Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Muj Mags in Kabul

While in Kabul on film-making business I made a stop off at the Wahdat Library in Kot-e Sangi.  I was visiting its eponymous owner, Ahmad Shah Wahdat, a very brave journalist who edited various newspapers in Peshawar during the Jihad against the Soviets in the 1980s.  He has been collecting every magazine he can get his hands on since that time, right through the years of Taliban rule in Kabul (1994-2001) up to today.  It is, to my knowledge, the finest collection of mujahedin print journalism in the world - and hardly anyone has seen it.  He lives very simply in a scruffy area of town in the west of the city.

He took me to his house down this little backstreet:

Inside a dark basement were mountains and mountains of neatly stacked magazines. Many were in colour, including this one, called 'Blood Inheritance' which supported the Panjshiri mujahedin commander Ahmad Shah Massoud:

Another one of them, 'al-Jihad', was full of pictures of dead mujahedin (and Soviets) and blown up Soviet tanks.  It even had a slip where you could make donations:

This magazine was funded by Osama Bin Laden's teacher and mentor, the Palestinian Sunni Islamic scholar Abdullah Azam.  It was written in Arabic and published in Peshawar: although it was designed to be a source of information for arabic speakers in Pakistan, more importantly it aimed to spread the message of defensive Jihad in Afghanistan to the wider Muslim world.  In this magazine one gets a sense of how a localised war in Afghanistan became a global war.

Wahdat remembers Abdullah Azam from his time in Peshawar, before Azam was killed in a bomb blast in 1989.  Here is Azam photographed in his own magazine - he certainly wanted to show himself as a warrior rather than a cloistered intellectual:

Ahmad Shah Wahdat returned to Afghanistan in the civil war era, and was later imprisoned by the Taliban for two months for a single cartoon he drew, showing how the Taliban mistreated women:

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