Crime Justice

Mass grave in Ukraine revives Afghans' memories of Soviet invasion

By Omar

A mass grave site discovered in Bucha, Ukraine, has refreshed Afghans' memories of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. There are as many as 10 mass graves near the mountains in the northern part of Herat city, Afghanistan, where hundreds of civilians were massacred and buried by Soviet troops during the 1980s. [Omar/Salaam Times]

HERAT -- A mass grave discovered in Ukraine has refreshed Afghans' memories of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Ukrainian forces who took back the area around their capital, Kyiv, in early April found hundreds of civilians' bodies in the suburb of Bucha. Russian troops invaded Ukraine February 24 but rapidly encountered fierce resistance and had to retreat from the area around Kyiv.

Afghans have endured war for more than 40 years, including the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation, and empathise with Ukrainians.

Ten known mass graves lie near the mountains in the northern part of Herat city, where hundreds of civilians were massacred and buried by Soviet troops.

Mass graves of Afghan civilians killed by the Soviet army during its 1979-1989 invasion of Afghanistan are pictured on April 9 in Herat city. [Omar/Salaam Times]

Mass graves of Afghan civilians killed by the Soviet army during its 1979-1989 invasion of Afghanistan are pictured on April 9 in Herat city. [Omar/Salaam Times]

The collection of mass graves is locally known as the Unknown Martyrs' Graveyard. Elderly Herat residents with terrible memories of the Soviet occupation said the Russians had no mercy for anyone and buried many of their opponents alive.

Abdul Baqi Aslami, 67, who manages the Unknown Martyrs' Graveyard, served in the Afghan army during the Soviet occupation.

He said he repeatedly saw Soviet troops shooting civilians or even burying them alive.

Soldiers who executed Afghan civilians at night in the mountains north of Herat city would bury them in mass graves.

"The Russians brought Afghans in and killed them collectively," he said. "They dug trenches with a bulldozer and filled them with corpses."

No one or nothing was off limits.

"The Russians targeted and killed educated people, women, men, the elderly, children, religious scholars and students," Aslami said.

"They killed civilians and animals, and destroyed everything including orchards and farm fields."

Everywhere the Russians went across Afghanistan, they terrorised residents by bombing and planting mines, he said.

The atrocities committed by Soviet troops in Afghanistan are now being repeated by the Russian troops in Ukraine, Aslami said.

Unhealed wounds

Many families still remember Soviet atrocities and grieve their lost loved ones, more than four decades after the Kremlin invaded their country.

Abdul Hakim, 102, a resident of Shindand district, Herat province, wept as he shared his memories.

Soviet troops killed his three sons and two grandchildren, he said.

"Soviet troops killed 18 people in our village and took many others, including the elderly and the educated, who never made it back," he said. "We lost most of our youth in the fight against the Russians."

"The Russians killed more than 10,000 people in Shindand district alone," he said. "We held funeral services every day. I can hardly remember a day when there was no funeral service or mourning ceremony in our district."

Abdul Wahab, 70, a resident of Herat city, said a Soviet air strike wiped out 11 members of his family in their home.

"My brother and I are the two surviving members of the family," he said. "My parents, sisters and other brothers were all martyred on the spot."

"I cannot forget that dreadful incident even for a single day," Abdul Wahab said, weeping. "The Russians are very savage and rapacious and have no mercy on anyone."

Today's Russia is no different from the former Soviet Union, he said, and there is no difference in their atrocities and oppression.

"As I follow the latest Russian atrocities in Ukraine through the media, it reminds me of the massacre of Afghans."

Now the Russians are committing the same crimes in Ukraine, he said.

'Most notorious force'

Several civil society activists and Herat residents called Russia a "cruel giant" and condemned the destruction of infrastructure and residential buildings in Ukrainian cities and the massacre of civilians by Russian invaders.

The Russians have massacred civilians wherever they carried out aggression, they said.

"I have seen the bodies of handcuffed Ukrainians on the roads in media reports. An unarmed and handcuffed person cannot pose any threat and does not deserve to be shot and murdered so ruthlessly," said Jamshed Ataee, a civil society activist in Herat city.

"What is the justification for massacring children and women who have no role in the war?" he asked.

The Russian army is the most notorious force in the world, said Ataee.

Wherever Russians enter and invade, a stream of blood will follow, said Ghulam Sakhi Niazi, a resident of Herat city.

"The crimes of the Russians in Ukraine and Afghanistan ... must go down in history as a disgrace to humanity," he said.

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I have heard from the elders that the Russians were ruthless people. They also committed atrocities and massacres, as evidenced by the mass graves of Afghans after and during their invasion of Afghanistan. The killing of innocent people, especially ordinary people, is cruel. Cruelty by anyone at any time and anywhere is cruelty. But the question is, how many mass graves will there be and how many people will be buried in them? How many people would have been massacred and buried in one grave? To comes to the main topic, can't the recent unilateral judgment and decision of the United States, particularly Mr. Biden's administration, on the Afghan nation be considered cruel? Is a decision that has starved the entire Afghan nation today not considered cruel? Is a decision resulting from which a system, an army, or a government system was destroyed not considered cruel? The United States could have reconciled the Afghan government and the armed opposition; now, the United States would not be accused of killing a system and vanishing the achievements of their withdrawal. If peace were made, the United States would have been genuinely seen as a peaceful superpower; a superpower that would rebuild, not destroy, wherever it went. Such a withdrawal of US and allied forces from Afghanistan is unacceptable. In short, for Afghans, the difference between the Russians and the Americans is that the Russians were carrying out massacres; for example, they killed and buried ten, twenty ... five


For decades, Afghans have been and continue to be oppressed as much as possible. Not only the Russians but also Pakistan, Iran, and America have oppressed the Afghans to the best of their ability and are still trying to take away the lives and prosperity of the Afghans. The mass grave discovered in Ukraine did not remind Afghans of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. For decades, Afghans have felt the pain of war every day. Our beautiful children are sitting in the streets and begging. The right to education has been taken away from them. Their hopes for a prosperous future have turned to tears. Honorable women are begging others in the cities. Aliens' labor works destroyed our young people. Some of them became fish food in the oceans. In short, it's been for 40 years as we've seen the torment every day. If one is genuinely Afghan and has a conscience, he will shed tears for his people. But if he is unscrupulous, he would have benefited from the blood of his people before and will continue to benefit from it. Afghans who see their situation are bound to feel sorry for Ukrainians and everyone else who is a victim of war. Afghans need to lend a helping hand and help their country stand on its own feet and free it from the need of others.


Well, the Russians whose oppression and terror are well-known, and wherever they have gone, they have brought nothing else but oppression and destruction, but aren’t the Europe and the United States pursuing a double standard regarding the oppression and terror committed by the Russians? Why is the oppression of western troops, especially the US and NATO, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and other parts of the world, is not highlighted in the media as much as the oppression of Russian soldiers in Ukraine? Oppression must be condemned, regardless of who is the perpetrator of the oppression and under which circumstances. We Afghans, who have experienced the oppression of the British, Soviet and NATO forces in our country, know more than anyone else that any country that attacks a country in the name of self-defense or human rights, they oppress the people of that country and kill innocent people. It doesn’t matter which country these soldiers come from!


Unfortunately, everyone has done his best to oppress Afghans. For this reason, now every Afghan sees himself in the mirror of the oppressed of the world. Russians victimized the Afghans to the best of their ability long before the Soviet invasion, even under Tsarist Russia, and continue to threaten the lives and well-being of Afghans in various ways. Afghans need to join hands, stand on their own two feet and build a strong state that can hold this savage country accountable for the past atrocities and destruction. Afghans must never forget their eternal enemies.


The civilians of every country sadden me. As far as the military is concerned, Ukrainian troops were involved in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion and the NATO invasion. And when an army invades a country, it is natural that they go there to kill the people. Afghans were killed during the Soviet invasion, and the Ukrainian army was part of that invasion. The innocent Afghans were killed during the NATO invasion, and they took part in it. I disagree that the international coalition came to Afghanistan to pursue terrorists. There are obvious reasons for this; terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was recovered in Pakistan, but the International Coalition did not sue Pakistan or ask her why she kept the terrorist leader safe for five years. The whole world knew that the Taliban leaders were sitting in the army bases in Quetta, Karachi, and Peshawar, Pakistan, but the international coalition did not say anything to Pakistan. Afghans have built a democratic system for 20 years, but in partnership with Pakistan, the international community has overthrown that system and replaced it with the Taliban. I do not mean to imply that I am not sad for the oppressed people of Ukraine. I am deeply saddened by the pain and suffering of every Ukrainian child, woman, and man that they have received from the Russian invaders.


I agree, but in your opinion, does the difficulty not exist in Afghans themselves? If the Russians accompanied the communists, then the so-called mujahedin who fought against the Russians and considered their fighting a holy war was also supported by the West, and they got privileges for it. Won't it be good for Afghans to think about their situation instead of complaining about others? They may ask themselves why every of the world's big power is invading Afghanistan? and why the country has become the victim of the repeated attacks of the neighboring countries and the world's big powers?