The House of History
Director: Qader Tahiri; Cinematographer: Qader Tahiri, Sarwaruddin, et al
Duration: 00:20:08; Aspect Ratio: 1.366:1; Hue: 266.904; Saturation: 0.015; Lightness: 0.374; Volume: 0.303; Cuts per Minute: 10.080; Words per Minute: 92.108
Summary: Date: 1994-1996
Essay film shot by a group of AF cameramen between 1994 and 1995, chronicling the destruction of Kabul. Ends with a meditation on the ruins of the Dar ul-Aman palace and the Kabul Museum, and the efforts to save the fragments of artifacts left behind in its destruction.
Footage Source: DVCAM tape transfer
Translated by Asad and Rajni Prakash
The House of History
Khan-e-Tarikh (House of History), made in the winter of 1996. An essay film directed by Qadir Taheri. Script by Sher Mohammed Khara. Many cameramen from Afghan Film are credited for the film, as it made extensive use of source material from the civil war. Credit Sequence in English and Dari.
This is probably the only documentary film produced by Afghan Film during that time. (1992-1996) Khoja Jaan (Kh. Ahmad Shah Sediqi) who did the negative cutting and timing, and who joins us in viewing and annotating the film, says that he had to cut the original negatives as there were no resources or money for duplicate negatives. "A very bad thing to do, but such were those times. And yet, Afghan Films never shut down. We came to work whenever we could," he remarks.
Directed by: Qadir Tahiri
Cameramen: Qadir Tahiri, Sayed Mawjoud Hussaini,
Noor Hashim Abir, Sarwarudin Haidari,
Shah Mohammed, Mirwais Ahmadi
Editor: Mumtaz Ahmadzai
Sound By: Abdullah Wafa
Taheri sourced much of this raw material from the Afghan Film archive. He then filmed some specific shots for the film, notably the aerial shots. Sher Mohammed Khara saw the edit first, and then wrote the narration.
Hussain Danish's Gozargah-e-Marg, (The Passage of Death, produced by RTA-Radio Television Afghanistan), also made during the civil war, was a direct inspiration for Taheri.
Laboratory: S. Mustafa Amin
Negative cutting and timing: Kh. Ahmad Shah Sediqi
Assistant Cameramen: Hamidullah Mansouri & Mohammd Nayem
If you cannot hold your tears, do not watch this film.
Aerial shot, old city, Kabul. Afghan Film sought permission from the Ministry of Defense who gave them access to the helicopter. 3 cameramen including the director Taheri, and Sarwaruddin, a cameraman who still works at Afghan Film, filmed the aerial shots.
Garment Stalls and shops for second-hand garments next to Pul-e-Khishti mosque. (Murad Khani)
Kabul, the indomitable peak of my country. The place where its people have taken a pledge with love, light and belief to sacrifice their lives in order to keep their belief and the ray of love shining.
Rockets fired from Charasiab distrtict of Logar province by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's group. 800 rockets were hitting Kabul everyday.
"What was interesting is that we were allowed to take the cameras home because it was hard to come to Afghan Film. That's what made it easier to film; when we needed to, we would go to a vantage point and film when we could see the rockets landing."
"We could not afford a car so we would film riding double-seat on a bicycle street by street. A lot of this footage is from around 1993."
L-R pan of the old city, quite destroyed.
Kabul is the bed of the blood river. Its people lay their lives helplessly and bitterly. The foreigners have put their swords on the throats of its men, women and children to achieve their goals, while they were well aware that the people's thirst for resistance could not be quelled by threatening them with death.
There were 8 people killed by anonymous assassins in Khair Khana Kotal - Kabul City Centre.
Behind Sadr bazaar, Kabul. The house has been hit by a Scud, a few people have been killed and the neighbours are helping.
This is Wazir Akbar Khan hospital, where the wounded would be taken. There were too many to be taken care of. This was also shot by Sawaruddin, a cameraman who works here at Afghan Film.
Hospitals have no more space for the wounded. Rooms, chambers and corridors, are all wet with the warm blood of the unfortunate wounded.
This is Khoja jaan, negative cutter for this film, and also one of the people providing these text annotations. He says, "I was on my way to Afghan Film on my bicycle. This happened near Pul-e-Artal. I felt something hit me, and I fell down unconcious. I dont know who took me to hospital."
There is no medicine, and the names of new martyrs are being added to the bloody history of this nation by the minute.
Images of dead civilians.
Behind Idgah mosque in the old city. People fleeing with meager possesions. They usually escaped to Khairkhana, but soon that area was also targeted. Rockets were coming from all directions, hitting all parts of Kabul.
This is near the park Zaar-negar in Kabul, more people fleeing.
Things were always tense. At one point the mortar and rockets were so intense that I could not leave my house for ten days. I had to stay in without food and water. And yet, through most of the Civil war of the nineties, Afghan Film stayed open. Infact we produced a Pashtu film. And there was another film we were working on in Dari called Oroudj
Teardrops, yellow and wizened features, and wrinkled foreheads tell the history of emigration, the pain and struggle of a people, about which the world chooses to remain silent
Central Post Office Kabul.
This wounded man was being taken to hospital. He was injured in an incident behind the Ministry of Education. He died on the way to the hospital and they were not allowed to film anymore because people were furious.
Masjid-e-kuwaitiha in Khushal-khan
Your mosque and altar gates closed,
Your name, the ascension of each minaret,
Your houses have lost their doors and gates,
Your blood flows through the ruins.
Your bones fuel the furnace,
Your face is smashed by whips.
The alleys have become emptied of your lovers,
I am burning in the blood that rains from your eyes.
Old City Kabul.
Aerial shots of Kabul.
Jadeh-e-Maiwand, Chaurahi-Sepahi Gumnaam. (square of the unknown soldier)
Could history express the bitter reality of the three hundred thousand rockets and missiles falling upon the city, one hundred thousand dead, seventy thousand disfigured, and the large-scale destruction of this wounded city?
Jadeh Deh Mazang in ruins.
Here, under every roof, once upon a time, mothers raised children with pain and suffering, the children who were the essence of the pride of their own land.
Aerial shots of Kabul. South Central Kabul, towards the University.
Thousands of teachers, engineers, doctors, lawyers, authors, poets, learned men, scientists and artists were raised in these houses which are deserted today. Today, they either pull the heavy burdens of homelessness in foreign lands, or became martyrs, or are in the process of dying.
Bazaar Kotah-e-Sangi (Stone House)
Aerial shots. South West of Kabul, near Dar-ul-Aman.
Outsiders and the outsiders' worshippers left these people neither their sight nor a light to see by. They took away the sight and the light of this nation, just the way they took the lives of thousands of citizens of this land.
Results of clashes between 2 Shiite groups. Harakat-e-Islami of Sheikh Asif Mohsini and Hizb-e-Wahdat (Unity Party) of Abdul Ali Mazari.
East of Kabul. Pul-e-charkhi prison and the Pohantun-e-Harbi. (military college.)
The university, where thousands of people have acquired higher education and knowledge, has become the graveyard for thousands of men and women, whose shrouds are nothing but blood-soaked earth.
These bodies were in the basement of the medical faculty of Kabul University. People were killed by Hizb-e-Wahdat when they were occupying the university. The camera was allowed in when the Northern Alliance took control of this area. Amongst the dead, (skeletons recovered) was a woman and baby.
Alas! Innocent man of Kabul! What did you have in your head, chest, hands and feet that you died in chains or got riddled with bullets in a cruel and inhumane manner? Didn't the outsider know that, just like the injured city of Kabul, you cannot be occupied?
Exterior kabul university. Medical faculty
Once upon a time when we heard about the homeless people of Deir Yasin, Kafar Qasim, Saida and Nablus of Palestine, blood rushed to our eyes and we cried our eyes out. Today, who is there to cry over our desperation, displacement and homelessness?
People in transit camps at a school in Khair Khana.
Today, the majority of the homeless people of the world are from Afghanistan; they have felt the whip of homelessness, and abasement landing upon their heads and faces. But even more painful is the fact the people of Kabul are homeless under their own broken and bloodstained walls.
School in Khair Khana
Flour being distributed by local Afghan businessman in a transit camp.
Many women are waiting for a handful of flour coming out of the sacks of generous propogandist charitable organizations to be poured into their laps.
Middle School in Sherpur in Kabul.
(Now the most affluent area in all of Kabul, stolen by land mafia, and now called sher-chor!)
Sherpur is a historic place. The Afghan resistence began from Sherpur. There is a British cemetery that still exists nearby.
Children are still going to school.
The homeless and children blur facts about their bloody lives and lessons at school to get a glimpse of their future through narrow and dark corridors. But what kind of future would await a child who falteringly cries for water and bread while her/his mother's eyes are filled with tears, in need of a morsel of bread? What future could the child see through tears?
Abu-Al-Qasim Firdausi Lycee in Microrayan III.
Internally Displaced People (IDP) living on one side of the school campus.
Aerial shots of Taj Beg, filmed by the director Taheri himself.
The castle of Taj Beik Hill or Darul Aman castle which represents the typical architecture of the Amania period and the place under its roof where parties of kings and elders were organized once upon a time, and one which was also an honorable place for official visits, is now carrying the load of tragedy and destruction, much like its people.
Aerial shots - Dar-ul-Aman.
Interior shots of Dar-ul-Aman
Dome of the Dar-ul-Aman was bombed by the Northern Alliance. The rest of the palace was shelled from the TV mountain (Koh-e-Asmaee) and Zanburak mountain. Dar-ul-Aman Switched hands 3 times, was occupied by Hizb-e-Wahdat, then Nothern Alliance and eventually Hizb-e-Islami. Everyone had a hand in the destruction of Dar-ul-Aman.
Bullets have torn down the walls and fire has burnt down the windows, roofs and door to ashes. The ashes that the wind does not carry will be passed on from one generation to the other.
One must ask why our historical monuments and our historical treasures and culture have been the main targets of massive attacks and much destruction. Isn't it true that the foreigners intend to wipe out our identity and our history?
The castle which could have represented architectural skills, ways of life and a certain period of our history has now joined the dark history of our age. But a conscientious Afghan would say, "If you ruin my country a hundred times, I will rebuild it a thousand times."
Zoom out from the Kabul National Museum near Dar-ul-Aman. Shots of exteriors in ruins.
The museum in another corner of the city, representing centuries of the identity of our land, is now in ruins, lonely and wounded like the people of Kabul. Now this house of culture and history which was once filled with thousands of free and pious Kabuli people is bereft of its admirers.
In Masood's time, in the time of the Northern Alliance the artefacts were moved to moved to the ministry of Information and Culture but were not looked after properly. And in the time of the Taliban some of them were taken out of Afghanistan, and sold. And what remained was broken by the Taliban.
This footage of the museum collection was filmed in 1973 -1974.
As if the museum, like Gautama the ascetic, and those immersed in immortal thought is suffering, eternally covered with mortal wounds, eternally destroyed.
The pain of lashes, looting, and the showers of bullets have been embodied in this house of culture for more than half a century, in this ancient, historical building, narrating its history. It harbored within itself and contained the ancient artifacts from different ages and places, from the Middle Stone Age and Modern Paleolithic period, to stone carvings from the present century, and the Islamic period.
Stone engravings, ceramic mosaics and metals of the Bronze Age from Bactria, and from the productive regions of Arakozi (Arkhosia?) and Mandigar, the attractive and artistic artefacts of the Gandhara school of art, from Kabul to the side hills of Spinghar, which belongs to the period between the 2nd and 5th century.
The delicate works of the portrait makers of the provinces of the ancient region of Nagarhara, attractive artefacts with deep artistic dimensions, including stone written pallets and decorative items with origins in the region of the Tiber river, from Aie Khanum city dating back to 400 B.C.E.
Evidence of the depth of thought and the artistic and cultural convergence of the people of Bactria and ancient Greece, gathered under the roof of this building, used to portray our ancient history and sublime culture, now representing the history of destruction.
Herat Mosque. A "deg" with Calligraphy. The sound of a coin dropped in would resonate for over an hour.
Pieces of Islamic art in their best condition, representing unity in universal Islamic art,
related to the period between the 11th and 13th century, from big and ancient cities like Ghazni, Lashkari Bazar and Bamiyan, were clear and prominent evidence of the richness and the depth of our cultural roots.
Here, there were valuable religious artefacts establishing the importance of religion and varied spiritual practices in the lives of our people for many millennia, like sun worshipping, Shivaism and Brahminism, among others, coming to life in the engravings on clear and delicate pieces of marble.
When Najibullah Popal, the deputy head of the museum, was asked about the background of the museum, he choked back tears as if he was mourning for the loss and martyrdom of his dear ones, as if he was narrating the sad saga of this house with tears and sighs. This is his voice you hear:
The country's National Museum was officially created based on an essential national need among the general milieu of overall cultural requirements in 1931, in its current location. Of course, before 1922, the cultural heritage and artefacts of the country were collected and taken out of the country in different ways by the foreigners' agents.
Deputy Director of the Afghanistan Museum in the 1990's. He talks about the history of the museum. "Based on cultural needs the National Museum of Afghanistan was officially established in 1931 in the present location."
Prior to 1922, most of our national treasures were taken out by foreigners under different pretexts.
Where are all the sound recordings? Is there an archive of sound reels? There is, somewhere.
After realising that these historic treasures the country must be kept for the future generations the museum of Kabul was established.
At that time, with a deep understanding of the necessity of preservation and passing this cultural heritage and set of values to the next generation, we used to preserve very valuable artefacts from different periods, from historical periods of the country as well as pre-historical periods. These collections were preserved in the museum of Afghanistan which contained artefacts from the modern Paleolithic period to the Islamic period. Many of the artefacts of this national museum used to be taken (smuggled) to the European countries.
It was from the metal age upto present times.
When you enter this ruined house of history, you realize how colonial powers and their supporters have ruined and looted your spirituality and identity preserved and embodied proudly by your ancestors for generation after generation. (They have taken away) your spirituality and identity and now they aim at your freedom and life.
There is nothing left here except a few broken pieces and a few statues which have turned to mere stone from the violence and injustice of the time and the marks of bullets that have marked the current history of wrongdoing all over their faces. This is the history of invasion of our patient and famous people who innocently lay their lives down at every juncture.
Dear audience, once again the heavy duty of reconstruction has been placed upon your shoulders. It is only you who can rebuild these ruins and bring life back to life. The staff of the museum once again salvage history from under the debris to safeguard it.
Mr. Maqsudi in this regard says: War at different periods caused the destruction and the theft of the locks and doors and the looting of the national museum. Fortunately, in the fourth quarter of the year 1372 (1993), with financial aid from the esteemed office of the United Nations, through the Habitat office in Kabul, the gates were rebuilt and practical efforts to save the artefacts and restore them began.
It was destroyed in the first year of the mujahid take-over of Kabul. (1991, 1371). The UN Habitat helped them in 1372 (1992) to recover what was left.
They took the practical steps to keep the Kabul museum safe by raising brick walls inside the museum to block entry. The museum workers performed their duties of restoration and recovery.
Windows were closed with the help of bricks and the staff focused their best efforts on saving, preserving and restoring the artefacts. But the ongoing war in the region pushed the national museum into a miserable condition.
A commission was established by the workers of the museum to preserve the museum materials and they put them behind the ministry of information, for safekeeping.
The appointed authorities have tried to establish a commission alongside the Ministry of Culture and Information, called the National Commission of Collecting and Preserving Cultural and Historical Artefacts, to improve upon (the museum in) the present condition.
These are the remains of the artefacts discovered in Farm Hadeh Jalalabad. Eastern Civilisation. 2nd -5th century AD.
Now even the site does not exist.
When you look at these images, you should bear in mind that these are the only memories and souvenirs left from the Hadda Farm region of Jalalabad, the evergreen city of this bloody region. Hadda Farm (Farm-i-Hadda) of Jalalabad once epitomised the life and history of Buddhism and the culture of the East, between the 2nd and 5th centuries.
Dear viewers, keep these pictures in mind because, apart from these pictures, heaps of dust and ashes, there is nothing left of Farm-i-Hadda. Despite the fact that these memories of crime and betrayal fill us with bitterness, we have to bear in mind that this is the reality of our time.
Save for these photos, nothing remains. Only dust and ashes. He's advising the viewers to keep these images in the mind. (archival images from the AF archive, filmed in the seventies.)
We call the period from 1978 to 2001 the lost history of Afghanistan. To date people dont know what exactly went on in those years. Images from the AF archive are therefore all the more important. Both newsreels and feature films chronicle and mirror what life, culture and politics was like in the past 40 years.
Freedom comes at great cost, and many great sacrifices. The world has turned its face away, in this swamp of silence, but you have to know that dawn will never come unless we burn torches to light its way, torches dipped in the blood of our wounds.