Now she felt guilty. Several years ago, she was the one who lobbied her father, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, to quit his routine accountant’s job at an Alexandria travel company and move to their home town of Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he served as mayor until his assassination Wednesday.
“I apologized and said, ‘I am sorry for bringing you here,’ ” Rangina, 33, a consultant to a U.S. Agency for International Development contractor in Kandahar, recalled in a telephone conversation. “His feet were just as beautiful as they were when he was alive — clean and white.”
In the days since Hamidi’s death — for which the Taliban asserted responsibility — a deep grief has spread from Afghanistan to his relatives and friends in Alexandria and Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties. His killing also illustrates the risks local Afghans and other exiles can face when they ponder a move back to their homelands: Opportunity for prestige, power and money may await, but also war and danger.
Three decades ago, Ghulam Hamidi had fled Afghanistan after the communist takeover and the Soviet invasion. In 2007, he returned to his homeland, leaving Aldie, a small Loudoun County town near Middleburg, his long accountant’s career and a large family. Four of his children live in Northern Virginia (three are married) and multiple grandchildren. (His wife, Spoozmi, followed him later.)
Rangina said she sensed that her father, who had worked at TransAm Travel in Alexandria for 18 years, was bored.
“It was the usual nine-to-five job with two or three weeks of vacation. He worked all his life, and I could see the mundane work he was doing in America,” she said. “All my sisters and brothers were against it, but I was the one who said, ‘Let him experience something new.’ ” For Hamidi, who had studied finance at Kabul University, that meant accepting an appointment by President Hamid Karzai to run the nation’s second-largest city, once a Taliban hub.
In Northern Virginia, the family treated Hamidi, 65, with the respect afforded a patriarch. No one in the family ever called him “dad” or “father.” They used the honorific: “Agha,” or “Great.” He was treated with similar respect at TransAm Travel, although there he was called the more humble nickname, Henry.
“He was like a father figure to almost everyone here,” said Parvez “Shawn” Kamal, 35, the firm’s chief financial officer, who was born in Bangladesh. “He went out there to do something good. I know I’m not as brave as him. I wish I was.”
In Kandahar, Hamidi had a reputation for helping to build schools, pave roads and plant trees, but at a cost that also earned him enemies. He ordered the bulldozing of unregistered shops, banned illegal sidewalk vendors and evicted squatters. On the day of the bombing, he was leaving the municipal office to meet with tribal elders from a neighborhood where two children were accidently killed by the municipality’s bulldozers razing houses built on government land.