HERAT -- Almost 5,000 residents of Herat province attended the 44th anniversary of the Afghan people's uprising against the Soviet-backed government at the time.
The commemoration was held Wednesday (March 15) at the Shuhadai Gumnam cemetery (Cemetery of the Unknown Martyrs), north of Herat city.
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 during the subsequent crackdown by the communist Afghan government.
The Soviet Union was so alarmed by the clear unpopularity of its client that it invaded Afghanistan nine months later, the start of more than nine years of brutal occupation.
Residents of Herat who lived through the post-uprising crackdown and the Soviet invasion of December 1979 bitterly remember the Soviet war crimes. They are drawing comparisons to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Soviet soldiers would shoot at civilians indiscriminately, said Sayed Ahmad, 65, who lost three family members in the Herat uprising.
"Every night, the Soviets would take out prisoners and bury them alive," he said. "They would arrest anyone they wanted and make them disappear."
"Soviet soldiers eagerly killed civilians, including women and children," he added.
The Kremlin had willing accomplices in the Soviet-backed Afghan army, which shot thousands of Afghans in the Darwaza-e-Kandahar area, in the western part of Herat city, he said. There were so many dead bodies that residents could not bury them fast enough.
"When I see news about Ukraine on TV, oppression and violence committed by Russia there are similar to the crimes committed by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan," Ahmad said.
"The situation in Ukraine these days, which is under attack by Russia, is similar to the difficult days of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan."
Ghulam Hazrat Rahmani, 59, another resident of Herat city, also drew parallels between the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
"Soviet troops were very brutal and spared no one," he said. "They used tanks and planes to destroy private houses and farms. They would destroy everywhere they went, burning farms and killing young men."
The streets and canals were full of dead bodies on the day of the 24th Hout Uprising, he said.
Victims of aggression
The news of Russia's invasion of Ukraine refreshes bitter memories of the Soviet army's crimes, agreed Safiullah Ahmadi, 57, a resident of Guzara district, Herat province.
The Soviet soldiers would besiege and enter villages, after which they would kill civilians and destroy their houses, he said.
"We used to hide when the Soviet soldiers would come," he said. "One day, my brother was in the hall when a Soviet soldier entered our house and shot him. Fearing [the Soviets], we had to bury him at night."
"I witnessed when the Soviet soldiers threw a young neighbour of ours alive into a well and killed him," he said. "Another neighbour of ours was hiding in a barn. The Soviets set the barn on fire, burning our neighbour alive."
"I will never forget the Soviet Union's crimes," Ahmadi said. "It would bomb us in the pastures when we would take our livestock out for grazing. Most of the livestock would be killed and even burn up. We could not go to our farms [because] planes would come, forcing us to flee."
Naseer Ahmad, 60, was a teenager when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December 1979.
"Our house was close to the airport in Guzara district," he said. "Soviets would bomb our village every night. One night, tanks attacked our village, forcing us to escape to the river in the middle of the night. Several women and children drowned in the high water."
"The miseries of the Afghan people started with the Soviet invasion," he said. "The Soviets sowed the seeds of war, insecurity and destruction in Afghanistan, and after four decades, Afghans are still the victims of that aggression."
Most Afghans alive back then are suffering from psychological problems caused by the crimes of the Soviet army, Ahmad said.
Russia destined to fail in Ukraine
Afghans were able to defeat the Red Army, and Ukraine too will defeat Russia, say locals.
Ghulam Sakhi, 71, fought the Red Army for five years in Guzara district.
"There are many similarities between the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan and the Russian invasion of Ukraine," he said. "The Soviet Union thought that it would completely take over Afghanistan, suppressing any opposition, but it ... failed."
"Russia also thought that it would occupy Ukraine in a few days, but it has been more than a year that it has made no progress," Sakhi said. "Like Afghans, the Ukrainians' fight against the Russian invasion and their struggle will lead to the Russian defeat."
The longer the war in Ukraine takes, the more casualties and losses the Russians will suffer, he said.
Khalil Ur Rahman, 67, lost his father and two brothers in the war against the Soviet army in Herat.
Based on his experience fighting the Soviet army, Rahman predicted that Russia will soon withdraw from Ukraine.
"The Russian military system is very old and worn out," he said. "It does not have the capability to fight the Ukrainian army, which is equipped with modern weapons and military systems."
"Russia's withdrawal from several parts of Ukraine in the last year indicates Russia's failures," he added.
"Burned-out Russian tanks on the streets of Ukraine indicate that Russia has no chance of winning in Ukraine and will have to retreat."