"SANGAR": You should know about Ustad Ata Muhammad Nur: he was the only one who opposed the centuries-old suppression of the identity and culture of Balkh and sowed the seeds of its revival. The Pashtun rulers from 1256 (1877) destroyed the mighty Balkh, and during the 14 years of his rule in the province, he challenged this historical yoke. Balkh is geographically a province and far from being an empire, but in terms of identity and culture, it has been and will continue to be an empire. Nur revived this empire in defiance of the "Muhammad Gul Mohmands" of his time - Karzai and Ghani. We read about what the “Architector of the New Balkh” did for the history of Afghanistan in this article.

Author: Yaqub Yasna, professor of history, culture, and literature, member of the Sangar Advisory Board

Source: ariapress.org

IN THE PHOTO: The ruins of the Nuh Gunbad Mosque (Nine Dome Mosque) in Balkh, which is considered the first place of worship for Muslims in Khorasan. This mosque was built by a woman.

Balkh is one of the important cities of Khorasan, which in fact can be called one of the oldest cities in the history of mankind. The first historical cities of humanity were established in the Middle East, such as Babylon, Nineveh, etc. Balkh is also one of the cities with the history of the first cities of mankind as in the Middle East. Balkh is mentioned in the Avesta as Bakhdi (Bohzi), in Darius's inscription in Besutun as Bakhtar, in Sanskrit as Balkhika, in Greek as Bactria and in Arabic as Umm ul-Bilad (Mother of Cities). Based on the fact that Balkh is mentioned in most of the historical narratives of the main peoples of mankind, it can be said that it was one of the most famous cities in the ancient world.

In different periods of history, Balkh occupied a unique cultural, social and political place at the world level. Most researchers consider Balkh to be the birthplace of Zoroastrianism - the Zoroastrian religion. Religious scholars considered Zoroastrianism one of the oldest religions of mankind. Therefore, Balkh is the source of one of the oldest religions of mankind, and Zoroastrianism was created in this city, and Zardusht, the prophet of this religion, was born and died in this city. After Zoroastrianism, Balkh was one of the important centers of Buddhism, and after the rise of Islam, one of the centers of Islam. Balkh has the ruins of the famous Zoroastrian fire temples, the famous Buddhist places of worship, and the famous Islamic mosques.

In the Greek historical narratives of 400 B.C., it is said that a thousand years before the Trojan War there was a war between Ninus, king of Nineveh, and the king of Balkh, and the king of Balkh was defeated. If this Greek account is correct, this war took place two thousand years before Christ; Therefore, four thousand years ago there was a kingdom in Balkh, and it was actually a state or a city-state. Balkh has its place not only in the history of Iran and Khorasan, but also in the history of the world and world events, as a result of which there have been periods of its prosperity, and sometimes destruction.

But the last destruction and one might even say, the loss of glory of Balkh in the modern world, occurred when the Pashtuns captured Balkh in 1256, and then in 1266 AH. After this capture, Balkh was deprived of the heyday of its previous periods. The historical and ancient city of Balkh was destroyed and turned into ruins until another part of Balkh, called Mazar-i-Sharif, flourished as the city and center of Balkh. And the city and province of Balkh became known as Mazar-i-Sharif, and the mighty Balkh was reduced to a small part - Mazar-i-Sharif.


The destruction and transformation of the Balkh identity during the period of Mohammad Gul Mohmand

IN THE PHOTO: Mohammad Gul Mohmand

The question is, why did Balkh undergo destruction and transformation during the period of Pashtun rule, especially when Mohammad Gul Mohmand became the head of the Turkestan administration? Mohammad Gul Mohmand became the head of the Turkestan and Katagan administrations in 1311. In those days, the northern provinces of the country were called Turkestan and Kataghan. Khorasan, renamed Afghanistan less than a hundred years, is not the mainland of the Pashtuns, but the Pashtuns are the last people to occupy Khorasan; Therefore, Khorasan (now Afghanistan) is one of the possessions of the Pashtun people. Before the Pashtun people occupied Khorasan, people from the Turkic and Mongol tribes ruled Khorasan and the countries of the region. Babur and other Turkic and Uzbek leaders ruled from Khorasan to India before the Pashtuns.

After Nadirshah Afshar was killed, Ahmadshah Durrani came to Kandahar and captured it. Khorasan was divided between him and one of the Uzbek commanders. The southern side of Kabul was in the possession of Ahmadshah Durrani, and the northern side and Kataghan belonged to the Uzbek commander. Ahmadshah Durrani advised his son Timurshah not to get involved with the Uzbeks and not to go north, which is under Uzbek control. Ahmadshah Durrani established his territory from Kandahar towards India and did not engage in battle with the Uzbeks in the north.

After the Durrani dynasty, the Saduzai dynasty came to power. This dynasty began to contemplate conquering the north and defeating the Uzbeks. Abdulrahman, Nadir, and Zahirshah's uncles crushed the Hazaras, Uzbeks, and Tajiks and occupied their lands, and resettled the Pashtun tribes in Tajik and Uzbek lands. The homeland of the Hazaras was from Bamiyan, Ghazni, and Ghor to the south of Afghanistan. The mainland of the Hazaras was mainly in Zabul, Kandahar, Laghman, and Uruzgan. When Abdulrahman massacred the Hazaras, the mainland of the Hazaras in Kandahar, Uruzgan, Zabul, Laghman, etc. was divided between the Ghilzai and Durrani peoples. The Hazaras living in the north of the country, for the most part, fled north after the massacre of the Hazaras by Abdulrahman.

IN THE PHOTO: The birthplace of Jalaluddin Muhammad Mavlavi Rumi and the khanaka of his father Bahauddin

Tajiks and Uzbeks lived in the northern part of the country, but more power traditionally belonged to the Uzbek chiefs. After the end of Durrani's reign, India was occupied by England. Great Britain divided India, creating a country in India called Pakistan and a country in Iran and Khorasan called Afghanistan. He cut off the hand of the Pashtuns from India and Pakistan and gave Afghanistan to them.

The Saduzai dynasty captured Turkestan and Kataghan, Khorasan, and established its power in Turkestan and Kataghan, and in order to build its own ethnic government, it had to be Afghanized. Afghanization was carried out in three ways: first, the seizure of Tajik and Uzbek lands and their suppression; second, the resettlement of Pashtun tribes from Pakistan to Afghanistan; third, the destruction and distortion of the historical identity of cities by assigning names to their historical places in the Pashto language.

Muhammad Gul Mohmand carried out all three parts of the plan using total violence. What I write in this note about the ethnic violence of Muhammad Gul Mohmand is not new, but just a reminder, because it has already been mentioned in articles by Turdikul Maimanagi and others, and in the books “Afghanistan on the Path of History: The Second Invasion of Mangals”, etc. But these issues require closer attention because the ethnic Pashtun governments have always covered up the ethnic oppression of the Saduzai's family and Pashtun leaders towards Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras, introducing their fake narrative into the education system and official history. Unfortunately, the true narrative of Afghanistan's history has been marginalized and anyone presenting a true story of Afghanistan will be branded as an opponent of national unity, etc.

IN THE PHOTO: Uzbek from Balkh in local clothes

Muhammad Gul Mohmand was educated in Turkey, knew Turkish, and based on his knowledge of Turkish, could communicate with Uzbeks in Uzbek. When he became the head of the Turkestan administration, he asked the Turks and Uzbeks to bring books in Turkic and Farsi to create a library. The people brought 400 titles in Turkic and Farsi, including manuscripts. Muhammad Gul Mohmand stacked these books on top of each other, called people, and asked them what is on their bodies. They answered him that the Uzbek chapan. Mohmand said that these chapans are Turkish and Mongolian clothes, they can no longer be worn, and these books are in the language of foreigners, they must be burned, this is the land of the Afghans. And after all that, they have to speak Pashto and write Pashto in the offices. He burned the books. Muhammad Gul Mohmand became a guest in the house of a Pashtun in the north, where the Pashtun spoke Farsi with his son. Muhammad Gul was very upset and said we brought you here to make others Pashtuns, unfortunately, you have become a Tajik yourself.

The movement of the Pashtun tribes to the north was approved by the approval of the law “Regulations on the naqilin (settlers) to the north” of the period of Amanullah, intensified under the government of Nader and the power of Muhammad Gul Mohmand and continues to this day. Today (from Karzai to the Taliban), the Ministry of Borders and Tribes, and the Department of the Kuchis (Nomads) are implementing a project to resettle Pakistani Pashtuns in Afghanistan. But Muhammad Gul Mohmand went further than the resettlement of the Pashtuns. He destroyed the identity of cities and historical places, especially in Balkh. First, he destroyed historical monuments and places, then he changed their names. He did not allow the restoration of many historical places, including the Balkh's Bolohisor so they were destroyed and forgotten, and so many places were destroyed by him. In Balkh, he destroyed historical places, such as the Sanjari Tower, Baba Janbaz Square, Subhanqulikhan Madrasah, Nuh Gunbad Mosque, several Buddhist temples, the mausoleum of the poetess Rabia Balkhi and other tombs, tombstones of Zoroastrians, etc.  237 old copies of books were collected and destroyed in Balkh. Mohmand destroyed parts of the Buddha of Bamiyan when he was the minister of the interior. He renamed 27 historical places in Balkh. He devastated the old city of Balkh from its indigenous inhabitants, destroyed the historical monuments in this city, and renamed them Pashto. Thus, he distorted the cultural, social, and historical identity of Balkh. And the Pashtun tribes were resettled in the old city to create an opinion that the old inhabitants of the city of Balkh were Pashtun tribes.


The return and revival of the cultural identity of Balkh in the era of Ata Muhammad Nur

IN THE PHOTO: Ata Muhammad Nur, "emperor" and “architect of the new Balkh”

In the first part of the note, it was mentioned that after the domination of the Pashtuns, especially the Saduzai family in Afghanistan, the old and historical city of Balkh underwent a historical, cultural, and social transformation. Historical sites were destroyed and renamed, and the Pashtun tribes were relocated to the old city of Balkh. But another part of Balkh, where the shrine attributed to Hazrat Ali is located, became the city and center of the province. Balkh, which was the name of the province and city, was reduced to a district. Balkh as a province and city, are popular among the people as Mazor. People know the province of Balkh as Mazar Sharif.

Balkh went through a long period of identity transformation until, in the last twenty years, the opportunity to revive it; Such an opportunity was the governorship of Ata Muhammad Nur in Balkh (2004-2018). He had a clear and distinct cultural policy based on cultural and historical identity and felt responsible for the historical and cultural identity of Balkh. Based on this sense of responsibility, he launched a large cultural project to restore and revive the lost historical identity of Balkh.

As already mentioned, the old city of Balkh, unfortunately, lost its originality and was forgotten. The city of Mazar, which is another part of Balkh, took the central place and became the administrative and economic center of the province. Ata Muhammad Nur, with the support and guidance of Balkh cultural figures, wanted to revive the cultural and historical identity of Balkh first in Mazari Sharif, which is the center of the province, and in other places in the province. During the period when he was the governor, there was a lot of construction in Mazar, and they took into account the identity of the city. Significant in terms of cultural and historical identity and entailed its revival and restoration was the naming of buildings, streets, parks, schools, and other public and public places. These changes were deliberately made in recognition of the historical realities of Balkh in order to revive, restore and modernize its distorted and forgotten identity.

IN THE PHOTO: "Elite Wall of Balkh"

The attempt of Ata Muhammad Nur, despite the efforts of the "new mohmands" - Karzai and Ghani, to prevent him from purposefully building and restoring the cultural and historical identity of Balkh, had a successful result. You could even say that he succeeded. Purposeful buildings and names, especially in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, revived and restored the cultural and historical memory of the ancient mighty Balkh. Here are some examples:

One of the major intersections of the city was named after the great poet Ustad Vasif Bakhtari, the Pedagogical Institute after Seyyed Jamaluddin, the industrial town after Amir Alisher Navai, the Institute of Management and Accounting after Seyyed Ismail Balkhi, Balkh Airport after Mawlana Jalaluddin Muhammad Balkhi, schools and roads after Zardusht, Avesta, Jamshid, Shah Ismail Samani, Yakub Lays and others. The “Wall of the Elite of Balkh" was created in Mazare Sharif. Cultural figures and writers were supported. New life was breathed into the celebration of Novruz in Balkh.

These cultural actions were carried out by Ata Muhammad Nur to revive and restore the cultural and historical identity of Balkh because he has a very sincere and deep connection to it. In my opinion, the actions of Ata Muhammad Nur are serious and important actions that can become an example for today's and future generations to restore the cultural and historical identity of Balkh in the Balkh province.

IN THE PHOTO: View of Mazar-i-Sharif during the time of Ata Muhammad Nur

The confrontation of identity that exists in relation to the Persian language and the cultural identity of Balkh and the Persian-speaking and Turkic-speaking peoples cannot be resolved in a decade or more or less. The work must be carried out sustainably and purposefully to prevent anti-identity and revive the historical identity of the country and Balkh. There is a hundred-year-old anti-identity against the culture and language of the country and the identity of Balkh. This anti-identity led to the oblivion of the historical identity of Balkh. Fortunately, the presence of Ata Muhammad Nur in Balkh drew attention to the restoration and revival of the cultural and historical identity of Balkh. As I already mentioned, its full restoration will not be completed in a decade or more, but those cultural events that were held in Balkh, at least, could save the cultural and historical identity of Balkh from complete oblivion. It is necessary to recall what Balkh was like in history: it had its own identity, glory, and prosperity.

The cultural activity of Ata Muhammad Nur opened a new perspective on the cultural destiny of Balkh. Although his activities did not materialize to the extent necessary due to the creation of barriers by the Ghani government, and unfortunately the cultural activities initiated by Nur were stopped by the Taliban, the cultural lamp that was used for the cultural and historical identity of Balkh had shone in the time of his reign. He drew public attention to the cultural and historical identity of Balkh, which can serve as a reminder to generations of the need to continue this path.



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