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If you like His Excellency Hamid Karzai's story, you might also like:
George H.W. Bush,
Benazir Bhutto
Jimmy Carter,
Khaled Hosseini,
Greg Mortenson and
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Hamid Karzai can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center


Related Links:
afghanland.com
afgha.com
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Hamid Karzai
 
Hamid Karzai
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Hamid Karzai Interview (page: 6 / 7)

President of Afghanistan

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  Hamid Karzai

Your father, who hated oppression and violence, suddenly found himself in this completely transformed country.

Hamid Karzai Interview Photo
Hamid Karzai: Completely transformed country, and he was then assassinated three years ago by the Taliban and the terrorists, maybe al Qaeda, whoever. I don't know. I was in a meeting in a different part of town. My father had gone to his evening prayers, and when he was coming back, was shot.

My brother called me on the mobile phone, and said, "Hamid, our father was assassinated." Immediately, the first question that came to me was if he saw the assassin or saw the gun that was pointed at him. And...


When I came back to the hospital where my father was lying, I asked my brother, I said, "Did our father see the assassin or the gunman?" He said, "No, his back was to a gate. He was talking to somebody, and the assassin shot him from behind." I was relieved that he didn't see the man, and he didn't see the gun that was pointed at him, because he hated it so much. So that pain he did not suffer. He just was shot.


Why was he assassinated?

Hamid Karzai: He was opposing the Taliban. He was calling for a Loya Jirga (traditional Afghan national council). He was openly talking to the rest of the world to remove the Taliban, to liberate Afghanistan.

You showed tremendous courage in the way you handled your father's funeral procession. Can you talk about how that came to happen?

Hamid Karzai: Yes.


We decided to take him (my father) to Afghanistan, to Kandahar. The Taliban were in charge there. And lots of people came to me and said, "Don't do that. You will go into Afghanistan and the Taliban will arrest you." I said, "No. I want to go, and if they have the guts, let them arrest me." So I just went on the -- together with the procession. We were about --I don't know -- a hundred cars or something, and we took my father's body to Kandahar and buried him there and then left Kandahar. People felt at that time that that was a silly move.

[ Key to Success ] Courage


Because it was so dangerous?

Hamid Karzai: It was so risky, exactly, so risky. We had no guns, we had no arms, we had nothing. We just moved in. But of course the Taliban were frightened. They were so frightened that they brought tanks all around the city. They took all the city corners and crossroads and protected them with tanks. We were just civilians there.

At what point did it become clear to you that you were going to need to take a leadership role in your country, not just in your tribe?

Hamid Karzai: I had begun playing a kind of a national role when I began to work actively for the Loya Jirga, the Grand Council. I began to oppose actively the Taliban as brutal people, as people who meant no good for Afghanistan or the rest of the world. I began to know that they were harboring Osama in 1996 and I told the world at that time.

You told the U.S.?

Hamid Karzai: Oh, yes, so clearly, so clearly.

That must have been frustrating for you.

Hamid Karzai: I got frustrated, but never lost hope. I kept going, kept going, kept going, never stopped.

Now what, Chairman? You have your work cut out for you. We are looking historically at a Grand Council meeting a few days from now, in which you're very likely to be named the interim president of your country. Talk about this moment in history for your country.

Hamid Karzai: I'm very optimistic. I'm sure Afghanistan will do very well, because the Afghan people are so adamant to make it good for them. I have seen that a hundred times. I have not seen any Afghan coming to me for help for his daily life. I've had Afghans come to me for peace, for security, for dignity, for progress.


When I was in Tehran, visiting Iran officially, we were in a kind of cultural event. Some young Afghans who are students in Iran approached me -- boys and girls -- they wanted to see me. And I said, "All right." It was about five in the afternoon, and I said, "I can see you at 9:30 today in my residence," and the residence was far away from the city, and students are always poor, but they came there. They came to that residence. The Iranian foreign minister came, and he was there until about 11 o'clock. So by 11:30, I managed to meet that group of young Afghan students, boys and girls. When they came, I turned to the girls, and I said, "I'm sorry, ladies, that I could not meet you at the time that I promised, and it's so late at night, and you have to go back. I don't know how far you'll have to go back." There was a girl, 15 or 16 years of age, and she spoke. She said, "Oh, no, no, Mr. Chairman. We don't mind. We could wait for days and days for you to talk to us, because the country has regained respect, because the country has respect now." And I was shocked to hear that from a girl that was probably born in Iran, because most people that left Afghanistan left about 25 years ago. She must have been born in Iran and raised in Iran. She was aware of so much of her Afghan identity. She was only happy that the country had regained respect and dignity. So this quest for dignity, this quest for respect, this quest for the identity of Afghanistan is so strong in Afghans that they will not allow this country to go back the way it was.

[ Key to Success ] Passion


We've seen from images on television and from reading about it in newspapers that there's tremendous poverty and devastation in Afghanistan today. Obviously you have huge hurdles ahead of you, yet you seem very confident. Do you feel you're on the right path?

Hamid Karzai: I think so, very much, because...


Wherever I go in Afghanistan, I have this feeling, wherever I go. Even when I went to a northern province some three months ago, when there was an earthquake, an earthquake that had totally destroyed the northern part of a town, completely, even then, at that time, when I asked people, "What more can I do for you?" nobody responded. And I said again to them, about 4,400 of them, I said again, "What more can I do for you?" Nobody responded. And then the third time, when I insisted, somebody got up and said, "Nothing for our daily life," or nothing to ameliorate our present situation, "But the future. We want the future to be all right." That was very important.

[ Key to Success ] Vision


Hamid Karzai Interview Photo
At the same place, when I was in the middle of this destruction, a group of people came to me and said, "Mr. Karzai, if you want to send us tents or food or medicine, fine. If you don't want to send us, also fine. But what we need from you is not to worry about the earthquake or our children and the rubble. What we want from you is to get rid of the warlords. Remove the warlords from our lives. This is what we want. Forget about the earthquake or destruction to our lives and property or the death of our children." Imagine what the society had gone through if they did not care about the earthquake and the children and the rubble. They wanted to free themselves from warlords. So there's enthusiasm.

You talked before about what it feels like to see children going back to school.

Hamid Karzai: Yes, a great feeling, a wonderful feeling.


Sometimes when I have functions to attend in the city, or I go to a hotel to attend a function, or this or that, or I go to lunch in an electricity project or something, and I come back, and I see children going to school. At about 11 o'clock they return from school, or earlier, if I have to go at 7 o'clock, they go to school. It's the best sight for me. I spend the whole day very happy that day when I see the Afghan children going to school. It's remarkable, and I especially like it when they recognize me, and they wave, and they say hello, and they run up to the car. It's wonderful. It's just wonderful. The sight of Afghan children going to school is the most pleasing thing that I can have.

[ Key to Success ] Passion


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