Agakhan Sharief, Meranaw leader who rescued 255 in Marawi siege, dies

May. 27, 2021

Agakhan Sharief

To the public, the Marawi Siege in 2017 is remembered for the gun battles and airstrikes that displaced thousands of Meranaws, while soldiers are praised as heroes.

But for Meranaws, one local leader and activist was their hero for rescuing 255 people trapped in the midst of the siege.

Agakhan Sharief will be remembered for that feat. As a politician, street parliamentarian and member of the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Team during the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, his negotiation skills were put to test in those moments, where he had to appeal to both the military and the Maute militants to a ceasefire so civilians can exit the city to safety.

The ceasefire was granted on June 4, 2017. Sharief rode a motorcycle into ground zero of the siege, called out civilians trapped in their houses but maintained communications with relatives, and led them safely out.

Weeks later, Sharief again led a team of religious leaders who negotiated for the release of Marawi Catholic prelate Teresito ‘Chit’ Soganub in exchange for captured fighters. The priest was released on Eidl Fitr on June 25, 2017.

Sharief’s efforts were at first criticized by President Rodrigo Duterte who accused him of negotiating with the militants. But he was handed an award by the government in 2018 for his role in those rescue missions.

On Tuesday, May 25, Sharief died of liver cirrhosis in Amai Pakpak Hospital, a condition that colleagues said he has been carrying for years. He was 49.

Sharief was buried in the area of Heaven at the Mindanao State University that overlooks Marawi City.

Local leaders and colleagues paid tribute to the leader they called “Bin Laden” for keeping his beard long. Drieza Lininding, head of the Moro Consensus Group who has marched together with Sharief in many rallies, said he has “lost a brother and a leader”.

Dickson Hermoso, retired Army Colonel, former head of the Joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and former Assistant Secretary of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process called Sharief his friend and thanked him for his courage during the Marawi Siege.

Human rights lawyer Beverly Musni remembered Sharief in the 2009 campaign against the US-RP Balikatan Exercises staged in Marawi, where his speeches during forums and rallies roused Meranaws as he called them to barricade military vehicles.

Sharief has always called for peace talks to address the roots of the conflict of the Bangsamoro people.

This was a value that was imbibed in him through his mother, Dr Norma Mangondato Sharief, a former Commissioner of the Commission on Higher Education of the then Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao. His mother headed the Philippine Muslim Teachers College in Marawi which he later assumed as president of the school in 2016.

In the aftermath of the Siege, as Meranaws campaign to return to their city, Sharief believes that pushing for peace and the implementation of the Bangsamoro autonomy could address the frustrations of many Moro people that would prevent the radicalization of the youth.

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