Conflict & Justice

Afghans Mourn The Death Of Rabbani

This story is a part of a series

Afghanistan Ten Years On

This story is a part of a series

Afghanistan Ten Years On

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Banner commemorating Rabbani who had been meeting Taliban commanders, returning from abroad a few days ago specifically for the talks. (Photo: Laura Lynch)

People across Afghanistan are mourning the death of a former warrior who was trying to sow the seeds of peace. Burhanuddin Rabbani was assassinated last night in his home by a suicide bomber who detonated explosives hidden in his turban. Rabbani was the head of the peace council, charged with negotiating an end to conflict with the Taliban. Now, some are asking whether there is any hope for peace.

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On the street outside Rabbani’s home the mourners gathered early and gathered in anger at the assassin who took his life. Soon, banners featuring his photograph were draped over the building, marking his status as a martyr for peace among those who supported him.

Member of Parliament Fawzia Koofi was one of the first people to go to Rabbani’s house last night, as soon as she heard the news. “Of course it was shocking for me to see his dead body and his face which was completely damaged,” Koofi said.

Koofi didn’t always agree with Rabbani, but they were from the same province of Afghanistan. His death makes her question the value of trying to make peace with the Taliban.

“It is a big political loss and of course morally it affects everybody,” she said, “because for people who struggle for peace this is the response they get from the enemies of Afghanistan.”

For Afghan president Hamid Karzai, it is yet another blow. Within the past three months, two other close advisers, including his half brother, were also assassinated.

Government spokesman Janan Mosazail predicted more will die on Afghanistan’s rough road to peace, but he insists it’s no reason to stop negotiating.

“We have made it very clear from the beginning, and I think the world agrees with us,” Mosazail said, “that there is no military solution to the war in Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan have suffered for thirty years. There has to be a political solution, there has to be an end to the war in Afghanistan that is supported, that is endorsed and that is respected by everybody – countries in the region, and others further afield.”

“So that’s why we have announced this peace process. Of course there have been setbacks, there will be setbacks. Professor Rabbani is not the first and he will not be the last prominent Afghan leader who has been killed by terrorists trying to derail the peace process. But we will continue with our efforts,” Mosazail said.

The peace process was already fragile under Rabbani’s leadership. One of his closest advisors, Atta Mhummad Nur, now wants only vengeance.

“I am calling on all the followers of the great leader to unite and take revenge on those parasitic worms and those dragon-like blood-thirsty people behind the killing of the martyr and national hero,” he said. The peace council does not have any meaning for us any longer. Peace and understanding do not mean anything with these killers in Afghanistan.

No one is certain who sent the men who killed Rabbani. But the prospect of more and more Afghans taking up arms is worrying in a country beset by civil war less than two decades ago, a civil war that gave way to the brutal rule of the Taliban.

On the streets of Kabul today, there is a continuing unease. Yesterday’s assassination came just a week after the city was locked down by a 20 hour attack by the Taliban. Rabbani’s violent death is one more reason to worry about the future.

As an elderly man made his way down the street with a prayer mat slung over his shoulder, he predicted the worst is yet to come. And not just in Kabul.

“Even in my home village,” he said, “a leading politician was recently killed. The continuing violence makes it harder for me and others to believe in the chances for a lasting peace.”