2005.05.12 > For Immediate Release
contact: Tim Kaldahl - University Affairs
phone: 402.554.3502 - email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Afghanistan's President Set to Visit UNO on May 25
Omaha - Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, will visit the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and receive an honorary degree Wednesday, May 25. Karzai is a personal friend of Thomas Gouttierre, dean of International Studies and Programs at UNO and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. He has visited UNO once before in late 1999.
Karzai's stop in Omaha is part of a larger tour of the United States and Europe, which will also include a meeting with President George W. Bush. Detailed travel schedules have not yet been finalized.
"This is a tremendous honor for the university and for the state," Gouttierre said. "President Karzai represents the hopes and dreams of his nation, and he literally has put his own life at risk for Afghanistan."
Karzai was elected in Afghanistan's first democratic presidential elections on Oct. 9, 2004. He had been heading an interim Afghan government since Dec. 5, 2001.
Karzai will arrive in Nebraska late Tuesday, May 24. Plans call for him to tour agricultural facilities in Cuming County and visit UNO's Center for Afghan Studies (CAS) on May 25. The honorary degree ceremony will take place early in the evening.
CAS was established in 1972. Gouttierre, who came to UNO in 1974, has served as CAS director for more than 30 years. Karzai and Gouttierre first met each other in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Gouttierre also knew Karzai's father, the late Abdul Ahad Karzai, an influential tribal leader and respected parliamentarian during Afghanistan's previous democratic period, a constitutional monarchy led by King Zahir Shah, 1963-73.
In the summer of 1999, Karzai was one of three Afghan opposition leaders who worked with CAS in planning and conducting the "Sustained Dialogue on Reconstruction of a Post-Taliban Afghanistan." The five-week workshop brought Afghan opposition leaders from inside and outside Afghanistan to Omaha to develop cooperative linkages for a Post-Taliban period in Afghanistan.
While the workshop was underway, Hamid Karzai's father, Abdul Ahad Karzai, was assassinated. This was a brutal message sent by the Taliban and its terrorist and Pakistani military allies that there was to be no Post-Taliban Afghanistan, Gouttierre said.
After his father's death, Hamid Karzai was elected to succeed him as khan of the tribal confederation that his father had led. Karzai made his first trip to UNO just after his election. During that visit, he toured the Arthur and Daisy Paul Afghanistan Library Collection and UNO's Atlas of Afghanistan Project and met with CAS and other UNO administrators, faculty and staff.
"Hamid Karzai is a natural statesman. He understands the challenges that face him, his government and its friends in uniting his countrymen for the purpose of reconstructing their war-torn nation," Gouttierre said. "His father schooled him in the essential role of human rights and the participation that all Afghans, regardless of ethnicity or gender, play in this effort. He speaks often of the integral role that education and agricultural development play in that reconstruction."
Karzai, born in 1957, attended college in India and speaks fluent English. He has been embraced by a broad spectrum of factions in Afghanistan, where ethnic, regional, religious, linguistic and tribal identities dominate politics.
CAS has been awarded nearly $60 million in grants and contracts by the U.S. Department of State relating to Afghanistan. The projects these awards funded have provided backup for a variety of programs of technical assistance, training, and educational exchanges, including the Education Sector Support Project (ESSP), Afghan Scholarship Program (ASP), Weber Scholarship Program (WSP), Instructional Material Development Center (IMDC), ARRENA Project, the Afghanistan Teacher Education Project (ATEP), and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Afghanistan Community Development Study. In 2003, CAS received a federal grant to help re-establish the Fulbright program in Afghanistan. The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan ended the program, which had previously played a vital role in educational and cultural exchanges between the United States and Afghanistan.
Jack Shroder, UNO professor of geology and the CAS research coordinator, and his departmental colleagues have received additional grants for research activities relating to the UNO Atlas of Afghanistan Project. The sArthur and Daisy Paul Afghanistan Collection continues to grow and sets the pace for American university collections related specifically to one country.
The CAS maintains a field office in Kabul, Afghanistan, and continues its cooperation with the Afghan government and its ministry of education.
Karzai's known travel plans for his May 2005 trip also include stops at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, and a NATO conference in Brussels, Belgium.
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