‘Son of Afghanistan’: Murals honour slain Japanese doctor

Afghan artists’ group paints murals in Kabul and Jalalabad of Dr Tetsu Nakamura, who was shot dead last week.

Japanese doctor killed in Afghanistan mural
Afghans gathered in Jalalabad city and the capital Kabul on Tuesday to paint a mural of Dr Nakamura [Al Jazeera]

Afghan activists and artists have painted murals to pay tribute to the humanitarian work of a Japanese doctor who was killed by gunmen last week in eastern Afghanistan.

Dr Tetsu Nakamura, 73, was shot dead by unknown gunmen along with five other Afghans in Jalalabad on December 4, triggering an outpouring of sorrow and grief across the South Asian country.

Dozens of Afghans gathered in the Nangarhar province city of Jalalabad and the capital Kabul on Tuesday to paint murals of the Japanese medical doctor, whom President Ashraf Ghani called “one of the closest friends of Afghanistan”.

“In this soil, we will only plant the seeds of love; nothing else than love,” reads the text in Pashto next to the murals painted by the group called ArtLords, which has painted a series of murals on blast walls that surrounds public administration and foreign organisation buildings.

“Dr Nakamura was killed for trying to change Afghanistan and for trying to serve the most vulnerable people in the Afghan society,” Omaid Sharifi, a local “artivist” and co-founder of the ArtLords initiative, told Al Jazeera.

“To remember Dr Nakamura’s incredible work for our people, our team at ArtLords painted two murals of him, one in Jalalabad city and one in Kabul city,” he said.

‘Uncle Murad’

Popularly known by his nickname “Uncle Murad” in Afghanistan, Dr Nakamura gained the love and respect of many people for his humanitarian work over more than three decades.

“Dr Nakamura’s death is a big loss for us, we will always remember him as a true and loyal son of Afghanistan,” Ajmal, a teacher and a resident of Kama district in Nangarhar, told Al Jazeera.

Japanese doctor in Afghanistan mural
Dr Tetsu Nakamura, 73, gained the love and respect of many people in Afghanistan for his humanitarian work over more than three decades [Mohsin Khan Mohmand/Al Jazeera]

Through its work, ArtLords has highlighted women’s rights, corruption, public health and conflict in the South Asian nation.

In July last year, the ISIL (ISIS) group killed at least 13 members of the minority Sikh community in Afghanistan, including activist Rawail Singh. ArtLords painted a mural in the memory of Singh with his daughter. 

“You are not going to heaven, you’ve killed my father,” the text on the mural read.

‘We miss him’

Sharifi said people, from normal residents to government officials, have vowed to carry Dr Nakamura’s legacy forward.

“We vow to commit to volunteering and commit to really working hard to bring a positive changes in Afghanistan,” he said


Born and trained as a doctor in Japan, Nakamura answered a recruitment call to work in the Pakistani city of Peshawar in 1984, where he bagan treating Afghan refugees fleeing the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. 

The Japanese doctor from the early 1990s ran clinics in Peshawar as well as in the Afghan province of Nangarhar, opening them in villages that lacked medical services.

After a devastating drought in 2000, he then started digging bore wells and built a network of irrigation canals, bringing back about 16,000 hectares (40,000 acres) of land to life in over six years, helping millions of people in the Kuz Kunar, Kama and Khewa district of Nangarhar province. 

He was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award, an honour regarded as a Nobel prize equivalent in Asian countries, for his humanitarian work in 2003. He was awarded honourary Afghan citizenship in October this year.

“The enemies of peace and Afghanistan killed him. We miss him,” Ajmal said.

Source: Al Jazeera