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
Following that testimony, Rohrabacher said, “Hasan not only is very articulate, but he also is one of these exiles . . . who contributes so much to the well-being of his country. Just for people who do not know, not only is he a good speechifier, as we have heard just a moment ago, but in my county, in Orange County, Hasan Nouri is the man who helps build water projects.” Such expertise would be vitally needed in rebuilding Afghanistan’s damaged irrigation and water systems, said Rohrabacher, who had not returned repeated calls for comment on this story at press time.
Hashemeyan of the Afghanistan Mirror downplays Nouri’s plan. “The proposal he made was not accepted by the king,” Hashemeyan contends. “[Nouri] wanted to establish a government in which he would have a big role. That was the main thing. Furthermore, he went with Congressman Rohrabacher, and he wanted a new government that was sort of run by the United States and helped by the United States. So the king did not accept that either. The king formed a group of advisers in which [Nouri] was not included, and he was hurt.”
Miskinyar counters that up until Zahir Shah’s death in 2007, “Hasan was always a close adviser to the king.”
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The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in 1996 awarded Nouri the Hoover Medal for “great, unselfish civic and humanitarian services.” Other recipients have included Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter. That same year, the Taliban, with heavy backing from a meddling Pakistan that has a strategic interest in a forever destabilized Afghanistan, rose to power. The fundamentalist Islamic regime would go on to close schools, oppress women, conduct beheadings, desecrate historical landmarks and harbor al-Qaeda terrorists.
In a 1996 edition of the foreign-policy publication Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs, self-professed Afghanistan expert Rohrabacher praised the Taliban as “devout traditionalists, not terrorists” and their takeover as a “positive development” that would bring “stability in an area where chaos was creating a real threat to the U.S.” When those comments came back to haunt the congressman, Nouri defended his friend in a letter published June 4, 1996, in TheOrange County Register, writing, “Without the conviction of men like Rohrabacher, President Reagan and the freedom fighters in Afghanistan, our world would be very different today.”
In April 2001, Rohrabacher met with the Taliban’s foreign minister in Qatar, in seeming direct violation of the 200-year-old Logan Act that makes it a felony for U.S. citizens to interfere in relations between the U.S. and foreign governments. When that meeting became an issue in Rohrabacher’s 2002 re-election campaign, he responded that he only met the Taliban official by chance and went to his hotel room and “unloaded on” the Taliban for half an hour about its human-rights abuses. Again, Nouri came to Rohrabacher’s rescue, telling the Los Angeles Times, “It’s sad that someone who has fought against terrorism in the U.S. Congress is now having his record used in a devious way.”
A tearful Nouri called Rohrabacher the day after 9/11 to tell the congressman “it tears me to pieces” that Afghanistan had become a safe haven for terrorists. On the Oct. 9, 2001, broadcast of KCET public television’s Life and Times, Nouri said, “the heinous crimes of Washington, D.C., and New York would not have happened” if the Zahir Shah peace plan had been implemented. As U.S. air strikes pounded Afghan targets, Nouri was quick to remind that not one of the 19 suicidal bombers was Afghan. “Afghanistan unfortunately became the home of terrorists,” he told Congress in Nov. 7, 2001, testimony, “largely because we abandoned Afghanistan.”
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During the early years of this decade, Nouri was recognized as a leader among the estimated 30,000 Afghans living in Southern California. He helped get an Afghan international airline aloft and rebuild health care, education and communications. Fauzia Assifi, a Laguna Niguel Realtor who would go on to work with IOC and on Afghanistan’s reconstruction, calls Nouri “a backbone of the Afghan-American community in Southern California.”
But his rival Hashemeyan tells the Weekly Nouri had no role at the December 2001 conference in Bonn, Germany, that resulted in the formation of Karzai’s democratic government. A month later, Orange County sheriff’s deputies had to break up a meeting of Southern California Afghans that Nouri helped stage when 1,000 people showed up to a Laguna Hills banquet hall that only seated 700. Ten representatives were supposed to be elected to a board that would join others around the country in representing the interests of expat Afghans. But the meeting ended in disarray, shouting, shoving—even hair-pulling among women—and no vote. Hashemeyan was among the hecklers who yelled the election was rigged. Nouri accused them of being pro-Taliban. Hashemeyan told local media covering the fracas that he had once promoted the Taliban but backed off when their repression became known.
“I left, and the police came afterward,” Nouri now says of the meeting. “I had kicked [Hashemeyan] out, and he got in a physical fight with another guy.”
Hashemeyan was ultimately chosen to be on that 10-member panel. Nouri, who was not picked, says most local Afghans did not bother to vote when balloting was finally held. “No one wanted to be in that organization with him,” Nouri says of Hashemeyan.