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A century of Afghan independence day

An Afghan boy salutes while dressed in military gear during celebrations to mark the country’s independence day, Mazar-e Sharif, 2017. Photo: Farshad Usyan/AFP.

An Afghan boy salutes while wearing army gear during celebrations to mark the nation’s independence day, Mazar-e Sharif, 2017. Photograph: Farshad Usyan/AFP.

From Amanullah Khan in whose time independence was realised, to Habibullah Kalakani who appeared to distance it from the earlier regime, to Nader Shah and Zaher Shah who gave it a regal face, to President Daud who continued the royal tradition, to the communists and the mujahedin who downgraded it, to the Taleban who revived it as a army parade, to the post-2001 rule that has lately restored its previous splendour after a interval of high-security low-profile occasions; Afghanistan’s independence day of 28 Asad 1298 (19 August 1919) has seen continuous ups and downs reflecting the preferences and contexts of different rulers. Visualised by choose photographs from totally different political eras, AAN researcher Reza Kazemi* (with input from Thomas Ruttig and Jelena Bjelica) briefly charts one hundred years of Afghanistan’s independence celebrations and intersperses it with Afghan and overseas reminiscences of a day that has been established as a logo of what Afghanistan is.

I have declared myself and my nation completely free, autonomous and unbiased both internally and externally. My nation will hereafter be as unbiased a state as the opposite states and powers of the world are. No overseas energy shall be allowed to have a hair’s breadth of right to intrude internally and externally with the affairs of Afghanistan, and if any ever does I am prepared to cut its throat with this sword.

That is what King Amanullah announced to an meeting of dignitaries in Kabul on 13 April 1919. He then, based on the Afghanistan encyclopaedian Ludwig Adamec, “turned to the British agent and stated, ‘Oh Safir [Envoy]have you understood what I have stated?’ The British agent replied, ‘Sure I have.’” (1)

Amanullah rose to the throne in February 1919 after the assassination of his father, King Habibullah. As a fervent nationalist and reformer, he instantly declared full independence from the British, triggering the warfare of independence (recognized by the British because the Third Anglo-Afghan Struggle). (2) It was a short warfare lasting from four Might to three June 1919, and resulted in the long run of British control over Afghanistan’s overseas affairs. (Three)

This dispatch explores the history of Afghanistan’s independence day, illustrated by a set of photographs from totally different political durations, including some from an exhibition on the Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University (ACKU), “One Hundred Years of Afghanistan’s Independence: From Amanullah to Ashraf Ghani,” on 17 and 18 August 2019. (4) It then takes a take a look at the approaching 100th anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence (19 August 2019) and notes a return to grand celebrations of the day, following a period of comparatively low-key events largely confined to authorities buildings. Although the centenary commemoration just isn’t free of controversy, given the widespread publicity the occasion provides the chief, who might quickly be operating within the presidential elections, it seems the independence day has over time been established as an indicator of evolving notions of Afghan id.

100 years of Afghanistan’s independence: a quick overview

Through the time of King Amanullah (1919-29), Afghanistan’s independence day was referred to as eid-e esteqlal (the eid of independence). Its most spectacular stagings have been held in Paghman, Kabul, the place Amanullah had built the Taq-e Zafar (Victory Arch) to commemorate the 1919 conflict of independence. A street was also constructed in entrance of the Eidgah Mosque and behind Ghazi Stadium to mark Afghanistan’s independence day in Kabul city (see here). That the event was referred to as eid was probably aimed toward strengthening the day by endowing it with a spiritual foundation, given the ‘jihad,’ or ‘holy struggle,’ Afghans had declared and fought towards the colonial power. There have been sports activities contests and show of Afghan food and traditional art in the course of the celebratory events. The pageant opened with a speech by the king who reminded the gathering of the heavy worth paid to obtain Afghanistan’s independence. The king’s speeches have been later revealed for the general public to read. In a single part of his speech on the event of the third anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence in 1301 (1922), King Amanullah stated (writer’s English translation):

No one has gifted us this independence. Only Allah the Almighty has endowed us with this blessing. Independence is just not something one presents one other; One sheds blood for it, as you probably did, and gained it by your sword. The one wish of my humble heart is for the complete Afghan nation to have freedom and liberty as does their government.

Amanullah gives a speech on the third anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence day in Paghman, Kabul, 1301 (1922). Photo: ACKU collection

Amanullah provides a speech on the third anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence day in Paghman, Kabul, 1301 (1922). Photograph: ACKU collection

Dated 5 Sunbula 1301 (28 August 1922), this eblaq (announcement) reports on the weeklong jashn-e esteqlal (festival of independence) held from 26 Asad (18 August) to 2 Sunbula 1301 (25 August 1922) in Paghman, and publishes the speech made by King Amanullah during the opening ceremony. Photo: ACKU collection

Dated 5 Sunbula 1301 (28 August 1922), this eblaq (announcement) reviews on the weeklong jashn-e esteqlal (pageant of independence) held from 26 Asad (18 August) to 2 Sunbula 1301 (25 August 1922) in Paghman, and publishes the speech made by King Amanullah in the course of the opening ceremony. Photograph: ACKU collection

That is how a Russian author remembered Afghanistan’s day of independence in 1920:

In autumn that yr, the frontier tribes staged a exceptional demonstration in Kabul. It was the time of the pageant of independence… A colourful jostle enters into the town… Bands of spies curve across the crowd on bicycles which make every guttersnipe recognise them. Soldiers in European uniforms guard the general public order, drive away lingering passers-by once they stand in the best way of highly effective dignitaries and freeze in convulsive saluting devotion when cars or carriages hurry by.

– Larissa Reisner, wive of a Soviet diplomat who lived in Kabul from 1919 to 1921 (taken from right here).

For an additional reminiscence of independence day, in 1924, when the celebration was referred to as off due to the Mangal uprising towards King Amanullah, see footnote 5.

Habibullah Kalakani speaks in the event to commemorate Afghanistan’s day of independence on 19 August 1929, Paghman, Kabul. Photo: ACKU collection

Habibullah Kalakani speaks within the event to commemorate Afghanistan’s day of independence on 19 August 1929, Paghman, Kabul. Photograph: ACKU collection

In his brief reign (January-October 1929), King Habibullah Kalakani, who first rose within the anti-reformist response to Amanullah before succeeding him, was in power solely long enough to steer one commemoration of Afghanistan’s independence day. [Amanullah escaped to and died in exile in Europe but his corpse was brought back to Afghanistan and buried in Jalalabad.] He seemed to distance the occasion from his predecessor. Speaking at the ceremony to rejoice the 11th anniversary of independence on 19 August 1929 in Paghman, he referred to the Amanullah interval and stated, “Independence is neither mine nor Amanullah’s; quite, it belongs to you the individuals.”

On the occasion of independence day on 19 August 1929 in Paghman, some military officers and ordinary people take part in a shooting contest. Photo: ACKU collection

On the event of independence day on 19 August 1929 in Paghman, some army officers and abnormal individuals take part in a capturing contest. Photograph: ACKU assortment

Subsequent was the rule of King Nader Shah (1929-33), who got here to the throne after having Habibullah Kalakani caught and shot in late 1929. After Nader Shah was himself assassinated in 1933, his son Muhammad Zaher, aged 17 at the time, was declared the king of Afghanistan. Zaher Shah ruled until 1973, (6) during which era Afghanistan skilled four many years of basic stability. This has been cherished by many as a interval of relative normality when Afghanistan was at peace with itself and the world.

Nader Shah had a monument constructed inside the Arg (Royal Palace) compound, recognized in English because the Independence Column (referred to as Menar-e Esteqlal/Azadi – Minaret of Independence/Freedom – in Dari) and established the tradition of laying a wreath at its foot on the event of the independence day. This can be a follow that has continued until today, displaying a legacy of Nader Shah on the independence day. After his assassination, Nader Shah was even promoted as “mohassel-e esteqlal” (“achiever of independence”), given his position as a commander in the 1919 struggle of independence.

Independence Column, Kabul, 1946. Photo: Kabul Times

Independence Column, Kabul, 1946. Photograph: Kabul Occasions

Through the time of King Zaher Shah (1933-73), there have been ostentatious celebrations of independence day which frequently lasted for days (watch this uncommon English-language documentary on the week-long regal commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the independence day in Kabul in 1328 (1949) here). For example, “Through the annual commemoration of Afghanistan’s independence,” wrote Overseas Policy in a 2010 photograph essay, “Kabul was lit up at night time in late August and early September for nine evenings within the early 1960s.”

Girls preparing to march on the 30th anniversary of the independence day, Kabul, 1328 (1949). Photo: ACKU collection

Women getting ready to march on the 30th anniversary of the independence day, Kabul, 1328 (1949). Photograph: ACKU collection

Under are four reminiscences – two by Afghans and two by foreigners – of independence day celebrations through the reign of Zaher Shah (a fifth reminiscence – far more detailed, by the first German Nazi ambassador to Kabul – might be learn in footnote 7):

The federal government and other people used to put up tents in certain locations not just in Kabul but in addition elsewhere like Herat in the west. There were live shows organised by singers comparable to Ahmad Zaher whose live shows have been rather more expensive than others corresponding to Parastu, Rokhshana, Biltun and so forth. I went to those live shows and had plenty of fun with my associates. I come from a village in Ghazni however got here to Kabul to work. There was peace in these days and all you needed to have a great life was discovering some good, well-paid work. If someone had a superb salary, they might convey it to his household and they might eat good meals. If someone had a nasty wage, the household ate dangerous food. For me, life in Kabul was a lot better than life within the house village in Ghazni. It was a lot better, far more convenient and far more liberal.

–A 70-year-old Afghan man, writer’s interview, Kabul city, January 2014.

I fondly keep in mind my youth and the jashn [independence festival] days within the time of Zaher Shah. We attended the jashn for seven days and nights and danced and had enjoyable. Those days, individuals have been calm and peaceful. There wasn’t the sound of struggle and the noise of warplanes. Now American plane bomb from the air and there are explosions and suicide attacks on the ground. What jashn do we now have lately? Can you have fun with a hungry abdomen and an anxious thoughts?

–An 80-year-old resident of Kabul city speaking to BBC Persian in August 2014.

Kabul, 23 August 1958. At the moment is jashn, the Afghan nationwide day, the day on which, in 1919, Afghanistan turned a sovereign country after a victory over the British. It is celebrated by a large parade, followed by a week-long people truthful and a world industrial truthful.

The cupboard, the diplomatic corps, other officers and other people from everywhere in the nation participate in the parade in entrance of the King. The diplomats put on tails [long formal jackets]. They sit behind the King’s field and have time to talk and look around…

1 / 4 past eight am, a cavalcade of automobiles and busses arrives in entrance of the honorary stands. The passengers sally out and take their seats. Most of them wear turbans and tribal outfit. They are the members of the Loya Jirga… The individuals who line the streets outdoors the roofed stands are pushed again.

Shortly afterwards, the King’s Rolls Royce rolls by way of the emptied important road, along with the surviving brothers of his father and with Prince Daud, his cousin, the Prime Minister. After 12 gun salutes, he takes his place within the box and the parade can begin.

First, the troopers march previous the King in gala uniform and precise goose step, followed by tanks, weapons, lorries and other automobiles. Representatives from all elements of the nation comply with, mainly in picturesque tribal costume, on foot, excessive on horses or on camels. One of the chieftains who proudly rides on his gray horse at the prime of his followers, holds his little son, dressed in white, on his lap.

The remaining watchers crowd the edges of the road that’s adorned with flags, men solely, naturally. The ladies watch the parade from the roofs of the mud homes.

–Reinhard Schlagintweit, then political officer at the German Embassy in Kabul (8).

A parade had been introduced a few days prematurely. I decided to go, as I used to be in Kabul at that time. I walked to the grounds the place it was held. To my surprise there was not an enormous audience, so I found a great spot from where I might observe and take photographs. I even managed to take a couple of photographs of old style helicopters and airplanes. I can’t keep in mind exactly, but I feel they have been historic MIG planes.

The event was fascinating and very ceremonial, but not orientally lavish.

A grandstand on which the king was seated was very sumptuous, alas the troops didn’t look so sensational; they might not even maintain the tramp. The troops have been coated in mud raised from both their uneven tramp and from the ancient automobiles that have been within the parade. There was music, too, lots of drums. They have been enjoying the marches.

It was fascinating, but in addition personally disappointing, that the parade was organised within the western fashion. The king’s regime was obviously inclined in the direction of the west. I can’t recall too many particulars now 47 years later, but I do keep in mind that feeling of the disappointment that the parade in Kabul was western fashion like.

–Vojislav Vasić, Serbian ornithologist who travelled to Afghanistan and occurred to be in Kabul for the 53rd Afghan independence day celebration in 1972, the last one organised by Zaher Shah earlier than he was toppled in a cold coup by Prime Minister Daud in July 1973 [Zaher Shah died in 2007 in Kabul.]

Military parade on the occasion of the 53rd Afghan independence day, Kabul, 1972. Photo: Vojislav Vasić

Army parade on the event of the 53rd Afghan independence day, Kabul, 1972. Photograph: Vojislav Vasić

Boys and men have climbed up a tree to catch a glimpse of the military parade, Kabul, 1972. Photo: Vojislav Vasić

Boys and males have climbed up a tree to catch a glimpse of the army parade, Kabul, 1972. Photograph: Vojislav Vasić

In the time of President Daud (1973-78), the traditions set by Nader Shah and Zaher Shah to have fun Afghanistan’s day of independence principally continued. Under are two Afghan reminiscences of independence day celebrations during this era, one in Kabul and the opposite in Herat:

I keep in mind jashn-e esteqlal in the direction of the top of Daud time, especially in the years 1355 [1976] and 1356 [1977]. The jashn continued for seven nights and days, especially after night round 7 or eight pm till the following morning, because 28 Asad [19 August]roz-e esteqlal [independence day]falls in the summertime. There have been camps arrange in chaman-e huzuri and Kabul nandari [areas in Kabul city] which was a cinema and there was a park in entrance of it. Artists and singers came to sing and entertain individuals in the camps. Singers such because the late Ustad Sarahang, the late Ustad Rahimbakhsh who was my favorite and the late Ahmad Zaher came and entertained the individuals. Ahmad Zaher used to sing in the tent arrange by the Ministry of Finance, however it was not potential for me to attend because it was the costliest. If others value Afs 30-40, Ahmad Zaher’s concert value Afs 500 while the month-to-month wage of a mamur [ordinary government employee] was about Afs 1,300 then. The ladies singers have been Mahwash, Parwin, Afsana, Rokhshana, Parastu and others. They have been additionally singing in the tents.

There was also rezhe-ye nezami [military parade] with aircraft, tanks and infantry to rejoice roz-e esteqlal attended by Daud Khan in entrance of the Eidgah Mosque. There have been totally different elements of the army that paraded, followed by the ma’aref [Ministry of Education] students and sportspeople. Totally different faculties wore their special uniforms and their students paraded. They acquired prepared for this parade a month or so prematurely. There were separate sections for the attan [dance] and tarana [singing].

This occurred not simply in Kabul metropolis but in addition in the provinces like Faryab and Balkh attended by governors and police chiefs. For the provinces, it lasted some three days or so. However probably the most superb was in Kabul.

Then safety was not an enormous situation as it’s now. There was actually peace and calm then. It is so totally different now. I felt peace and calm then. I got here to Kabul in 1352 from Faryab for studies and have been here up to now. I and my buddies also used to go to Qargha, Bagh-e Bala, Paghman and other sights to take pleasure in and have fun through the weeklong trip.

–A 65-year-old Afghan man, writer’s interview, Kabul city, July 2019.

Right here in Herat, during Daud Khan’s period, there were festivities for 3 nights and days. Local Herati singers as well as singers coming to Herat from Kabul used to return to tents put up in and across the stadium to entertain individuals, particularly in the evenings. Individuals received together and ate. Additionally they performed cards. There was music. Some ladies additionally attended the occasions. It was very protected and calm in these days. I additionally went to these places and would stay to enjoy the events till 3 and even four am the next day. On the primary day, there was rasm-e gozasht [military parade] and in addition a parade by college students and sportspeople. On the final night time, some individuals went and lit an enormous hearth near Pashtun Pul [Pashtun Bridge constructed over the Harirud River between Injil and Guzara districts] around which they danced and had fun.

–A 60-year-old Afghan man, writer’s interview, Herat metropolis, August 2019.

The celebration of the independence day misplaced its former grandeur through the civil warfare that adopted the killing of President Daud and a number of other others close to him in a bloody coup by Afghan communists of the Individuals’s Democratic Celebration of Afghanistan (PDPA) in April 1978. The communists referred to as the event Enqelab-e Saur, the Saur/April Revolution, harking back to the naming of the October Revolution carried out by the Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin in Russia in October 1917. Additionally they thought-about their authorities to be a continuation of Amanullah’s reformist aspirations; there have been giant posters of him and the outstanding Afghan nationalist Mahmud Tarzi, who was additionally Amanullah’s father-in-law, displayed outdoors on ministerial buildings.

In the time of the communist government (1978-92) and of the succeeding mujahedin government (1992-96) that came in its wake, nevertheless, larger attention was given to the celebration of the victory days that they considered essential: 7 Saur 1357 (27 April 1978) for the communists and eight Saur 1371 (28 April 1992) for the mujahedin. Nevertheless, some celebrations of the independence day remained, which have been, as all the time, politically charged shows of the power of these in power at the time. For example, the day by day newspaper Haqiqat-e Enqelab-e Saur (Fact of the Saur Revolution), the publication organ of the central committee of the PDPA government, reported on a “superb celebration” of the 63rd anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence day on the foot of the Victory Arch in Paghman district of Kabul province in 1982. The event was attended, because the newspaper stated, by “hundreds of staff and farmers from Paghman, Bagrami and Charasiab districts and a few nahiyas [districts] of Kabul city.” There was “drum beating and jubilation” and “youth clothed in national garments with purple handkerchiefs fixed round their waists have been dancing the attan with others forming a circle round them,” stated the paper. It additionally reported that leaders from Russia, Hungary, [East] Germany, India, Vietnam, Korea and Cuba sent congratulations to Babrak Karmal (PDPA president and common secretary in the period 1980-86) and Sultan Ali Keshtmand (then Prime Minister within the Babrak Karmal government).

A page from daily newspaper Haqiqat-e Enqelab-e Saur, 30 Asad 1361 (21 August 1982), that reports on the independence day in that year. Photo: ACKU collection

A web page from every day newspaper Haqiqat-e Enqelab-e Saur, 30 Asad 1361 (21 August 1982), that stories on the independence day in that yr. Photograph: ACKU collection

After the defeat of the Soviets, celebrating independence from British dominance declined in prominence. In 1373 (1994), in his speech on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence, Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was president by means of the civil conflict years, claimed, “After the defeat of the British [referring to the Anglo-Afghan Wars]the defeat of the Soviets [by the mujahedin] is the second victory of Afghans on the worldwide degree.”

A page from the weekly newspaper Ittehad-e Islami (Islamic Unity), 1 Sunbula 1373 (23 August 1994), that reports Rabbani’s speech on the independence day in that year. Photo: ACKU collection

A web page from the weekly newspaper Ittehad-e Islami (Islamic Unity), 1 Sunbula 1373 (23 August 1994), that studies Rabbani’s speech on the independence day in that yr. Photograph: ACKU assortment

In Herat, a former mujahed remembered:

When the mujahedin got here to power, there wasn’t a lot celebration of the independence day. We have been in the mountains and got here to city after we defeated the Soviets and Afghan communist government. I keep in mind we had some army march within the Ferqa [headquarters of military division] led by Commander Alauddin Khan. In the mujahedin time in Herat, celebration shifted to days similar to 29 Hamal 1371 [18 April 1992]the day the mujahedin came and took power in Herat.

–A 51-year-old Afghan man, writer’s interview, Herat city, August 2019.

For his or her first few years in energy, the Taleban (1996-2001) didn’t maintain any particular events to mark Afghanistan’s independence day. In 2000 and 2001, nevertheless, the Taleban held events to commemorate the 81st and 82nd anniversaries of Afghanistan’s independence day (watch their army parade in 2001 in the link offered in this previous AAN dispatch). This is how AAN’s Kate Clark (then BBC correspondent in Kabul) reported the Taleban’s celebration of Afghanistan’s independence day in 2001 and the yr earlier than:

The Taleban held the primary army parade within the Afghan capital because the days of the Soviet-backed communist authorities. A small variety of cadets and elite corps marched previous in formation, eyes turned well proper in the direction of the leadership sitting on a podium. Then the actual Taleban came. Lots of of pick-up vans, crammed with men, lounging of their black shalwar chemise and plastic sandals, carrying Kalashnikov rifles and rocket launchers. Pickups are the equal of Panzer tanks in Afghanistan’s low-tech, civil struggle – capable of scorch throughout the hostile terrain…

Music and clapping are each banned. But poetry and chants praised God, the nation and the Taleban. It was a uncommon probability to see the Taleban management – everybody was gathered at the parade except the supreme chief, the reclusive Mullah Omar. Like Kremlin watchers through the Chilly Warfare, we scanned the seating arrangements, making an attempt to work out who was within the ascendant.

On the centre have been the hardliners whose affect has grow to be increasingly evident within the final twelve months.

A yr in the past [2000]Afghanistan’s Independence Day was celebrated with cultural as well as army occasions. The Taleban opened the nationwide museum – for the primary time in a decade. They boasted how a lot better they have been than their predecessors, the mujahedin who’d looted a lot of the collection…

However it appears the general public opening of the museum introduced its existence to the attention of hardliners inside the Taleban. After months of inner debate, there was an abrupt change of cultural coverage. Moderates have been side-lined and anything thought-about blasphemous in the eyes of God was destroyed. A yr ago, I took a few of the final film of the pre-Islamic statues within the museum…

They now lie in rubble, together with the colossal, centuries-old, carvings of the Buddha at Bamian. Taleban army techniques have also develop into more and more hard-line.

[2001] Independence Day has been a chance for the Taleban to point out off their army power – they’re higher armed than the opposition, with rather more territory beneath their management to recruit or conscript fighters from they usually have the one army planes in the country. After seven years of preventing their goal, continues to be to seize the whole of Afghanistan.

… One banner read: Infidels have been plotting towards Muslims and Afghans, but their conspiracies are doomed to failure. One other warned that Afghanistan was a graveyard for invaders – a reference to the truth that the country has never been colonized.

Taleban riding on their decorated vehicles with old cannons in tow pass in front of the Eidgah Mosque during the independence day ceremony, Kabul, 2001. Photo: Saeed Khan/AFP

Taleban driving on their adorned automobiles with previous cannons in tow cross in entrance of the Eidgah Mosque through the independence day ceremony, Kabul, 2001. Photograph: Saeed Khan/AFP

The post-2001 Afghanistan returned to its grand celebration of the independence day as quickly because it might. In 2002, one yr after the overthrow of the Taleban in the aftermath of the US-led worldwide army intervention in Afghanistan, hundreds of Afghans celebrated their independence day by gathering at the Ghazi Stadium in Kabul and elsewhere. In Kandahar, the centre of the former Taleban government, as an example, individuals waved flags and watched a army parade. Showing subsequent to former king Zaher Shah in 2002, President Hamed Karzai, who had cancelled the army parade to economize, paid his respect to Afghans who died preventing for freedom and vowed to make sure unity among Afghans and rebuild the war-torn nation.

President Karzai and former King Zaher Shah listen to the national anthem during the independence day celebration at Kabul's Ghazi Stadium in 2002. Photo: Deshakalyan Chowdhury/AFP

President Karzai and former King Zaher Shah take heed to the national anthem through the independence day celebration at Kabul’s Ghazi Stadium in 2002. Photograph: Deshakalyan Chowdhury/AFP

The grand commemoration of the independence day with army parades, fireworks and games of buzkashi continued for the coming years (for 2006, for example, see here). This changed in 2008, when there was an assassination attempt on President Karzai that disrupted a large ceremony marking the mujahedin victory day on 28 April (particulars right here), after which occasions to mark Afghanistan’s independence day turned low-key, principally confined to the defence ministry compound the place President Karzai and his successor President Ashraf Ghani have laid wreaths at the foot of the Independence Column (see Karzai in 2012 here; and 2014, his last yr in office, right here; and see Ghani in 2015 here; and 2017 here).

Back to splendour: the approaching centenary

In 2013, a yr before he turned president, Ashraf Ghani stated he regretted that King Amanullah’s achievements and Afghanistan’s former energy had been “forgotten”. As an advocate for continuing the reformist agenda of King Amanullah, President Ghani has harassed a return to the past glory of independence day commemorations, probably associating with the progressive ruler.

An Afghan guard of honour marches as the national anthem plays during an event to mark the independence day at the Ministry of Defence compound, Kabul, 2016. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP

An Afghan guard of honour marches as the national anthem plays during an event to mark the independence day at the Ministry of Defence compound, Kabul, 2016. Photograph: Wakil Kohsar/AFP

In June 2019, President Ghani issued Decree No. 817 on commemorating the centenary of Afghanistan’s independence. Stressing the “superb celebration of the nation’s vital and historic victory” of the day that “belongs to the individuals,” the presidential decree did three essential issues: (1) it accredited the plan ready by the Administrative Workplace of the President celebrating the event (paragraph 2), (2) it created central and provincial secretariats on holding the centenary of Afghanistan’s independence (paragraphs Three and four) and (Three) it allotted Afs 384,221,000 (round USD 4,800,000) from the presidential finances code 91 to organising events marking the centenary in accordance with the plan (paragraph 7).

In his conversation with AAN, Baset Hafezi, an official in the Administrative Office of the President who serves in the central secretariat organising the centenary celebrations, stated:

It has taken about two years to develop the plan. It consists of over 150 national tasks to mark the 100th anniversary of the independence day. Its implementation began within the new yr [1 Hamal 1398/21 March 2019]. It pursues the government’s imaginative and prescient to take the celebration of independence day to the houses of the individuals and to show the event right into a mirror during which all Afghans can proudly see themselves. The purpose is to spread the message of unity and happiness on the independence day to all corners of the country.

The plan just isn’t a public document due to “safety and confidentiality issues,” as Hafezi advised AAN. Nevertheless, a replica of elements of the plan obtained by the every day newspaper Etilaat Roz supplies particulars of the various array of occasions which are deliberate for the event of the centenary of Afghanistan’s independence. The climax will in fact be on 19 August 2019: the plan talks a few major celebration within the Presidential Palace, the opening of the recently-restored Qasr-e Darulaman (Abode of Peace Palace), (9) a large celebration in Paghman the place the Qasr-e Balabagh (Upper Garden Palace) shall be inaugurated, the opening of King Amanullah and Queen Soraya Mausoleum in Jalalabad, and a myriad of different celebratory events within the capital and the provinces across the nation. There’s even a discussion of the lighting of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Burj Khalifa in Dubai with Afghanistan’s flag colours in addition to celebration of the day with Afghan refugees overseas in nations comparable to Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and India. In response to the plan, the inauguration by 30 Asad (21 August) of a grand mosque inside the Darulaman Palace compound can also be on the agenda, the construction of which includes bringing soil from all Afghanistan’s provinces and districts. While the plan clearly indicates a grand celebration of the centenary, AAN shouldn’t be capable of independently affirm that the government will implement it in its entirety.

The Darulaman Palace is being restored for the celebration of the upcoming centenary of Afghanistan’s independence, July 2019. Photo: Reza Kazemi.

The Darulaman Palace is being restored for the celebration of the upcoming centenary of Afghanistan’s independence, July 2019. Photograph: Reza Kazemi.

Nevertheless, the federal government has already carried out some preparatory actions. As an example, it marked the Nationwide Flag Day on 7 Asad 1398 (29 July 2019) in Kabul and the provinces and held the First Afghan Cinema Pageant on 12-19 Asad 1398 (3-10 August) in Kabul.Four songs have additionally been composed by Afghanistan Nationwide Institute of Music for the centenary occasion, one in every of which, Azadi (Freedom), you’ll be able to watch right here. Relatedly, near the Darulaman Palace, President Ghani has additionally lately laid the inspiration stone of Afghanistan’s largest administrative complicated. Named Darulaman, it’s a USD 1.2 billion development undertaking that covers an area of 100 hectares of land. The government says it is going to be completed in 20 years and home 27 authorities institutions. As for the provinces, in Herat, for example, the provincial authorities held a variety of cultural events (eg a seminar on the renowned painter Kamaluddin Behzad, a brief movie pageant and poetry and conventional music events) in August 2019 prematurely of the coming centenary.

At a time of ongoing peace manoeuvres and imminent however uncertain presidential elections, these moves by the incumbent government, President Ghani particularly, have been extensively and severely criticised. Spokesmen of presidential candidates akin to Hanif Atmar and Rahmatullah Nabil have accused the government of utilizing the centenary as a marketing campaign instrument in favour of the president within the coming elections. The exorbitant prices of the commemoration and development tasks such as the grand mosque inside the recently-reconstructed Darulaman Palace premises have additionally been denounced as strikes by the president to “deceive the public and make a cast [artificial] national character for himself.”

Despite all the controversy, Afghanistan is on the brink of mark the centenary of its independence. In Kabul, streets are being renovated, cleaned and lit, no matter frequent energy outages in the summer, and squares adorned with Afghan flags and celebratory banners. Comparable issues are occurring within the provinces throughout the nation. So, event preparations are beneath strategy to commemorate the occasion in as splendid a fashion as potential, especially for these prepared to have fun it, especially the federal government of President Ghani.


This temporary survey of a century of Afghanistan’s day of independence reveals the changing fortunes of the commemoration amid continual political change. Rulers of various occasions have tried, successfully or unsuccessfully, to go away their mark on the historic day. Nevertheless, no ruler has tried to abolish the occasion, however each has celebrated it in ways that they noticed match of their circumstances. The historical past of the day may also arouse combined feelings of delight and gloom, of alternatives lost and of paths not taken.

The celebration of independence has typically been problematic in Afghanistan. There are heated debates on the which means of the country’s independence at a time when its government is so depending on overseas army and financial assist. Moreover, violent conflict will proceed to deprive residents in huge swathes of the country from a significant celebration of the event. More usually, notions of independence and a very autonomous nation-state are more and more questioned and challenged in a globalising world with which post-2001 Afghanistan has develop into profoundly interconnected.

For the current Nationwide Unity Government, particularly President Ghani, the approaching centenary gives an excellent opportunity to succeed in out to numerous groups of people and undertaking photographs of patriotism, nationhood, reform and progress. As well as the potential marketing campaign profit, there is usually a well-intentioned motivation, a want to bolster Afghanistan’s fragile national id, which is beneath strain from years of conflict, growing political fragmentation and the nervousness induced by potential peace negotiations with teams that maintain contrasting concepts of nationhood, statehood and national id.

The approaching centenary comes at a crucial juncture when peace overtures are being made, presidential elections are looming and future seems to be uncertain for Afghanistan. Via all its ups and downs, however, 28 Asad 1298 (19 August 1919) has come to stand as a logo of what Afghanistan is as a country and Afghanness as an id.

Edited by Thomas Ruttig and Rachel Reid


*The writer want to thank Atiq Arvand, communications officer on the Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University (ACKU), for responding to his questions on the ACKU photograph collection and studying and commenting on an earlier draft of this dispatch.


(1) Ludwig Adamec (2003), Historic Dictionary of Afghanistan, Lanham, Maryland and Oxford: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., pp 371-2. Adamec handed away in 2019 (AAN’s obituary right here).

(2) For particulars on the three Anglo-Afghan Wars including the Third Anglo-Afghan Warfare of 1919, see, for instance: J A Norris and L W Adamec, “Anglo-Afghan Wars,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, II/1, pp 37-41, out there on-line here. It’s noteworthy that President Ashraf Ghani’s grandfather, Abdul Ghani Khan Ahmadzai, fought in the Third Anglo-Afghan Struggle, along with Qayum Karzai’s grandfather.

(3) There isn’t a consensus on which day is most applicable to mark as Afghanistan’s day of independence (see here). For some, it is 9 Hut 1297 (1 March 1919) when King Amanullah launched a press release on Afghanistan’s full independence. For others, it’s 24 Hamal 1298 (14 April 1919) when he made his fiery speech as referred to in the text (13 April 1919, based on Adamec). But for some others, it’s 28 Asad 1298 (19 August 1919) when the Rawalpindi peace treaty was affirmed by Afghanistan and Britain following their third warfare, at the least in line with some Afghan historiography. As a consequence of this and different reasons (succeeding rulers trying to distance the occasion from earlier regimes), Afghanistan’s independence has been commemorated on totally different days (eg 9 Hut, 28 Asad, 6 Jawza [27 May]1 Sunbula [23 August]). Nevertheless, 28 Asad (19 August) has over time been established because the day memorialising Afghanistan’s independence.

(four) The photograph exhibition coincides with the second Afghanistan research convention, “Independence, Extra Independence and Past Independence,” which can be held by the ACKU in collaboration with the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies (AIAS) on 17 and 18 August 2019 at the ACKU, Kabul University. It follows the primary Afghanistan studies convention, “Afghanistan Inside Out: History, Culture and Politics in Afghanistan Research,” which was held on 11 and 12 August 2018 at the ACKU.

(5) Emil Trinkler (1925), Quer durch Afghanistan nach Indien, Berlin: Kurt Vowinckel Verlag, pp 109 and 189 (English translation of the excerpt by Thomas Ruttig):

At this place [Paghman]the jeshm [sic]independence day, is widely known every year; sadly, it was referred to as off in 1924 because of the insecure state of affairs [Khost tribal rebellion of the Mangal who had proclaimed their own Amir, Abdul Karim].

On 6 August, the agitation was growing. Rumours have been going round within the city once more about an imminent assault on Kabul. In the night, we have been just sitting on the roof for our meal when the owner got here and pleaded for some gasoline. He provided an exceedingly excessive worth but we needed to hold the gasoline for ourselves for the worst case. All automobiles – including automobiles – had been sequestered by the government, solely the Europeans have been allowed to keep theirs…

We frequently questioned what would happen to the Europeans when the town was taken over and a new authorities came. Opinions have been divided. Some have been very pessimistic and sensed the worst. Others appeared calmly into the longer term. Because the rebel was not directly directed towards the Europeans, I tended to consider the former was more doubtless.

… From everywhere in the nation troops have been referred to as in and in the August and September days of 1924, Kabul introduced a colourful picture. When the primary troops arrived, we initially believed, these have been the rebels…

In mid-August, the state of affairs deteriorated. The jeshm [sic] – the independence celebration – that’s held each summer time was cancelled; the government and the Amir had abruptly returned from Paghman.

On 20 August, an enormous victory of the federal government troops was introduced. It was stated that the heads of 15 killed Mangals can be paraded by means of the streets. However nothing like this happened…

In early October, the federal government troops have been profitable once more; Gardez [that had been encircled by the rebels] was relieved, Hesarak taken, and the rebels have been pushed southward over the Altamur cross.

In November, delegations of the Amir and the rebels met in Jalalabad, however did not come to a end result, in order that the preventing continued. Toward the top of the yr, the rebel collapsed. The punishment towards the Mangal was horrible. 1575 men have been executed, 600 ladies dragged to Kabul, 3000 houses levelled and burnt down.

(6) Given Zaher Shah’s age, three of his paternal uncles, specifically Muhammad Hashem (Prime Minister 1929-46), Shah Mahmud (Prime Minister 1946-53) and Shah Wali (commander of the Central Military Corps in Kabul) – descendants of Muhammad Yahya and Muhammad Yusuf who have been companions, musaheban, of King Habibullah (r. 1901–1919), father to King Amanullah – successfully ruled the nation for 20 years from 1933 to 1953. For the subsequent ten years, from 1953 to 1963, it was Prime Minister Muhammad Daud, paternal cousin and brother-in-law to Zaher Shah and a musaheban descendant, who was answerable for the country. Zaher Shah subsequently did not personally wield much sensible power for the primary 30 years of his 40-year-long reign.

(7) Kurz Ziemke, first Nazi ambassador to Kabul, on the independence day, not dated, possible in 1935, with some references to 1936, in Kurz Ziemke (1939), Als deutscher Gesandter in Afghanistan, Stuttgart and Berlin: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt (English translation of the excerpt by Thomas Ruttig):

It is a highly regarded spectacle; the Afghans aren’t only presupposed to commemorate the good historic occasion, additionally they are presupposed to rejoice and have fun. Authorities workplaces remain closed for every week; each Afghan enjoys a trip from work for this time.

On a large fairground [chaman-e huzuri]stalls are erected, and there’s a lot of hustle and bustle. Individuals are gathering from the Kabul’s environment, the countryside, and from distant. Their pleasures are harmless, and the enjoyments they will afford modest; spirits remain frowned upon, and there are not any dancing women. Cube are thrown for reasonable prizes, and in entrance of the cooking stalls individuals sit on their heels and take heed to monotonous music; a primitive merry-go-round is turning creakingly; soothsayers, story tellers and magicians are gathering circles round themselves; funny boys in disguise are imitating representatives of varied European nations; I saw one who pretended to be a European drunk on wine, who obtained large laughs for his humorous and sensible performance; a bear danced, lemonade within the flashiest colors is offered, in addition to pistachio, almonds, nuts and sweets. When night time falls, garlands of electric lights stretch over the lanes between the stalls; the town is illuminated, fireworks are lit, and for a lot of a son of the wild mountains, of the extensive steppes, there are novelties to be discovered and to be marvelled at.

A pageant for males it’s, and after darkish, the lady within the chador disappears who can watch the stick fencers and how the wrestlers are preventing throughout daytime [antiquated language in the original]. The women are squat on the aspect strains in semicircles. They stroll by means of the lanes between the stalls, refresh themselves at the lemonade seller’s, take a look at the present bins and aren’t observed by the lads.

On day one of the celebrations, the diplomatic corps is invited to take part within the official commemoration at seven o’clock within the morning at the Independence Column, the Mina [sic] i Esteklal, an obelisk constructed of whitewashed bricks, with some steps main up to a low platform. The obelisk stands in the midst of a large avenue, in entrance of the east gate of the Ark [Royal Palace].

On one aspect, ministers and officers in tails and Persian hats have taken position, next to them comply with the members of parliament, of their clothes of selection. In the midst of the individuals, I also observe the previous Amir of Bukhara who fled his country from the Bolsheviks and enjoys the hospitality of the Afghan authorities…

The generals stand in a separate group. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Courtroom also stand aside, nearer to the obelisk. 

The diplomatic corps has positioned itself on the opposite aspect, in accordance with rank. The British minister stands imperturbable amongst us; England has resigned itself to Afghan independence and its celebration, and there will probably be no word towards England. The official speeches stay calm concerning the wars with England, the earlier aggressions of the British, the destruction of the bazaar of Kabul, as a result of the previous ought to remain forgotten; the relations with England are good now, and the speeches stress the benefaction of liberty, some great benefits of independence, the need of progress, unity and nationwide self-discipline.

The sound of the Royal March pronounces the arrival of King Zaher Shah, who drives up in an vehicle, surrounded by the riders of the guard in their pink parade uniform. The tall and bouncing males experience exquisitely; faultless and with out mistake is their army bearing.

The King repairs to the obelisk’s platform and reads his speech which is amplified by a loudspeaker. He praise the memory of his father Nader [murdered the previous year]who re-established independence when he pressured down the predatory usurper from the throne; he turns to the youth, exhorts their faithfulness, their helpfulness to the poor, calls for basic national reconciliation and unity of the individuals.

Soviet ambassador Stark advances and reads out the diplomatic corps’ common congratulations for the national day in three French sentences, and the King replies in similarly courtly phrases.

Now it is the flip for the President of the Chamber, a noble elderly gentleman, who expresses – with deference and dignity – the enjoyment and the satisfaction of Parliament within the identify of the individuals. He holds his speech with none oratorical gesture, he stresses no single word; he reads with a restrained voice as if the presence of the King prohibits pathos, exuberance and emotion. Then the Prime Minister speaks, in a low voice as all the time, quiet, with a notable tone of cordiality.

There are not any cheers, no thunderous applause rewards the speaker, as a result of this isn’t the Afghan approach.

An order is to be heard, and underneath the sounds of the Royal March, the Type leaves again. The solemn act of state is over.

We now proceed, nonetheless in tails or in state regimentals, to the fairground, the Tchaman Huzuri [sic]… The place is embedded between the hills of Sherpur where Lord Roberts as soon as had to climate the siege of his enforced camp, and the ruins of the Bala Hessar. Within the background, there are the towering peaks of the Hindu Kush. Along one aspect, the street to Peshawar passes, and alongside this street, there is a 100 metre long row of enterprise buildings the bottom flooring of which has stores with purchasing home windows. In this constructing, the primary commerce truthful had been opened in 1934. Now, they hold shops with European comfort items, antiquity outlets, workplaces and exhibition rooms.

At the higher finish of the ground, reverse the high mountains, raises the long constructing of the Ministry of Public Works the entrance of which is adorned by two verandas on prime of each other, the upper most with a protruding loggia. Here, the King will take his place, to proper there are the rows of chairs for the chiefs of mission, to the left these for the ministers, generals and large officials. The opposite members of the diplomatic corps are positioned to their sides, the overseas employees within the lower veranda, while the women are utterly banned from the house. For them, tents have been erected outdoors, because the King, in response to Muhammadan customs, does not need to be seen in to close companionship with ladies. The Minister of the Courtroom and the chief of protocol incessantly deal with the women’ tents.

The troops have already taken position within the background in an extended entrance. Silently, the inhabitants standing on the Peshawar street greets the King who’s approaching in his automotive; loud enthusiasm is alien to the Afghan. In front of the stands, where we have now already taken our locations, the King mounts a horse and gallops, accompanied by a small troupe solely, in the direction of the staircase, bows within the course of the mausoleum on prime of Sherpur hill. Up there, rests King Nader.

We hear the King’s anthem, the King salutes his soldiers, who reply loudly and in unison, and the King inspects their entrance.

The King proceeds to our loggia, the guard takes position in front of the stands, with the body guard on each side of the doorway. The physique guards put on blue uniforms of an old style minimize, with ammunition belts crossing their chests and shoulders, turbans on their head, and quite make the impression of a militia. They flip no eye from the King, blue are their eyes, considerably passively they take a look at us – they are from the Durrani tribe, from the clan of the royal home. Beware to return too near the King!

The King’s uncle, minister of struggle Shah Mahmud, leads the troops on the parade. With none movement, he sits on his beautiful gray horse for three hours. It was him who, immediately after the deadly bullets that felled King Nader, proclaimed his nephew Zaher King, and his resolute and speedy deed suppressed any disquiet. The army he now parades earlier than the King stood behind him. Steadily and with none slackening, the troops parade past; the guard division, Kabul’s first military corps, provincial regiments, police formations, infantry, cavalry, artillery, the sappers, the rail division, machine gun detachments, tanks, armoured automobiles, the officers’ academy, cadets, some 20,000 males. The troopers put on steel helmets, regular is the parade, while two music corps take turns. A dashing regiment of guard lancers on gray horses rides by. The King rises in entrance of each banner.

My spouse is strolling round downstairs together with her digital camera, she will take pictures with none disturbance. The King notices her from his loggia, he appears to ask the Prime Minister and nods in my course. I compliment the King concerning the extraordinary bearing of the troops and the well-accomplished parade which the King acknowledges with an specific reference to the work of the German officers [advisors]. With specific heat, he speaks once more of Colonel Christenn [two ‘n’ correct] who additionally was the top of the native [Nazi] celebration group…

Within the afternoon, we watch rural dances of a number of tribes from the stands. In fact, solely men do the dancing. Ghilzai, Mangal and Nuristani carried out. The Ghilzai wore embroidered, tallies shirts which, like ladies’s skirts, fell over the flagging pants, sleeveless and similarly embroidered velvet waistcoats over the shirts. With the beat of longish drums, they jerked their black hair round, creating circles, advance in strains, dance the preventing and the warfare.

The Mangal have been clothed much less colourfully, somewhat drab, and without seen embroidery. Their strikes seem to be notably brusque, their circles wilder.

Utterly totally different from them have been the Kafirs who danced around a pier and some drummers in a circle. They wore a type of felt tunic with black embroidery, on their heads round caps with flapped edges. Tightly wound black leg wraps gave their dancing steps some stiffness. They didn’t spin wildly, and stored their heads calm, but marked the beat with their palms. Perhaps farmers dance like this during thanksgiving.

The subsequent morning, sport formations paraded by, scouts, soccer, handball and tennis gamers, fencers, hockey teams, riders, hunters. Ministers and state secretaries who’re members of any sport association marched of their ranks. Virtually all of them are sportsmen…

In 1936, the King acquired the wives of the chiefs of mission after the sportsmen’s parade in his lounge and conversed with them at tea. This was a small step forward, a bit of the Muhammadan wall crumbling a bit…

A football match takes place between an Afghan and an Indian staff who play with verve and are enthusiastically followed by the spectators. On the hour of prayer, the match is interrupted, the ministers withdraw from the stands, the players prostrate themselves. The mullahs are still highly effective. Then the match continues. In the tennis matches, also the gentlemen and women of the diplomatic mission participate. The officers’ membership has fantastic pitches, in addition to a superb on line casino.

An exhibition exhibits agricultural and craft merchandise of the country. Notably spectacular are the creations of the Applied Arts Faculty, amongst them the carpenters’ class which is German-led and may be pleased with its achievements… The German architect shows an exhibition of his fashions of latest government buildings, for faculties, hospitals, the administration and for a permanent mausoleum for King Nader.

The most important attraction for us can be the Turkestani buzkashi… This match does not happen on the Tchaman Huzuri however at the ft of Siah Sang hill, in a sandy melancholy. This place has been a battleground, and the British have saturated it with their blood. On 13 December 1879, the Black Stones saw the galloping assault of the 9thLancers and the 5th Punjab Cavalry towards the Afghan Ghazis. The leader of the attack, Captain Butson, turned in his saddle and shouted “Forward, a cheer to the 9thLancers!” – and sunk from his horse, hit in his coronary heart, and a few British rider adopted him to the grave.

Immediately, it’s a peaceable battle…

Refreshments are provided as a result of right now is a scorching and dusty day, the bottom on the foot of the hill is burnt dry. We’re requested not to descend from the hill to the ground’s fence as it isn’t clear how far the riders can be carried away by the heat of the struggle. Hopefully, there can be no heavy injuries, though falls and injuries are unavoidable. First assist males are on the watch.

Both teams, Turkmen and Uzbeks, take their positions, the former in extensive fur caps, the latter with turbans. Unmoving, the sit mounted on their horses, expressionless their Mongol, black bearded faces.

The prime Minister addresses them, calmly, cordially; he is an embodiment of authority and dignity.

A mullah says prayer in the midst of the pitch, alone beneath the gleaming solar.

The trophy [the buz] is handed out; then a sign, and the hunt is on…

The prize of 10,000 Afghani is cut up half between the two groups, not much for 250 males who’ve come a great distance with their horses from the north of the country. But they are friends of the federal government and I consider they loved attending, to point out their artwork and to see – within their experience – the sparkling capital of Kabul.

But the Afghan individuals’s favorite enticement was the films. Lastly, in 1936, the government had acquired the consent of the mullahs, and for the primary time after an extended break a cinema theatre opened its gate, for now within the open airs. Amanullah’s silent film theatre in Paghman had closed together with his overthrow. A German technician has now established a cinema for sound films with German gear; he also runs the films. American and Indian films are on display, German ones are on their means [there will be Nazi Wochenschau news reels]and the crowds amass at the counters so that the police has to manage them…

On the best way back, we slowly drive by way of an enormous crowd and an illuminated city.

(eight) Reinhard Schlagintweit (2016), Afghanistan, 1958-61, Berlin: Tethys, pp 41-2 (English translation of the excerpt by Thomas Ruttig).

(9) The Darulaman Palace is a European-style palace that King Amanullah constructed as a logo of Afghan independence in the 1920s (more particulars right here). It has been destroyed again and again through the protracted warfare in Afghanistan (watch a video produced by the Afghan government of this palace over time right here).