By Haqmal Masoodzai
A blood feud between brothers, a father threatening his son, and a young man willing to die to bring peace between the warring factions: it sounds like the stuff of a Hollywood film. But for Khan Wali Khan Adil, a resident of Paktia province, in eastern Afghanistan, this situation is all too real.
Khan Wali, 24, has begun a hunger strike to keep two factions in his family from killing each other.
The fight started when Khan Wali’s father, Noor Mohammad Khan, built a house on land that was claimed by his own brother. The family retaliated by shooting two of Noor Mohammad Khan’s sons.
“Almost three years ago, my cousins attacked us and killed two of my brothers, who were 11th grade students,” said Khan Wali. “Now my family also wants to take revenge and kill two members of my uncle’s family.”
The concept of badi is a time-honored tradition among Pashtuns in Afghanistan. Land disputes, perceived or actual insults, and, of course, violence, can launch a vendetta that could last for generations.
But according to Khan Wali, this is not tradition, it is ignorance.
“Small things can result in people being killed,” he told Paiwandgah. “This is lack of education, this is ignorance.”
Hostilities will not cease unless or until tribal elders or others step in to settle the dispute, which can involve such measures as an exchange of livestock or even daughters.
So far Noor Mohammad has refused all efforts at negotiation, and, indeed, blames Khan Wali for deepening the crisis. His son, he insists, has mental problems.
“Khan Wali has created many difficultiesfor our family,” said Noor Mohammad. “He has invited people to our house for meetings several times, in order to negotiate with our enemies. But we did not agree, because we cannot trust them. They have already killed two of my sons, and will kill the others, too. Therefore negotiating peace with them is not the solution.”
His son does not agree.
“Killing another person will not bring the dead back to life,” he said.
“I am on a hunger strike for three main reasons,” he told Paiwandgah. “First, people, especially my family members, should choose forgiveness rather than revenge. Second, they must let their children, both boys and girls, go to schools and continue their educations. Third, they must return the land they have grabbed to the rightful owners.”
Reform, according to Khan Wali, should start within his own household.
“My father and brothers carry guns all the time and seize the land of poor people,” he said.
Khan Wali’s frankness has earned him the enmity of his brothers. He told Paiwandgah that they had threatened him, saying they would beat him if he did not stop his action. He was taken by force to a local hospital and injected with an energy serum against his will, he said, and he is now being followed by the district police, who have been told by his family that he is crazy.
But Khan Wali is determined to continue his hunger strike until his family agrees to negotiations.
It may be awhile. So far the only talks that have been scheduled are between Khan Wali and his own family, who will meet in the Provincial Government offices on Friday, September 4, to discuss how to proceed.
“Khan Wali is on hunger strike in order to revoke these negative traditions,” said his friend, Saifullah. “He wants the people in his family to choose the way of peace and forgiveness not war and revenge. Khan Wali wants to put an end to tribal animosities, to save the new generation from these destructive practices.”
Update: 06 September, 2015
Not Crazy at All
Khan Wali’s hunger strike was ultimately successful. On September 4, a meeting was held in the offices of the Paktia Peace Council. Present were Khan Wali, his father and brothers, as well as journalists, civil society activists, tribal elders, provincial council members, and the head of the Paktia Peace Council.
Noor Mohammad, Khan Wali’s father, as well as his two brothers, agreed to most of Khan Wall’s conditions: They will no longer prevent the children in their family from going to school; they will stop their armed land-grabs.
They have also agreed to peace negotiations with the family faction who killed their sons.
“The fight is finished,” said Khan Wali, relieved. “At least they will not kill each other.”