06 March 2005

Afghanistan, 21 May 1978 (31 Saur 1357)

During the first week of the new government Taraki was elected president and prime minister of the Revolutionary Council of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. Babrak Karmal was elected vice president and deputy premier and Hafizullah Amin was deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. The Revolutionary Council was the core of government power. It was made up of twenty cabinet members, who unanimously agreed that martial law should remain in force throughout the country indefinitely. Although the government always announced that all parts of the country were under their control, there were strong indications that the three-week-old regime had still not quelled all the opposition.

In a news conference Taraki declared that Afghanistan was a nonaligned country and that his government would seek friendship from all nations, including Western countries. All the political speeches began hypocritically with the familiar words "In the name of God Almighty we begin..."; "In the name of God Almighty the benevolent and merciful...." Taraki and other members of his government were seen on TV attending mosques--a very wise move, but it did not impress many university people. Those who knew the present leaders of Afghanistan and their ties to the Soviet Union could easily guess that this was not a nonaligned country. I think Taraki and his followers figured that an orthodox Communist regime would not be favored by Afghans, so it was important for the survival of the new government to be very careful. Such precautions did not last very long, however. Soon Taraki was collaborating with the Soviet Union, his closest ally. Decree after decree was approved by the inexperienced Central Committee members, who were still giddy with pride and joy at their easily gained positions. They were in a great hurry to make changes, forgetting the ingrained, time-tested old customs and traditions of the Afghan culture.

Every night I listened to broadcasts from outside the country, switching from the BBC to the Voice of America and to Pakistani and Indian radio stations. With great sadness I realized that the outside world, even the United States, did not react strongly to the coup. From my colleagues' comments at the university I could guess that they also were listening to those stations, but none of us dared to talk about it.

During the previous week, classes at the university and other schools had been called off almost every afternoon. The students were ordered to go to the auditoriums and listen to Marxist speeches in which Taraki was touted as the greatest leader of all time. Generally, several school days were wasted for every new decree. Most of us were tired of all the propaganda but we couldn't say a word. Disobedience to the rules or expression of our opinions had no place in the present regime.
SOURCE: An Afghan Woman's Odyssey, by Farooka Gauhari (U. Nebraska Press, 1996), pp. 100-101

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