Saturday, 5 May 2012

Remembering Khalil Dale

Since the devastating news of Khalil’s death, countless messages of condolence have come in, offering not only sympathy but also insight into the gentle, loving and caring person he was.

Described as brave, tireless, inspiring, compassionate and as someone who brought hope to many, Khalil was clearly a remarkable man. The kind of humanitarian who left the world a better place and whose passing has touched all of us, whether we knew him personally or not.

"Khalil would have dismissed such a comment with a humble smile and changed the subject immediately, but he was a true humanitarian worker, a real world-citizen and one of the most generous people I ever met," wrote a friend and former colleague.

"Khalil joined the team in Quetta with a great deal of excitement, motivation and happiness… It's important to know that we desperately needed him and that his presence made a real difference. I will keep Khalil in my heart forever and his memory will give me the strength to keep going," the letter concluded.

The desire to honour Khalil's legacy was echoed in other messages from co-workers.

"This is such a tragedy… we will keep his spirit alive by continuing to help others," reads one message from an ICRC colleague.

"As a British Red Cross volunteer, I share your condemnation of this utterly unacceptable act of violence. I offer my deepest condolences to all. Our resolve to help the most vulnerable will not waver," reads another.

Messages have also been received from outside the Red Cross and Red Crescent family, including words of sympathy from UN agencies, NGOs, governments and individuals, who expressed shock and sadness over the loss.

A time of mourning

On Monday, Khalil's remains were flown from Quetta, where his body was found, to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. Following a memorial service in Islamabad on Friday morning, three of Khalil's colleagues from Pakistan will travel with his body to the United Kingdom, where he will be laid to rest in conformity with the wishes of his family. He has been and will continue to be accompanied, at all times, by ICRC colleagues on his journey from Quetta back home.

The ICRC's director-general, Yves Daccord, the director of communications and information management, Charlotte Lindsey, and the head of operations for South Asia, Jacques de Maio, travelled to the UK on Monday to offer their condolences to Khalil's loved ones.

Khalil's family and friends issued a statement this week, expressing their mixed emotions of "hurt, grief, confusion and anger" over the tragedy, as well as their gratitude for the "overwhelming flood of support, kindness and love" that they had received from all corners of the globe, including the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

Yves, Charlotte and Jacques also met with Khalil's colleagues and friends from the British Red Cross and spent time with the ICRC's team in London, who were involved in managing the abduction crisis and in supporting his family

Searching for answers

Jacques is currently with the director of operations, Pierre Krähenbühl, in Pakistan where they are offering support to our colleagues in the country, who worked tirelessly during the four months of Khalil's kidnapping to secure his release.

ICRC staff throughout Pakistan – in Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, Muzaffarabad and Karachi – are observing a week of mourning, while taking time to grieve and pay tribute to Khalil through prayers and condolence ceremonies. The sub-delegation in Quetta has been closed for the time being and all ICRC offices in the country will be shut on Friday, when the memorial service will take place.

"Everyone here is devastated. For many of our colleagues, these have been the hardest days of their lives… there are no words to convey the sorrow shared by so many around the world," said Jacques from Islamabad on Thursday.

"The tragic outcome of Khalil's kidnapping compels us to thoroughly review our operational environment. Staff security management is under review, and our presence and operations will be adjusted accordingly. At the same time, we want answers," Jacques insisted in response to various and disturbing accounts of Khalil's death in the media, which he said were often inaccurate and misleading. "Some of the facts will eventually emerge, some may not. But we expect a proper investigation to take place and for justice to be served."

He added that an official autopsy, aimed at establishing the exact circumstances of Khalil's death, would be carried out in the presence of an ICRC specialist in London.

A lasting mark

Meanwhile, ICRC staff at headquarters and in delegations around the world have been coming together over the past few days in a show of solidarity for those who held Khalil dear.

In Geneva, candles flicker next to Khalil's photo at the entrance to the Carlton, where a book of condolences has been placed. The ICRC flag on top of the building was lowered to half-staff, accompanied by a black ribbon, when the news of Khalil's death was confirmed on Sunday. A simple bouquet of white flowers rests in the small stream that flows through the nearby Jardin des Souvenirs (Garden of Remembrance).

The weight of the tragedy was etched on the faces of the hundreds of colleagues who turned out for an all-staff meeting in the Grand Salon on Monday morning, where President Kellenberger addressed the solemn crowd.

"We have all heard the terrible news of Khalil Rasjed Dale's cowardly murder. We come together to share our own grief and that of his loved ones, who showed impressive courage as they learned that he was murdered," said the president. "I feel your profound sadness and you feel mine, along with my indignation towards the perpetrators of such a heinous crime. I want to thank all those at headquarters, in Pakistan and in London for having done everything they could to save Khalil's life. I have followed events closely enough to be able to say this without hesitation."

"There is a time to share our profound sadness and there will come a time to draw conclusions from this terrible experience. Now, we are brought together to share our grief," he said.

Plans are being made to organize a more formal gathering in Geneva for current and former ICRC staff, who would like to pay tribute to Khalil's life and 30 years of service as a dedicated humanitarian. Details will be shared when they become available.

Love not hatred

As arrangements are made and answers are sought, the statement by Khalil's family this week sums up best what many of the condolence messages have conveyed – that we should remember him for who he was, not how he left us.

“We will not let the events of the past week sully Khalil’s memory," his loved ones said. "He achieved much in this world. His life was one of love, not hatred. His life was one of kindness, not cruelty… We will always remember our Khalil, our Ken, as a man who brought joy to us and countless others."

By Anna Nelson


Joe Lowry said...

Well said Anna, and my sympathies. Bob, we have lost too many wonderful, gentle souls. But thanks for always remembering them

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