Ghazala Khan is a Gold Star mother whose son, Capt. Humayun Khan, died in 2004 in Iraq after moving forward to investigate a car packed with explosives while telling his troops to stay back.
At the Democratic National Convention, Ghazala Khan took the stage with her husband, Khizr Khan, and listened as Khizr Khan gave a moving tribute to their son, a Muslim. Khizr Khan waved the U.S. Constitution and had very strong words for Republican nominee Donald Trump.
At one point, Khizr Khan said, addressing Trump: “Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”
Although Ghazala didn’t speak during the convention, she is drawing attention herself because Trump later criticized her for her silence, leading her to speak out on her own in a July 31 op-ed in The Washington Post.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ghazala Khan Says in The Op-Ed That She is From Pakistan, Moved to the U.S. When Humayan Was 2 & Last Spoke to Her Son on Mother’s Day
Ghazala penned The Washington Post op-ed after Trump criticized her silence. In it, she says that she was raised in Pakistan, where she experienced war in 1965 while she was in high school. Thus, she worried about the safety of her son, who volunteered to join the military after entering ROTC in college, the op-ed says.
She described the last time they spoke as being on Mother’s Day 2004. She wrote that she “begged him to be safe. I asked him to stay back, and not to go running around trying to become a hero, because I knew he would do something like that” but he responded, “Mom, these are my soldiers, these are my people. I have to take care of them.”
2. Ghazala Says She Still Can’t Bear to See Pictures of Humayun & Was in Too Much Pain to Speak at the Convention
Ghazala told ABC News that did not speak at the convention because she was “in pain.” In her op-ed in The Washington Post, Ghazala described how she is still too emotional about the death of Humayun, the middle of three sons, to clean out his closet and has trouble looking at photographs. “Every day I feel the pain of his loss,” she wrote, adding that she prays and cries for him daily.
“Please. I am very upset when I heard when he said that I didn’t say anything. I was in pain. If you were in pain you fight or you don’t say anything, I’m not a fighter, I can’t fight. So the best thing I do was quiet,” Ghazala said, according to ABC.
She made similar comments in other TV interviews; Humayun’s photo was prominently displayed at the convention. “I cannot see my son’s picture when I can not even come in the room where his pictures are,” said Ghazala Khan in an interview with her husband on MSNBC. “That’s why when I saw the picture… I couldn’t take it. And I controlled myself at that time. It is very hard.” She added of the response to Khizr’s speech: “First of all, I thank all America who listened from his heart to my husband’s and my heart, and I’m so grateful for that.”
Khizr Khan told CNN that Ghazala didn’t speak at the convention because she has high blood pressure, and he was afraid she wouldn’t “be able to hold herself together discussing her Gold Star son on stage.” He criticized Trump for not showing more respect to a “Gold Star Mother” and noted the status such mothers hold “in this nation.”
3. Trump Has Singled Out Ghazala’s Convention Silence For Scorn, Earning Criticism & Ghazala’s Husband Says Trump Has a ‘Black Soul’
Trump told ABC News about the Khans: “If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.” ABC said this “appears to be Trump tipping his hat to some on far-right wing and nationalist Twitter, who have suggested that Ghazala Khan was silent during her husband’s speech because they are Muslim that Khizr Khan prohibits his wife from speaking.” Trump also implied that Hillary Clinton’s speechwriters wrote Khizr Khan’s speech and said, that he had sacrificed by employing “thousands and thousands of people,” said ABC.
Ghazala responded to the criticism of her convention silence, writing in The Post: “I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart.” (Fox News has been criticized for cutting away from the speech after two minutes, although Fox says it did report on the convention speeches).
On CNN on July 31, Khizr Khan doubled down on his criticism of Trump, saying, “He is a black soul, and this is totally unfit for the leadership of this country. The love and affection that we have received affirms that our grief — that our experience in this country has been correct and positive. The world is receiving us like we have never seen. They have seen the blackness of his character, of his soul.”
4. Humayun Khan Wrote About Thomas Jefferson in His College Essay & Was Described as a Young Man With a Strong Sense of Responsibility
Although both of his parents were born in Pakistan (Khizr Khan says he came to America in the 1970s to flee military rule and seek freedom), Humayun was born to the United Arab Emirates. The family moved to the east coast in the United States when he was a toddler, and he was raised in Maryland.
The parents now live in Virginia, where Khizr Khan works as a legal consultant, and Khan said they were a “nonpolitical, patriotic family.” The Hindustan Times says of the Khans, “Both Khan and Ghazala were born and brought up in Pakistan, and then moved to Dubai, where their two elder sons were born — Humayun was the second. Their third was born in the US.” The news site says Khizr Khan is “a lawyer with an advanced degree from Harvard.”
In a previous interview with The Washington Post, Khizr Khan described how Humayan read books about Thomas Jefferson and wrote about Jefferson in his college admissions essay. He was hoping to be a lawyer, and he joined ROTC in college before enlisting in the military. Arlington Cemetery says he “was laid to rest with full military honors. Captain Khan was a Pakistani American who served in the U.S. army as an ordnance officer, being the senior-most community member to die in Iraq.”
Read more about Humayun Khan here:
5. Humayun Khan Died When a Car Packed With Explosives Blew up After He Took ’10 Steps Forward’ to Investigate it
The Department of Defense Press release into Humayun’s death says “Captain Humayun S. M. Khan, 27, of Bristow, Virginia, died June 8, 2004, in Baquabah, Iraq, “after a vehicle packed with an improvised explosive device drove into the gate of his compound while he was inspecting soldiers on guard duty.” The release says Khan was assigned to Headquarters Company, 201st Forward Support Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, from Vilseck, Germany.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton praised Humayun Khan’s sacrifice in a video that introduced Khan’s parents at the Democratic National Convention. “Captain Khan told his troops to get back, but he went forward. He took 10 steps toward the car,” Clinton said, saying Khan’s values led him to make that sacrifice.