International

In Kabul, A Christian Cemetery, A Muslim Caretaker

Kabul Christian Cemetery

Freydun, grandson of the recently deceased Rahimullah, a man who became well-known as the Muslim caretaker of a Christian cemetery in Kabul. Jim Wildman/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jim Wildman/NPR

Behind this young Afghan, two wooden crosses mark the new graves of Dan Terry and Tom Little — two of the aid workers murdered last month in northern Afghanistan.

They are buried in a Christian cemetery in central Kabul. It feels like a garden, with gravel pathways bordered by high, mud brick walls. The British built it and there are generations of soldiers, doctors, aid workers ("do-gooders" as a New York Times writer puts it) buried there.

It is quiet. Children play games in the sky with pigeons and kites from rooftops nearby.

During Afghanistan's civil war, a portion of the cemetery wall was blown out by an explosion and much of the graves were looted for metal and other expensive decor.

A man named Rahimullah stepped in at the time and asked local police to give him permission to take care of the park and its graves. That was 1992, just before the Taliban took Kabul.

He stayed on the job and was criticized for his devotion to the upkeep of the Christian graves. It is said that Mullah Omar, the spiritual founder of the Taliban, once accosted him outside the cemetery gate — why would a faithful Muslim do such a thing?

Over time, Rahimullah became a bit of a celebrity — his patient care of the graves quietly financed by visitors and the British Embassy.

We learned today that Rahimullah died three months ago. His grandson, Freydun — photographed here — told us the news. Rahimullah is apparently buried in a Muslim cemetery on a hill on the other side of Kabul.

Freydun says: "Even to his last breath, my grandfather said we should care for this cemetery."

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