Abdul Kayeum, Afghan exile

September 29, 2012

Abdul Kayeum, 93, former minister of education, minister of the interior and deputy prime minister of Afghanistan who had lived in exile in the United States for almost 40 years, died Sept. 5 at his home in Derwood.

He had complications from spinal stenosis, said his wife, Joan Kayeum.

Dr. Kayeum left his native Afghanistan at the time of the first of a series of coups in 1973. He lived at first in New York and since 1987 in the Washington area. He wrote articles in Persian and Pashto supporting the restoration of a modern democratic government in Afghanistan.

He was born in Afghanistan’s Laghman province. After completing high school in Kabul, he graduated from the University of Illinois in 1942. At the University of Chicago, he received a master’s degree in education in 1944 and a master’s degree in social sciences in 1946.

The next year, he received a doctorate in education from the University of Denver. He returned to Afghanistan in 1948, where he described his work over the next 25 years as helping Afghanistan “catch up with the caravan of civilization.”

He was a school director, then from 1952 to 1962 president of the Helmand Valley Authority, a hydroelectric and agricultural project modeled after the Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States.

He worked for equal rights for women and an end to mandatory veiling laws for women, his family said. He presided over national elections as minister of the interior from 1962 to 1965. As deputy prime minister and minister of education from 1968 to 1971, he increased the number of schools in Afghanistan, his family said.

Survivors include his wife of 64 years, Joan Geannopoulos Kayeum of Derwood; five children, Rona Kayeum of Rockville, Marya Kayeum of Bethesda, Trina Shahbaz of Boulder, Colo., Dr. Nina Kayeum of Kenosha, Wis., and Thor Kayeum of West Hartford, Conn.; and five grandchildren.

— Bart Barnes