A battle in the name of Najiba: a tale for Afghan women

Updated: Apr 26

by Valentina Geraci

Hussain Rezai, founder and director of Najiba Foundation, has been an activist alongside Afghan women for years. Two years after the loss of Najiba - his fiancée who was brutally killed in a suicide-attack by the Taliban - he founded the Najiba Foundation in Daykundi Province, his fiancée’s hometown. The Najiba Foundation was running the Najiba Public Library, the Najiba Computer Lab, the Najiba Library Girls Volleyball Team and also was implementing cultural and educational programs since July 2019 until the fall of the Government of Afghanistan to the Taliban on August 15, 2021.

In August, following the collapse of the Government of Afghanistan to the Taliban, the Najiba Foundation was attacked. In this attack, the Najiba library was partially destroyed and the Najiba Computer Lab equipment was looted by the Taliban. Since then, the Najiba Foundation has not been operational anymore. Now, Hussain is in Italy and hasn’t lost his hope. He told us his story in search of justice and defense of the most persecuted ethnic group in the history of Afghanistan, the Hazara.

Can you tell us about your story?

I would like to start from the story of the Najiba Foundation. We founded the Najiba Foundation on July 2019 to keep the memory of Najiba alive. Najiba was my fiancée. It is a tragic memory: she was brutally killed in a suicide-attack carried out by the Taliban on July 24, 2017. This attack caused the death of 36 people, including 16 employees of the Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines and Petroleum. Najiba Bahar, my fiancée, who had recently returned from Japan, was among them. They were going to their office early in the morning, and it was in that moment that their bus was targeted by the Taliban’s suicide-bomber. It was a shocking news not only for me, for her family, for her friends and for our whole community.

However, this is not just my story. There are hundreds and thousands of similar stories in Afghanistan. There were suicide-attacks, either in the morning or afternoon, every day. Many people in Afghanistan have experienced these terrible tragedies and particularly the Hazara people, who are still experiencing such situations. Most of the families have lost at least one of their loved ones and are now struggling with too many traumas and pains.

We have had very difficult moments in recent years in Afghanistan and yet we have them, unfortunately. Fear of being killed in suicide-attacks or in targeted killings is everywhere, especially among the Hazara people. Most of the attacks occur in the west of Kabul which is a Hazara populated area. The terroristic groups attack on Hazara people and kill them just because of their ethnicity and religion.

The idea of establishing the Najiba Foundation is the result of a pain and trauma that have accompanied us for years. So, we established the Foundation to document the cost of war, keep the memory of Najiba alive, and also to offer educational opportunities for girls and boys in Daykundi, which is one of the most under served and deprived province of Afghanistan.

Culture as a weapon against violence, extremism and the Taliban.

To fight against the Taliban, we didn’t pick the weapons. We selected education paths as a way of fighting against violence, fighting against the Taliban and other terroristic groups. We believe that education and culture are the most powerful weapons to change the world and to fight against violence and extremism. As I said before, we established the Foundation to educate our community, fight against Taliban and delegitimize their system.

I would also like to use this opportunity to talk about how we established the Najiba Library/Najiba Foundation. We first launched a campaign for collecting books, equipment and financial support in social media. Our campaign continued for almost four months on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms. Through this campaign, we have collected around 12,000 books, some equipment as well as some financial donations from the people inside the country and a smaller amount from the Hazara diaspora from outside of Afghanistan. As result, in July 2019, exactly two years after the suicide-attack which took the life of Najiba, we officially opened the the Najiba Library in the Najiba’s hometown, in Daikundi province, in central Afghanistan.