What do we know about heroes? Little, perhaps nothing judging by the widespread legends and idolatry of our times: once-colorful figures of faded comic strips, fearless cowboys, stars of the television world of "Big Brother"...

the present is characterized by a void of ideas and visions of the future, a mass of mankind with niether memories nor ideals.

Yet our history is full of heroes and leaders: men and women who have given their lives in fulfillment of their dreams and principles. Men and women who in the end are defeated but whose dreams and principles live on. But the present, we know, is not generous with deserved recognition. This belongs to the future. "History will prove us right", was the cry in marches a few decades ago, embodying a sense of life and of struggle, of defeated youth...

 

To heroes destiny is more taunting: scorn in life and applause at funerals. And so waves of applause sounded throughout the land of the "Lion", crowning a poetic life of sacred struggle for freedom and unrealized dreams...

A life of remorse, we might add, but we risk tarnishing a beautiful poem, the poem of Ahmed Shah Massoud.

Do the traitors of the Afghan nation, the Soviet assassins, the hypocritical and corrupt Taliban, still tremble at

his faded memory? Or have they forgotten, do they want to forget the lion of Panshir?

 

Born forty-nine years ago in the far north of Afghanistan, the destiny of Ahmed Shah Massoud intertwined continuously with the history of his country. When the PDPA (the minority communist party upheld by the Soviet Union) officially took power in 1978, the young Massoud, who at the time spent his days in prayer to Allah and

studying engineering at the University of Kabul, began to make himself known for his rebelious spirit.

 

He who in the future would be nicknamed by his men the "Lion of Panshir" for his land of origin and his

undisputed military capacity, already didnít seem attracted to a sedentary and colorless life. Following the secularization imposed by the puppet government of Kabul (in reality piloted directly by Moscow) and the attacks on the traditional Afghan life, Massoud decided to retreat into the mountains to bring life to an anti-soviet resistance.

And so it was that Koran and musket, blood and desperation were tragically mixed together in a heroic and poetic war for national liberation.

In 1979 Moscow intervened directly with the Red Army to definitively impose communism in Afghanistan.

The pro-Soviet government in Kabul resorted to scare tactics, the heavy use of the military, and above all the KHAD (the ruthless afghan secret services trained for years by the KGB) but was never able to placate the rebellion.

The mujaheddin (soldiers of faith) proved their great strength and courage fighting strenuously for freedom.

And so Afghanistan showed the world what its people were made of, a people that have always been internally divided but able unite under the threat of a foreign enemy. In 1992, after a long war which cost Afghanistan nearly 1.5 million lives, the Red Army and the communist regime were definitively defeated. A liberated Afghanistan found itself forced to confront peace never having known anything but war...but once liberated Afghanistan knew war once again.

The mujaheddin divided into moderates and fundamentalists and the conflict resulting from this division moved quickly from a political to a military one. Kabul was transformed into a battlefield upon which the militant fundamentalists of Hekmaktiar and general Dostum (backed by Pakistan) fought violently against the troops of Massoud.

In 1994 Afghanistan became a country in which anarchy and brutality dominated uncontested, a country whose future appeared nothing more than bleak and hopeless. In the midst of the pain and suffering of the Afghan people enter the Taliban. Ethnic Pashtuns from refugee camps in Pakistan, the Taliban (translated as "students of islamic knowledge")

easily took power in Afghanistan. The people, weary and humiliated by civil war, wanted nothing but peace and the Taliban, with their political simplicity, promised a national reconstruction.

 

After conquering Kabul in 1996 and having crushed Ahmed Shah Massoud in the north (the only leader to defend Kabul), the Taliban movement showed the world, and above all Afghanistan its true face.

Supported and financed explicitely by Pakistan and, during their ascent, the US, the new lords of Kabul imposed sharia law upon the unfortunate Afghan people forgetting, however, to impose it upon themselves.

Even while fighting publicly against prostitution, many Taliban frequented, often without paying, the Qala (houses of pleasure). While publicly condemning corruption, the guardians of the Koran were quick to liberate the imprisoned "sinners" who hadnít respected sharia law but had, if nothing else, a lot of "Afghanis" ( the afghan currency) in their wallets.

While promising the destruction of poppy fields, the "students of islamic knowledge", after a few calculations with an abacus, convened on the fact that in the end the deaths caused by their drugs would be buried in christian cemeteries.

While proclaiming a reborn brotherhood between ethnic groups, the bearded Pashtun, recalling the harsh ways of the Hazara rebels, brought an end to what they considered a few lives too many including many children tortured and massacred without excuses or regrets...

 

Early September 2001. Ahmed Shah Massoud wearily fights his war. Heís been fighting for twenty years: first

against the Soviets, then against the fundamentalist opposition, now against the Taliban. "The Lion of Panshir has spent the best years of his life fighting for freedom. He isnít free from the guilt of uneccessary killing but he has always respected the ways of ethics and of military honor.

 

Times have changed, however and others, assassins in the guise of soldiers that history will never remember, care nothing about ethics in the means to their ends. And so one day two Arab followers of Osama Bin Laden, posing as television journalists, decide to blow themselves up, bringing an end to the life of a lion, a lion named Massoud.

"Allah is great" they are likely to have cried as they brought their mission to an end. "Allah is great" the

Lion is just as likely to have cried as he hurled himself upon the enemies of Afghanistan...

 

Yet today in the house of Allah, the house of God, we are likely to hear one sound, one tragic and proud sound: not the gloomy sound of dynamite but the holy roar of a lion...

Skoll