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US historian Nancy Hatch Dupree, 'Grandmother of Afghanistan,' dies in Kabul

American historian, educator and archeologist Nancy Hatch Dupree has died in Kabul. Dubbed the "Grandmother of Afghanistan," she devoted five decades of her life to preserving the country’s culture.

Nancy Hatch Dupree, a historian, educator and archeologist from the United States who spent five decades preserving Afghanistan's culture, has died in the Afghan capital, Kabul. She was 89.

Dupree arrived in Kabul in 1962 as the wife of an American diplomat, but soon divorced and married archeologist Louis Dupree.

Together the couple spent the next 15 years exploring Afghanistan as her husband excavated archeological sites and she wrote guidebooks and documented the country's history.

'An old monument'

Wahid Wafa, the executive director of the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University, which Dupree founded in 2013, confirmed Dupree's death.

"She called herself an old monument and a lot of Afghans called her the 'Grandmother of Afghanistan,'" said Wafa. "She understood and knew Afghanistan much better than anybody else."

In the late 1970s, Dupree and her husband were kicked out of the country by the then Soviet-backed communist government and went to Peshawar, Pakistan.

There, she helped war refugees and gathered documents on Afghanistan. Her husband died in 1989, but she continued her work until returning to Afghanistan after a US-led intervention toppled the Taliban in 2001.

In 2005, she returned to Kabul with 35,000 documents on Afghan culture and history.

The documents would form the basis of the Afghanistan Center, the largest library and research center in the country with more than 100,000 documents.

'Pillar of the American community'

Between 2006 and 2011 Dupree was the director of the center until stepping down, although she continued to come to her office.

"Afghans possess a remarkable inner strength that has carried them through two decades of war and displacement. If they are given the knowledge they need to fully participate in reconstruction efforts, their country will move forward steadily, to the benefit of all," Dupree wrote in the New York Times in 2008.

Her efforts at preserving Afghanistan's culture and history were praised by many Afghan's on social media.

"Very saddened by the death of #NancyDupree. Afghans value and respect her services of decades for #Afghanistan. Nancy will be missed! RIP," wrote Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

The US Embassy in Kabul described Dupree as "a pillar of the American community in Afghanistan for many decades.”

cw/tj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

 

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