TO THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
I send this message to you today on behalf of the freedom and peace-loving people of Afghanistan, the Mujahedeen freedom fighters who resisted and defeated Soviet communism, the men and women who are still resisting oppression and foreign hegemony and, in the name of more than one and a half million Afghan martyrs who sacrificed their lives to uphold some of the same values and ideals shared by most Americans and Afghans alike. This is a crucial and unique moment in the history of Afghanistan and the world, a time when Afghanistan has crossed yet another threshold and is entering a new stage of struggle and resistance for its survival as a free nation and independent state.
I have spent the past 20 years, most of my youth and adult life, alongside my compatriots, at the service of the Afghan nation, fighting an uphill battle to preserve our freedom, independence, right to self-determination and dignity. Afghans fought for God and country, sometime alone, at other times with the support of the international community. Against all odds, we, meaning the free world and Afghans, halted and checkmated Soviet expansionism a decade ago. But the embattled people of my country did not savor the fruits of victory. Instead they were thrust in a whirlwind of foreign intrigue, deception, great-gamesmanship and internal strife. Our country and our noble people were brutalized, the victims of misplaced greed, hegemonic designs and ignorance. We Afghans erred too. Our shortcomings were as a result of political innocence, inexperience, vulnerability, victimization, bickering and inflated egos. But by no means does this justify what some of our so-called Cold War allies did to undermine this just victory and unleash their diabolical plans to destroy and subjugate Afghanistan.
Today, the world clearly sees and feels the results of such misguided and evil deeds. South-Central Asia is in turmoil, some countries on the brink of war. Illegal drug production, terrorist activities and planning are on the rise. Ethnic and religiously-motivated mass murders and forced displacements are taking place, and the most basic human and women’s rights are shamelessly violated. The country has gradually been occupied by fanatics, extremists, terrorists, mercenaries, drug Mafias and professional murderers. One faction, the Taliban, which by no means rightly represents Islam, Afghanistan or our centuries-old cultural heritage, has with direct foreign assistance exacerbated this explosive situation. They are unyielding and unwilling to talk or reach a compromise with any other Afghan side.
Unfortunately, this dark accomplishment could not have materialized without the direct support and involvement of influential governmental and non-governmental circles in Pakistan. Aside from receiving military logistics, fuel and arms from Pakistan, our intelligence reports indicate that more than 28,000 Pakistani citizens, including paramilitary personnel and military advisers are part of the Taliban occupation forces in various parts of Afghanistan. We currently hold more than 500 Pakistani citizens including military personnel in our POW camps. Three major concerns - namely terrorism, drugs and human rights - originate from Taliban-held areas but are instigated from Pakistan, thus forming the inter-connecting angles of an evil triangle. For many Afghans, regardless of ethnicity or religion, Afghanistan, for the second time in one decade, is once again an occupied country.
Let me correct a few fallacies that are propagated by Taliban backers and their lobbies around the world. This situation over the short and long-run, even in case of total control by the Taliban, will not be to anyone’s interest. It will not result in stability, peace and prosperity in the region. The people of Afghanistan will not accept such a repressive regime. Regional countries will never feel secure and safe. Resistance will not end in Afghanistan, but will take on a new national dimension, encompassing all Afghan ethnic and social strata.
The goal is clear. Afghans want to regain their right to self-determination through a democratic or traditional mechanism acceptable to our people. No one group, faction or individual has the right to dictate or impose its will by force or proxy on others. But first, the obstacles have to be overcome, the war has to end, just peace established and a transitional administration set up to move us toward a representative government.
We are willing to move toward this noble goal. We consider this as part of our duty to defend humanity against the scourge of intolerance, violence and fanaticism. But the international community and the democracies of the world should not waste any valuable time, and instead play their critical role to assist in any way possible the valiant people of Afghanistan overcome the obstacles that exist on the path to freedom, peace, stability and prosperity.
Effective pressure should be exerted on those countries who stand against the aspirations of the people of Afghanistan. I urge you to engage in constructive and substantive discussions with our representatives and all Afghans who can and want to be part of a broad consensus for peace and freedom for Afghanistan.
With all due respect and my best wishes for the government and people of the United States,
Ahmad Shah Massoud.
It was only the 9th of September, but already the air was cold in the mountains, and a light wind swept a few clouds across the Afghan sky. As Commander Ahmed Shah Massoud knelt on the hard ground to pray, it was more than just the coldness in the air that chilled him to his bones.
In recent days his mood had changed and his men had kept a silent, respectful distance. Since his return from Europe Massoud felt, for the first time in a lifetime of battles, demoralized. He had appealed to the West for help in fighting the war against the brutal Taliban regime...his pleas fell on the deaf ears of the European Union and into the silent void of the United Nations. He had been very clear about the desperate struggle, "You don't understand that I fight also for you!" He had given them all a frightening warning of what he knew would come, to know avail.
For a moment his gaze went to the
landscape of his valley...the Panjshir Valley...always invincible, now
soured and tortured, but still so beautiful. In this valley he had
defeated the Russians so many years before...it was his shelter then..and
They were at his headquarters, in a
little room in a house among the trees, where they would be waiting with
their cameras and their microphones to interview him. In another minute he
would go to them. He took that minute to breathe in the cold air of the
Afghan autumn and to take a last look at the mountains surrounding his
valley, then he walked slowly to meet his bodyguards to make his way to
Friday, April 5, 2002; Page C01
By Teresa Wiltz - Staff Writer
Northern Alliance Commander's Assassins Killed the Man, but His Memory Lives On.
We are rattling through the countryside, past lanes littered with land mines and dead Russian tanks, chugging by teenagers toting Kalashnikovs, not daring to peek down the cliffs to see what awaits us should we slip. We are searching for a dead man, hunting down a ghost.
I am looking for the Lion of the Panjshir, or rather
looking to see where it is that the Lion finally has found rest. Seeking
to understand why the dead can hold a country in such thrall.
By Nasrine Gross
I have just returned from a five-week stay
in Afghanistan. I was in Khoja Bahauddin when Commander Massoud was
assassinated on September 9, the signal for terrorist operations in the US
two days later.
From there he had ran down the plateau towards the Panj River,
a fifth of a mile away. That is when officials realized he had gotten away.
Two guards with kalashnikovs and several other officials, some of them
barefoot (Afghans take off their shoes when they are inside) ran after him.
The pursuers wanted to catch him alive but he was more than six feet tall
and very strong and was able to snatch one of the kalashnikovs. That is
when the second kalashnikov fired on him, the fifth bullet dropping him in
the river. By the time they took him out of the water, he was dead.
The solution after much discussion was to
keep the coffin in the courtyard, in front of his office and our rooms.
They had to scrounge around to find something to serve as a table for the
coffin and a cloth large enough to serve as a covering over it to keep
away the ever-present dust, flies, bees and mosquitoes (too poor to have
desks and chairs Afghans now mostly work, eat, sleep and visit on the
floor). And for coolness, they scrambled to find enough oil for the
generator (their allotment is for two hours of electricity per night) and
hooked their only electric fan to it, after creating a makeshift extension
cord and making another contraption for a table high enough for the fan to
blow over the coffin for the duration of the night - - until around early
morning, when the heat lets up a bit for a short spell.
What a life that you cannot
spare one moment to shed a tear over your dead! These officials, very few
in number, were doing all the work cheerfully; that was their duty not to
show that Commander Massoud was also dead. Even after they returned with
Assim's coffin and I could see that their shirts were bloodstained, they
told me it was from washing Assim's body... On this day in Virgo, the
month of Commander Massoud's birth, how their hearts must have felt, those
who knew the truth!
I knew that it was really an even more gracious concern that was pushing them to send us away: They did not know if they were going to be attacked that night and wanted to spare the lives of the three westerners (Barbara Bick, my Jewish American friend, Roland Bariseel, a Frenchman, and me, an Afghan American)! We took our night stuff and were driven in a jeep to a far away dark serai of totally dark rooms.
I could not tell where in
relation to the village we were but we were shown to two rooms, Roland by
himself and Barbara and I in a corner room that boasted a washroom inside.
A gas lantern, water pitcher and basin, hot green tea, skewered kabob with
bread, grapes and cut up water melon were quickly brought in by the help,
an Uzbek boy of 13. Two hours later Zubair and Daud showed up to apologize
for the inconvenience. I could not hold my tears at the warmth of this
hospitality during such a time - - as if they had no other worry. They
assured us that a guard would be outside our door all night long and that
we would go back to the compound for breakfast.
And when you are anticipating the worst, even little things become sources of further fear and anxiety. I was smoking and trying to keep my hair, face, body and feet totally covered with the sheet that was my cover -- an impossible and really hazardous task. You see, earlier, I had noticed the ceiling made of crude reefs held by cruder tree trunks across, and was sure that scorpions and all sorts of crawlies would fall from the cracks of such a rustic and primitive construct.
What gave me sustenance was the dim glow of the gas light, now outside with the guard,
coming through a tiny opening of a window high in the wall and covered
with dried thistle instead of glass. The sound of roosters, donkeys and
cows singing, an otherwise annoying regular nightly serenade, also
comforted me that I was in the middle of the village surrounded by a human
population of my own Afghans.
Even the Arabic I heard them speak was different from Moroccan dialect but I could be wrong as my friend Shoukria Haidar, a teacher of Moroccan and Algerian students in France for twelve years, who spoke with them for forty minutes in French on our first day of arrival thought they were Moroccan but found it odd that Moroccans who are so preoccupied with their own country would come this far in search of just an interview. In the helicopter that had brought Shoukria, our friend Francoise and the Arabs from Panjsher, her eye was caught by the fact that in this hot hot land the shorter man was wearing very thick corduroy pants.
The next day, with
the help of our hosts from the ministry of Foreign Affairs we were able to
send back Sara, Mary MacMakin and the other three guests to Dushanbe (where
they arrived six days later just in time to catch their plane to Europe,
only Mary who went to Faizabad by road through the Anjoman Pass returned
from half-way, to finally go by helicopter. Her story of going from
Faizabad to Pakistan, one of the most interesting journeys I have heard
can be read at (www.Parsa.com).
My reasoning was that
Commander Massoud was the first Afghan leader to have signed the
Declaration of the Essential Rights of Afghan Women, a document my
association, NEGAR-Support of Women of Afghanistan helped three hundred Afghan women draft and sign in June of 2000 and a document which we are
trying to make part of the peace process in the United Nations so it gets
to the next constitution of Afghanistan. I said I wanted to personally pay
my respect to this fallen friend of Afghan women.
On our way we drove by school girls on balconies, with their uniform on, with pictures of Commander Massoud or flags or flowers waving and with tears flowing down their cheeks; we heard and saw women on rooftops, their colorful dresses aflutter in the small breeze, and wailing; and groups of grief-stricken men walking towards the plain from every direction, some in military garb, most dressed in everyday clothes, many wearing the patou (shawl) over their piran-tunban (shirt and long pants of the same light material, always worn by Afghan villagers but now, in their poverty and villagized state, worn by urban populations as well), many wearing the pakol hat that Commander Massoud made famous, others wearing the regular turban of Afghanistan or bare-headed, many carrying large banners or holding pictures.
Beautiful voices from slow moving cars were
reciting glorious poetry of Afghanistan; uniformed security patrols gently
guiding the multitude. And all along this sole Panjsher road, there were
the bulky, upturned and rusted carcasses of Soviet artillery, tanks and
armored personnel carriers, silently but unmistakably reminding us of
Commander Massoud's greatest victory and successful partnership with
We were taken to this area. We watched and photographed the famous and mighty of the free Afghanistan as they came in groups: President Rabbani, Mr. Sayyaf, Haji Qadir, Mr. Hamoon, Commander Bismillah Khan, Mr. Qanooni, Commander Khoshal Qol, Mr. Sabawoon, Mr. Imad... We scrambled to get pictures of Ahmad, Commander Massoud's 12-year old son, who came a little later. He had arrived from a private viewing of his father's body.
Dressed in a khaki suit and walking with serious steps, Ahmad was quickly
surrounded by the media. His mannerisms, style and gait are completely
like his father's. His words were the most effective. Composed and with
gestures reminiscent of his dad's, he said, "my father's killing was
unjust and despicable. Now the world knows that his struggle was just and
his words true. His untimely death will not cut short our fight for an
independent Afghanistan. We will continue with more fervor. I will not
rest but work to realize his dream." His composure and his confident
knowledge of the situation made me understand what this war of
independence has done to every man, woman and child living this war inside
Afghanistan. I felt so unprepared and awkward by comparison.
Finally, the security in charge of the plain reached the copter; pushed the crowd aside and the pilot opened the door to bring out this hero of Afghanistan and this beloved of all of them for his final journey. The coffin draped in the green, black and white flag and verses of the Koran and people throwing flowers on it was carried to the widest part of the plain, tenderly like a most cherished son, thousands of hands reaching to touch it once as if that one touch would give them a piece of him forever.
In front, Mr. Qanooni was standing on a jeep and through a
loudspeaker directing the emotional and totally heedless crowd to set the
coffin before them and form long rows for the funeral prayer. I
respectfully kept near the jeep, facing the massive crowd and taking
pictures, and approached the coffin and prayed only after the men's prayer
had finished. The solemnity of the prayer, broken only by the rush of the
Panjsher, had a calming effect. But, again all wanted to carry the coffin
to the road and place it on the armored personnel carrier that was to take
it to Saricha, the designated gravesite. Again Dr. Abdullah managed to get
up first and direct the pallbearers, thousands of emotional feet rushing
as if a flood was drowning the plain.
With their backs
hunched in sorrow and many still wiping their tears, not the moment to
engage them in my banalities, but I could tell by their words and their
faces that I was shoulder to shoulder with Pashtuns and Hazaras and Uzbeks
and Turkmens and Noorestanis and Tajiks and Baluchis and. That day, along
the road to Saricha, and at Saricha, around the gravesite, the whole of
Afghan mosaic was a single human quilt unified in their grief and bonded
by the memory of one of their own.
Each terrace is a garden of many colored flowers planted in large sections, reminiscent of Paghman, the summer resort of my days (37 years ago), petunias of many pink and red hues, phloxes of white and salmon, tall asters of delicate purple, large and small marigolds, riots of pansies and grand rose bushes both damask and grandiflora. Each terrace also has small fountains and waterfalls drowning the receding sound of the Panjsher. The last terrace turns into a large patio that through an orange painted wooden fence opens into the inner courtyard.
And about his wounds, how his heart area had a two inch scar and scattered around it thousands of red pellets on his chest, but that his neck area was completely void of scars, his moon-colored skin still beautiful; the scar in his back, larger, about five inches long. His face had scratches and his hair and beard were a little scorched. She said she was wracking her brain but found not one angry word uttered by him at home in all the years they were married.
He had told her she could wear
whatever she wanted in whatever color she wanted and run the house however
she preferred. I asked and she gave me permission to take pictures of the
wake and get signatures for our Declaration from the hundreds of women
that had also come to share this moment of common grief and tragedy. She
told me 'start right away because people leave early to get home before
She mentioned that he was
interested in the children's education and was happy when she renovated
the destroyed mosque of Jangalak into a village school and sent the kids
there. He often asked the children what they wanted to become when they
grew up. One time, Ahmad had said he wanted to be a soldier like him and
he had said "don't become one because then you will be like me, away
from home all the time, become a medical doctor;" another time a
daughter had said she wanted to become a pilota nd he had said "and
you will be shot down and I will lose a daughter; become a teacher instead."
How they all missed him!
On my way back,
in Khoja Bahauddin, I stayed in the same fateful guesthouse and had a
conversation with one of his bodyguards that had been with him for eight
years and now kept watch over the closed reception hall, who mentioned
that Commander Massoud also liked fresh fruit, his proud eyes filling up
with tears at the thought of his cherished Amer Saheb (dear boss, in Dari,
Commander Massoud's nickname throughout the area). And I remembered Dr.
Abdullah's story too, of how one day, on the spur of the moment, the two
of them had gone mountain climbing and Commander Massoud had taken an
apple with him. On the way up he had gone faster and Dr. Abdullah was way
behind. But on trying to catch up, tired and thirsty, he had come upon
half of an apple, stuck on the crack of a stone with Commander Massoud's
penknife, waiting for him.
Nasrine Gross, an Afghan American writer is the Washington