Afghanistan remembers anniversary of war with Soviet Union

On the same day the Soviet troops entered their country on December 24, 1979, Afghan locals agreed to talk to their old enemy about the constant struggle, now with the US and NATO operation in routing out terrorists

Every country changes and times change. The Soviets came because they wanted to change the culture of Islamic Afghanistan to communism. Today, the situation is the same, except that NATO armies have replaced the Soviets,” says Abdul Hadi Hamidzada, former Mujaheddin fighter who fought against the Soviet Union. “Their troops are here because of Iran, China and Russia. They want to change our culture, but we will never abandon Islam.”

Hamidzada’s words confirm a lesson that the Soviets had to learn the hard way.

Among the fighters was Haji Abdul Rashid Dara – he was in his village the day that the news spread that more than 5,000 Soviet troops were being airlifted into Afghanistan. Dara, and nearly half his neighbors, immediately signed up to defend their country.

We started with very simple equipment, old guns that we had been using on animals. But weapons and guns are not important – we had our trust in Allah,” said Dara. “The Soviet soldiers were very powerful and brave, but we always knew we would win because Allah was with us.”

During the conflict, the Afghan fighters received financial support from the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia that wished to counter what they perceived as a growing Soviet threat.

To this day, the Soviet legacy remains a complicated issue for many Afghans. On the one hand, Afghanistan survived the war and invasion, while on the other, it continued to receive Soviet assistance and aid since the 1950s. The Soviets also left their mark in Afghanistan through the many structures they built, such as government ministries, hospitals, universities and residential buildings.

“The Soviets were not like NATO and the American troops – they did not want to be in towns. They preferred working with the Afghan military in the provinces. When the Soviet troops saw Afghan women, they turned their faces away, which we appreciated. They gave the children sweets. People were better off then than they are now. We’d receive free food.” Says Roshan Sirran, whose father and brother were soldiers in the Afghan army. They were trained by Soviets and rewarded with an apartment built by Soviet engineers.

When the Taliban came to power, Roshan lost her job as a teacher and in defiance of the regime turned the family home into a school for girls.

Yet Habibullah Rafi, a leading Afghan writer, insists that no country has the right to invade another. He is convinced that NATO and the United States will soon learn this lesson.

“We Afghan people hate those foreigners who come to our country for their own purposes – to attack and control. America is making the same mistakes the Soviets made,” Rafi said. “They go to the villages, they bomb. Innocent people die. They have promised to help Afghanistan, but they haven’t done anything. Murder is murder.”