My father, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, was a proud mayor of Kandahar City in Kandahar, Afghanistan. On July 27, 2011 he was assassinated by a suicide bomber while conducting the daily duties of government inside his office. He left behind a devastated family and a mourning city. Globally, his death furthered the discouragement of many as they contemplated the sad state of affairs in Afghanistan. So on this anniversary day I, his fourth daughter of five ask, what good can come from the death of an Afghan mayor, of an Afghan father?
Perhaps it can come from the lessons and legacy of his life. My father spent four years as mayor of Kandahar City urging people to change an isolationist culture and think beyond individual need. He argued that it was possible to turn Afghanistan into a developed nation with streets, lights, business, prosperity and peace -- if people worked together rather than following divisive norms. And sometimes they listened. I visited my father's grave near Kandahar University one last time before I left Afghanistan in December 2011. Late in the day as we made our way home across a darkened city where electricity remains a luxury for a few, despite 12 years of foreign development. As we drove down the lane from the cemetery, I saw students studying for final exams under solar lights installed on a University street by my father. Even in death he was bringing the next generation light.
My father often expressed that the "real" Jihad for Afghan Muslims was to fight against corruption and those who accept it as an unalterable way of Afghan life. He considered his battle to improve Kandahar City infrastructure a personal Jihad as he built roads and installed solar lights. He even planted trees and flowers. I have been told, "Every time I see the city's flowers, I think of your father." He did all of this with what aid money he could quietly secure away from corrupt and greedy hands.
My father's progress was cut short by forces yet to see justice. So it is easy to be discouraged. Nothing seems to work and the stink of corruption is on the rise. Billions of dollars poured into my country only seem to have created more mess and less development. Insecurity remains a problem. While a daughter can ask what good can come from a father's sacrifice, policy makers, scholars, experts and ordinary Afghan and U.S. citizens are asking, "Why didn't it work and how do we fix it?"
I have worked in Afghanistan for the past decade and like many see the problem's cause. In an aim to fund people already on the ground, foreign aid funded the old players, the same ones who brought my country 25-plus years destruction. Warlords, drug runners and corrupt politicians did not and do not need any more money. Yet we continue to give it to them.
Change will only come when Afghans and the aid community walk away from the past and the old men who created it. Afghanistan needs a vision and friends who can stand with fresh thinking visionaries who want to change old ways from top to bottom. It is time for the next generation to lead. It is our duty to reclaim our country. It is within our power. We are over 50 percent of the population. Our size can make a difference. So as a 35-year-old citizen of both Afghanistan and the U.S, and as a daughter who lost her father, I call on all the young people of Afghanistan to stand up. Let us be loud and stand strong in support of those leaders ready to move Afghanistan to a non corrupt future. Our country can succeed when we the next generation of Afghans decide just because something has been; it does not have to be.
But we cannot do it alone. As a loyal servant and citizen of both Afghanistan and the U.S. my father made the ultimate sacrifice in America's fight against terrorism. In his name, I urge Americans to demand their tax dollars to be invested in initiatives that bring light to people's dark communities and not fund warlords and businessmen who continue to profit from violence.
Even in messy, chaotic and insecure places like Kandahar, Afghanistan, there are heroes dedicated and committed to the service of their people. People who show change is possible in the face of conventional wisdom, which says don't bother trying. My father was one of those people. He brought light to the darkness. And I hope that someday my Agha will smile down on abrightly lit, flower filled nation changed by a new generation.