Mahir’s death

[Original by Maki KATO, Afghanistan Project (April 22, 2019); Translated by H. Ueda/M. Olagoke]

The vernal equinox day, March 21, is New Year’s Day in Afghanistan. It is a national holiday called Nowruz, when people gather to share joy with their families, relatives, and friends, celebrating the new year. On this very day, when I was just simply pondering; “People must be having a good time in new clothes and eating delicious food,” a local staff brought me some sad news.

Mahir-san was killed.

The Pachir Wa Agam district is located in the Nangarhar province along the border with Pakistan, where the governmental forces/US army, “IS”, and Taliban are intensely struggling for power, threatening citizens’ life.

The following is the information provided by Sabirullah, our local staff:

Khan Aga Mahir, a strong partner of the JVC Peace Action, was killed. He was a soldier of the Afghan Armed Forces until five years ago. He then resigned and established a youth group named Spin Ghar Youth Association* and acted as its representative. He was a native of the Pachir Wa Agam district, where he had taken part in social activities with youth around him until a force calling itself the “Islamic State” (IS) started extending its influence. Due to the invasion, he could not settle in one place, moving to Jalalabad City for safety and coming back if things settled down. He was so influential that he even saw the President at Kabul as the representative of the youth group.

(*Spin Ghar is the name of a mountain range in the Pachir Wa Agam district.)

JVC got acquainted with Mahir in 2017 when Peace Action started. He passionately encouraged us to expand the geographical reach of our activities, which were initially limited within the Kuz Kunar district, to the Pachir Wa Wgam district where he lived. Thanks to him, an epoch-making exchange program between the people of Kuz Kunar and Pachir Wa Agam districts (and others) was established, which was a great achievement for JVC in 2018.

Mahir was killed in Jalalabad on the day before Nowruz. It is rumored that the crime was committed by the “IS”, but this is still yet to be confirmed at this time. Just a day before he was killed, Mahir called JVC to consult us about an event for a new Peace Action to be performed in Pachir Wa Agam.

At the villagers’ exchange meeting. Mahir is pointing his finger (December 2018).

Many people gathered at his funeral.

When I read the email from Sabirullah, I was struck dumb with astonishment. I looked over the photos which had been taken during Peace Action activities since 2018 and realized again that he had always been at the center on every occasion, at a meeting with our staff at the JVC office, or while giving a speech in front of villagers, and so on. I have never met him, but those pictures tell me that he was the leader in that area and an important person who provided support for JVC.

I hereby quote Mahir’s words from a report on Peace Action which he took part in.

Since the Russian invasion, combatants were hiding in Pachir Wa Agam as it was a good place to hide due to its terrain features with mountains and caves. Villagers had to provide money or harvest food if requested by those armed forces. Villagers were even sometimes killed. However, such violent behavior does not come from the Islamic faith. As the government army has recently gotten control of this area, people are coming back. Now is the time to take action to establish a safe community for families and villages. Peacebuilding is not impossible. Youth can especially play an important role in this mission. Things develop properly in a reading culture. Let us learn from Kuz Kunar, where they have opened local libraries.

The sadness of the local people who lost Mr. Mahir is immeasurable. He was also the leader of the youth group. We pray that his soul may rest in peace. JVC will inherit his will and establish the Peace Action in his village, which was proposed by him the day before his death.

Peace Action meeting at the JVC office (January 2019).

Mahir is giving a speech. Sitting on the right of him is Sabirullah (February 2019).

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