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Bangladeshis and the Afghan-Soviet war

  • Published at 06:12 pm August 21st, 2021
Afghan-Soviet War
Afghan soldiers await sighting instructions for their Soviet-made 122mm cannon as hundreds of empty shells lay on the ground at the Pagaman military post outside Kabul, May 1989 Reuters

According to sources available, some 10,000 Bangladeshis took part in the decade long Afghan-Soviet war

The law enforcement agencies have expressed deep concern over reports of some Bangladeshis making their way to Afghanistan to join the Taliban.

This comes against the backdrop of the fall of Kabul, the capital of the war torn country, into the hands of the hardline Islamist group after it fought US-led forces for 20 long years.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Md Shafiqul Islam, on August 14, told the press that the police were closely monitoring the situation, both at home and abroad.

Security analysts and experts however believe that the dramatic resurgence of the Taliban will not pose much of a threat to Bangladesh.

History informs us, though, that this is not the first time that Bangladeshis have left the country to fight wars alongside the Taliban. 

Back in 1979, thousands of Muslims from around the globe travelled to Afghanistan to fight the invading army of what was then the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

Many Bangladeshis along with citizens from Algeria, Palestine, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt took part in the "jihad" (holy war) under the Taliban against the Soviet soldiers.

These people, also known as mujahideen, were trained in operating arms, explosives, land mines, IEds, guerrilla warfare and sabotage at training facilities -- organised by Pakistan’s ISI and the Peshawar based Islamic Salvation Foundation -- along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Also Read - Ansar al-Islam lives on, clinging to Jihadism imported by HujiB from Afghanistan 30 years ago

Osama bin Laden, who later formed al Qaeda, spent large sums of money to build separate camps for training the jihadists.

The Bangladeshi mujahideen

There is no official record of those who travelled to Afghanistan during the decade-long Afghan-Soviet war.  However, according to various sources, the number ranges from 3,000 to 10,000.

As the war began in 1979, there was an open call by Bangladeshi Islamist parties to join the forces in Afghanistan.

Anti-liberation forces, including the Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Chhatra Shibir, inspired and trained many aspirants before sending them to Pakistan. 

Prof Ali Riaz, in his book " Islamist Militancy in Bangladesh: A Complex Web," mentions that some 3,000 Bangladeshis fought in Afghan-Soviet war. 

“Beginning in 1984, a volunteer corps was organized to join the jihad. Some 3,000 people under the leadership of Abdur Rahman Faruki, a veteran of the Afghan war, were motivated to travel in several batches to Afghanistan and fight alongside other volunteer mujahideen,” he wrote in his book.

Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Jasad) President Hasanul Haq Inu recalled: “It was mainly the of anti-liberation forces, including the leaders and activists of Jamaat-Shibir, who travelled to the Afghan-Pakistan border, took combat training and participated in the war. 

"The number of Bangladeshis who went to Afghanistan during that period would range between 8,000 and 10,000.”

The 2010 documentary, “Portrait of Jihad,” by filmmaker Shahriar Kabir, also sheds light on the direct involvement of Bangladeshis in the Afghan-Soviet war.

In the documentary, Mohammad Yunus, a former commander of the banned militant outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B), is quoted as saying:  “Some 5,000 joddhas [warriors] returned home [to Bangladesh] after the Afghan-Soviet war. 

"Some died in the war while many went to Palestine, Chechnya and Kashmir.”

Also Read - 'Not an enemy' any more: Why Russia is courting the Taliban

"Many top leaders of Islami Okya Jote and Hefazat-e-Islam also fought in the Afghan-Soviet war. These war veterans returned to Bangladesh, wrote books on jihad, and inspired a generation of jihadists,” the filmmaker added.

According to sources available, including Prof Ali Riaz's book, some 24 Bangladeshi fighters lost their lives in the Afghan-Soviet war.

As per data provided by unverified sources from the banned religious outfit "Ansar al-Islam," these people died while fighting in Jalalabad, Kandahar, Ghazni, Khost, Urgun and Khorasan of Afghanistan.

Terming them "Shaheeds" (martyrs), the hardline Islamists platform also published a list containing detailed information on these people.

Those who died in the war were: Abdur Rahman Faruki, Nurul Karim, Kamaruzzamn of Jessore; Hafez Motiur Rahman, Raihan Uddin and Sheikh Ismail of Gazipur; Hafez Abdul Momen and Abdul Hamid of Mymensingh, Abdul Motin and Badrul Alam of Faridpur; Hafez Rahmatullah and Rabiuulah of Dhaka; Saifullah and Mohammad Ali of Barisal; Mosharraf Hossain of Comilla; Prof Rafiqullah, Faizullah and Siddiqullah Chowdhury of Noakhali; Mufti Obaidullah of Brahmanbari, Mohammad Faruk and Abdullah of Khulna; Nurul Islam of Bogra; Abdul Gafur of Chittagong and Nurul Islam (said to be a Bangladeshi).

Of them, Mosharraf Hossain, a resident of Comilla, was the first Bangladeshi who died in the Afghan-Soviet war in 1981, Ansar al-Islam claimed.  

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