Not all people exist officially and not all people that exist officially can feel pain; neither can a dead man suffer much from a broken leg. This seems a very quaint or arbitrary piece of wisdom until you actually hear yourself saying: "according to my files you already died a year ago in a shoot-out, so I'm having trouble assessing how much discomfort you actually have from your leg being broken by the bomb-blast...I mean, you're dead so you weren't really using it anymore, were you?"
Now, it's not as sarcastic as it looks. The man in question and I had already established that he really had been injured in a recent incident and that his identity had been 'stolen' a year before by a Shura council-member to pocket an assistance-package (intended for victims of the war) by claiming him as his killed cousin; my remark was a light-hearted comment in a discussion about the Afghan war version of identity-theft.
|a collection of REAL stamps|
All of this is possible because we have no access to trustworthy sources who can verify someone's identity except for local-level officials, who are actually not necessarily that trustworthy at all, and no one in their right mind will say that the local official or his village elders are lying to assist an international organisation: we're gone tomorrow, he's here for the rest of his life. So when an incident (bombing, shoot-out, IED-explosion) happens in your area and you know there's an organisation who will offer support to its victims, why not inflate the number of victims and do your neighbors a pleasure. Especially if a Shura-member or district-leader that is in on the scam gives you a pile of official stationary and blesses your fake incident claims-document with a signature and stamp, you're all set to ‘officially’ become a victim. It's wrong, but not terribly strange.
Unfortunately for them we've got our ways of snooping around and verifying people's stories, and our own database that rings an alarm-bell when the same names or ID numbers pop-up; of a man who supposedly died a year ago, but now has a broken leg, for example.
Recently we found (or indeed couldn't find) 27 fake people who supposedly suffered loss in a bombardment: the people were made-up of fake IDs, photos from random people and (real) signatures by district-level officials. We had to find these in a sea of literally hundreds of people who were genuinely affected, which is exactly what makes it so easy for people to fraudulently claim assistance: if there is a big incident and it's difficult to assess who was really affected, a lot of organisations will just take the loss. And if your fraud gets discovered there are no repercussions: we will still help those that were really affected and thus far no one that I know of has ever lost his government-job or council position because of this type of corruption.
There are doctors who will make-up prescriptions or sign a piece of hospital-stationary stating that someone underwent surgery; people showing you a fully healed amputation-stump and claiming they lost that arm a month ago; photos taken at the local car wrecking yard that supposedly show a car blown-up in yesterday's IED-explosion, etc, etc. Luckily though, there's also that moment when a member of staff silently puts a little dot next to someone's case, because he knows it's a lie or the bizarre moment when a man who 'lost' his ability to walk, walked onto our compound...confused about the injury story his father had made-up for him.