Sons’ pride after loss of ‘keystone of family’ in Kandahar bomb blast

Son of the the deputy director general of the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, who died in the terror attack, says his father dedicated his life to humanitarian work.

Suhaib Al Bastaki, left, and his brother Abdulla Al Bastaki have nothing but fond memories of their father, Mohammed Ali Al Bastaki, who was one of the five Emirati humanitarian workers killed in the terrorist attack in Kandahar this week. Delores Johnson / The National
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ABU DHABI // “We are all proud,” said Suhaib Al Bastaki, son of Mohammed Ali Zainal Al Bastaki, who was one of the five Emiratis killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday.

Al Bastaki was the deputy director general of the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation and had dedicated his life to humanitarian work.

“My father travelled the world to help the poor and orphans everywhere. Every week for two years, he went to Afghanistan. He helped the people of Pakistan who suffered in the floods, he travelled to Africa and to Ghana, he worked with the Bill Clinton Foundation, he dedicated his life to his family and to helping the poor and needy,” said the 29-year-old.

“We lost a keystone of our family,” said Suhaib, “but we are all so proud and we have always been proud of him as a father and for all the charity work he did. He is the first Bastaki to die a martyr in our family.”

Despite his busy schedule, Suhaib said his father made sure there was family time. “He spent as much time as possible with us and then was off to see to his charity work,” he said.

He last saw his father on Saturday – the day he travelled to Afghanistan. Suhaib, who works offshore for an oil company, was also leaving to go work.

“We were all gathered together – Fatima and Ali were there [two of Al Bastaki’s other children] – and he said, ‘peace be with you’, and we both left,” he said.

On the day of the attack, Suhaib said the family tried calling their father but his phone was switched off.

“We didn’t know if he was hurt or not. We didn’t know he was dead and just wanted to check on him,” the son said.

The next day, his uncle called at 8.30am. “He told me to sit down, that he had bad news for me and to come back home immediately because my father was killed.”

His father’s body was due to arrive back on UAE soil on Thursday, as the family were receiving condolences at their home in Abu Dhabi.

Al Bastaki’s eldest son, Abdullah, 32, said he felt “torn” when he learnt of his father’s death.

“I had mixed emotions. I was proud and happy that he died a martyr and, at the same time, sad that I would never see him again,” he said.

“He used to constantly speak about the betterment of mankind, about changing the mentality of terrorists and helping the poor.”

Abdullah added that his father helped not just in Afghanistan but “all over the world”.

“Dad concerned himself with poverty all over the world. Education was his prime focus because he felt it was the key to prosperity,” he said.

“We have a lot of pride in our father, who dedicated himself to diminishing poverty.”

He said that during the floods in Pakistan, his father was on the ground, helping women and children but that “it wasn’t only third-world countries. He visited some of the poorest areas in the US and France”.

“He wanted to connect the UAE with the rest of the globe and for the country to become leaders in humanitarian work,” he said.

“I’ve had people that I’ve never seen in my life come up to me and tell me that my father left them money to give to teachers and finish building houses. Our father was good to everyone. He used to gather us all around and ask us to chip in to build a well in Africa or a mosque somewhere.

“We are proud and will eventually get accustomed to this pain of not seeing him every day.”

Al Bastaki is survived by three sons – Abdullah, 32, Suhaib, 29, and 10-year-old Ali – and one daughter, 13-year-old Fatima.

The Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation condemned the terrorist attack that targeted the guesthouse of the Kandahar governor and which resulted in the death of the Emiratis who were implementing humanitarian, developmental and educational projects in Afghanistan.

“Despite the painful wound and the loss of dedicated men who offered the ultimate sacrifice for advancing humanitarian and charitable work, this act of terror will only reinforce our will to move forward in implementing our humanitarian, relief and developmental projects, which serve needy people wherever they are and regardless of race, colour or religion,” the foundation said.

“They were on a humanitarian mission to lay the foundation stone for the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Orphanage, and sign an agreement on funding scholarships with Kardan University. Their programme also included the laying of the foundation stone for the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Institute for Technical Education in Kabul, funded by the Khalifa Foundation.”