Following Nakamura's footsteps in Afghanistan Following Nakamura's footsteps in Afghanistan
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Following Nakamura's footsteps in Afghanistan

    NHK Islamabad Bureau Chief
    Over three months have passed since Japanese doctor Tetsu Nakamura was killed in Afghanistan. The extent of his legacy is already clear. Those touched by his humanitarian commitment are following in his footsteps and working to make the country a better place.

    Remembering Nakamura

    Nakamura operated out of the eastern city of Jalalabad. Following his death, a civic group in the city unveiled a mural of his face, painted in appreciation for his dedication to the Afghan people.

    Samiullah Malang's son was born two days after Nakamura's death. He named him Nakamura Muslemyar, in honor of the doctor's work for Afghanistan.

    "I want my son to grow up to be like Nakamura and help complete his work," Samiullah says.

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    A mural of Nakamura's face was painted in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

    A loyal friend

    The nature of Nakamura's work meant he often found himself in dangerous situations. His driver, Zainullah, was always by his side. The 33-year-old was among the five Afghans killed with Nakamura.

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    Zainullah worked as Nakamura's driver for over 10 years.

    "My brother left that day, saying he was going to drive Nakamura," says Lutfullah, Zainullah's younger brother. "Those were his last words to us."

    Zainullah worked as the doctor's driver for over 10 years. He knew the risks involved but this did nothing to dissuade him.

    "My brother always talked about Dr. Nakamura's dedication to Afghanistan," says Lutfullah. "Watching the doctor inspired Zainullah's own commitment to his country."

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    Zainullah's younger brother, Lutfullah.

    Zainullah was also struck by Nakamura's belief that children's education would be crucial in rebuilding and eventually stabilizing Afghanistan. Lutfullah says his brother did everything to ensure his children could go to school. After a long day driving around the city, he would still find time to help them with their homework.

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    Zainullah's children are following their father's wish that they focus on their studies.

    "He would get us notebooks and pens," says Zainullah's daughter, Muska. "I want to be a doctor, just like he wanted me to."

    Lutfullah also works as a driver. He says he will use his income to help his brother's children achieve their dreams.

    "I don't know what'll happen to my brother's family," he says. "But I'll work hard to support them."

    One month after the attack, Lutfullah took Zainullah's children to visit their father's grave in the suburbs of Jalalabad.

    "My brother lives on in my heart," he said. "I want to tell him I'll support his children and help them live their dreams. I want him to rest in peace."

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    Lutfullah took Zainullah's children to visit their father's grave in the suburbs of Jalalabad.

    Peshawar-kai and Peace Japan Medical Services, the NGOs Nakamura represented, are compensating the families of those killed in the attack.

    Continuing his work

    Ajmal Stanikzai has devoted himself to keeping Nakamura's work alive. He met the doctor 18 years ago and has taken part in a number of aid projects since.

    He is currently focused on growing oranges and other citrus fruits. He says he's following the advice of Nakamura, who used to stress the importance of diversifying crops to increase the incomes of local farmers.

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    Ajmal and other local farmers are growing citrus fruits.

    "Nakamura's dream was to draw water to dry land, create employment, and eradicate poverty," Ajmal says. "I'm going to follow in his footsteps and work toward these objectives."

    One of Nakamura's biggest projects was the construction of agricultural canals. His goal was to make the country's fields more productive by guaranteeing a stable water supply.

    But while much of his work has continued since his death, the canal construction has faced some security issues. Parts of the project are in regions controlled by the Taliban or Islamic State militant group.

    Those responsible for Nakamura's death have yet to be identified. Sources close to the investigation say tensions over the canal project may have been a factor behind the attack. Despite this, many people in the country are adamant that his work must go on, and they are ensuring that his memory lives on.