Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Afghan sovereigns flee

December 17, 1928

The King and Queen of Afghanistan have taken refuge in a fort, as the army has turned against them.
King Amanullah and Queen Souriyah have been described in the western media as progressive and western, but the westernization of Afghanistan may have proved to be their downfall. The rebels, who are now in control of parts of Kabul and other areas, have not approved of the king's reforms or the queen's "desire to abolish Purdah, or the seclusion of women." The queen has also spoken out against polygamy.
King Amanullah began to institute western reforms after a successful European tour earlier this year.

Afghanistan holds an "important strategic position" on the Indian frontier and its tranquility is "particularly desirable to the British." The west awaits news from Moscow about this rebellion as the Soviets "from time to time have evinced strong interest in Afghanistan."

However, the Russian airmen and the Turkish military officers who are now in the service of the king are the targets of "popular hatred" by the rebels. The Soviet Union is not popular among "old-fashioned Moslems."
The King's reforms, which were similar to reforms recently introduced in Turkey, another Moslem country, have not gone down well with the people, especially the Mullahs. Apart from the "special irritation" of the new codes and taxes, the hill people and their religious leaders were particularly offended at the proposal that women "should doff the veil" and emerge from seclusion. The mullahs and other conservative Moslems are also offended by the proposal to create co-education programs, where boys and girls share educational facililities.
Although the king was advised by British friends to slow the pace, his directives were fast and furious. In September, government officials were no longer allowed to practice polygamy. A month later, came the order to adopt Western dress, even though there were few tailors in the country who could cut the European trousers, and "suitable cloth" had to be imported from India "at great expense."
This was an unpopular decree on several levels, including economic.
Western dress also has meant adopting western habits. Chairs had to be bought because it is largely impossible to sit cross-legged on the floor, and "wearers of Western sleeves could no longer plunge their right hands and wrists into a dish, but must buy knives and forks."
The Shinwaris and their mullahs are against the Western reforms and the Kabulis are protesting the "sartorial reform a la Turque."
The British will not interfere with this rebellion because of the anger against the western reforms.

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