This conversation is of interest as the Soviet leader suggests that women in Afghanistan had the right to wear the chador and that efforts should be made to win over the progressive mullahs to build up national education in the country. The Afghan ambassador contrasted the contrary views of Stalin and King Amanullah who had banned the chador; ‘Generalissimo Stalin – is a progressive man, but spoke in favour of a woman to wear her chador, and Amanullah Khan, who returned from Europe demanded that women took off their chadors’. Stalin dismissed the efforts of Amanullah to ban the chador in the following words: ‘if it is so, Amanullah Khan is simply a fool. He approached the matter light-mindedly’. The question of the right to wear the chador is particularly instructive as today in the some of the states of Europe such as France and Belgium the right to wear the burqa and niqab in public has been expressly forbidden in the name of ‘secularism,’ laicite, and the ‘dignity of women’. In reality these rightist- sponsored legislations represent Islamophobic politics against the immigrant communities.
Ahmed Khan said that from the very first day of his stay in the Soviet Union, his constant desire was to see and to be honoured to meet the greatest man in the world and of all times.
Com. Stalin states that he, therefore, is to blame for the fact that he did not receive the Ambassador. He – Com. Stalin – apologises for it.
Ahmed Khan said that he was well aware that Generalissimo Stalin had been occupied with enormous questions.
Generalissimo Stalin, says Ahmed Khan, not only the greatest man in Russia, but also a teacher for the whole world in the cause of arrangement of a new life. As it is known to Generalissimo Stalin, Afghanistan is a very backward country in terms of its social order. He – Ahmed Khan, therefore wants a consultation from Generalissimo Stalin what the Afghan government should do to promote progress in Afghanistan. As a result of a special relationship between Afghanistan and other foreign powers in the past, the Afghan people have fallen far behind in their culture.
Com. Stalin answers that they need to raise the literacy of the people by the introduction of universal compulsory education. It helps a lot.
Ahmed Khan said that all the progressive initiatives of the Afghan government meet resistance from the dark and backward people of Afghanistan.
Com. Stalin says, Japan was a backward country 70-80 years ago. But primary education was introduced in Japan. It really helped. If the government wants it, then who can hinder it.
Ahmed Khan said that the people of Afghanistan are very disobedient. Two of the revolutions that took place in Afghanistan, were directed against schools and against the fact that women took off their chadors.
Com. Stalin says that a woman can continue to wear the chador if she likes it, but he – Com. Stalin, does not say that the school should stay without a mullah. We need to find progressive people among the mullahs and use them. He – Com. Stalin, offers not anti-religious education.
Ahmed Khan said that there are very few progressive people among the mullahs.
Com. Stalin declared that if Afghanistan remained a backward country, it would be bad. Afghanistan should introduce universal primary education, therefore the country needs to organise more schools.Ahmed Khan said that there were 3,000 schools in Afghanistan now.
Com. Stalin declared that it was not enough, and asked whether there was an Academy of Sciences, universities and professors in Afghanistan?
Ahmed Khan said that these institutions existed in Afghanistan, and also had their own professors, who studied in Europe.
Com. Stalin said that Afghanistan needed to have more high schools, where they could prepare teachers for rural areas. But progressive mullahs who were not against education, were not needed to be pushed away, but those who were against education, should have been criticised.
Com. Stalin says that, for example, in 1918 there were 3% of literate people and 97% illiterate people in Azerbaijan. Now the literate population constitutes 95%, and the illiterate population – 5% in Azerbaijan.
Ahmed Khan, said that due to what Generalissimo Stalin had said it is quite clear that he was a teacher for the whole world.
Ahmed Khan said that there was one more question. In Afghanistan, it was necessary to change the Arabic alphabet, which was very difficult to learn.
Com. Stalin says that in Afghanistan you need to introduce two scripts, one Arab, so that the mullahs do not rebel against the government, and the other – secular, perhaps, the Latin script. The Arabic script slows the progress in Afghanistan so you must introduce a phonetic script. In China, the situation is even worse. There they need to learn to read and write for 10 years.
Ahmed Khan said that it was absolutely the right offer.
Com. Stalin asks whether Amanullah Khan was alive and whether he was a progressive man.
Ahmed Khan replied that Amanullah Khan seemed to live in Italy. As to whether the Amanullah Khan was a progressive man or not, he – Ahmed Khan can say the following. Generalissimo Stalin – is a progressive man, but spoke in favour of a woman to wear her chador, and Amanullah Khan, who returned from Europe demanded that women took off their chadors.
Com. Stalin says that if it is so, Amanullah Khan is simply a fool. He approached the matter light-mindedly.
Ahmed Khan said that Amanullah Khan was indeed a stupid man.
Ahmed Khan said that he had a question regarding the Soviet- Afghan relations. He – Ahmed Khan, does not know why there is a delay on the border issue. It seems that the Soviet government is having some doubts on Afghanistan. However, it is unreasonable.
Com. Stalin says he will order the matter to be considered and solved. Solution of this issue was delayed by accident. Now it has to be solved in the interests of both parties. He would talk to Molotov and find out how long it will take to solve the issue.
Ahmed Khan thanked Com. Stalin.
Ahmed Khan says he wants to address with one personal desire. It is about Ghulam Sadiq Khan, arrested by the Soviet authorities. There has been apparently some misunderstanding. Ghulam Sadiq was in Berlin when the Red Army entered the city. He asked for the protection of the Soviet officer. If he were against the Soviet Union, he would quickly leave Berlin before the advance of the Red Army. As far as he, Ahmed Khan, knows Ghulam Sadiq did not support any relationship with the Nazis in Germany when Hitler was in power. Maybe Ghulam Sadiq is guilty of anything, but he is a simple man, not a minister, and he cannot cause any harm to the Soviet Union. Ghulam Sadiq’s wife is his, Ahmed Khan’s, cousin, and she disturbs him greatly about her husband.
Com. Stalin inquired whether the Afghan government accepted Ghulam Sadiq.
Ahmed Khan says that Ghulam Sadiq was once deprived of Afghan citizenship, but when he arrived from Berlin to Moscow, he asked the Afghan king to forgive him. The King satisfied his request, and Ghulam Sadiq was issued an Afghan passport. The property of Ghulam Sadiq in Afghanistan was confiscated. However, Ghulam Sadiq has his houses in Berlin and Istanbul, where he could go. He – Ahmed Khan, asks for the release Ghulam Sadiq and allowing him to go wherever he wants.
Com. Stalin says he will find out why Ghulam Sadiq was arrested and what were the charges against him. He – Com. Stalin, cannot give any orders without having inquired of the Ministry of Internal Affairs what was going on.
During the further conversation Com. Molotov was present.
Com. Stalin outlines the content of their conversation to Molotov.
Com. Molotov said that regarding the border they had to come to an agreement on disputed issues, in particular, on the waters of the Kushka river and on the Murghab dam.
Ahmed Khan said that all these issues could be resolved quickly, and for this purpose he would be willing to stay in Moscow for another one and a half to two weeks.
Com. Molotov says that disputable issues should be tried to be resolved, and promises to meet the ambassador on Friday or Saturday to discuss them.
Com. Molotov said that concerning Ghulam Sadiq the investigating authorities are now trying to find out his relationship with the Germans.
Com. Stalin says that if there is any possibility, the Soviet government would try to release Ghulam Sadiq Khan. But what is to be done if Ghulam Sadiq is a German agent and will spy?
Ahmed Khan says that it is impossible, because he knows Ghulam Sadiq very well. Ghulam Sadiq – is an anti-British person. The Germans might talk to him about the campaign to India. But it was just a talk. Ghulam Sadiq Khan did not cause any damage to the Soviet Union.
Com. Stalin said that if it is possible, the Soviet government will release Ghulam Sadiq.
Ahmed Khan thanks Com. Stalin for the interview.
Recorded by V. Pavlov
RGASPI. F. 558. Op. 11. D. 251. LL. 1-4.
Translated from the Russian by Dr. Elena Lavrina.