By: Lailuma Noori
Hoot 24 coinciding with March 15 was the day when the Herat uprising against the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) occurred. After establishment of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan led by Aminullah Hafiz first and then Noor Mohammad Taraki, the two hastily and vigorously acted to implement their reform programs as both followed to suppress political parties and people in general.
Executions without trial and irresponsibly arresting of people and key political figures continued and expanded as fear was spread around the country.
The situation caused uprising of people against the PDPA and its reform programs. The most significant uprising was the Herat uprising of March against the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan. The uprising occurred on 14 March 1979 and the then government lost the control of Herat city.
The uprisings which started from various parts of Herat city succeeded in driving out the ‘Khalqi’ government and controlling the city for three days of chaotic independence in which no one clear leader emerged. It was put down and suppressed by government troops in a crackdown which, some claim, led to the deaths of thousands of civilians.
On the morning of the uprising, Herat was tense; protestors had come in from areas such as Ghurian, Shakiban and Zendeh Jan and massed at the west of the city. These men, armed with little more than their bare hands, or with shovels, hammers or pitchforks, faced tanks, lined up to repel any popular onslaught.
The uprising began in several locations from the Kandahar Gates, flooding the narrow streets of the old City and falling literally upon anyone they could see who might be construed as foreign or Khalqi.
The suppression of the uprising which occurred nine months before the Soviet military intervention saw government tanks from Kandahar attack the protestors’ positions in the city, positions which were weakened by the majority of the protestors having returned to their villages and homes after the initial days.
A bombing campaign took out positions taken by the protestors at strategic points in the city and its suburbs.
The day is marked every year in Herat. Besides, a statue of a tank with statues of people having wood and shovels is installed in a location named “Kandahar Gate” from where the uprising began. The tank is considered as a symbol to remember the Hoot 24 uprising of Herat.
During the years of jihad, Herat experienced the very worst of the war. Incident reporting from 1985 and 1986 show Herat as suffering the highest casualty rates, on all sides, and the highest incident count of any province in the country.
Herat was one of the frontlines of the war, and yet almost totally cut off from its centre. The province as a whole experienced what one might call a first tier level of destruction.