Friday, 30 December 2016

Book Review: Massoud, by Marcela Grad

This is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the late Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Massoud and why he was/is revered as much as he is by his countrymen. It's also of interest generally to those familiar with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and that period of Afghan history (the latter quarter of the 20th century). It's not a chronologically ordered biography but a collection of short reflections by various people who were part of his life. It's well structured into separate chapters where each chapter has a focus on a particular aspect of his life or a particular aspect of his character. For sure it's a book of praise rather than a critical look at his life but it's still a worthwhile read nonetheless. Here are some snippets from the book:

Maryam Massoud: "... Massoud [when he was young] had to be in the mountains all the time. He learned to ride horses, to do handy work. He was always the best, and he was always in the mountains."

Masood Khalili: "... We talked about the past and the future. I was talking more, maybe because I was older, but I found out later that listening was his habit."

Daoud Zulali: "He trusted the men under his command and worked hard to maintain their morale. He taught them ethics and piety more than military issues, and he was kinder to them than a father, closer than a brother."

Hiromi Nagakuri: "... he shook the hands of each villager, down to the last one. If I were the commander, maybe I would shake hands with one or two, but he shook hands with everyone in the village."

Sher Dil Qaderi: "There was another operation where he had twenty-three radio operators, all talking on their radios with him. He was working with all of them at the same time. I have never seen a mind like his."

Haroun Mir: "... I would see him in the garden at his house walking and thinking, thinking and walking."

Ahmad Jamshid: "... During those years I never saw him sleep without praying, and I remember many nights when he didn't sleep more than one or two hours... he had just two hours to sleep, but he would take fifteen or twenty minutes to pray. Imagine how much he loved his God! In my opinion, his success was because he really loved God."

Humayun Tandar: "... I think that is why they killed him – because he represented an opposition which was not so much material as spiritual and religious."