Afghanistan recently observed the anniversaries of the 7th and 8th of Saur, commemorating two turning points in the country's recent history. While the 7th of Saur, or April 26, marks the date of the country's
A newspaper stand in Kabul displays headlines from the daily press.
When the mujahideen factions that fought the communist regime took over Afghanistan, they aimed to establish a utopian Islamic government, Jamay-e-Baz Daily wrote. “The mujahideen were good at destruction but bad at construction. They were good warriors but bad politicians and statesmen.”
The government celebrated the fall of Kabul into the mujahideen's hands in a low-key ceremony in Kabul on May 3. The anniversary was on April 27, but apparently due to Ghani's trip to India, it was postponed.
The Eight of Saur was a grandiose affair until 2008, when the Taliban attacked then-President Hamid Karzai's and members of his administration during a celebration. Since then, the festivities have been toned down.
In Afghanistan Daily, journalist Ali Qaderi noted that the majority of the communist leaders deposed by the mujahideen were brutally murdered. Qaderi described the communist regime as a time of chaos, suppression and destruction in Afghanistan. He blamed the Eight of Saur for the emergence of the Taliban.
Former mujahideen fighters described the Eight of Saur as a source of "grand pride" for the people, who were forced to take up jihad against the communists' anti-religious policies. The conflicts subsequent to the mujahideen's victory were caused by the inferences of the neighboring countries, Waqef Hakimi, the spokesman for the Jamiat-e-Islami faction, said in a roundtable discussion on Tolo News.
But Ghafar Saylee, the spokesman for the National Solidarity Party which strongly criticizes the record of the mujahideen, said at this roundtable that mujahideen leaders exploited jihad to gain money and power.
In a live broadcast on Khurshid TV, two analysts discussing the consequences of these two days got into a physical altercation. Faheem Kohdamani, an expert on political affairs, was defending the jihad. When Hafez Rasekh, a human rights advocate, said the mujahideen was responsible for the deaths of 7,000 people, Kohdamani physically assaulted him. Rasekh is a supporter of RAWA, a leftist political movement that strongly opposed the mujahedeen.
Sharing the table
Still, Afghanistan's modern political reality has brought former mujahideen fighters and ex-communists closer together. Currently, the most high-ranking mujahideen leader is Abdullah Abdullah, the Chief Executive Officer of the Unity Government, who nominated several former communists--including Interior Minister Noor-ul-Haq Olomi--to the new Cabinet. Former communists also served as ministers under Karzai.
Hanif Atmar, President Ghani’s National Security Advisor is also a former member of the communist government. He was part of the intelligence department of Soviet-backed Kabul regime and reportedly lost his leg fighting the mujahideen. Earlier in April, President Ghani nominated General Mohammad Afzal Ludin for the post of defense minister, prompting some jihadi leaders to term the new government “communist.” Fearing that he would not win approval in Parliament, which is dominated by former mujahideen leaders and their supporters, Ludin withdrew his candidacy.
Still, several former military generals and officials, who held high positions during the communist regime, now lead senior departments in the ministries of defense, interior, and intelligence. While most of the former mujahideen and communist officials coexist in the same society and in some instances cooperate, the debate over whether to celebrate or denounce the 7 and 8 of Saor happens among their children and grandchildren.