Newsreel rushes - 1970s 7
Duration: 00:06:13; Aspect Ratio: 1.366:1; Hue: 149.382; Saturation: 0.003; Lightness: 0.273; Volume: 0.019; Cuts per Minute: 36.122
Summary: Land Reform by the PDPA in the provinces. Also contains a critique of the times by Engineer Latif.
Footage Source: DVCAM tape transfer
A province in North Afganistan. Engineer Latif thinks it would be Faryab. This silent footage was shot in 1978 when the Communist party, PDPA was carrying out land reforms throughout Afghanistan.
Feelings accumulate in and around archives over time, just as documents do. When we come to images as strangers we read them differently than their makers, and their archivists, who may also differ from the makers on important points of categorization and description. Even someone who was alive at the time this film was made feels it differently in our present than he would have in its past or again in its future. When I look at this film I do think the lambs are happy, but I don't mean it sarcastically.
Land was taken from the feudal class and re-distributed amongst the farmers who actually tilled it. These were the herds of the feudals that were given to the shephards as part of the land reforms.
The Communist Party, PDPA, brought out seven or eight new laws - land reform was one of them. If you had two houses, one would be taken away. If you had a factory, it would be taken away by the government and made into government property.
Another one of those laws was a ceiling on the bride-price (dowry) at 300 Afghani. There was a joke at that time - 'Look, my shoes are more expensive than a woman!' Marraige became a choice for the first time. Traditionally marriages were always arranged.
Engineer Latif: These are propaganda shots for all of Afghanistan to see. The PDPA speakers made trips to different parts of Afghanistan to talk about the democratic regime and to establish their ideas.
They wanted to introduce their strategies, to say that the last regime has been replaced by them and to discuss their plans for the future of Afghanistan propaganda
"Even the lambs are happy!", remarks someone, sarcastically.
Engineer Latif: The land reform only took place in the districts, the provinces and suburbs. In Kabul, the shape of this propoganda was different. There were many demonstrations and meetings. In the demonstrations, they spoke about the goodness of the Russian regime and of the Middle East.
Like with every regime, there were people who supported them and people who opposed them. But after two or three years, people saw what direction the country was going in. Islam was being questioned. That's when a lot of people withdrew their support. Some totally opposed the regime and went to the mountains and armed themselves and came back to fight.
The Communists didn't directly oppose Islam but all their activities and their notions about Islam were very cold. They had invisible policies to supress religion. They gave a kind of indepence to the people, which Islam was against. For example, girls and boys would participate in music, dancing and theatre on the streets. They got rid of the chador. People were as independent as any of the other Middle East countries.
The PDPA government would give free food and free clothes to the people in the provinces. They would get this material from Russia and distribute it among the people. This was a strategy to get people to join them.
Under the PDPA women could be active members of society. They started many organisations for this purpose. Women could work without chador in offices. They wanted to build a new culture -a culture that involved the people. But they gave no oppurtunity for people to work privately. Engineer Latif who had his own film company called Ariana was not allowed to continue. Taraki, the President, sent a message through the ministry for Engineer Latif to join the government-run Afghan Film. The PDPA wanted to emulate the government of Russia. All private sector was taken over by the government.
As a film maker, says Engineer Latif, this time was not suitable. At this period in time, to change the minds of people, they needed to have proceeded slowly. But the change came very fast. People couldn't accept this rapid change and began to look upon the Communists as the enemy.
There was a political point to this also. Our neighbours, Iran and Pakistan wanted to benefit from this turmoil, so they get involved and created opportunities for the Mujahideen by way of weapons, money and equipment. Specially Pakistan. It was a great oppurtunity for the Mujahideen because they came to the front, fought, then retreated to Pakistan. Then when they had amassed enough resources, money, weapons for another attack, they would come to the front again. All their planning happened in Pakistan.
I was attached to the government but not to the Party. It was difficult to criticise the Party very openly. So we make films in which we described the situation as it was. It was a reaction to the people, to the life of the people and to society. To the Mujahideen fighting the government and the government's situation during the fighting.
So the first film in that time that I made was about the time of the revolution when the intellectuals and people associated with the arts and culture were leaving Afghanistan. They would leave by road and I wanted to make a film about what happens on that journey from Kabul to the Pakistan border. Many of the immigrants lost everything. Young girls who wanted to leave Afghanistan would travel with families and sometimes they'd be stopped by a Commander who would want to marry them and they'd be taken away. There would be no news of them after that. Also the Arab Commanders would come and take the women away to their countries, marry them and have children. Their families would have no idea where their daughters or wives were.
The film I made was called 'Faraar' or 'Escape'.
Another film I made was about the young generation. the government needed soldiers. But the young people did not want to join the army because they knew they would get killed. So they fled the country.
These were real events happening in Afghanistan. Our films were a reaction to the society of that time.
March after the land was divided.
Engineer Latif: The truck is carrying the President, Nur Muhammed Taraki's poster. In the start of the revolution the PDPA wanted to make people aware that the regime has changed, that another era was going to begin. In the start, people accept this change. But as things progressed, the people felt this was not the way they wanted to go. It was against their ideas and life and culture and religion.
Most of the Communist Party leaders were educated in Russia. So their ideas were formed in that context. But that was a great mistake. The people were not able to understand or accept these Communist ideas and meanings and feelings in everything. thats why they turned against the Party.
At first, the farmers accepted this land that the government was giving them because they had worked on the land. But then according to the Koran regulations, they could not keep it because it did not belong to them and so they returned it to the Khan (feudal lord). One of the greatest mistakes of the PDPA was that they, very suddenly, came down heavily on the feudals, the Khan. It was wrong to do this so quickly. These ideas need time. This act of theirs had a bad reaction on the people and the Khans. They put the Khan on a donkey blackened his face and parraded him through the village announcing, "This is a Khan and this is what he has done to the people and to the country."
The Khans had very old and very deep relations with the farmers. And so both the Khans and even the farmers went to the mountains, got armed and retaliated against the government and the Party. The Khans also had direct relations with the people in power in Pakistan which was useful for the Mujahideen. The Khans gave support to the Mujahideen - in weapons, food and of course with their connections in Pakistan.
In the begining the PDPA was very tough and very harsh. They didn't acknowledge the Mujahideen as Mujahideen. They called them 'Ashrar' - burning/making fight/jealous. Mujahid was a term that meant 'the people who struggle or fight to rid their country of outsiders', they were the Mujahideen. Initially the PDPA refused to recognise them as so. The Mujahids are not a recent development. In Afghanistan we've had Mujahids from the time of Islam. The Mujahideen fought in the two wars against the British as well. They fought the British out of Afghanistan, they fought the Russians out of Afghanistan and now more recently, they are making the Americans withdraw from Afghanistan.
Some people would voluntarily give their land. They would want to keep the land close to their house but the government would take that away as well.
"Even the lambs are happy!", remarks someone, sarcastically.
The board says 'Khalq' which means people. The party was Hizb-e-Democratic-e- Khalq-e-Afghanistan.
The pins which had 'Khalq' written on them became very popular. Everyone wore one.
(Although these might be medals given to the people.)
This dance is called Attan, an Afghan national dance. It is very particular to the Pashtun areas.
Engineer Latif: This is a very important shot. This was not the culture, for the women to dance with outsiders. With men from the family, it was okay. This was the first time boys and girls gathered and sang and danced together and people would not accept it. Even some progressive people did not accept it because this impetus to change was not coming from within, it was external. It was not the right time to do that. It takes several years to change the mindset of people but they wanted the change to happen at once.
In 1979, in the month of Hud (of the Islamic calendar) 24000 people were killed in one week for demonstrating against the Communist regime in the province of Herat. Russian-supplied bombers were used in this massacre.The radio was under the control of the government so no news of it went out. Afghan Film couldn't go everywhere to cover events. The government made sure no newspaper or magazine printed anything.
Three weeks before this I was in Tajikistan and there was a bomb blast. Nobody knew about it because very quickly they cleared up everything. It was our cameramen, from Ariana and another, that recorded this and informed the BBC that this event is happening here.
That period was not really a revolution. It was dictatorship. Nobody could touch pictures of Taraki and Amin. If anyone tore or removed their pictures, they would be killed, without any court judgement. They would simply be killed.
The kind of dance is called Mahali - a regional dance.
These are the PDPA people who, after dividing the land are returning to the city.