Shaping a nation out of turmoil

By Susanna Ray

Herald Writer

MONROE — A mixture of emotions and predictions for the future accompanied Aziz Sadat on his recent six-day trip to Bonn, Germany, where he was summoned to advise the Northern Alliance during the negotiations over an interim government for Afghanistan.

"The suffering Afghans have been waiting 22 years for this moment," said the Monroe man, who traded in his Afghan passport for U.S. citizenship in 1979. "I was very happy to see that finally, after 22 years of war, the people who were fighting together were sitting at a table together and talking."

Still, the continuing deep divisions among the tribes will be difficult to overcome, he added.

"The United Nations must now force the Afghans to be unified and do what’s best for the Afghan people," Sadat said.

Sadat went to Bonn at the request of the Hazara tribe, one of the three Northern Alliance delegations and the third largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, he said. He worked closely with the tribe’s leaders during a 1996 trip to Kabul to help start a school.

He was the only American on an eight-person consultation team for the group, working with hundreds of other delegates, advisers and diplomats from dozens of countries.

"It was chaos a lot of times," he said. "It was a tremendous pressure, that something had to be happening before they head back for Afghanistan."

Hezb-i-Wahda, the Hazara faction, argued that one of its members should be in charge of the interior ministry for the interim government. Control of the ministry instead went to Younis Qanooni, an ethnic Tajik who headed the full Northern Alliance delegation to the Bonn talks.

Gen. Haji Mohammed Mukhaqiq, who leads the Hazaras in northern Afghanistan and was named the new government’s minister of planning, complained that the Bonn accord failed to reward the Northern Alliance for its efforts.

Still, Sadat used the all-American phrase "cautiously optimistic" to describe his feelings for the outcome. The 30-member interim government is set to take power for six months starting Dec. 22. The former king, whose family Sadat’s father worked for before the king was exiled from Afghanistan, will then convene a traditional tribal council to prepare for elections sometime in the next two years.

Sadat hopes to eventually take his family — his wife Faiza and five boys aged 5 to 13 — back to Afghanistan to help rebuild the country. In the meantime, he is still planning to visit his homeland himself sometime soon.

"The people I worked with have invited me to go to Afghanistan in the near future, maybe after Christmas," Sadat said.

He paid for the trip to Bonn with his own money, earned from his health-food store and import-export business in Monroe, and he said it was worth every penny.

"If it helps people and we can accomplish something," he said, "I am willing to do it."

Herald news services contributed to this report.

You can call Herald Writer Susanna Ray at 425-339-3439 or send e-mail to ray@heraldnet.com.

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