[Reader-list] Saifullah, man of peace, killed by American cruise missile- by Robert Fisk

Shohini shohini at giasdl01.vsnl.net.in
Wed Oct 31 07:28:34 IST 2001

Saifullah, man of peace, killed by American cruise missile
War on Terrorism: Victim
By Robert Fisk
30 October 2001

The Americans have killed Saifullah of Turangzai, MA in Arabic and MA in
Islamic Studies (Peshawar University), BSc (Islamia College), BEd
certificate of teaching, MPhil student and scholarship winner to Al-Azhar in
Cairo, the oldest university in the Arab world.
He spoke fluent English as well as Persian and his native Pashto, and loved
poetry and history and was, so his family say, preparing a little
reluctantly to get married. His father, Hedayatullah, is a medical doctor,
his younger brother a student of chartered accountancy.
Of course, no one outside Pakistan - and few inside - had ever heard of
Saifullah. In these Pashtun villages of the North-West Frontier, many
families do not even have proper names. Saifullah was not a political
leader; indeed his 50-year-old father says his eldest son was a
humanitarian, not a warrior. His brother, Mahazullah, says the same. "He was
always a peaceful person, quiet and calm, he just wanted to protect people
in Afghanistan whom he believed were the victims of terrorism.'' But
everyone agrees how Saifullah died.
He was killed on 22 October when five US cruise missiles detonated against
the walls of a building in the Darulaman suburb of Kabul, where Saifullah
and 35 other men were meeting. His family now call him the shahid, the
martyr. Hedayatullah embraces each visitor to the family home of cement and
mud walls, offers roast chicken and mitha, sweets and pots of milk and tea,
and insists he be "congratulated" on being the proud father of a man who
died for his beliefs. Hens cluck in the yard outside and an old, coloured
poster, depicting a Kalashnikov rifle with the wordjihad (holy struggle)
above it, is pasted to the wall. But "peace" is the word the family utter
Saifullah had only gone to take money to Kabul to help the suffering
Afghans, says Mahazullah, perhaps no more than 20,000 rupees - a mere $3.50
- which he had raised among his student friends.
That's not the way the Americans tell it, of course. Blundering through
their target maps and killing innocent civilians by the day, the Pentagon
boasted that the Darulaman killings targeted the Taliban's "foreign
fighters", of whom a few were Pakistanis, Saifullah among them.
In Pashto, his Arabic name means "Sword of God". Mahazullah dismisses the
American claims. Only when I suggest that it might not be strange for a
young Muslim with Saifullah's views to have taken a weapon to defend
Afghanistan does Mahazullah say, briefly, that his brother "may have been a
Saifullah's best friend, a smiling, beardless young man with bright blue
eyes, says he telephoned the doomed man on 16 October, two days before he
left for Afghanistan, six days before his death. "I asked him if he was
going to Afghanistan and he said he was - but just to take money to the
Afghans. He said: 'If God wills it, I will be back after 10 days.' I told
him it would be very dangerous. I pleaded with him not to go, but he said he
just wanted to take the money. He said to me: 'I know my life will be in
danger but I'm not going to fight. What can I do? The Americans are out of
range.' He said he just wanted to give moral support.''
Mahazullah never imagined his brother's death. "We never expected his
martyrdom. I never thought he would die,'' he says. A phone call prepared
the family for the news, a friend with information that some Pakistanis had
been killed in Kabul. "It has left a terrible vacuum in our family life,''
Mahazullah says.
"You cannot imagine what it is like without him. He was a person who
respected life, who was a reformer. There was no justification for the war
in Afghanistan. These people are poor. There is no evidence, no proof. Every
human being has the right to the basic necessities of life.
"The family - all of us, including Saifullah - were appalled by the carnage
in New York and Washington on 11 September. Saifullah was very regretful
about this - we all watched it on television.'' At no point does the family
mention the name of Osama bin Laden.
Turangzai is a village of resistance. During the Third Afghan War in 1919,
the British hunted down Hadji Turangzai, one of the principal leaders of the
revolt, and burnt the village bazaar in revenge for its insurgency.
Disconcertingly, a young man enters Saifullah's family home, greets me with
a large smile and announces that he is the grandson of the Hadji, scourge of
the English. But this is no centre of Muslim extremism. Though the family
pray five times a day, they intend their daughters to be educated at
Saifullah spent hours on his personal computer and apparently loved the
poetry of the secular Pakistani national poet Allam Mohamed Iqbal of Surqhot
- Sir Mohamed Iqbal after he had accepted a British knighthood - and,
according to Mahazullah, was interested in the world's religions.
"He would talk a lot about the Northern Ireland problem and about
Protestants and Catholics,'' he says. "He believed that Islam was the
religion which most promotes peace in the world. He used to say that the
Prophet, peace be upon him, tells us that we can't even attack a person who
is engaged in war with us if he has his gun over his shoulder.
"You can only fight a person who is attacking you. He thought that every
civilian should help the Afghans because they are being attacked. But we are
not extremists or terrorists as the media say.''
Saifullah, at 26 the oldest of three brothers and two sisters, was
unmarried. "Our father told him: 'We are going to marry you,' '' Mahazullah
says. "But my brother said he would only marry after his studies. His father
was trying to see which girls might be suitable. It is our duty to follow
our parents' wishes because they have an experience we don't have.'' But
Saifullah left for Afghanistan. "Trust me,'' were the last words he said to
his father.
Perhaps he was remembering one of Iqbal's most famous verses: "Of God's
command, the inner meaning do you know? To live in constant danger is a life

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