ahmad shah massoud

AFGHANISTAN. 1984. Afghan guerilla leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud, centre, is surrounded by Mujahideen commanders at a meeting of the rebels in the Panjshir Valley. Massoud was central to much of the anti-Soviet resistance, and after the troops left, struggled with others to create a new government. In a few years, Massoud and his forces were fighting the Taliban, and he had become an enemy of Osama bin Laden. On September 9, 2001 Massoud was assassinated by two attackers backed by Al Qaeda, just days before the September 11 attacks on the U.S.

Photograph: Jean-Luc Bremont/AP


Ahmad Shah Massoud “Lion of Panjshir” inspecting insurgent recruits in 1985.

Massoud was a national hero in Afghanistan, after successfully leading the people of Afghanistan in repelling the Russian invaders. After the war, he went on to fight the Taliban, who’s hardline version of Islam went against everything Massoud stood for.

Massoud was a very progressive leader in Afghanistan. Well educated and against the Islamic fundamentalism of the Taliban, the areas controlled by Massoud were relatively comfortable places to live. Massoud set up democratic institution to help run every day life, and brought in the “Declaration of the Essential Rights of Afghan Women”. This Declaration established gender equality in the areas not under Taliban control, and gave Afghan women the right  to political participation, education, work, freedom of movement and speech. It also stated that women were free to choose wether to wear religious clothing or not.

Massoud was also known to have intervened in cases of forced marriage and encouraged the women involved to make their own choices.

“Massoud is adamant that in Afghanistan women have suffered oppression for generations. He says that ‘the cultural environment of the country suffocates women. But the Taliban exacerbate this with oppression.’ His most ambitious project is to shatter this cultural prejudice and so give more space, freedom and equality to women — they would have the same rights as men.” —Pepe Escobar, in ‘Massoud: From Warrior to Statesman’

Massoud died on the 9th of September 2001, when 2 assassins working for the Taliban detonated explosive vests they were wearing. He died of his wounds on the way to hospital.

“The CIA officers admired Massoud greatly. They saw him as a Che Guevara figure, a great actor on history’s stage. Massoud was a poet, a military genius, a religious man, and a leader of enormous courage who defied death and accepted its inevitability, they thought. In his house there were thousands of books: Persian poetry, histories of the Afghan war in multiple languages, biographies of other military and guerilla leaders. In their meetings Massoud wove sophisticated, measured references to Afghan history and global politics into his arguments. He was quiet, forceful, reserved, and full of dignity, but also light in spirit. The CIA team had gone into the Panjshir as unabashed admirers of Massoud. Now their convictions deepened.”
Ghost Wars, Steve Coll