Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Victory Day No Cause for Celebration

The official commemoration of mujahedin victory is seen by many as an insult to the victims of the wars that followed.
By IWPR staff

It was 13 years ago that the communist government of President Najibullah was overthrown by the the mujahedin, an event that will be marked this week as Afghan Victory Day.


But while preparations are under way in the capital to celebrate the anniversary on April 28, few of the city’s residents are in festive mood.


That’s because many here recall that Najibullah’s ousting in 1992 was followed by years of factional violence, the deaths of tens of thousands of Afghans and the wholesale destruction of Kabul.


It’s no wonder, then, that few here see any reason to celebrate Asht-e-Sawr, the name given to the anniversary because it falls on the eighth day of Sawr, the second month in the Afghan calendar.


“I hate Asht-e-Sawr,” said Adam Khan, standing just 100 metres from the parade grounds where many of the ceremonies are to take place.


“That was the day a rocket hit my house, setting it on fire and injuring me,” he said, showing his deformed left leg.


The holiday to him is a bitter reminder of the bad years, when ordinary people were caught in vicious power struggles among local commanders. “My house was looted three times after the mujahedin took over,” said Khan. “Having a celebration on this day is like rubbing salt in people’s wounds.”


Amir Malik told IWPR he came to Kabul as a mujahedin fighter just three days after Najibullah fell.


“When I saw mujahedin fighting with each other and robbing people, I gave up the jihad,” he said. “I fought this holy battle in God’s name, not to loot or set fire to people’s houses. I am a mujahed, but I hate this day.”


Mujahedin leaders are proud of Asht-e-Sawr, despite the unsavoury reputation it has acquired.


Mohammad Nasim Faqiri, a spokesman for Jamiat-e-Islami, one of the key factions involved in the civil war that lasted from 1992 to 1996, said that celebration was a legitimate one that was set down in the constitution.


“The mujahedin fought the holy battle for 14 years and defeated one of the world’s most powerful giants, the Soviet Union.The battles that later took place among the mujahedin factions cannot destroy the reputation of the jihad,” he said.


However, some mujahedin leaders admit that the warlords have a lot to answer for.


“On behalf of the mujahedin, I apologise for the destruction of Kabul city,” said Ahmadshah Ahmadzai, former deputy leader of the Ittihad-e-Islami faction. “It was not good, and was a very great act of disloyalty to the nation. Anyone who fails to admit this is not an Afghan.”


Still, Ahmadzai insists the holiday should be celebrated because “the current government and the peace [we have] are both outcomes of mujahedin sacrifices”.


Political analysts differ on the mujahedins’ legacy.


Abdul Wahab Mujir, from Mazar-e-Sharif, accepts that the day is historically significant and believes it is worthy of celebration. “It was on this exact day that the communist regime fell; it is a historic occasion,” he said.


But Mohammed Akbar, a political analyst based in the eastern city of Jalalabad, deemed the day a tragedy, “This day should be condemned rather than celebrated. Since Asht-e-Sawr, our country has not seen one day of peace. Only an idiot would celebrate a day that brought him such misfortune.”


Every Afghan, it seems, has a tale of tragedy to tell.


Habibullah, of Kabul, lost his 18-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter in the fighting. “Every year on this day, I remember how I tried to find my children in the soil. They were dismembered by a rocket explosion,” he said.


Ruhullah, a shopkeeper in Mazar-e-Sharif, shares this sense of bitterness, “This is not the people’s festival. It belongs to those who destroyed homes with tanks, who thought up various ways of killing people, and who cut off women’s breasts.


“Celebration of this day makes it clear that murderers are still in power.”


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