Commemoration of 1979 Herat uprising draws parallels to resistance in Ukraine

By Omar

Herat residents gather on March 15 in Herat city to commemorate the 1979 uprising against the Soviet-backed government. [Omar/Salaam Times]

Herat residents gather on March 15 in Herat city to commemorate the 1979 uprising against the Soviet-backed government. [Omar/Salaam Times]

HERAT -- Thousands of Herat residents on Tuesday (March 15) commemorated the anniversary of an uprising against Afghanistan's communist then-government while drawing parallels with Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

More than 10,000 people gathered at the Cemetery of the Unknown Martyrs in Herat city to mark the 43rd anniversary of the 1979 Herat uprising.

The people of Herat revolted against the Soviet-backed government on March 15, 1979, in what is also known as the Uprising of 24 Hout.

More than 24,000 members of the uprising, including men, women, and children, were killed in air and ground attacks as part of a subsequent crackdown, according to some reports.

A few days after the uprising, the Soviet-backed regime's soldiers buried alive hundreds of suspected instigators.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is "evil", and Russia will definitely be defeated, Mohammad Idrees Siddiq, a resident of Herat city, said, drawing parallels with the present.

Russia invaded Ukraine February 24.

"Russia is bloodthirsty. The world witnessed the disaster it brought on our country four decades ago," he said. "Russia will be defeated in Ukraine as the Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan."

"Like Afghans that fought the Soviet aggression, Ukrainians have stood up to the Russian aggression and are ably defending their country," he added.

"The whole world must stand with the people of Ukraine in this unequal war and not allow an unjustified aggression to succeed in today's world," Siddiq said.

Like the Soviet army in Afghanistan, Russian troops in Ukraine brutally kill women and children and destroy public infrastructure, said Mohammad Ayoub, a resident of Herat.

"The people and government of Ukraine are bravely defending their country against Russian aggression," he added.

"Russians in Ukraine must be taught a lesson so that they never dare invade any other country in the future," he said.

Fresh wounds

More than four decades after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Afghans still remember Soviet oppression, and the families of the victims are still grieving.

More than one million Afghans lost their lives, two million were wounded or disabled, and over five million were displaced to neighbouring countries in the almost decade-long Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which began in late December 1979 and ended in February 1989.

Ghulam Haidar Ahmadi, 70, a resident of Herat who lost his father, a brother and two uncles in the 24 Hout revolt, said he is still grieving and cursing Russia.

"My brother and two uncles, very young, were all martyred on the same day," he said. "My mother couldn't bear the loss of her son and two brothers and died a few months after the 24 Hout uprising."

"My father was a mujahid who fought the Soviet forces," he added. "He was martyred along with a number of his comrades in a Soviet air strike in Herat city."

Ahmadi said that he remembers the day of the 24 Hout revolt and the presence of Soviet troops in Herat like a terrible nightmare.

"Russia is the root cause of four decades of misery in Afghanistan," he said. "Because of the Soviet invasion, Afghans are suffering today. Russians destroyed everything we had."

Soviet forces spilled blood every day in Herat city and districts and they enjoyed it, said Habibullah Ziaratjahi, 65, a resident of Herat.

"History will not forget the cowardly Soviet brutalities in Afghanistan," he said. "History will remember Russia as an aggressor throughout many generations."

"The Soviet invasion and its aftermath affected every Afghan with their consequences and is still felt in our country," he added.

Doomed to fail

Russia seems to be facing the fate of the former Soviet Union after invading Ukraine, say analysts.

In today's world, invading an independent United Nations member state is a major blunder, said Abdul Qader Kamel, a political analyst in Herat.

"Driven by false pride, [Russian President] Vladimir Putin thought that his army would occupy Ukraine in 24 hours, but contrary to his expectations, the Ukrainians are defending their country and diminishing Russia's chance of success every day," he said.

"Russia's invasion of Ukraine is against all international laws and shows Putin's bullying nature," Kamel said.

Sooner or later, Putin will experience the bitter taste of defeat in Ukraine, he added.

Russia should have learned from the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan and never invaded Ukraine, said Mohammad Rafiq Shahir, a Herat-based political analyst.

Russia still has a chance to negotiate a dignified withdrawal with the Ukrainian government. In case of prolonged conflict, Russian troops will be forced to leave Ukraine after suffering heavy casualties, he said.

"From Russia's point of view, invading Ukraine may seem simple, but it is impossible to conquer and dominate that country," he said. "Even if Russians completely occupy Ukraine, they will be forced to leave it because it is not their home."

"Putin sees his success in bombing and destroying Ukrainian cities and public infrastructure, but that is actually his failure," Shahir added.

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Russia justifies its invasion of Ukraine by saying that Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union and that Russia has the right to interfere in Ukraine's internal affairs and establish relations with the rest of the world at the behest of the Russians. If this is the case and the Russians claim to be the heirs of the Soviet Union, then the Afghans have the right to demand compensation from the Russians for the Soviet invasion of their country.