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Interview with Ambassador Said T. Jawad

Zeba Magazine

October 2006


After serving as President Karzai’s Press Secretary, Chief of Staff as well as the Director of the Office of International Relations at the Presidential Palace, Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad made the big move to Washington, DC.  In 2003 President Karzai appointed him Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United States as well as the non-resident Ambassador to Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, and Argentina.  He speaks French, German and English. His international education and high profile experience in Afghanistan make him the ideal Ambassador. 


Ambassador Jawad is more than Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United States; he is an intellectual with integrity and honor.  Amidst all the prestige that comes with being the Ambassador, he remains a genuinely kind, caring, and down to earth person.  I have talked to Ambassador Jawad on several occasions, but never did I learn more about him than recently when I sat down with him and his wife Shamim Jawad and had a warm and candid conversation about life at the Embassy of Afghanistan.


Growing up, what did you want to be?  Were you always interested in politics?

No, when I was young I wanted to be a writer.  I’ve always had a passion for writing.  My parents wanted me to be a lawyer.  Throughout my legal career I continued writing fiction and non-fiction as well as poetry. I have published over 300 articles.


Who were your role models growing up?

Growing up is a process and I am an idealist. I was influenced by the love and tolerance of Gandhi.  I read Che Guevara, Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre. I idolized anyone that was different or stood for drastic change. As I grew up, I realized that social change is not a sudden act, but a rational process.   Change does not happen overnight; it happens little by little and over time.


What is a typical day for you as the Ambassador?

I wake up every morning (Monday through Friday) at 6 a.m. to workout at the gym for about an hour.  Then I head back to the office and make my calls to Kabul, which usually last until 9:30 a.m.  From 9:30 a.m. to about 8:00 in the evening I am in meetings, in and out of the office. It gets busier when I travel, and I travel frequently.


What is your day like when you are not the Ambassador?

Being an Afghan Ambassador is a non-stop job. Kabul works on Saturdays and Sundays. Washington, D.C. does not give me a break on Fridays. But if I do get a day off, chances are you will find me at a Starbucks in Adam’s Morgan, Barnes and Nobel or Zara in Georgetown.


What were some of your goals and ambitions before becoming the Ambassador?

I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. In my legal profession my ambition was to be an international criminal lawyer and to work on the extradition of criminals and terrorists.


What goals and ambitions do you have now?

My hopes, my dreams and my goals are all for Afghanistan.  My intention is do my best to convert the goodwill of Americans towards Afghanistan into specific positive results for our people.  My goal is to empower young Afghan professionals to emerge as the new generation of Afghan leaders; to help them succeed in Afghanistan and here in the US. Nothing gives me more joy, pride and satisfaction than seeing young, successful Afghan leaders and managers.


Your son Iman is now 16 years old, what do you want for his future? Do you want him to go into politics the way your parents wanted you to?

I think the decision is his when the time comes.  I want him to go to law school because it will give him a solid foundation to do many things.  Right now he is interested in architecture and is more involved in science.  He thinks politics is too boring.


What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Reading and translating poetry, especially Rumi and Latin American poetry.  I  love taking long walks in lively and crowded streets, and sipping espresso here or green tea in Kabul.


Are you interested in sports?

I grew up playing soccer. I wish I had time to play more volleyball. I love it. I managed to keep up with World Cup 2006; of course, since I went to school in Germany, they were the team I rooted for.


You have traveled all over the world, if you had your choice, where would you choose to live?

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Rio is fun, rich, diverse and the people are full of life, color and energy.  My wife, Shamim, on the other hand, would choose to live in Rome.  She is interested in all the history, architecture and elegance that Rome represents. Of course, wherever life takes us, we will go together.


How do you deal with the pressure of being an Ambassador in one of the key embassies of Afghanistan in the world?

It is a very hard and challenging job, but it is a privilege. I am surrounded by a group of very devoted and talented young Afghan professionals. We have developed a detailed strategic plan that set forth our goals and objectives in accordance to the Afghanistan National Development Strategy. We are very proud of the fact that members of the US Congress have repeatedly said that the Afghan Embassy is one of the most successful embassies in Washington, DC.

We’ve put together two Annual Reports to provide details of our activities and achievements for the history of our country. In the next few months we will relaunch our Embassy website, It is a privilege to serve our people.


Where were you on 9/11?

I was in San Francisco.  I first heard the news and simply thought it was an accident.  While driving to the train station, I heard news of the second hit.  My first reaction was “I hope there is no connection between this terrorist act and Afghanistan.”  Obviously there was a connection. The next day I put together my first power point presentation about how Afghans were victims of terrorism. My first public speaking engagement was in San Mateo. I increased my media interviews with BBC and Voice of America. My life changed and soon I found myself in Kabul.


How has your social life changed after you became the Ambassador?

Afghanistan, fortunately, enjoys high profile interest in Washington, DC and everywhere I go. I am privileged to represent our beautiful country. Afghanistan and her Ambassador is in demand. My social life is busy. I have access to and established personal friendships with very influential Washingtonians, as well as caring and prominent social circles. I still miss my family and parents. They are in California. I miss the young children of my family. I adore little kids.


What CDs are you listening to now?

Ehsan Aman.  I also listen to a popular French singer, Enrico Macias.   I remember him from the old days in Kabul when they played his music during the intermission in Cinema Zainab, a movie theater in Kabul. 

What is your favorite book?

We are all very proud of the Kite Runner, of course. I do not have time to read as much fiction as I want to. I am currently reading The Places in Between by Rory Stewart. My favorite poetry collection is The Tamarite Divan by Fedrico Garcia Lorca. My favorite non-fiction book is Nation Building by Francis Fukuyama.


Who would switch lives with if you could?

Nobody. This is the perfect job, and I fully embrace my responsibilities as Ambassador. Honestly, I wouldn’t switch with anyone.


If you could choose one person (dead or alive) and ask one question, who would it be and what would you ask?

To King Amanuallah Khan I would ask, “What went wrong, Your Excellency?” I wish he had succeeded.


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