Mass Movement Shakes Kabul: Which Way Forward In Afghanistan?

In the past couple of weeks, unprecedented events had been unfolding in Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands of people have gathered in the streets of Kabul to protest against the gruesome beheading of 7 people, all whom were ethnically Hazara.

The mass demonstration included people from all ethnicities and religious backgrounds. This is the reflection of massive discontent with the neverending American occupation as well as with religious fundamentalism.The slogans heard on the protest, such as “Taliban does crimes and the Presidential Palace supports them” reflects the desire to not only eradicate the perpetrators of the heinous sectarian violence, but the political leadership who condone the act as a means to maintain their own position.

 

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‎Posted by ‎جمهوری سکوت Republic Of Silence‎ on‎ 10 نوفمبر، 2015

kabul-ptotest23The terrorist attack, which set off the mass movement, was carried out to further divide the people of Afghanistan on sectarian and ethnic lines, but it actually served to unite the Afghan people against fundamentalism and sectarianism. The corrupt political establishment, under the leadership of Ghani and other imperialist backed stooges, had nothing to offer and instead isolated themselves from the growing ferment of the mass movement.

 

On October 1st, seven Hazaras were abducted from Rasani village in the Gelan district, close to the neighboring Ghazni province. On Saturday November 7th their bodies were found decapitated, in Zabol province of Afghanistan. The crime was allegedly carried out by ISIS militants. Earlier this year, 31 Hazara passengers were kidnapped by Taliban fighters while making their way back to Afghanistan from jobs in Iran. In recent months such incidents of abduction of minority Hazaras, who have a long history of oppression at the hands of the Pashtun ruling elite, have become more frequent.

According to estimates, Hazaras comprise around 20 per cent of Afghanistan’s 31 million population. Hazara, which in Persian means thousand (from hezar), relates to the oral tradition that Hazaras descend from - the thousand troops sent by Genghis Khan to Central Asia. Hazaras are predominately Shiite Muslims, and they speak a dialect of Afghan Persian called Dari or Hazaragi.

The Hazaras mostly inhabit the central area of Afghanistan, which is known historically as Hazarajat; now many Hazaras live in urban cities like Kabul, Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif. Historically they have been subjected to ethnic and religious persecution under the reigns of several local emirs and shahs. British imperialism employed the divide and rule tactic, which exacerbated tensions between several tribes and ethnic groups. During the reign of Emir Abdur Rahman (1880-1901), thousands of Hazaras were killed, tortured and enslaved. Large parts of the Hazara population were displaced and their lands and possessions confiscated. A great majority of them moved to Kabul and to neighboring Balochistan, which had recently been partitioned to British India with the Durand line, and lastly to the borders of Iran. Despite this, the persecution and oppression of Hazaras continued throughout twentieth century at the hands of several monarchical leaders of the emerging artificial nation-state. For the most part in developing cities, such as Kabul, Hazaras “work at coolie labor, gathering each morning to specific points in Kabul, to which labor foremen come to enlist their day’s requirement of workmen” and often were seen as the “low men in the ethnic peck-order,” often resulting in discrimination between Hazaras and non-Hazaras (Lois Dupree - "Settlement Patterns").

1978But then came the Saur Revolution of 27th April 1978, when People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (Khalq faction), with the help of its cadres in Afghan army, overthrew the Dauod regime and established a revolutionary council that abolished landlordism and capitalism. Healthcare and education became free and had substantially improved. Property that was held by the local emirs and by imperialists was confiscated immediately, and distributed among landless peasants. The revolutionary council also grappled with the question of national and ethnic minorities.  All ethnic groups of Afghanistan received equal status and representation and elevated to the position of equal citizens of the country. For the first time in the history of Afghanistan, all citizens were had equal status. Besides Pashto and Dari, other regional and minority languages like Turkmen, Balochi, Uzbek, Pashayi, Nuristani etc. were also given official status and their education curriculums were designed in their native languages.

This revolution sent shockwaves to Islamabad, Tehran, Riyadh and Washington. Afghanistan was the only other country, besides Soviet Union, in Asia where capitalism and landlordism was overthrown.

The revolution inspired the masses and revolutionaries in Pakistan, Iran, India and the neighboring countries. The military dictatorship in Pakistan already faced widespread mass discontent. The transformation in Afghanistan could have ignited another mass movement in Pakistan, similar to what happened in 1968-69. Yet this posed as an alarming situation for the ruling class of Pakistan and Washington. American imperialism, in connivance with its puppets in Islamabad, started what became known as Operation Cyclone. This operation consisted in arming and financing the reactionary Islamist Mujahideen in order to overthrow the revolutionary government lead by the PDPA. This was one of the longest and most expensive CIA operations ever undertaken; funding began with $20‒$30 million per year in 1980 and rose to $630 million per year in 1987. This was funded through the development of a network for drug and heroin trade within the region.

U.S. imperialism and its regional puppets were nurturing such a Frankenstein’s monster, that at a certain point, spun out of control and threaten their own masters. After the collapse of Najibullah regime in 1992, the same Mujahideen started fighting among themselves like stray mad dogs along ethnic, religious, and sectarian lines. Of course the real conflict among them was all about the share of the profits extracted through drugs, annexation of territories, ransom, and so on. U.S. imperialism might have created these mujahedeen and warlords to defeat the revolution, but that doesn’t mean that these sinister creatures will always follow the rules of their masters. This process has a logic of its own.

In the meantime, the revolution was defeated. All of the gains of the revolution were liquidated. Afghanistan was thrown a hundred years back in terms of infrastructure and damages caused by the civil war. All of the past prejudices resurfaced. The imperialist meddling resulted in the intensification of oppression and persecution of religious and ethnic minorities. As a results of this was also that, a formation around the Taliban, which regarded the Hazaras as heretics, declared Jihad against them. Thousands of Hazaras were slaughtered during this ethnic cleansing in the late 1990s. This was the price the people of Afghanistan paid for the triumph of counter revolution. The whole Afghan society suffered at the hands of these monsters. Under a class based society dominated by backward feudal beliefs, ethnic and religious minorities were the first victims of attacks.

The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 by American imperialism and its allies in the name of ‘democracy’ and ‘fighting against terror,’ actually further aggravated the situation. The only change that this invasion brought was to broaden the Afghan civil war to the borders of Pakistan, thus ravaging the situation there as well.The earlier oppression and persecution that existed within the feudal times, came back into society. But with the invasion the stakes became higher. Different imperialist countries eyed the vast unexploited minerals of Afghanistan. China was ahead of everyone in terms of their expansion in the mines of Africa and elsewhere. Since there is no stable and authoritative central government in Afghanistan which could assert its control over the entire country, different imperialist powers ended up supporting various groups of Taliban for their material interests. Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, and even Iran have been involved with proxies of certain Taliban groups for their own particular interests.

In the last three decades, the people of Afghanistan have suffered at the hands of imperialism and fundamentalism more than anyone. They have experienced the hypocrisy of Islamic fundamentalists in terms of their adherence to Sharia laws, resulting in the oppression of women and minorities. In fact, these Taliban fanatics are nothing but a bunch of petty criminals. The Taliban are not a monolith. It is the name of different groups of criminals and gangsters with ties to different imperialist powers. The rise of ISIS and the infighting among different groups is in fact similar to a gang war that one would sees in a Hollywood movie; each group is trying to capture territory in order to get hold of the profits from drugs and ransom in that territory. They are completely exposed in the eyes of the ordinary people of Afghanistan. In fact they were already exposed in 2001, even before the American invasion. Such was the social position of the Taliban in 2001 that if it was not for the American led invasion, the people of Afghanistan would have themselves overthrown the their despotic rule.

kabul-ptotestThe present movement against the killing of the seven Hazaras is a reflection of the fomenting anger against the religious and ethnic discrimination. But this time it was different. Thousands of people from Kabul and neighboring cities poured on to the streets of the capital. The protesters were raising slogans which clearly reflected a high level of consciousness and political awakening. The slogans were aimed at attracting more people from ethnic groups other than Hazaras, in order to give the movement a national character. And they succeeded in this. A large number of ordinary Pashtuns, Tajiks and Uzbeks also joined the protesters. Hundreds of thousands gathered outside the presidential palace and demanded justice for the decapitated Hazaras.

kabul-ptotest4While the negotiations were going on inside the Presidential Palace between the representatives of the protesters and the government officials, a self-declared leader of Hazaras and an ex-Jihadi, Ustad Mohaqeq called the protesters street urchins. In fact, this insult actually infuriated the crowd. He became the target of their slogans. They were also raising slogans against the connivance of the government with the Taliban. “Talibans do crimes and the government supports them,” “Pashtuns and Hazaras are brothers,” “I am a Hazara-Pashtun,” and “Death to the (Presidential) Palace” were just a few of the slogans that were chanted.

Actually, the present government mainly consists of ex-Jihadis, warlords, and criminals. They have no relation whatsoever to the masses of Afghanistan. They were imposed onto Afghanistan by Imperialism. There is a deep-seated anger against these Jihadi criminals. An anticipation of the present mood was seen a few years ago when the government changed the name of the Kabul Education University to honor the name of a late Jihadist warlord, Burhanuddin Rabbani. The students of the university, who were Pashtun, Hazaras, Tajiks, and other ethnicities, came together and protested against this naming of university after a Jihadi criminal.

The present protest is not just about the killing of Hazaras. Deep down there is a seething anger against the present state of affairs in Afghanistan. The vast majority of people are unemployed. There is no proper economic activity in the country except the drug trafficking. Afghanistan has become a backward country devastated by imperialism.There is an inadequate amount of social services, such as healthcare and education for the Afghan masses and youth. Thousands of Afghans are leaving the country to find a better livelihood. They are heading to European countries, but Europe is itself hit hard by the crisis of capitalism. Recently the governments of Germany and Afghanistan agreed to deport the Afghan refugees living in Germany. Such is the condition of the most powerful capitalist country in Europe, let alone the other smaller and weaker economies of Europe. The Western capitalists have no intention in fixing the mess that they made back in Afghanistan, neither do they want to rescue refugees.

The devastation in Afghanistan cannot be cured within the confines of capitalism. The American backed attempt to build democracy has miserably failed. These demonstrations clearly negate the common perception in the West about Afghan’s supposed fundamentalist culture and the notion that ethnic tensions are a natural phenomenon. These mass demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of people clearly gives another picture of Afghanistan which is that of solidarity, unity, brotherhood, and harmony. This solidarity and brotherhood can only be maintained by overthrowing capitalism in Afghanistan. The only solution for Afghanistan is another Saur Revolution on a higher plane.