Theme Week Afghanistan – Herat

Thursday, 28 May 2020 - 12:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General
Reading Time:  8 minutes

Gawhar Shad Mausoleum © Alimosavisam/cc-by-sa-4.0

Gawhar Shad Mausoleum © Alimosavisam/cc-by-sa-4.0

Herāt is the third-largest city of Afghanistan. It has a population of about 507,000, and serves as the capital of Herat Province, situated in the fertile valley of the Hari River in the western part of the country. It is linked with Kandahar, Kabul, and Mazar-i-Sharif via Highway 1 or the ring road. It is further linked to the city of Mashhad in neighboring Iran through the border town of Islam Qala, and to Mary in Turkmenistan to the north through the border town of Torghundi.

Herat dates back to Avestan times and was traditionally known for its wine. The city has a number of historic sites, including the Herat Citadel and the Musalla Complex. During the Middle Ages Herat became one of the important cities of Khorasan, as it was known as the Pearl of Khorasan. After the conquest of Tamerlane, the city became an important center of intellectual and artistic life in the Islamic world and a hub of the Timurid Renaissance. After the fall of the Timurid Empire, Herat has been governed by various Afghan rulers since the early 18th century. In 1717, the city was invaded by the Hotaki forces until they were expelled by the Afsharids in 1729. After Nader Shah‘s death and Ahmad Shah Durrani‘s rise to power in 1747, Herat became part of Afghanistan. It witnessed some political disturbances and military invasions during the early half of the 19th century but the 1857 Treaty of Paris ended hostilities of the Anglo-Persian War.

By the early 18th century Herat was governed by various Hotaki and Abdali Afghans. After Nader Shah‘s death in 1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani took possession of the city and became part of the Durrani Empire. In 1824, Herat became independent for several years when the Afghan Empire was split between the Durranis and Barakzais. The Persians invaded the city in 1838, but the British helped the Afghans in repelling them. In 1856, they invaded again, and briefly managed to retake the city; it led directly to the Anglo-Persian War. In 1857 hostilities between the Persians and the British ended after the Treaty of Paris was signed, and the Persian troops withdrew from Herat. Afghanistan reconquered Herat in 1863 under Dost Muhammad Khan, two weeks before his death. One of the greatest tragedies for the Afghans and Muslims was the British invasion of, and subsequent destruction of the Islamic Musallah complex in Herat in 1885. The officially stated reason was to get a good line of sight for their artillery against Russian invaders who never came. This was but one small sidetrack in the Great Game, a century-long conflict between the British Empire and the Russian Empire in the 19th century.

Friday Mosque of Herat © Sven Dirks/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Alimosavisam/cc-by-sa-4.0 © flickr.com - Marius Arnesen/cc-by-sa-2.0 Gawhar Shad Mausoleum © Alimosavisam/cc-by-sa-4.0 © U.S. State Department - U.S. Embassy Kabul Afghanistan Market area © flickr.com - U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace Friday Mosque of Herat © flickr.com - koldo hormaza/cc-by-sa-2.0
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Market area © flickr.com - U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace
In the 1960s, engineers from the United States built Herat Airport, which was used by the Soviet forces during the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Even before the Soviet invasion at the end of 1979, there was a substantial presence of Soviet advisors in the city with their families. Between March 10 and March 20, 1979, the Afghan Army in Herāt under the control of commander Ismail Khan mutinied. Thousands of protesters took to the streets against the Khalq communist regime’s oppression led by Nur Mohammad Taraki. The new rebels led by Khan managed to oust the communists and take control of the city for 3 days, with some protesters murdering any Soviet advisers. This shocked the government, who blamed the new administration of Iran following the Iranian Revolution for influencing the uprising. Reprisals by the government followed, and between 3,000 and 24,000 people (according to different sources) were killed, in what is called the 1979 Herat uprising, or in Persian as the Qiam-e Herat. The city itself was recaptured with tanks and airborne forces, but at the cost of thousands of civilians killed. This massacre was the first of its kind since the country’s independence in 1919, and was the bloodiest event preceding the Soviet–Afghan War. Herat received damage during the Soviet–Afghan War in the 1980s, especially its western side. The province as a whole was one of the worst-hit. In April 1983, a series of Soviet bombings damaged half of the city and killed around 3,000 civilians, described as “extremely heavy, brutal and prolonged”. Ismail Khan was the leading mujahideen commander in Herāt fighting against the Soviet-backed government. After the communist government’s collapse in 1992, Khan joined the new government and he became governor of Herat Province. The city was relatively safe and it was recovering and rebuilding from the damage caused in the Soviet–Afghan War. However, on September 5, 1995, the city was captured by the Taliban without much resistance, forcing Khan to flee. Herat became the first Persian-speaking city to be captured by the Taliban. The Taliban’s strict enforcement of laws confining women at home and closing girls’ schools alienated Heratis who are traditionally more liberal and educated, like the Kabulis, than other urban populations in the country. Two days of anti-Taliban protests occurred in December 1996 which was violently dispersed and led to the imposition of a curfew.

After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, on November 12, 2001, it was captured from the Taliban by forces loyal to the Northern Alliance and Ismail Khan returned to power (Battle of Herat). In 2004, Mirwais Sadiq, Aviation Minister of Afghanistan and the son of Ismail Khan, was ambushed and killed in Herāt by a local rival group. More than 200 people were arrested under suspicion of involvement. In 2005, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) began establishing bases in and around the city. Its main mission was to train the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and help with the rebuilding process of the country. Regional Command West, led by Italy, assisted the Afghan National Army (ANA) 207th Corps. Herat was one of the first seven areas that transitioned security responsibility from NATO to Afghanistan. In July 2011, the Afghan security forces assumed security responsibility from NATO. Due to their close relations, Iran began investing in the development of Herat’s power, economy and education sectors. In the meantime, the United States built a consulate in Herat to help further strengthen its relations with Afghanistan. In addition to the usual services, the consulate works with the local officials on development projects and with security issues in the region.

Here you can find the complete Overview of all Theme Weeks.

Read more on Wikitravel Herat, Wikivoyage Herat and Wikipedia Herat. Learn more about the use of photos. To inform you about latest news most of the city, town or tourism websites offer a newsletter service and/or operate Facebook pages/Twitter accounts. In addition more and more destinations, tourist organizations and cultural institutions offer Apps for your Smart Phone or Tablet, to provide you with a mobile tourist guide (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.






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