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Home » Books » Nonfiction » Politics » International Relations » General

Zen Under Fire

A New Zealand Woman's Story of Love & War in Afghanistan

By Marianne Elliott

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Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Other Information: illustrations
Published In: NZ, 22 February 2012
I am about to be left in charge of the office. I'm not sure I am ready for the responsibility, so I double-check with my boss. 'I'm not backing out on you,' I say, 'but I'm having doubts about my ability to do this.' He reassures me. 'You'll be fine, Marianne. As long as no one kills Amanullah Khan, you'll be fine.' His reassurance, I think, is a joke. I have a lot to learn about Afghanistan. My boss leaves at 9.00am on Sunday 23 October 2006. I am now the Officer in Charge of a United Nations office in the middle of a war zone. By midday, Amanullah Khan is dead. In 2006 Marianne Elliott, a human rights lawyer from New Zealand, is stationed with the UN in Herat. Several months into her new role an important tribal leader is assassinated while she is in charge of the local UN office. She must try to diffuse the situation before it leads to widespread bloodshed. Zen Under Fire is a vivid and deeply personal account of a young woman's time living and working as a peacekeeper in one of the world's most notorious battlegrounds. As well as sharing the incredible details of her UN work in and around Herat and the remote province of Ghor, Marianne tells of the shattering effects of this high-stress, high-danger environment on her and her relationships - and how, amid the turmoil, she begins to find her way back to herself.

About the Author

Marianne Elliott is a writer, human and environmental rights advocate, and international yoga instructor. Trained as a lawyer, Marianne created the Action Plan for Human Rights in New Zealand, helped the government craft their own human rights strategy in Timor-Leste, and spent two years working in human rights in the Gaza Strip prior to her time in Afghanistan. Marianne also co-wrote a UNIFEM report on Gender-Based Violence in Afghanistan. A popular blogger (, Marianne is also a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post.

EAN: 9780143567158
ISBN: 0143567152
Publisher: Penguin Books (NZ)
Dimensions: 21 x 14 x 2 centimetres (0.27 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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1 review(s)
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Kirsty Hegan on
As well as sharing the incredible details of her UN role, Marianne tells of the very personal story of the shattering effect that the high-stress environment on her and her relationships, and asks what it really means to do good in a country that is under siege from within. This is an honest, moving and at times terrifying story of a woman’s time peacekeeping in one of the most dangerous places on earth.

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