Features of Genocide in Afghanistan
The Afghans are among the latest victims of genocide by a superpower. Large numbers of Afghans were killed to suppress resistance to the army of the Soviet Union, which wished to vindicate its client regime and realize its goal in Afghanistan. Thus, the mass killing was political.
Incidents of the mass killing of noncombatant civilians were observed in the summer of 1980, when the mujahideen frustrated the invaders in their program of speedy conquest. Three considerations prompted the invading army to resort to indiscriminate mass killing outside battle zones. Unable to locate the elusive mujahideen, the wrath of the invading army fell on civilians as well, punishing them for their support of the mujahideen. The mujahideen had to be detached from the people. As guerrilla fighters, they could not be a viable force without the support of local populations. Hence, the Soviets felt it necessary to suppress defenseless civilians by killing them indiscriminately, by compelling them to flee abroad, and by destroying their crops and means of irrigation, the basis of their livelihood. The dropping of booby traps from the air, the planting of mines, and the use of chemical substances, though not on a wide scale, were also meant to serve the same purpose. Also, since the Soviets did not increase the number of their troops above around 120,000 at any one time, they undertook military operations in an effort to ensure speedy submission: hence the wide use of aerial weapons, in particular helicopter gunships or the kind of inaccurate weapons that cannot discriminate between combatants and noncombatants. However, although the total number of the victims of genocide was high, it was not high in each separate incident.
A common feature of the Soviet program of total war was retributive mass killing, which was their means of repaying tough resistance. For example, in revenge for the killing by the mujahideen of three Russian soldiers, the commander brother of the fallen captain led his commando unit into the city of Tashqurghan in April 1982 and razed the city, killing at least two hundred of its defenseless civilians. A third consideration in the mass killing was the necessity of silencing the mujahideen before the Afghan issue attracted too much international support. On the one hand, the authorities prevented the entry into Afghanistan of foreign mass media personnel; on the other, it branded the freedom fighters as “bandits” and “robbers,” claiming that they “had sold their body and soul to the American dollars, the Pakistani rupees, and the British pounds.” Soldiers of the invading army branded the mujahideen as dushman (enemy) as well as basmachis (anti-Russian Muslim freedom fighters of Bukhara). This branding was intended to justify the extermination of the mujahideen because as “robbers” they were the disturbers of peace and social order. Another aspect of the genocide was the killing of civilians while praying in mosques, performing wedding or funeral ceremonies, forming sizable groups for any civil purpose, or engaging in the customs and conventions that constitute the Afghan social fabric. It would appear strange to think that the Soviets were unable to comprehend that these were peaceful and civic gatherings. The frequency of such killing made the Afghans believe that the Russians were barbarians (wahshi). The acts of genocide were the work of the Soviets, and as guides or collaborators the Parchamis as well as some Khalqis played the role of accomplices.
Because Afghanistan has long been a crossroad, famous conquerors such as Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Timur Lane, Babur, Nadir Shah Afshar, and the British have invaded it, but the Soviet invaders have surpassed all in the systematic killing of its people and the destruction of their land. They did so at a time when nations had never been so loud in support of peace, and never so loud in opposition to war. Among the governments of the world, the Soviet government was the loudest in all this, as well as in its trumpeting of the rights of the toiling people, an instance of truly Orwellian doublespeak. It is thus fitting to cite a few historical facts about the Russians to convey a view of their national culture.