The Poetical Is Political as Tajik Wordsmith Declares ‘Death to Afghanistan’

The Tajik-Afghan border. Photo courtesy of Caravanistan.

The Tajik-Afghan border. Photo courtesy of Caravanistan.

“Марги Фархундаи ноком ба ман мегӯяд,
Ки ба ҳар як дару девор нависам ба зуғол:
Марг ба Афғонистон!
Сангдевори занон!!
Маҳбаси зан!!!

Агар ин аст мусалмонии Афғонистон,
Ҳама он бомба, ки янки ба сараш рехт кам аст,
Кам аст.”

The death of ill-fated Farkhunda forces me
To write at each door and wall with charcoal:
Death to Afghanistan! Prison of women!

If this is Islam in Afghanistan
All those bombs shelled by the Yankees on its head
Still are not enough.

Thus runs the latest poetic offering penned by Bozor Sobir, one of former communist Tajikistan's most famous lyricists and certainly its most inconstant.

Sobir's condemnation of an entire country has earned him heat from the Afghan ambassador to Tajikistan as well as scorn on social media where several Tajiks — known for their love of poetry — have offered responses in verse.

Bozor Sobir in Navruz celebrations in Khujand city of Tajikistan. March 2015. Picture from the poet's Facebook account

Bozor Sobir at Nowruz celebrations in Khujand city, Tajikistan, March 2015. Picture from the poet's Facebook account.

But at 77, Sobir is unlikely to give a damn what anyone thinks.

The cantankerous old poet  bucked the Soviet literary trend by conspicuously failing to write lines in support of Lenin, Communism, Russia, or the Soviet Union, a trait that made it difficult for him to get a job for a long time.

His poem about the Tajik language, written on the eve of independence, became an anthem for Tajik nationalists of the time, while there are few grown-up schoolchildren from the 1990s that cannot recite it by heart. 

Yet having fallen foul of the country's perma-strongman President Emomali Rahmon during the civil war (1992-7) Sobir fled to Iran, Russia and the United States, damning each with vicious verse as he went.

After that he returned to Tajikistan, heaped praise on Rahmon and earned himself a free flat in the capital Dushanbe in the process. These days, if anything, his poetry has a mostly pro-Moscow hue.

It was the barbaric murder of Farkhunda, a mentally ill woman beaten to death and incinerated for allegedly burning a copy of the Koran in Kabul, that Sobir says drew him to write the poem. But while Farkhunda's lynching was widely and thoroughly condemned across the world — including in Afghanistan — many have taken the view that Sobir's poem is nothing more than a cheap provocation.

The Afghan ambassador to Tajikistan, who gave an interview to a local news agency Ozodagon, is among those.

Dr. Abdulghafur Orzu, a poet himself, attacked Sobir’s poem as a “political slogan”.

Noting the shared ethnic, linguistic, religious, and historical heritage between the two countries separated by a river, Orzu said:

Ман бовар дорам, ҳар касе ба Афғонистон марг мегӯяд, ҳаргиз ишқ ба Тоҷикистон надорад. Агар муҳаббат ба Тоҷикистон медошт, муҳаббат ба фарҳанги ниёгон медошт, дар ин шеър ба фарҳанги ниёгон тавҳин намекард.

I do believe, that whoever wishes death to Afghanistan, cannot have any love for Tajikistan. If he loved Tajikistan, loved the culture of his ancestors, he would not humiliate their culture in this poem. Doesn’t Mr Bozor Sobir know how many dear Tajik citizens are being killed in Russia each year? To this day I have not seen that Bozor Sobir raised his voice about the murder of Tajik youth in Moscow.

When Ozodagon phoned the Tajik poet for his response, he blasted:

“Дурӯғ, дурӯғ, дурӯғ. Ман дар ин бора чандин бор навиштагиям. Нахондаанд. Ҳатто ҳамин хел навиштам, ки ин кори саҳюнистҳо аст. Ҳамин кушторҳое, ки шумо гумон мекунед, миллатгароҳои рус мекушанд, не. Инҳоро созмонҳои саҳюнистӣ мекушанд.”

Lie, lie, lie. I wrote about it repeatedly. He did not read them. I even wrote that Zionists are to be blamed for these murders. [Tajik migrants] were killed not by the Russian nationalists, but by Zionist organisations.

Afghan cartoonist reacts to the burning of a mentally ill woman to in Kabul by an angry mob.

The poet, whose country is heavily dependent on money earned by migrants in Russia, also refused accusations of anti-Afghan nationalism, noting he believes the murder was committed by his fellow Tajiks, which make up Afghanistan's second-largest ethnic group.

But this did not rescue him from online ire.

Rising religious star Abdulloh Mukammilov, the moderator of the most active Tajik group on Facebook, Tarbiyaye imoni, sent a lyrical retort:

“Магар ғайр аз мусалмон номусалмон нест дар олам?!
Магар ҷуз кишвари Афғон пурафғон нест дар олам?!
Магар мазлумкушон танҳо мусалмонанд?!
Магар бадбахтии инсониятро муҷрим эшонанд?!
Магар ҳеҷ кишваре қотил надорад?!
Магар ҳеҷ мамлакат ҷоҳил надорад?!

Aren't there any bad persons except Muslims in the world?
Isn't there another sad country except Afghanistan in this world?
Do only Muslims kill people or should they bear the burden for humanity's misfortune?
No other country has murderers? No other country has ignorants?

While Darius Rajabian, a well-known Tajik journalist, ripped:

“Чи тафовуте миёни худ ва он муллои тангназар мебинад, ки дастури қатли Фархундаро дода буд? Он мулло фарёд зада буд: “Марг бар Фархунда!” ва Бозор Собир мегӯяд: “Марг бар Афғонистон!” (Ҳамон Афғонистоне, ки Кремлини мавриди парастиши Бозор Собир ба чунин ҳоле афканд.)”

What difference does he see between himself and that ignorant mullah who ordered the killing of Farkhunda? That mullah screamed: “Death to Farkhunda!” and Bozor Sobir screams: “Death to Afghanistan!” That Afghanistan, which came to this condition because of the Kremlin [a reference to the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979], the same Kremlin that is now being praised by Bozor Sobir.


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