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If you like His Excellency Hamid Karzai's story, you might also like:
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Hamid Karzai

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Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai
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Hamid Karzai Interview (page: 4 / 7)

Former President of Afghanistan

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  Hamid Karzai

We'd like to know a little bit about your childhood and your life before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Could you tell us a little bit about your parents, where you were born, what life was like?

Hamid Karzai: I was born in a village south of Kandahar City, one of the major provinces of Afghanistan, in a conservative family of Afghans. I got my education until the third class in Kandahar, and then moved up with my father to Kabul -- who was a Member of Parliament of Afghanistan at that time -- and did the rest of my education in Kabul. By Afghan standards, we were a very well off family. The kind of life we had and also other Afghans had was really too good for the countries around us -- big homes and lots of fun. In Kabul, of course, life was very good. We had as much access to good music and movies -- which at that age people really want -- as any kid would have in Europe or America, and a good education, a fairly good life.

What kind of student were you? What kind of future did you see for yourself?

Hamid Karzai Interview Photo
Hamid Karzai: I was a serious, quiet student. I think I partially wanted to do the kind of parliamentary stuff that my father was doing, and I was also interested in the University of Kabul, which at that time was a very prestigious institution. The professors there were very well respected and they had very nice lives. The environment of the university was so enchanting. That was the kind of life I wanted.

Were there books that were important to you growing up?

Hamid Karzai: Yes, yes. At one stage, within class nine and ten, I was very science oriented. I was doing very good in chemistry, and I went towards books about the evolution of mankind. Studies of Darwin and what that theory was. I did too much of that. Kept reading it, kept reading it. I got into trouble with my professor of chemistry, because there were things that I knew he didn't know, and he really got mad at me one day in the classroom.

As a student I was interested in Russian writers, like Anton Chekhov and Dostoyevsky, and also the English writers, Charles Dickens, and Afghan writers and history. A lot of Iranian printed material would come to Afghanistan in those days, magazines and lots of things.

Who were your role models back then? What person particularly inspired you?

Hamid Karzai: When I was growing up, Henry Kissinger was a name that was mentioned a lot. When I was growing up, Kennedy was just assassinated. I was seven or eight years of age at that time. When I became an adult and began to know the world more, Gandhi was somebody that I admired very much, and Mandela. He's still around, a magnificent man. Martin Luther King is somebody that came very often to my mind and was discussed in some circles.

But I'm most affected by Gandhi. The struggle for independence of his country and the way he did it through peaceful means: non-violence, and the tolerance that he preached. and the way he respected mankind as a whole, and his self-restraint. A wonderful human being.

Hamid Karzai Interview Photo
You did some studying in India?

Hamid Karzai: Yes. That was from 1976 to '82. Six wonderful years.

You followed in your father's footsteps, going into public service and government, so he also must have been an important model for you.

Hamid Karzai: Yes, of course. His parliamentary elections, his conduct with the tribes. We are a tribal people, and the way his house would be open to people all the time was something that came automatically. And his love for peace. He hated violence. That was something that I admired in him a lot. He hated guns very much.

What experiences had a profound effect on you growing up?

Hamid Karzai: Well,

I had, in Afghan standards, a very well-to-do childhood. I had horses, huge houses, and my schools, but a very restricted childhood. We were not allowed too much of a luxury that other people my age had, in terms of association with other people. So in that way, we were -- I recognized when I went to India, when I mixed up with other students there, that I was very reserved, very, very reserved, and that was a handicap. I could not associate easily with people. But on the other hand, it had benefits of self-restraint and, you know, a level of respect to other people, trying to make sure that nobody was offended, and respect to others.

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This page last revised on Sep 23, 2010 15:14 EST
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