By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Nouri, by telephone from Utah, where he was visiting his son, blurted two words when Hashemeyan’s name was mentioned: “Oh, God.”
He says the two have battled for years “because he was a staunch Communist supporter of the Soviet Union, a staunch supporter of the Taliban who has gone to Kandahar and kissed the hand of Mullah Mohammed Omar.”
The U.S. has a $10 million bounty for Omar, the Taliban leader and Afghanistan’s de facto head of state from 1996 to 2001, for harboring bin Laden. Both are believed to be hiding in Pakistani caves.
“Other than him,” Nouri says of Hashemeyan, “ask anyone about me.”
In an e-mail to the Weekly, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Said Tayeb Jawad, conveyed “the gratitude of the Afghan people” for Nouri’s “selfless constructive work and tremendous contribution to the political and reconstruction processes in Afghanistan.”
Nabil Miskinyar, the owner of Orange-based Ariana Afghanistan Television, a 24-hour-satellite, Dari Farsi-language network viewed by more than 20 million Afghans and Iranians around the world, has known Nouri all his life. The Lake Forest resident says his second cousin “has done many good things for Afghanistan.” He was surprised to learn Nouri would not return to his former Laguna Hills house from his current trip. “He doesn’t have a home right now and is in the process of moving to a small apartment,” says Miskinyar. “When I asked him why, he said, ‘I gave everything to Afghanistan.’”
* * *
Nouri’s passage into Afghanistan for once-a-year medical missions was arranged by his high-school teacher Sibghattullah Mojadedi. When the last Soviet soldier left Afghanistan on Feb. 15, 1989, Nouri had high hopes as seven Pakistan-based rebel groups selected Mojadedi as president of the interim government in Kabul and later chairman of a Loya Jirga (“grand assembly”) that adopted Afghanistan’s new constitution. But amid government infighting, the country devolved into bloody civil war. Nouri and his first wife, Lisa, cared in their home for an 8-year-old who had his hand blown off in Afghanistan, then in 1993 founded International Orphan Care (IOC), a nonprofit that builds orphanages, schools and medical clinics for the estimated 1.5 million children believed to have lost one or both parents during the seemingly ceaseless warfare in Afghanistan. Royce (R-Fullerton), his congressional colleague Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) and former Ambassador Peter Tomsen, Bush the first’s special envoy to the mujahideen, serve on the IOC advisory board.
Nouri has special relationships with these three. Royce invited Nouri to address subcommittees of the House of Representatives and Senate over conditions in Afghanistan; Nouri returned the favor by promoting Royce’s legislation to establish the propagandizing Radio Free Afghanistan. Tomsen spoke alongside—and praised—Nouri during most of those congressional appearances.
“Hasan brings an incredible passion to his work on behalf of the orphans of Afghanistan, often times at considerable personable cost,” says Royce, speaking from his Washington, D.C., office. “As bleak as conditions in the country have been, he has remained committed to seeing that the most disadvantaged in that society have a better life.
“At his urging, I’ve seen that work first-hand when I visited the orphanage he helped start. A young girl told me she wanted to grow up to go to Kabul University and become a doctor to help her people, as boys told me about their studies to become farmers or engineers.”
Rohrabacher is Nouri’s most interesting friend. During his tenure as a speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, Rohrabacher secretly met with the mujahideen in Afghanistan and returned with glowing reports of their bravery against the Commie occupiers. The same year Nouri co-founded IOC, he started the Council of Cooperation for Afghan National Organizations, and on behalf of that group, he introduced Rohrabacher to Zahir Shah, exiled in Rome, and military leaders loyal to the former king. Nouri told Rohrabacher that Zahir Shah, whose 1933-to-1973 reign represented the longest period of stability in Afghanistan, was the only person of stature all sides would respect enough to buy into the formation of a new government.
Around this time, Nouri formulated a peace plan that involved the creation of a new government with “no allegiance or loyalty to a particular nation or foreign power.” Constitutional law, compulsory military service, a peacekeeping force to abolish warlordism, reconstruction consultants financed by the international community, and a ministry devoted to the affairs of women and children were features of his plan. Nouri says Zahir Shah and Rohrabacher added minor tweaks to his plan. But key in Nouri’s mind was convincing Zahir Shah to travel to Afghanistan to hatch a new regime. Nouri is proud his friend Rohrabacher met the king three times in Rome to form a government in exile and stop civil war and drug production.
History books will tell you these plans failed because Zahir Shah could not reach a consensus with powerful Islamist factions. Nouri blames the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations for not supporting the plan, choosing to prop up moderates already in Afghanistan. After Robin Raphel, Clinton’s assistant secretary of state for South Asian Affairs, told a congressional subcommittee in May 1996 that the Zahir Shah plan would amount to the U.S. interfering in Afghanistan’s affairs, Nouri followed her and incredulously asked, “If interference is against U.S. policy, why did we interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan for 12 years?” Five years before the horrendous events of Sept. 11, 2001, Nouri said, “Our administration should know that today’s Afghan problem will become our tomorrow’s problem at home.”