Life in 1960s Afghanistan before the Taliban

or us Westerners, when we hear “Afghanistan”, we can only think of a very poor country which, for 50 years, has known only war. Believe it or not, Afghanistan was once by the standards of some Western countries in the 1960s and life was actually wonderful, as described by Dr. Bill William Podlich.

A country of war?

Right now, as we all know, Afghanistan ended up being ruled by the Talibana modern terrorist organization made up of Islamist extremists who now rule the country using fear and religious beliefs, completely depriving Afghan citizens of human rights.

To say that this country has been in a constant war is a mistaken assumption. Yes, according to history, the lands of Afghanistan have known nothing but war for centuries, but in the 20th century, it was not Afghanistan that inflicted war. What started the Taliban or modern terrorism in Afghanistan is a hotly debated argument. Some say it was the Soviet Union in the 80s while others say it was the involvement of the United States.

From the research that I have done as a historian on this subject, I believe that it was mainly the fault of the United States government at the end of the cold war. It is said that when the Soviet Union first invaded Afghanistan in 1979, it was for their own benefit to take the oil and other valuable resources found on the earth. It could have been a case, but I also believe they went there to stop the mujahideenthey were the first terrorist group in Afghanistan to also fight against the Afghan democratic government.

The Mujahideen themselves were not as extreme as the later Taliban, but they still followed the same extreme Islamic ideology. Now tell me, why would the Soviet Union want to invade a country it had invested in to build infrastructure in the 1960s?

During the Soviet offensive against the Mujahideen, the United States saw a window of opportunity where it was able to reduce the armed forces of its greatest enemy. Why have direct war with your enemy when you can ally with your enemy’s enemy? In other words, giving weapons to terrorists in order to cripple the Soviet Union. The United States never knew that the terrorist movement inside Afghanistan would grow to push them back, but that’s another story.

Afghanistan before terrorism

From 1954 to 1978, Afghanistan received over $1 billion in aid from the Soviet Union for the government to invest in its economy and infrastructure.. The objective was not only to create relations with this nation, but also to give the Afghan people a better quality of life. While the world began the 20th century with all-out wars, Afghanistan remained mostly neutral, focusing on developing its country and bringing it into the 20th century. I should also mention that the The United States has also helped the Afghan economy with approximately $165 million..

Students of the Higher College of Teachers in Kabul, where Dr. Podlich taught for two years at UNESCO (Source: Dr. Bill Podlich)

The country was trying to be more liberal and the citizens were trying to live a more western lifestyle. Until then, the country followed a strict lifestyle based on its Islamic culture, but with the new democratic government, things have changed for the better. The word “education” has been accorded high priority, not only by the government but also by Afghan citizens.

Afghan girls returning from school, 1967. (Source: Dr. Bill Podlich)

It was a time when girls and women in Afghanistan were treated equally and had the freedom to dress however they wanted as well as the right to education. Today, if a woman is not dressed well or is caught self-educating, she can end up getting shot. The country has really opened its eyes and come out of this closed box mentality, allowing people to choose how they want to live their life and more importantly choose what they want to do in life.

This does not mean that the values ​​of Islamic culture have been forgotten or disrespected. They have actually been used as a tourist advantage to attract people to the beautiful country of Afghanistan. In addition to all the war, there are some truly incredible sites that are unique in the world, as seen in a photo with Dr. Bill Podlich. If it weren’t for Bill Podlich and the UNESCO program he signed up for, the world wouldn’t be able to see these images of Afghanistan at its most beautiful.

Afghan women prepare to travel on one of the first flights at Kabul airport (Source: pinterest)

Afghanistan was going through a major modernization process during the 1960s and surely people adapted quickly, especially women, to the western way of life. The country’s economy was at an all-time high, with very low unemployment rates and the highest education rates seen in the eastern world at the time.

Desks and a leafy awning are all these students need to create a classroom in the summer of 1967. (Source: Dr. Bill Podlich)

For us, education is a basic need, but for children in the 1960s it was considered a luxury that they were happy to have. Most children were eager to go to school and learn. In some more remote areas of Afghanistan, the infrastructure was not yet built, but that did not stop teachers from giving every child a chance to go to school.

The Center for Science and Culture was built in Kabul as a gift from the people of the Soviet Union. Once US-backed mujahideen forces seized power, the facility was destroyed. (Source: Dr. Bill Podlich)
Intercontinental Hotel. The hotel has been attacked occasionally since the departure of Soviet forces in 1992, most recently by suicide bombers in June 2011. It is still in operation and was used by Western journalists during the US invasion of the Afghanistan in 2001. (Source: Dr. Bill Podlich)

As you can see mainly in Kabul, the Soviets really helped Afghanistan and the Soviet architecture really shows it. They helped build schools, hospitals, hotels, airports, and many types of communist apartment buildings. Such infrastructure has not only made citizens happier but also improved the economy by giving more jobs to the Afghan people.

Not everyone likes change

With so many changes from their classic Islamic way of life to this Western way of life, some people were frustrated, so much so that they created an organized terrorist group and started making their own law. The Mujahideen believed in their established Islamic ways of life from ancient times and did not allow the changes that the future brought to override their philosophy.

It was in the late 1970s that these Islamic extremists began to revolt against the changes that had taken place in Afghanistan and in 1978 when the first people were killed by the mujahideen. Since then, Afghanistan has never been the same. All beautiful things have been destroyed by the ongoing war that seems to have no end.

Will it ever return to its 1960s beauty? This is something only time can tell.

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