Hamid Karzai

Hamid Karzai was born on December 24, 1957, in the village of Karz, near Kandahar, Afghanistan.

His grandfather, Khair Mohammad Khan, had served in Afghanistan's war of independence and as Deputy Speaker of the Senate. His father, Abdul Ahad Karzai, was a Popalzai tribal elder and a significant political figure who served as Deputy Speaker of the Parliament during the 1960s.

Hamid Karzai studied at Mahmood Hotaki Elementary School, Sayed Jamaluddin Afghani School, and Habibia High School. After graduating high school in 1976, he traveled to India as an exchange student and was accepted by the International Relations and Political Science M.A. program at Simla University. He obtained his Master's Degree in 1983, shortly after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Hamid Karzai traveled to Pakistan and joined the Mujahideen resisting the Soviet occupation of his homeland. In 1985, he traveled to Lille, France to attend a three-month journalism course. Upon returning to Pakistan, he served as Director of Information for the National Liberation Front led by Professor Sebghatullah Mujadidi. He later became the Deputy Director of its Political Office.

After the formation of the Mujahideen's transitional government in 1989, Hamid Karzai was appointed as Director of the Foreign Relations Unit in the Office of the President of the Interim Government. When the Mujahideen Government was established in Kabul in 1992, he was appointed as its Deputy Foreign Minister.

When the civil war between various Mujahideen groups began two years later, he resigned from his post and began to work actively for the organization of a national Loya Jirga (Grand Council). A devoted Muslim and Afghan patriot, he believed that only a Loya Jirga could resolve the differences of the competing parties peacefully. This hope was borne out by the Emergency Loya Jirga of 2002 and the Constitutional Loya Jirga in 2003.

In August 1999, Abdul Ahad Karzai, who was organizing resistance to the Taliban from his base in Quetta, Pakistan, was assassinated by the Taliban and their foreign supporters. This tragedy did not shake the Karzai family's commitment to ridding Afghanistan of this foreign menace, and the son continued his father's struggle against the Taliban.

Hamid Karzai returned to Uruzgan province in October 2001 and worked to coordinate local efforts to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and their supporters. On December 5, 2001, while he was still in Afghanistan leading these efforts, he was elected Chairman of the Interim Administration of Afghanistan by participants at the UN-sponsored Bonn Conference. He, along with the appointed cabinet, took the oath of office on December 22, 2001.

His role as leader of the country was confirmed by members of the Emergency Loya Jirga when he was elected President of the Transitional Government on June 13, 2002. In Afghanistan's first presidential election on October 9, 2004, Hamid Karzai won the majority of votes and was elected to a 5-year term as President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. He took his oath of allegiance at Salam Khana Palace on December 7, 2004, in the presence of dignitaries and officials from around the world.

As president, Hamid Karzai is viewed as a uniting force for all Afghans. He has long been an advocate for improving human rights and the role of Afghan women in particular. He has appointed several women to his cabinet, and recently appointed the first female governor in Afghanistan's history.

Hamid Karzai has been awarded many honours, among them an Honourary Knighthood from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth (2003), the Philadelphia Liberty Medal (2004), and the American Bar Association-Asia Rule of Law Award (2003).

In 1999, he married Dr. Zeenat Quraishi. He has six brothers and one sister, speaks fluent Pashtu, Dari, Urdu, and English, and enjoys riding horses and studying philosophy.

Source: University Programs and Events Planning Resources, September 2003