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.
Daily Archives: 6 March 2005
Three new decrees, the first two concerning the selection ofRevolutionary Council members and the third one the military court, were repeated hour after hour, day and night, on radio, TV, and even at the school assemblies. But still the new regime refused to release any information as to [my husband] Saleem’s whereabouts. It seemed that he was a forgotten case, as if he had never existed. Most often, when I asked an official about Saleem, he would give me a dirty look, one that made me freeze for a second. I was treated like an antirevolutionary, with no rights at all.
On weekends (Fridays) I unfailingly joined the mass of people taking clean clothes, food, and other supplies to relatives who were thought to be imprisoned at Puli-Charkhi. I always tried to be among the first few in a very long line of people who were waiting there. The line increased throughout the day, and as time went on, it seemed that there was no end to this infinite queue of worried and miserable human beings. When the gate opened at eight in the morning, we each gave our package to the man in charge to be passed along to the intended recipient. Then we waited for a response. For some a note came back from their beloved one, along with dirty clothing to be washed and returned. For others, the package was kept for hours and then was returned with the simple comment “He is not here.” I always hoped that someday they would give my package to Saleem.
The first few weeks after the coup, most of the visitors to the prison were from educated, well-to-do families; I could easily tell from the way they talked and dressed. But later all sorts of men and women from every sect and group of society could be seen: rich, poor, educated, nomads, Uzbeks, Hazaras, Kabulis, Kandaharis–almost every ethnic group of the country was represented.
All convicted criminals, even murderers, were released in most parts of country, making big news on radio and TV. According to the minister of education, “The doors of the prisons are being closed and the doors of the schools are being opened.” Yet, paradoxically, the political kidnappings continued and people still disappeared. The jails were being emptied to make room for the new political prisoners!
People were getting tired of all such propaganda. As I was crossing Puli-Baghi Umomi Road I noticed that someone had written under the government’s famous slogan of “Food, Shelter, and Clothing for All,” in large letters that could be read from far away, ‘Address: Puli-Charkhi Prison.” Whoever did it took a big risk to write such words on a very busy road.
Our New Year came on March 21 and I don’t think people celebrated it the way they used to. School started right after the New Year. My daughter told me that a new subject, one hour daily, had been added recently to their curriculum. It was called itla-at, or “information” class. During this class the teacher asked the students about their homes, what went on there, what their parents said about the new regime and who visited them. This was a new wrinkle in the spy network that was spreading through the schools.
Rumors were rampant that even children had been disappearing from schools and the streets. The Marxists had supposedly taken them to special “indoctrination schools,” but people kept quiet and didn’t talk about their missing family members.
Both of my sons were going into the tenth grade, while my daughter was in the fifth. They were growing fast and making new friends. There were times when I felt so uncertain about decisions. I wanted Saleem’s opinion when it came to raising my children. One day Ali wanted to go out and play football with his friends but I wouldn’t let him. I was scared, I was scared even of my own shadow. I didn’t know who I could trust anymore. I was afraid that if I let him go and play, he would not return safely. I didn’t know his friends. Times had changed so much that I was afraid I might lose the children exactly the way I had lost my husband–and I wouldn’t be able to find them either. When I told Ali no, he cried. His tearful eyes were killing me.