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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum

Afghan Asylee Murdered in San Diego

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Mir Najibullah Sadat Sahou was an economist and the governor of the Afghan Central Bank before he fled Afghanistan in 1992. Like many refugees and asylees, Mr. Sahou could not find work in his field.  Instead, he drove a taxi, supported his family, and continued his political activity by appearing regularly on a talk show on Ariana Afghanistan International TV.

Mir Najibullah Sadat Sahou

Mr. Sahou, age 68, was gunned down on September 28, 2011.  According to CBS News, the police have identified a suspect and issued an arrest warrant.  It appears that the motive was robbery, but given Mr. Sahou's political activism and his prior high-profile job, other motives cannot yet be ruled out.

The story of a prominent person who flees his country and starts over in the U.S. is fairly common among refugees.  When I worked in refugee resettlement in the early 1990?s, I knew a Russian man who had designed the radar system for the Backfire Bomber (the Soviet Union's main long-range bomber).  In the U.S., he worked as a mechanic in a machine shop.  I also met the former Minister of Finance for the Ethiopian army.  He worked in a parking garage.  It takes a certain strength of character to go from a prominent station in life to one that is more humble.  But like many refugees, Mr. Sahou appears to have carried on for the sake of his children (one of whom is a pre-med student).

Another aspect of Mr. Sahou's story that strikes me is his on-going concern  for his home country.  Although he did not have a professional position in his field, he continued to work for the betterment of Afghanistan by educating the public through his television show.

Finally, although the motive for the attack seems to have been robbery, there have been many instances of foreign agents operating clandestinely in the United States and attacking political opponents.  The most famous example is probably the 1976 assassination in Washington, DC of Chilean activist Orlando Letelier, who was murdered by agents of the Pinochet government, but many foreign government have engaged in violent acts against their nationals in the United States, including China (against the Falun Gong), Cuba (against anti-Castro Cubans), and Iraq (under Saddam Hussein).  Just last week, the Justice Department announced it had uncovered an Iranian plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador in the United States (a claim disputed by Iran).  Given the frequency of such activity, it would be wise to look closely at Mr. Sahou's case to be sure that no foreign government or agency is behind the attack.

Of course, whatever the motive, the murder of a family man who worked hard, served his home country, and loved his adopted country is a terrible tragedy.  May he rest in peace.

Originally posted on the Asylumist:

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  1. Concerned Citizen's Avatar
    I just read another recent article from today. The alleged killer was shot in the head the same night but the abandoned get away car which belonged to the victim. It is looking more like an assassination and there is no evidence to substantiate a robbery - and in light that my uncle was granted political asylum from the Afghan-Pakistani warlords who are still around in both countries, I wanted to ask you if you knew whether the media or local police have asked the State Department on how they view the impact of this assassination for others dignitaries/political asylums living in the U.S. -- especially given recent events involving the recent allegation of the assassination plot surrounding Iran targeting Saudi officials. Also, do you know if anyone has interviewed the FBI as this would have national implications -- if we cannot protect those who have sought refuge within our borders from the repressive systems that they are trying to leave behind.
  2. Jason Dzubow's Avatar
    Hi Concerned Citizen - I also saw the article you are referring to and thought it was pretty surprising. I do not have any inside information about the case. However, it does appear more likely that there were political implications here. I do think we need to be careful in drawing such conclusions, but the police who are investigating this case (these cases) should certainly look into the possibility of a political motive for the killing.
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