State funeral for Afghanistan’s Former President

By Nilab Mobarez, UNAMA

19 March 2009 – The remains of the former President of Afghanistan Mohammad Daoud Khan and 16 members of his family have been buried with full honours in Kabul. On 28 April 1978 Kabul woke up not even guessing what would happen for the next thirty years in the country. A coup had taken place. The presidential family was among the first of hundreds of thousands of people who were to be killed or disabled during more than 30 years of war.

In 2008 two mass graves were uncovered with the support of eye witnesses in the Pul-e-Charkhi area of Kabul where the presidential family were believed to be buried. President Hamid Karzai appointed an Ad Hoc commission to investigate those graves.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has registered more than 100 graves across the country.

The UNAMA Human Rights Unit as well as other relevant organisations in Afghanistan are seeking to ensure the protection of and respect for mass graves given the rights of victims, their relatives and society to know what happened and the importance of acknowledging the harm that occurred as a first step toward attaining a just and lasting peace. “Each family has the right to know what happened to their family members,” said Norah Niland, the Head of the Human Rights Unit at UNAMA.

“I hope the ideals of my martyred father which were unity, dignity, peace and progress for all Afghans will become true,” said Mrs. Durkhanai Noor the daughter of the late president after the funeral. She prayed: “May his soul rest in peace, we pay tribute to all the martyrs of Afghanistan.”

Mohammad Daoud Khan (1909-1978), the first president of Afghanistan and 18 members of his family including his wife, his brother Mohammad Naeem Khan and their children and grandchildren were killed after the coup of 28 April 1978, organised by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan. Only a few people from the family survived including Zahra the granddaughter of the President.

In 1973 Mohammed Daoud Khan was the founder of the first Republic of Afghanistan after he took power from his cousin Mohammad Zaher Shah the late king of Afghanistan in what many consider to have been a “white coup”.

Daoud Khan encouraged the abandonment of the veil by Afghan women, and their participation in the building of a progressive and modern Afghanistan. He ruled until he was assassinated in 1978 (the Saur Revolution).

Mahmood Ghazi the grandson of the late president followed the tragedy with patience and dignity searching for his family members. Those responsible never gave him any sign of where they had buried his relatives. The youngest member of the family killed was only 18 months old.

Nadir Naeem the grandson of Mohammad Naeem Khan has called for a one week ceasefire in Afghanistan following the funeral of his family.