It’s been an entire year since the martyrdom of my father – I cannot grasp how time has flown by, everything is still so fresh on my mind. From the time I got the phone call to my flight to Kabul. The flight was just a blur, all sorts of thoughts & possibilities were running through my mind – maybe he’s just injured, maybe he’ll make it, maybe this is just a bad dream. The reality hit when I landed at Kabul airport. The feeling in the air just wasn’t the same.
As I entered my house, the same house my father was martyred in, I saw my brother Shuja and my younger brother Yousef sitting in the living room – their eyes red. I remember Shuja walking towards me, giving me a hug and telling me, “We lost Abba jan (the name we called our father at home).” Shuja was the only one who witnessed my father martyred, an emotional devastation that grieves us all.
All over Afghanistan, funerals were held to honour my father. In Kabul, the official ceremony took place at the presidential palace. Thousands of people came to our house to pay their condolences and all of them had one thing to say to us “You’re not the only one who has lost a father, we all did.” When I saw how strangers were weeping and mourning, I realized how he was loved. I realized we are not alone; there are thousands of people around Afghanistan who are mourning with us. I can say with a lot of pride that my father had one of the most honourable funeral ceremonies of an Afghan leader.
The memories of my father and I are few, but very precious. His patriotic commitment to Afghanistan and its people left very little time for him to spend with his family. Growing up, he was always away- the very few memories I have of him are the ones in Ramadan/Eid and the ones where we would go to Afghanistan to see him – even then, he was too busy to spend time with us. He would always be out either moving provinces or meeting elders and tribal leaders. He was kind hearted, forgiving and very patient, never raised his voice at home and always encouraged his daughters as well as his sons to pursue their education. I always remember his words to me “your education is your passport to the world, people can take anything away from you but they cannot take your education from you.”
My father was often misinterpreted in certain news. He was often criticised by western media and internal Afghan groups with opposing beliefs whose only purpose is to spread propaganda about people like him to gain popularity in Western world using masks such as human rights, women’s rights and women’s revolution labels.
Being a very optimistic person, he never really paid much attention to criticisms. His critics never interviewed him, did not even bother to get a translation of any of his speeches in order to understand his values and principles and vision for Afghanistan. On the contrary, they relied heavily on his other critics to get an extremely false and distorted impression of who he really was.
Unlike many former Afghan leaders whose names faded through time after their death, my father’s philosophies will remain timeless because the very essence of what he fought for is the same philosophies that Afghanistan lives by. My father was an intellectual who was very logical in his approach and a person who fought for what he believed in. My father wanted to see Afghanistan where every child is schooled and made familiar with Afghan history, culture, and national identity.
There were countless moments of death during the 30 years he struggled for his faith, his people, and his land. There were endless hours of tramping through frozen ravines in the winter and over blistering boulders in the summer, never to spend the night in the same sanctuary. Watching the jaws of war devour one friend after another. People tend to forget that Mujahideen leaders had a choice to leave Afghanistan; however, they chose to fight for their country and chose to live away from their families under harsh conditions.
I remember a story one of my father’s friends had told me once, during the Soviet war, they were praying at a mosque together and after the prayers finished, my father started shedding tears. When his friend asked him why? He said “I feel so guilty for not being there for my family and for being away from my children.” This is only one of the many sacrifices that he had to make.
Two years ago, a very successful businessperson from the Hazara community visited my father at our home and told my brother that “it is because of your father that we (the Hazaras) are recognized internationally.” This kind of statements made by people makes us very proud because it is a reflection of the success of my father’s policy of ethnic inclusion.
When I dream about my father, he tells me how happy he is, he looks young and healthy and just that alone is a consolation for my family and I that he is most certainly in a better place. I have no doubt that as we - his children - get our voices out to the world, the world will better come to understand and appreciate the real Rabbani whose active contribution to Afghanistan for over 40 years is unparalleled.
Fatima Rabbani is an Afghan women’s activist and has an Msc in State, Society and Development from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.