South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Title: Whispers of War: An Afghan Freedom Fighter’s Account of the Soviet Invasion

Author: Masood Khalili

Publisher: Sage

Price: Rs. 495

Masood Khalili’s book Whisper of War: An Afghan Freedom Fighter’s Account of the Soviet Invasion is one of the most powerful books I have come across on the fight against Union of Soviet Socialists Republics (USSR). It is the real-life tale of a young political leader, Masood Khalili. He is a son of Ustad Khaliullah Khalili, the great Afghan poet, he motivated his people and led them in their fight against the Soviet army. The author is now a diplomat.

The book is about his journey on horseback, on foot from Pakistan’s Chitral in July 1986 to Afghanistan’s Panjshir valley to meet the legendary commander ‘Lion of the Panjshir Valley’ Ahmed Shah Massoud. He was accompanied by a team of foreign journalists. He described in detail Massoud’s personality. He was a perfect commander and used to plan operations minutely. Massoud fought brilliantly against Soviet’s Red Army and also against terrorist organizations like Taliban and Al Qaida. He was assassinated on September 9, 2001, by two suicide bombers, pretending to be journalists, sent by Osama Bin Laden. The author was with Massoud at that time. He was seriously injured, lost one eye and hundreds of small shrapnel pieces hit his body. Two days later on September 11, 2001, Al Qaida attacked World Trade Center in New York and Pentagon. Massoud is remembered in Afghanistan for his contribution in liberating Afghanistan.

As Author was missing his wife Sohaila, he used to write letters to her in his war diary, whenever he used to get time. The book primarily consist these letters with some changes. His son Mahmud translated his one war diary into Whispers of War. The author had written more than 40 war diaries to his wife. It is an insider’s account. The author narrates, while passing through difficult and porous terrain at some places, they witnessed Soviet helicopters and fighter planes bombarding the areas, causing severe damages and killing of innocent people. But, he says common Afghans were prepared to sacrifice everything for the freedom. Warriors were using the road, in which he traveled, for carrying weapons and other essentials. He took us to the tops of 17,000 foot high mountains, in freezing cold in deep snow by foot, on donkey, and on horseback.

He was surprised to see two Arabs in a small village in Nooristan. The Arabs asked author his name and where he was going. Pointing fingers towards foreign journalists Arabs asked who they were. The author got wild with the presence of Arabs and the manner they were asking questions. He was angry with Arabs. He told Maulvi Afzal,” A Nooristani can ask me any question they want, they can stop me, even shout at me. But I will not countenance an Arab asking me questions such as who I am, where I am going, and who my friends are.” Maulvi Afzal was a follower of Salafi. About Salafi, he writes, “A religious commodity imported recently from Pakistan.” His local colleagues said,” some of the villagers were not at all happy to see Arabs in their valleys acting like their bosses, but that they were helpless.” Before leaving the area Author called Arabs and said,” Be careful. Afghanistan is a different and difficult country. We are all Muslims but when the question of land, liberty, and pride are at stake, we are Afghans. If I used harsh words against you, it was because, all of a sudden, you asked questions of me that were not yours to ask. Talk to Afghans as if you are their respected guests, and never talk to them as if you are their disrespected bosses.”

The presence of Arabs disturbed Author. He was also worried about rising influence of Salafism. Even Massoud was concerned. He said,” We should work very hard to lay the foundations of peace in a post-war Afghanistan.” Afghanistan has various ethnic groups and unity among them is necessity for the peace.

In the epilogue, he writes,” The freedom that people gained through so many sacrifices was shattered by the fanatic ideas of Taliban.” Commander Massoud was aware of dangers from Taliban and other religious militant groups. In fact, he repeatedly warned the world, especially the United States, that one day Al Qaida will reach their shores. No one believed him, or may be, they did not want to believe him.

By: Jatin Desai


Updated On: Aug 20, 2017