under the most difficult circumstances," recalled Lubbers.

Previously, Goislard had been posted in Rwanda for almost three years, again working to support refugees, in particular women and children. She contributed to the drafting of legislation in Rwanda for refugees.

Her father - Bernard Goislard, a career diplomat who has worked in Rwanda, Iraq and Jordan - helped Bettina obtain her first position at the UNHCR in Kibuya, Rwanda, in June 1999 after she finished studying history and Arabic in Paris.

Goislard is due to be buried at the end of the week in Kabul, in accordance with her wishes.

"She had a premonition and recently indicated that if something bad happened to her she would like to be buried in Afghanistan," said a UNHCR spokesperson in Geneva.

© AFP

Subject: French news


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