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Jan Alekozai, An Afghan Presenter Par Excellence

  • Abubakar Siddique

Jan Alekozai, Radio Azadi Journalist

Jan Alekozai, Radio Azadi Journalist

Jan Aqa Alekozai, a renowned journalist and legendary radio presenter, was buried in his ancestral graveyard in eastern Afghanistan on September 18. He was 58 and died of cancer in a Vienna hospital on September 15.

Alekozai will be remembered for his lifelong service to Afghanistan, where he began his career in broadcasting nearly four decades ago.

"Jan was an engaging and warm-hearted person and a cherished colleague," said Nenad Pejic, the vice president of RFE//RL. Alekozai spent the past 13 years of his life working for RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, locally known as Radio Azadi. He was one of the most prominent voices of its Pashto and Dari-language broadcasts, which attract a large Afghan audience every day.

"From the very first day, he showed his qualities as a skilled journalist -- co-hosting On The Waves Of Freedom, one of Radio Free Afghanistan's most popular call-in shows," Pejic said. "He was also active in our broader community -- in every gathering and social event, he was the first volunteer to help and organize. He will be greatly missed."

Hashem Mohmand, the head of Radio Free Afghanistan, said Alekozai's passing is an irreplaceable loss because of his professional competence and wide respect among peers and listeners.

"An informed, capable, and perceptive journalist like him will be difficult to replace," Mohmand said.

"He gave everything to covering some of the most sensitive issues in Afghanistan," said Zarif Nazar, Alekozai's colleague and the co-host of the On The Waves Of Freedom. "We have lost a brother and a friend who was always willing to help."

Alekozai's life reflected the recent tumultuous history of his country. While studying at the the engineering faculty of Kabul University in the 1970s, he joined the Afghan National Radio and later TV.

Soon he became one of the leading newscasters on Afghanistan's only broadcaster. At the time, it was one one of the most cherished journalism jobs in Afghanistan. In addition to his journalistic acumen, listeners loved his deep voice which made him instantly recognizable.

Alekozai was born in 1958 to a devoted and religious family in the Rodat district of Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar Province. Like many Afghans, he went into exile in the early 1980s after the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

After living briefly in Pakistan and India, Alekozai finally settled in Canada, where he became a leading light of Toronto's Afghan community. He took great pride in helping fellow Afghans settle into their new lives in Canada and did all in his power to preserve Afghan identity and project a positive image of his community.

Naseer Noorzad, an Afghan-Canadian businessman in Toronto, said Alekozai was an amazing person.

"He was an amazing Afghan, full of energy, who helped shape Afghan community activism in Canada, and his service within the Afghan Association of Ontario touched the lives of thousands of families across Canada," Noorzad said.

Alekozai was known for his hospitality, which earned him great friendships. His passing was widely mourned in Afghanistan, and condolence messages from hundreds of fans and Radio Azadi listeners poured in this week.

The Afghan president, chief executive, cabinet members, government officials, and journalists joined in sending condolences on his passing. A journalist association in the southeastern Afghan province of Paktia has even petitioned the government to name a street after Alekozai in the provincial capital, Gardez.

Alekozai is survived by his schoolteacher wife, Zarqa Alekozai, and their five sons.

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