Afghanistan and Iran share a culture that predates the established perimeters of their respective national borders. They share a tongue that overcomes this division. In the twentieth century, both countries mirrored each other in both their struggles against imperialism and their shared rejection of monarchies. The Iranian revolution saw an Islamic movement topple the Persian monarchy. And, in Afghanistan, the Soviet-backed coup d’état of the Afghan monarchy was rejected by an Islamic revolt. Despite these deep-rooted connections, the present relationship is one of forgotten unity.
Then versus Now
For Afghans and Iranians, this is the way we mark the outcomes of our civil unrest. To make sense of the loss of the ‘Now’, it’s the ‘Then’ that becomes the pedestal and subject for our pride. Our nostalgia doesn’t bare any resemblance to the contemporary, nor does the contemporary respect or recognise our historical links of solidarity and near equivalence of experience.
Before the coup. After the uprising. Perhaps the revolution is isolating?
I have the privilege of entertaining nostalgia from a safe distance. As I romanticise the last moments of unity, the hostile relationship between the two countries thickens.
May: Iranian border-guards murder 45 Afghan migrant workers by forcing them into the Harirud River.
June: Iranian police officers shoot at a carful of Afghan refugees, watching as the passengers burn alive. It is becoming harder to believe our countries share an ancestry.
This video negotiates the cultural unity and political similarities between Afghanistan and Iran during the period of revolution.1 It is the moment between the ‘Then’ and the ‘Now’. My Afghan body re-enacts the performance by Iranian icon, Googoosh, of Man Amadeam [I Have Come], a song written by Afghan composer Jalil Zaland. The archival footage unfolds the beginning moments of division between Afghanistan and Iran.
Grant Farr, ‘Iran, Afghan Refugees, and the Coronavirus Pandemic’, e-International Relations, (May 2020)