About the Memoirs


By Afzal Nasiri

These are the memoirs of Ustad Khalilullah Khalili, the eminent  historian, poet, philosopher and statesman of Afghanistan, which were written in Maywood, New Jersey, between 1983-1986 while he was in exile in the United States, during the Russian occupation of his country. Looking for the end of the Russo-Afghan war and with a view to returning to his beloved  Afghanistan, Ustad Khalili moved to Pakistan in 1986. Unfortunately, his hopes were not realized and he died in Islamabad, Pakistan on May 4th 1987. The end of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan would not come  for another two years.

Khalili authored more than seventy works of poetry, fiction, histories and Sufi studies. His booklet “From Balkh to Konya” on the 13th century mystic poet Jalaluddin Balkhi-Rumi is highly regarded across the  Persian speaking world  as well as India and Pakistan. His most notable work was  published  after the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in 1979.  His themes were highly patriotic, having been influenced by the popular struggle against the communist regime and the military occupation. His work provided inspiration to the resistance and its freedom fighters.

Khalili stands out in modern  Persian poetry and is among the few contemporary Afghan poets to gain a following in Iran. His Rubaiyats (couplets) have been translated into English and Arabic  by several scholars. Khalili’s Rubaiyats are often compared to those of the eleventh century Persian poet, Omar Khayyam. Referring  to his “Quatrains of Khalilullah Khalili,” published in English by Idris  Shah, Prof. Aljubouri of Al Mustansiriyah University of Baghdad  writes:

Like his famous predecessor, Professor Khalili’ scope is very wide and he covers a variety of topics. These embody, above all, the poet’s spiritual unrest in search of eternal truth as well as deep concern for the enigma of creation of life and death. In his Rubiayats we can clearly discern Khalili’s evident enjoyment of life, its pleasures and beauties.”

Khalili is best remembered for his Quatrains.  His literary influence includes  Nezami, Rumi, Saadi and the tranquility inspired by Hafez Shirazi.

As his son-in-law, I had the rare opportunity to join him while he lived in humble accommodations in Maywood,  NJ.  I began compiling notes, tapes and even video of his memories of Afghanistan, his friends and the history of the country during his time there. I also had the chance  to accompany him  during his visit to  Princeton University in 1984. While there Khalili was shocked to see the well maintained collections of his work where it is studied by students of Persian literature.

As husband of his eldest daughter, Marie Khalili, my father-in-law always showed a special affection towards me, or so he made me feel when I was in his company.  After a hard day’s work, we  would all gather in his Maywood apartment. We had come to the United States as political refugees from Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion and occupation in 1979.

Marie and I arrived in the United States with our son, Khalil, on January 12, 1981 and joined my father-in law’s family in New Jersey the next day. Ustad Khalili had left his post  as Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Iraq and eventually sought  political asylum in the United States, where he ended  up in Maywood NJ. He was a good judge of characters . Upon quitting his post as Afghan Ambassador to Iraq, after the communist coup in Afghanistan, he was offered  a job to live and work at Baghdad University by Saddam Hussain, then president of Iraq. Khalili refused the offer and went on to USA via Germany. Our routine in the evenings was to visit him and his wife, Fauzia. We would sit around the modest apartment and talk  about days gone by.

He lived in a small, two bedroom garden  style apartment with barely any room to accommodate all his guests who would find their way to him from around the country.  In the summers we would carry folding chairs outside  to one corner of the apartment  building’s lawn. There we would gather and continue  our conversations about Afghanistan and his life. Our neighbors would watch us with curiosity, but were always very polite and accommodating.

He would often muse that he had lived  many chapters of history and been privy to many conversations with the kings, generals and ministers who steered it: “ but Alas! I have not written  any of it down!” As we listened to his stories and his memories, it became clear to Marie and I that we needed to record this oral history for posterity. At  first he was hesitant, but soon acquiesced to the will  of his beloved  daughter.  I realized the cultural and historical value of this opportunity. We began recording  his memoirs one evening in May, 1983. These memoirs are a dialogue  with his daughter Marie.

My father had fled to British India  when he was 12 after his father, my grandfather, was brutally murdered by the forces of Nadir Shah following the overthrow of  Habibullah  kalakani. Having grown up in India, my educational career was entirely in English, culminating in a Master’s degree in Political Science from India’s Aligarh University. I moved to Afghanistan in 1972,where I began to improve my Persian. While there, I was  a young journalist working as a member of the editorial board of the Kabul Times, the only English  language daily  newspaper of Afghanistan, and the place  I would meet my wife. Therefore, while  my initial notes on Khalili’s  memoirs were in Persian, I soon switched to English, a language with which I was professionally fluent. My wife, herself an accomplished  journalist and recognized  figure in Persian literary Circles, took on the task of translating and documenting our notes into Persian.

I continued taking notes at the pace set by Ustad  Khalili himself. His memory served him well and, despite not having his journals and notes, he recounted every detail, name and place to us over the course of multiple evenings. In some instances he could not  recall the exact dates of an event. In those cases, we have tried  to carefully recreate a timeline and identify an accurate date.

We purchased a tape recorder  to speed up our progress and to ensure the accuracy of our notes. After two years working on the project he announced that he was moving to Pakistan at the invitation of Zia-ul-Haq, then the President of Pakistan. He never listened  to those taped recordings and as a result never had the opportunity to tie together  disparate stories or correct apparent conflicts regarding dates.

Over the course of this project, Marie and I have assembled the memoirs together from our notes and tapes and memories of those conversations with great care, deferring to his spoken word as much as possible. Our goal  is to honor the integrity of his words, keep his thoughts in tact and preserve his stories and voice  for future generations. His memoirs are a living  history of Afghanistan. He was witness to the rule  of five of its kings and its first president.

Khalili spent sleepless nights  tormented by the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets. He longed  for the day when the country would be free of the brutal occupation. Knowing Khalili, I know the rule of Taliban and the role played by them and other terrorist organizations in Afghanistan would have tormented  him as equally as Soviet rule, as would  the current occupation by the American and NATO forces.

The first part of Khalili’s memoirs cover the time  from his birth in Kabul in 1907 to the Soviet Occupation. Kahlili was the eldest son of Mustufi-ul-Momalik Mohammad Hussain, the Minister of Finance to Habibullah Khan, father of Amanullah Khan. Mustufi Mohammad Hussain was  executed by Amanullah for speaking  out about  Amanullah’s involvement in the assassination of his own father, Habibullah.

The second  part of his memoirs include political developments from the rise of Mohammad Nadir 1929, his assassination and the rise of Zaher Shah until the time of Khalili’s resignation as Afghan Ambassador to Iraq in 1978. It further details eight years of struggle he waged through his pen against the Soviet occupation. Khalili’s work was instrumental in uniting  the diverse bands of freedom fighters in their resistance to the  occupation.

Ustad Khalili left for Pakistan in 1986, before we could complete his memoirs. He  promised to complete this project when he returned, however, his illness and death were sudden and that was a promise he was unable to keep. The final chapter, therefore, has been left incomplete. His passing triggered an immense  outpouring of grief in Afghanistan and amongst its diaspora.

This book is the final result of that project. I am currently working with my son Khalil Nasiri, an attorney in Virginia upon whom  Ustad bestowed his name, to translate and edit the English version. Our hope is this book will serve as the testimony of  an eyewitness account to eight decades of Afghan history for future generations. Ustad Khalilullah Khalili died in Islamabad, Pakistan in 1987 and was buried in Peshawar, Pakistan next to the tomb of Pashto poet Rahman Baba, near the Afghan border, according to his wishes.

Manassas, VA August, 15  2010.


خوانندۀ گرامی!

آنچه اینجا مطالعه می فرمایید، شرحی است از آغاز زندگانی پدرم، استادخلیل الله خلیلی، که در سال 1285 خورشیدی، برابرباسال 1907 در دامن قدرت و تجمل، درکنار رودخانۀ کابل، درباغ جهان آرا، چشم به جهان کشود و، درچهاردهم ثور1366خورشیدی، برابربا چارم ماه می سال 1987 میلادی دراسلام آباد پاکستان، درمیان مجاهدین و آوارگان، زندگی راپدرودگفت.از شگفتی هااین است که پدراستاد، مرحوم میرزامحمدحسین خان مستوفی الممالک نیز درچهاردهم ثور1298 خورشیدی به دستورامان الله خان به دار آویخته شده بود.

این یادداشت ها را از زبان استاد قدم به قدم همزمان با رویدادهای تاریخ، فرازهای اندک و نشیب های پی درپی در زندگانی شاعر به دست نشر سپردیم . پدرم در مورد شعرش می گفت:

چشم غزالان غزلم یاد داد         حملۀ شیران جدلم یاد داد

استاد را قرار وصیت خودش هنگام غروب آفتاب همان روز درشهر پشاور، درکنار سرحد افغانستان در قبرستان مجاهدین افغان به خاک سپردند.

چون به غربت خواهد ازمن پیک جانان نقد جان             جــا  دهیدم  در کــــــــنار تربت  آوارگان

کشور من سخت  بیــــــــــمار است آزارش مده            زخم ها دارد ، نمک بر زخـم آن کمتر فشان

از برای مدفن من سینۀ  پاکش  مَـــــــــــــــــدَر           بهر من بر خـــاطر زارش منه بــــــار گران

رقص رقصــــــــان از لـحد خیزم اگر آرد کسی            مشت خاکی از دیـــار من به رســـم  ارمغان

ای وطندار مبارک پــــــــی    اگر  این  جا رسی           جزخــــدا و جز وطـن حرفی میاور بر زبان

یک قسمت از گفتار استاد راهمسرم افضل ثبت کرده بود، وقسمت دیگر را چون افضل به انگلیسی نوشته بود، من آنرا به فارسی ترجمه کردم. این یادداشت ها بدون کوچک ترین تغییری در کلمات و جملات به دست نشرسپرده شده است. در بعضی جای ها داستان ها باهم وصل نیستند، ما لازم ندیدیم در وصل قصه ها تغییری وارد کنیم، اما تاریخ ها راتاحد امکان با قصه ها پیوند کردیم . حتی تأخیر در میعاد نشر یادداشت ها هم نظر شخص استاد بود.

من با پدرم همیشه ارتباط بسیار نزدیک داشتم، یگان وقت خواهران و برادرانم مرا به محبت بیشترپدرم متهم میکردند. استادهرگاه شعر تازه می سرود، با وجود نارسایی من در قلم ، وبی دانشی من در شعرو ادب، سروده هایش رابرایم می خواند، ونظر من برایش اهمیت داشت . اولین باری که پدرم مرا افتخار بخشید، در حدودپانزده یا شانزده سال داشتم، درکابل بودیم، استاد بعد از شفایابی ازیک حملۀ قلبی، پارچه شعری به نام «نقش دیگر گذشت ازنظرم» نوشته وآن را به من اهدا کرد:

من چو مرده فتاده بر بستر          نی ز خود نی ز حال غیر خبر

ناگهان گرم گشت رخسارم         کرد از خواب مرگ   بیدارم

قطره ای چند برجبینم ریخت       جنبشی در نــهاد من انگیخت

چشم واکردم و جهان  دیدم         روی «ماری» مــهربان دیدم

«ماری» آن دختر  نکوی من        ســرو قد و فرشته  خوی من

اشک می ریخت برسرورویم        بوسه می زدبه دست و بازویم

گفتم ای ســــرو بوستان پدر        روشنی   بخش دیـــدگان پدر

زندۀ ما سـزای  رحمت نیست       درخورهیچ گونه حرمت نیست

زود آن روزگــــــار می آید        کاین  گهر ها  به کار می آید

چند روزی تو انتـــــــظار ببر       وآن دم این گنج را به کار ببر

روی تابوت من نـــثارش  کن         ارمغان بر ســــر مزارش کن

با تأسف که مرگ ناگهانی پدرم درپاکستان، نگذاشت اشک هایم را نثار تابوتش کنم .

به یاددارم دریکی از روزهای گرم تابستان درنیوجرسی بودیم، از خبر بمباران روس هاوکشتار مجاهدین درافغانستان بسیار ناراحت بود، من و افضل با اصرار زیاد استاد رابه کنار رودخانۀ (هدسن) بردیم. هنگام برگشت پرسیدم: از دریای هدسن خوشتان آمد؟ با چشمان اشک آلود این بیت را فی الحال سرود، و بقیه را فردای آن به پایان رسانید :

دریای هدسنم نکند مست زآن که من            دیوانۀ تلاطم دریای دیگرم

آخرین هدیۀ پدرم به من در سال 1978 بود. کمونیست ها تازه به قدرت رسیده بودند، خانه و کتاب های پدرم ضبط و تاراج شده بود. مرز های ما را به روی بیگانگان بازکرده بودند. در میان این رویداد ها، اولین فرزندم در بامداد 23 می درکابل تولد شد. پدرم با این پارچۀ زیبا به قلم خودش، اسم او را «خلیل» گذاشت .

ماری خلیلی ناصری

بهار سال 2009 میلادی، شهر مناسس، ایالت ورجینیا، ایالات متحدۀ امریکا