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06/17/2013

My father, the warlord

Their fathers are some of the most unpopular leaders in Afghanistan and accused of terrible human rights abuses over a 30-year period. So what’s it like to grow up as the sons of men many describe as Afghan warlords?

A fascinating story on NPR by Renee Montagne teases out the nuances where these young men in their 20s talked a lot about public accountability, living with peace and forging a better future.

Abdul Motalib Bek, a tribal leader with his own powerful militia was assassinated in 2011. His son Matin recalled that as a child during the Soviet occupation and later civil war he was never allowed to travel in the same car as his father for fear of being a target. Matin who has a degree in political science doesn’t think men will take up arms again because Afghan society has changed. He is a deputy minister and helps appoints Afghans to posts of mayor and district governor.

He told NPR: “Where I work, most of the people are young. We want to bring a change and we are trying to bring a change. For example, for the first time, district governors are passing a test, you know. We are recruiting district governor on merit basis.”

Adib Fahim is the son of Marshall Mohammed Qasim Fahim, a key commander from the north who helped the Americans topple the Taliban. Fahim and his men were given a lot of money and arms and after 9/11 he was given several prominent positions in Hamid Karzai’s government. 27-year-old Adib's career has taken a different path - he studied public policy at New York University and has worked in two ministries. 

Bator Dostum is the son of Abdul Rashid Dostum, a powerful Uzbek commander who was among the factions fighting to control Kabul during the 1990s civil war that destroyed the capital.  Bator, 23, has just finished university and is being groomed for public life, NPR reported. He is defensive of his father. 

“First of all, it's in the past and I don't believe some of these allegations are true. But, there was some of the, you know, it was this power struggle and my father was accused of a lot of things. And for me, you know, whenever he looks at me, he says you are the future. He looks at me, he says I believe you can do something in the future.” 

Hamida Ghafour is a foreign affairs reporter at The Star. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and Asia for more than 10 years and is the author of a book on Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter @HamidaGhafour

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