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Villager Named Radio Free Afghanistan's "Person Of The Year"

Jawas Khan staring at his daughter's grave
Jawas Khan staring at his daughter's grave

To mark Norouz, the Afghan New Year, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan has named Jawas Khan, a farmer residing in a remote village in the country's Khost province, the recipient of its eighth annual Person of the Year award.

Khan, a 38-year old father of nine, was recognized by his fellow villagers in Warzhali, a village in Tani district, for demonstrating extraordinary self-sacrifice when he concealed the death of his eight-year old daughter on the eve of Afghanistan's June 14, 2014 presidential runoff election, so as not to deter voting the next day.

READ Radio Free Afghanistan's announcement of its "Person of the Year," in Pashto and Dari.

"Our close relatives came to discuss the funeral and let people know about [our daughter] Dreiam Gula's death, but the election was due the next day and I did not want anybody to miss voting," Khan said.

Attendance at a village funeral is considered an obligatory sign of respect in Afghan culture, and yet Khan insisted that the vote was more important for the country’s future.

"I told my family members we would tell villagers after the voting is done."

Along with the other eligible men and women in his village, Khan and 14 family members cast their vote the next day.

Radio Free Afghanistan listeners praised the selection of Khan following the announcement today that Khan was selected as "Person of the Year." One listener, Spogmai KH, commented on the Service's Facebook page: "Thanks Radio Azadi. Truly it’s the radio of democracy. Congratulations to Jawas Khan," while a second, Marof Askashemi, wrote, “Long live, truly brave Afghan man."

Khost is one of Afghanistan's eastern provinces, located along the border with North Waziristan, a tribal area inside Pakistan that is believed to be the base of the Haqqani Network, a group on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.

With its annual "Person of the Year" award, Radio Free Afghanistan, known locally as Radio Azadi, recognizes distinguished individual contributions to peace, democracy, and culture in Afghanistan. Previous winners include Ahmad Sarmast, the director and founder of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, former princess Hindia d'Afghanistan, Afghan musician and UN Goodwill Ambassador Farhad Darya, lawmaker Ramzan Bashardost, physician and human rights activist Anarkali Honaryar, Nangarhar province governor Gul Agha Sherzai, and social entrepreneur Ehsanullah Bayat.