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"Afghanistan's Gandhi" Named Person of the Year

Afghanistan – Ramzan Bashardost, presidential candidate for Afghanistan's 2009 Presidential Election, being interviewed by RFE/RL's Afghan Service, Kabul studio, 18Jun2009
(PRAGUE/KABUL) A tent-dwelling former Afghan presidential candidate with a reputation for fighting corruption has been named "Person of the Year" by RFE/RL's Radio Azadi.
Bashardost tirelessly seeks to improve the lives of Afghans regardless of tribe, ethnicity, gender, or religion.

Ramzan Bashardost -- often called "Afghanistan's Gandhi" for his self-effacing style -- has been living in a tent adjacent to the Afghan Parliament since he returned from exile in France nearly seven years ago.

"Bashardost tirelessly seeks to improve the lives of Afghans regardless of tribe, ethnicity, gender, or religion," said Radio Azadi Director Hashem Mohmand. "We are pleased to formally recognize his inspiring work."

In 2004, Bashardost briefly served in Hamid Karzai's government but resigned to protest what he saw as the government's unwillingness to crack down on corruption within Afghanistan's nearly 2,000 non-governmental organizations. A year later, he was elected to his current post in the Afghan Parliament and, last year, Bashardost ran unsuccessfully for president. During the campaign, he gained notoriety for refusing bodyguards and using public transportation to travel around the country.

"My wishes and dreams are that not only Afghans, but all humanity across the world, should not suffer from poverty and hunger," Bashardost said in an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Azadi shortly after being announced as the "Person of the Year." [read the full interview]

Radio Azadi's annual "Person of the Year" award recognizes outstanding individual contributions to democracy and civil society in Afghanistan. Last year's winner was Anarkali Honaryar, a 25 year-old female Sikh who is a noted physician, human rights activist, and member of Afghanistan's Constitution Committee.

About Radio Azadi

RFE/RL's Radio Azadi is the most popular radio station in Afghanistan, broadcasting uncensored news and information in Dari and Pashto for 12 hours each day. The station receives thousands of letters from listeners across the country, a selection of which are currently on display at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.