Afghanistan wants its cultural heroes back - 06-29-2012, 12:09 PM
29 June, 2012
KABUL: Interred a quarter century ago in Pakistan, the remains of Afghan poet Ustad Khalilullah Khalili now lie in a forlorn corner of Kabul University, brought to be reburied so that no one else can lay claim to the revered poet-philosopher.
But if Afghan President Hamid Karzai - who ordered the remains be disinterred from a grave in Peshawar last month - has his way, the reburial will become an assertion of Afghan culture over encroachment by Pakistan and Iran.
Muhammad Hussain Yamin, head of the Persian and Dari department at Kabul University said, "We don't want someone in future to say that he belonged to Pakistan just because he lived the final years of his life there."
The assertion of cultural sovereignty is part of an effort to unite Afghanistan and prove it can stand on its own after most foreign troops leave at the end of 2014.
Poetry is big in Afghanistan, from the time of the kings of the 10th century to the present day, permeating every level of society from children in school to warlords and even the austere Taliban who study long works of classical Persian poetry as part of their education in religious schools.
It's the thread that runs between Afghanistan's often warring ethnic groups whether Tajik, Hazara, Pashtun, Uzbek, Turkmen, Nuristani, Baloch, or any of the many other sub-groups and clans.
But along with the death and destruction of the past three decades, Afghans say they also lost a chunk of their rich cultural heritage with Iran, Pakistan and even Turkey claiming parts of it.
Many, like Khalili, left the country to escape the wars and died in faraway lands which slowly began to claim them as their own, Afghanistan says.
Now it aims to get its heritage back.
"Iran wants to show the world it had a glorious past. This has been going on for years, they have been claiming many of our literary figures as their own. We cannot remain silent," said Jalal Noorani, an adviser at the Afghan Information and Culture Ministry.
Debate has long raged over Rumi, arguably the greatest Persian poet, but now as Afghanistan begins to stand on its feet, the claims and counter-claims have intensified not only over him but also others.
Rumi, known as Maulana Jalaluddin Balkhi in Afghanistan and Mevlevi in Iran, was born in the 13th century in Balkh which was at the time an eastern part of the Persian empire of Khorasan but is now a province in northern Afghanistan.
"Afghans are a bit late at this. Iran and Turkey have stolen their thunder," said Muhammad Taqi, a US-based columnist for Pakistan who has written extensively on the Pashtun heartland straddling Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Iran, he said, had milked Rumi and the whirling dervishes that his poetry inspired by setting up cultural centres on the pattern of Germany's Goethe Institute.
Still, this new burst of cultural revivalism in Afghanistan can help bridge the distance between the Tajiks and the Hazaras, and to a certain extent the Pashtuns, he said.
06-29-2012, 12:23 PM
These issues just show how retarded modern nation states are drawn by western colonialists. Rumi is the shared treasure of all persian speakers wether in Tajikistan, Iran, Uzbekistan or Afghanistan.
One thing is certain that Rumi certainly wasn't Afghan both ethnically or by nationality. Afghanistan only came into being as a modern state in 1747 while Rumi died some 600 years earlier. All the farsi speakers of Afghanistan have the right to claim him as their own and so do other farsi speakers around the world.
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