Newsreel - Karmal press conference
Topic: press conference, Karmal, Parcham, Amin, prison amnesty, death lists
Summary: Date (Afghan Calendar): 1359
The first segment shows only press conference given by Karmal, shortly after the installation of Parcham regime. He makes a statement on Amin regime and new plan. The second segment shows families reading the official death lists after the prison amnesty.
Footage Source: Afghan Films 35mm positive
Translated by Rajni Prakash.
commentary by Mohammed Kassem Karimi, Afghan Films sound recordist, present at the press conference.
At Afghan Films, he worked on 60 newsreels, 4 features and many documentaries.
Afghan Films Presents
The screen reads: Afghan Films presents
General Secretary of Central Committee of People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, Chairman of Revolutionary Council and Prime Minister Babrak Karmal received some local as well as foreign journalists for a press conference in Chehlstoon Building on Thursday 20th of Jadi (10th January) and responded to their questions in a completely democratic and cordial atmosphere.
The first shot is of the microphones - he points out the Afghan Films mic.
AF was producing ten-minute weekly newsreels for the cinemas, so they cut down the original sound or didn't use it; but RTA (national television) has all of the original sound from the same event. This press conference was held at the Chilsutun Palace, which was built by Zahir Shah for the visits of foreign dignitaries [as seen in other newsreels in archives] and was destroyed during the war.
This legendarily disastrous press conference was held at the Chilsutun Palace, built by Zahir Shah for the visits of foreign dignitaries, and later destroyed during the civil war. According to Mohammed Kassem Karimi, who was the official Afghan Films press representative at this press conference, this "was the first press conference for Karmal, it had only been five days since the coup d'etat and his return. He was a bit thrown by the questions posed by foreign journalists, he responded too quickly, without thinking first. He was a bit nervy and he was smoking cigarettes [though in the footage, you see the ashtray next to him in the long shots, but never a shot of him actually smoking] and an American or BBC journalist asked him, if you are against America, why are you smoking LM cigarettes [an American brand]? Karmal very quickly replied, I smoke them because I like to light my American cigarettes with a Russian match.
[MG: I always heard that quote attributed to Daoud!
K: No, Daoud never smoked.
Karimi adds that in those days all the matches in Afghanistan were Russian.
In response to the reporter of Pravda Newspaper on the development of Afghanistan's relationship with neighboring countries he replied that, "I assure you in one decisive sentence that I am completely optimistic about very good relations of Afghanistan with Pakistan and Iran and very soon we will take up initiatives that will nullify the conspiracy of Imperialist America and its Chinese allies towards a friendly relationship between the Muslim people of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan."
The General Secretary of the Central Committee of People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, in response to a query by the BBC Radio representative from England about unity and the nature of all developed forces in Afghanistan, replied, 'The promise that I have made before the independent and decent people of Afghanistan on account of the leadership of second round of Sawr (April) Revolution, leadership of party and government and Democratic Republic of Afghanistan is that whatever he(I) says he(I) applies and implements that. It is due to the great National Fatherland Front that you will see one basic principle of second round of Sawr (April) Revolution through Afghanistan media and also in practicality.'
In response to the question from a representative of Bulgaria Radio TV, about the support of Socialist Societies and National Liberation Societies of the world, (he says) that from the first day of success of Sawr (April) Revolution they have expressed their deep support. General Secretary of Central Committee of People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, Chairman of Revolutionary Council and Prime Minister of Democratic Republic of Afghanistan Babrak Karmal evaluated this collaboration in this new stage of Afghanistan's revolution as follows: it is being said openly that if the support of Socialist Countries, the world's advanced powers, the world's national liberation movement and cooperation was not there with Afghanistan's glorious Revolution, then due to America's imperialism, regional interference and China's provocations, civil war would have started in Afghanistan. This alliance has given an irrecusable answer to all conspiracies and efforts of the world's imperialism.
Karimi himself asked questions of Karmal, Taraki and Najib at press conferences on behalf of Afghan Films. But the government gave them the questions in advance, because there wasn't any freedom of the press at that time.
As an example, at the last press conference of Dr. Najib, for National TV, Karimi was given a question for the Foreign Minister in which he had to refer to Dr. Najib as 'the shahid Najibullah.' Many people were upset with him over this, but he was in a difficult position, and had to behave as if he supported the government position at the time, which was that Najib was a Muslim and not a Communist.
Another question was given to him to ask directly to Najib, which was during the time of reconciliation and the Bensiwon (UN envoy - sp?) plan, was 'how do you plan to create a government that is neither against the Communists nor against the mujahidin?' Najib's response was that the Karmal-Najib-Taraki government had worked for 15 years, but everyone knew it couldn't continue on, as the Russians were leaving and cutting their aid and the economy would collapse, and for this reason he agreed with Bensiwon's plan to hand over power to a more neutral government.
That was the only question given to him by the government for that press conference; but if you listen to reports by other journalists from the same era, you can hear other questions. There was one journalist, from the BBC, who came often during those years and who was singled out by Najib, who accused him of deliberately slanting reports to make the situation appear worse than it was.
In response to the reporter of the Press Trust of India, who asked, 'What do you think about Pakistan's increasing army presence along its shared border with you as a non-united country?', the Chairman of Revolutionary Council of Democratic Republic of Afghanistan replied, 'I do not want to say that this is Pakistani or this is American. I thank you that you, as a respected journalist, revealed this fact before the western journalists and said that army bases of Imperialist countries, China and reactionary forces of Pakistan are getting ready to attack Afghanistan's territorial integrity from the length of its border. I assure you that the people of Afghanistan will give them an irrecusable answer like steel boxers (sic) as they had given to British colonialists and Imperialist invaders three times.'
During the time of Najib, Taraki and Karmal there was a Cold War here. We lost everything during this Cold War between capitalism and communism. Many of the Western journalists' questions were also part of this dynamic; they tried to make the politicians betray themselves with their answers. Karmal was good at avoiding this trap, but Najib, who was a famous speaker even as a student, was even better. But Bensiwon, the UN envoy charged with reconciling Najib and the mujahidin, really did betray Najib, by getting him to sign onto the UN plan and then not following through with it.
In the meantime, he replied to a reporter of the Bakhtar News Agency about the identity and nature of Hafizullah Amin - and the personality of this historic bloodsucker; that one point must be cleared about Hafizullah Amin's identity which was once revealed by an American Imperialistic publication, that those who do not acquire membership of the CIA of America cannot become President of the American Students' Union. Hafizullah Amin was proud to say that he was President of the American Students' Union and had the pride of getting membership of the CIA. Asia Foundation is one of the organizations that is being supported by CIA. Hafizullah Amin had expressed his pride in his circular for his cooperation with this organization. His letter still exists and was sent to all Afghans at that time. Amin has written in that letter that he had received few thousand dollars aid from Asia Foundation.
In his opinion, all the problems of today are the children of the problems of yesterday. We have been at war ever since the time of Amir Dost Mohammed Khan, except for the peace under Zahir. Under both Najib and Karmal reconciliation programs for mujahidin were created (Pader Watan and Dasht-e-Milli), and in Najib's time, an offer was even made to Ahmad Shah Massoud to become the Chief of Staff of the army, but all the offers of peace were refused.
As per the prior decision, statement and notification of Government of Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, all our people who have gone through pain and have suffered a lot including men and women gathered on 23rd Jadi (13th January) in Mosques and Public Halls across the country and observed national mourning, sympathy and condolence meetings.
General Secretary of Central Committee of People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, Chairman of Revolutionary Council of Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and Prime Minister Babrak Karmal participated in those condolence gatherings which were held in the Jama Mosque of Revolutionary Council's center. After the recitation of a few verses of the Holy Quran, prayers were offered for the holy spirit of martyrs of independence and thousands of innocent compatriots who were killed under cleaver of bloodsucker headsman Amin, recognized member of CIA, who supports Carter and is partner to his offences and crimes. The prayer said - may God help us so that we get victory over enemies of our country and make peace strong in our country and steer the country towards progress and prosperity.
In this second part of the newsreel, Karmal has gone to the government mosque to say a fatiha for all the people killed by Amin and their families.
On the 16th day after Karmal's arrival they opened the doors of Pul-e-Charkhi prison and all the people put in by Amin came out, and some people who thought their sons or fathers were dead saw them come out alive. Many people were killed during that time, but secretly, so there are many people today who still don't know what happened to their relatives. In Karimi's own family, he had a relative who was a pilot and had to parachute out of his plane, but they never found out what happened to him after that.
The narration here is criticizing the work of Amin and saying that God is behind the work of the current government.
In those condolence gatherings which were held in Pul-e-Khishti, Sherpour, Shah-e-do Shamshera Jama Mosques, tens of thousands of residents of Kabul including government and non government officials, members of People's Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, members of Youth Wing of Democratic Party, craftsmen and people from different sections had participated.
In all the mosques of Afghanistan, during these first days of the Karmal government, everyone was saying the same fatiha.
The room you see with the women is a separate one, outside the mosque, for women to say fatiha. It still exists in Sharenaw.
Likewise, in the public halls of Shahr-e-Now, Chaman and Karte, 4 women from Afghan Democratic Women's Organization and other honorable and sensible women held condolence gatherings from 8 am to 12 noon. In these gatherings, thousands of our mothers and sisters participated, those who had lost their nears and dears, fathers, brothers, husbands, children and relatives shared sorrow with each other with lots of sadness and grief and saluted the departed souls and prayed for them.
Everyone you see here had a family member killed under the previous regime. The praying was a way for the government to make official amends to them.
In the same manner, in row of national condolence day members of Central Committee of People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, members of Revolutionary Council, Government Officials and high ranking civil servants up to rank number 2 went to Prime Minister Office from 8:30 am till 10:00 am in turns and entered their sorrow and grief in that special diary which was kept for this purpose itself and signed the diary. The USSR ambassador in Kabul and few other ambassadors and charge de affairs and delegations from embassies also went to the Prime Minister Office between 11:00 am to 12:00 noon and by showing their grief signed the diary.
Here you see members of the party and government coming to sign this book, to certify that this is a day of national sadness in Afghanistan.
All the ministers and also all the foreign ambassadors that were in Kabul at that time came to sign as a symbol of mourning.
Degrees of students of (hasty) political courses of Army University were distributed on 22nd Jadi (12th January) in a military ceremony by members of Central Committee of People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, board members of Revolutionary Council of Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and Chairman of Political Affairs of Afghanistan People's Armed Forces Lieutenant Colonel Gul Agha in compound of Army University. In beginning of the ceremony, National Anthem of Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was played. After that, Lieutenant Colonel Gul Agha, in his lengthy speech, congratulated graduates and employees of this university for the success of this new stage of the glorious Sawr (April) Revolution and with reference to Hafizullah Amin - this national traitor and representative of Imperialism's dark and accused orders he said that "he, the historical headman and killer, wanted to separate beloved Afghanistan by plotting his dirty and untoward plans and throwing it into the grave of poverty.
In this segment, General Sher Agha, chief of the military academy is handing out certificates of graduation on the 28th of Jadi.
By the time this was filmed, a month had passed since Karmal's arrival, so this is three weeks after the press conference.
The chief is congratulating the graduates on behalf of the Saur Revolutionaries, and critiquing the government of Amin. He says that Amin wanted to make Afghanistan isolated through his strategies during his administration.
In Karimi's experience, every new administration was very critical of the previous one, no matter how they actually did the job.
Karmal and Najib actually worked well for the benefit of the country and tried to give the mujahidin a seat at the table, but they didn't accept
Let the light of effective knowledge shine forever.