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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ghobar, Mir Gholam Mohamad

Short Biography of Mir Gholam Mohamad Ghobar

Mir Gholam M. Ghobar, son of Mirza Mir Mahbub was born in 1899 in Kabul. He received a private education with most of his studies in the fields of history, literature, philosophy, and social sciences. His youth coincided with the beginning of a social change in Afghanistan when Kabul witnessed publication of opposition intellectual circles. Subsequently, a political revolution and a vigorous social change emerged. As a result, Afghanistan gained victory in hits third war against Britain. These events created a favorable atmosphere for social changes by the young generation even though it did not last more than a decade.

His Occupations during the Amanollah Regime:

Editor of the weekly Stara-e-Afghan (Afghan Star) (1919-1920) (this publication, containing critical and reformist articles, was published in two pages in Jabal Seraj and Charikar.)
President of a public security department (1920-1921)
Member of Heart Tanzimiya (provincial administration) in 1921
Deputy assistant of the Amania Company and its trade representative in a Moscow exhibition in 1924
Secretary of Afghanistan’s Embassy in Paris in 1925
Director of customs in Qataghan-Badakhshan province (1927)
Elected representative of Kabul in the Paghman Loye Jirga in 1928

His Occupations during the Rule of the Nadir Shah Family:

First secretary of Afghan Embassy to Berlin in 1930 (later he resigned from this position and returned to Afghanistan to directly participate in the campaign against the tyranny of Nadir Shah)
Member of Kabul Literary Association in 1931-1932

Political Imprisonment (1933-1935) He was imprisoned because of the assassination s of three staffs of the British Embassy by Mohammad Azim.

He was banished to Farah and Kandahar because of the same incident (1935-1942)
Member of the History Association in Kabul (1943-1948)
Representative of Kabul citizens for the Seventh Parliament (1949-1951)
Founder and secretary of Watan Party, as well as founder and chief editor of the Watan Party publication organ (1951- 1952) (The Watan Newspaper, a critical paper, published in four pages, was banned by the government in 1951. The government in 1951. The government also suspended the party in 1952 and officially dissolved it in 1956.)

Political Imprisonment (1952-1956) He and a number of his party colleagues, was imprisoned on charges of leading an election demonstration.

For the next 20 years (1946-1978), Ghobar – liberal political activist and patriot, writer and journalist, and historian – who was under pressure and surveillance of the ruling family, had to confine to his residence his political and scholarly activities. He was widely known as an active national liberationist, journalist, writer, and historian. During this period, he wrote Afghanistan in the course of History. During this period, the government banned the publication of his articles and books, including the publication of the first volume of Afghanistan in the Course of History. The government also prevented him from being elected in the Parliament during the second period of the so-called “State Democracy.”

Death (February 5, 1978)

Ghobar went to West Berlin for stomach treatment. On February 5, 1978, he died in a hospital in Berlin. He died a few months before the coup of the Soviet- installed regime in Kabul. He was buried in his ancestral Shohadaye Salehin cemetery in Kabul.

Before his death, he had stated in his will that several hundred rare books of his private library be given to a public library. The books were granted to Kabul Public Library after his death.

He had also stated in his will these words: “I wish my children to have the bless of faith in unity of God, and success in service and compassion for the poor and humankind, which will bring them peace of mind and conscience, with optimism in life and death.”

Ghobar was deeply affected by human suffering, particularly the suffering of the oppressed. As a small child, I (Hashmat Gobar) remember one cold snowing winter day when I was walking with my father on Walayet Street in Kabul. He was holding my hand. We came across an old man sitting in a corner, shivering. His dignified look was full of sadness and pain. He was wearing a frayed shirt and trousers. My father took off his coat and gave it to the old man. He spent the rest of the winter without a coat because he had no other extra coat and could not afford to buy one. That day under heavy snowing, I witnessed his profound humanitarian feeling.

He advised his children to help the poor, as he was committed to serving them. He dedicated his life to this cause, never succumbing to governments in his campaign against oppression and threat to his life. From his prison and exile, he never wrote any plea to the government. Having failed to break him by chain and captivity, the ruling family desperately resorted through their agents to extensive negative propaganda against him.

During the second period of “democracy,” when the government used violence and conspiracy to block his election to the Parliament, a government agent at a gathering of Kabul residents at Zainab Theater, where Ghobar was making a speech, mentioned that Ghobar’s release from prison indicated his compromise with the government. Ghobar replied, “Tyrannical governments do not refrain from cowardly conspiracies and propaganda against their opponents. With conspiracy, the government, which holds the prison key, can imprison or release anyone it wishes. However, here before a number of government’s agents, I am challenging the government to show whatever evidence it has regarding my compromise or surrender in all my political life so that every body may know. They do not have such an evidence, but I will write the real history of people of Afghanistan, in which I will reveal documents about the oppressive governments and the persons related to them.” He fulfilled his promise by writing Afghanistan in the Course of History.

During the reign of the ruling family, he courageously told the truth, which is vividly manifested in his book Afghanistan in the Course of History. For example, Nadir Shah and later M. Daud, two most autocratic rulers of the country, asked Ghobar to cooperate with their despotic regimes. In rejecting these offers that Ghobar considered against the public interests, he had to accept years of captivity, banishment, and home surveillance. (See the second volume of Afghanistan in the Course of History).

However, others, not being able to resist the threats of the oppressors, capitulated out of fear. (For example, Mir M. Sadiq Ferhang, threatened by Daud, changed his line. Within a few years, he gradually fell into the bosom of the ruling family by accepting such posts as deputy minister and ambassador to Yugoslavia. Later, when Babrak Karmal, with the Soviet tanks and artillery was installed as the head of the Soviet puppet regime in Kabul, Ferhang served as official advisor to Karmal during that dark and bloody period in Afghanistan). Because of personal interests, positions, material privileges, and for attracting the attention of oppressive rulers and foreign invaders, these individuals deviated from the path of the people and truth. Later, to justify their deeds, they and their relatives leveled accusations against patriotic dissidents.

During the reign of the ruling family, servants of the oppressors flattered, and distorted the history of the country. After the fall of the ruling family, suddenly they changed course, writing “borrowed” history and distorted “memoirs,” with lies from start to end. They distorted the episodes of their services to the oppressors. (For example, Seyyid Qassem Reshtiya, who had held ministerial and ambassadorial posts during the reign of the ruling family, had become so accustomed to them, that he tried to gain another post in the new Soviet puppet regime of Nur Mohammad Taraki in Kabul, without having the slightest regard for Afghanistan’s national interests. Therefore, he set out to please the regime. In a televised meeting held by the puppet regime against the former ruling family, Reshtiya severely attacked his old benefactors and called them “the Al-Yahya Family traitors,” whom he had addressed in the past as “His Majesty and His Highness” for a half century and had distorted the history of Afghanistan to please them. In the same way, he wrote several articles in the newspapers. After the collapse of the communists, Reshtiya changed course again. To please the former king, Mohammad Zaher Shah, he included in his memoirs the photo of the king standing with him and his brother, Mir M. Sadiq Ferhang.) When Ghobar lived in captivity, exile, and under house surveillance and harassment, these gentlemen were ministers, ambassadors, and advisors, living a life of comfort and pleasure inside and abroad.

I remember a day when a covert agent of the ruling family visited our house on the Walayet Street. In a casual conversation with my father, he tried to discover the real writer of an article about Reshtiya titled “Yesterday’s Thief, Today’s President and Minister of Tomorrow.” Of course, he failed to identify the author. Later, however, he disclosed the purpose of his visit by imparting to Ghobar the hidden threat of the ruling family in apparent “good-will” and “friendly” language. For example, he asked Ghobar: “What would become of his three daughters in the future, if Ghobar went to prison again because of his political activities? Ghobar asked this person, “What is the population of Afghanistan?” he said, “About 12 or 15 million people.” Ghobar replied, “Half of this figure, about 8 million, are women. How can I quit my struggle in defending the rights of 8 million daughters and mothers of this nation because of my three daughters?”

Ghobar left behind his wife, Lady Saleha, with seven children: Maria Ghobar, Rona Ghobar, Donia Ghobar, Asad Hassan Ghobar, Ashraf Shahab Ghobar, Ibrahim Adham Ghobar, and Hashmat Khalil Ghobar. In his diary, he wrote these words about his wife: “Lady Saleha is a literate and industrious woman, a companion of my life, a partner in all my distressing and dangerous adventures, a woman of patience and courage, who has raised virtuous children and endured a great deal of hardship.”

Ghobar’s Works

It is worth saying that until 70 years ago the history of Afghanistan, with all of its richness, remained obscure and confused in the folds of the historical works of others who wrote abut Afghanistan. Even in the Afghan schools of the time, the teaching of Afghanistan’s history covered Afghanistan since the 18th century and approach that terribly harmed the culture, the history, the national honor and unity of the country. As it appears, Ghobar was the first person that sensed this serious flaw and corrected it by being a pioneer in writing the history of Afghanistan, opening the path for new historians to follow. By writing Afghanistan in the Course of History, forty years later, Ghobar introduced an advanced form of analytical historiography.

The first volume of Afghanistan in the Course of History, in 840 pages, was first printed in 3000 copies by Kabul Public Printing House in 1967. The government banned the book before its publication. More than 15,000 copies of the book were printed outside the country. This is the first scholarly written history of Afghanistan, which starts from the beginning of the historical period to the early second quarter of the 20th century.

Details abut the First Edition of Afghanistan in the Course of History

The Book Publishing Institution signed an official contract with Ghobar to print the first volume of the Afghanistan in the Course of History in 3000 copies, of which the author was to receive 300 copies. (The institution was part of the Ministry of Information, headed by Abdol Rauf Binawa, and Hashem Maiwandwal was the then prime minister.) However, after its last page came out of the print, the ruling family immediately banned the book without any official announcement. Later, the new Prime Minister, Nur Ahmad Etamadi, a grandson of Sardar Sultan Mohammad Talayi, officially announced the banning of the book at a hearing session of the Parliament without the ruling of a legal court.

Mohammad Anas (a grandson of Amir Dost Mohammad), the new minister of information, officially summoned Ghobar at the ministry to seize abut forty copies of the book he had already obtained. (Hashmat Khalil Ghobar had already taken out the books from the printing house on the contract basis.) With threatening words, he told Ghobar: “You have passed most of your life in prison. Therefore, any imprisonment threat will not affect me at all. I considered writing the real history of the Afghan people as my duty. The legal way for you is to lift the ban on the history I wrote and then the government, with all its facility, can assign some of its hired writers, who in the past distorted events in the country’s history, to write against it.”

As long as the ruling family was in power, the first volume of Afghanistan in the Course of History was banned. A few months after Ghobar passed away, a communist coup overthrew the government and a Soviet-installed regime came to power in 1978. Only one month after it took power, the new regime lifted the ban and allowed the book to be published, hoping to win the public support. However, the regime, decided to stop the distribution of the book three days after it noticed that it had a strong national spirit against foreign aggression, but during the first three days, about 3000 copies had sold out, with nothing left to be banned.

The first volume of Afghanistan in the Course of History was printed seven more times outside Afghanistan, selling more than 50,000 copies. Some rumors spread by one or two politically or materially biased individuals that the original copy had been tampered with in the later editions published outside the country, are completely false. All of the subsequently publications of the book have been from the original copy without any change.

The second volume of Afghanistan in the Course of History was written in 1973 in Kabul, but it was not possible to publish it because of M. Daud’s suppressive regime. In his will, Ghobar had entrusted his son (Hashamat Ghobar) to preserve the manuscript of the second volume and print it in an appropriate time. The successive oppressive regimes and then the foreign aggression in Afghanistan blocked and delayed its publication. Providing funds for the publication was another delaying factor. Finally, the original Persian text, without the slightest change, was printed in 285 pages by Speedy Printing in June 1999 in Virginia, USA. And now the English translation of the second volume is published. The book covers the eventful years of the second quarter of the 20th century.

Afghanistan and a View of Its History is about the geographical history of Afghanistan. It was published in 190 pages in the first-year’s issues of Majallah-e Kabul (from the second issue to the 12th issue) by Kabul General Printing in 1931.

Afghanistan in India, in 95 pages, is the history of the expansion of Afghanistan’s political influence in India. It was published in the first nine issues of Majallah-e Kabul (Kabul Magazine, 1932).

Brief History of Afghanistan, in 68 illustrated pages, covers Afghanistan from the ancient time of Avesta to the 20th century. It was published in the first edition of Kabul Salnameh (Year Book) in 1932 with an appendix of the ancient names of Afghanistan and its provinces.

Ahmad Shah Baba, printed in Kabul in 1943, 352 pages, covers the historical events of Afghanistan in the 18th century. Before publishing this book, Ghobar had made available a portion of its manuscript to Abdol Hay Habibi, who often visited Ghobar during his exile in Kandahar. Later, Habibi went to Kabul, where he wrote a detailed introduction to Ahmad Shah’s Divan (book of poetry) and published it. He used a portion of Ghobar’s manuscript in writing about the birth date, the birthplace, coronation, works, the administration, and other aspects of Ahmad Shah’s reign in his introduction, which he printed in 1940. Habibi did not acknowledge the source of the introduction, but he also, as the deputy director of the Press and Information Department, in a written statement called the publication of Ghobar’s book against the national interests of the country. After returning to Kabul after his banishment, Ghobar mentioned this issue in the introduction of his work.

Resala-e Khorason (Essay on Khorasan as the old name of Afghanistan for a thousand years. Based on reliable historical and geographical documents, this essay was published in 100 pages in 1947 in Kabul.

Essay on Local Afghan Rulers was published in 58 pages in Ariana Magazine (issues 11-12 in 1933 and issues 3-7 in 1934)

Emergence of Islam and Arab Influence in Afghanistan, in 112 pages, was published in the third volume of Afghanistan’s History in 1947 in Kabul.

History of First Centuries, in 226 pages, was published as a high school textbook, with the cooperation of Dost Mohammad, a history teacher, in Kabul in 1947.

Afghanistan in a Glance, in 284 pages, was published in 1947 in Kabul. The ruling family did not like the sheet related to the Mohammadzai period, therefore, it assigned Najibollah Khan, the minister of education, who was related to the family, to replace the sheet after the first print, by a sheet of his own writing without the permission of Ghobar.

Literature in the Mohammadzai Period (the fifth section of Afghanistan’s Literary History), in 81 pages, was published in Kabul in 1952.

A series of historical, social and political essays, biographies of noted Afghan figures, and introduction to a number of manuscripts on the history of Afghanistan were published in Kabul periodicals and Encyclopedia of Afghanistan, some of which appeared in various issues of Ariana Magazine in 1943-49.

Ghobar’s famous article titled “Our Economy” was published in Islah on October 9, 1946.
The article was critical of the economic approach and a number of top capitalists and merchants, led by Abdol Majid Zaboli, the minister of economy. They had formed a partnership with the ruling family and by gaining massive profits were increasing poverty to the poor and destroying the economy of the city and rural middle class, small merchants and businessmen. The article, caused a great deal of commotion, and the government threatened Ghobar in person in a Cabinet meeting and punished the editor of the Islah newspaper. Mohammad Akbar Etamadi and Ebrahim Afifi tried to defend Zaboli by writing against the article.

Ghobar was also the editor of the weekly-Stara-e Afghan (Afghan Star) paper, which was published in two pages from Jabal Seraj and then Charikar in 1919-1920. The purpose of publishing the paper was to keep alive the spirit of jihad against British imperialism and the threshold of the Afghan war of independence. In his later articles in the paper, Ghobar adopted a critical view with regard to the government management.

Ghobar was also the founder and chief editor of the weekly Watan Newspaper (1950-51), which was the organ of the Watan Party in Kabul and was banned by the government.

The Literary History of Afghanistan from the early historical period to the 20 the century (not published).

Ghobar’s Notes (not published)

It should be remembered that Ghobar wrote most of his works under the iron heel of tyranny, therefore, some distortions were imposed by the state censorship such as deletion or addition or change of words, sentences, or even pages of a book. However, the first and second volumes of Afghanistan in the Course of History, which are the first scholarly and analytical history of the country, remained intact and did not suffer any distortion by the government censorship because the despotic government banned the first volume totally and the second volume was never given to them. Later the first volume was printed abroad several times and the second volume, which could not be published during the tyrannical regime of the time, is now available in print abroad, both in original Persian and in English translation.