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- Amanullah wasn’t actually king until 1926 – he was Amir before then. For simplicity’s sake, referring to him as king. ↩
- For an idea of how Syria was doing at the time, read the entry on Naziq al-Abid (although please excuse the hideous and outdated art). It is entirely possible from the timeframe that she and Soraya knew each other, although I have no evidence of it. ↩
- Soraya’s father was Mahmud Tarzi, the father of Afghan journalism and a pretty swell guy. ↩
- The “wandering marketplaces” bit is a rumor, but illustrative that he was a man of the people and really fairly popular. ↩
- This was the Third Anglo-Afghan War, which happened right around the formation of the League of Nations. For years prior, Afghanistan has been treated like a pawn in a larger game of chess between Russia and Britain (usually referred to as the “Great Game”).The Afghans fought for self-determination, and although it was an overall military victory for Britain, Afghanistan came out of it independent. Several books I read pointed to the League of Nations being a central cause of this, as it was pushing for an end to colonialism and promoting self-governance. ↩
- This was all laid out in Amanullah’s “Book of Order,” the Nizamnama, introduced in 1923. It was a hugely controversial document for the more religious members of Afghan society, as to their eyes it placed secular laws above god’s law. He argued all of the points on religious grounds. Polygamy, for example, was an only acceptable if you treat all your wives equally – which was a feat only possible if you were the Prophet. Amanullah was pretty strictly monogamous – unheard of for kings – and very faithful to Soraya. ↩
- Soraya’s entire family was involved in bettering the lot of women: her sisters founded a women’s hospital and an organization to help women. ↩
- Amanullah was a very learned guy – he personally taught adult education classes. ↩
- The bride price wasn’t abolished technically – it was just capped at 29 rupees, instead of the tens of thousands that that one saw beforehand. ↩
- The magazine in question was Ershad-I-Niswan, “Guidance for Women.” The speech at the bottom is one she gave in 1926 at the seventh anniversary of Afghan independence. ↩
- This was formed in 1927. Many men took grave offense at random women (who were mostly older types) entering their houses unbidden. They would basically make house calls to check in on women. ↩
- This was the Khost Rebellion, which basically halted the entire country from about 1924 to 1926. Amanullah won it mostly through bringing in British and Russian help and bribing various tribes to fight for him. The Brits and Russians were still trying to figure out how to exercise influence, although the Brits were fairly stuck-up about it (and seemingly sore that they’d ceded Afghanistan in the first place). ↩
- Remarkably, Soraya joined him in visiting Khost afterward, although the locals HATED her. ↩
- The Minaret still exists as a tourist destination, to my knowledge. ↩
- Much of this, as you’ll see, was getting ahead of himself. He would spend a lot of money bringing in specialists from Europe to make roads or telegraphs, but not have anywhere to run them, necessarily. A lot of people spent time sitting around. It was fairly wasteful. ↩
- They also did a ton of other stuff: instituted a solar calendar, promoted archaeology, and guaranteed rights to women and minorities: “The Prophet said all people are equal, men and women. Take his words to heart.” ↩
- The politics of this trip are interesting. Britain and Russia were both vying to have Afghan under their umbrella, but without appearing too desperate. Amanullah and Soraya were playing them – and the rest of Europe – against each other. They were given lavish greetings almost everywhere they went. ↩
- The first illustration is that of their visit to an arms factory in Sheffield, where Soraya impressed with her shooting accuracy. She’d also wowed the Brits in 1927, at a clay pigeon shooting competition between the Afghans and British diplomats. ↩
- The second illustration is that of a time where Soraya, seemingly aware that their servant could understand the Farsi that she was speaking in private, mentioned in Farsi that the boiling-hot tea was awfully cold. The servant, shocked at her comment, was about to comment, when he realized he was not supposed to be able to understand them, and that both Amanullah and Soraya were looking him directly in the eye. ↩
- Among the gifts they got while abroad: furniture, tanks, cars, planes, a rifle (for Soraya), and two fluffy white kittens (from Turkey). Amanullah idolized Turkey, which had recently achieved many of his stated goals, under its new leader Mustafa Ataturk. ↩
- Russia was convinced Afghanistan had signed some sort of treaty with Britain, and drove themselves nuts trying to find it in their belongings. Near the end of their stay, they became convinced it was in the one piece of luggage they hadn’t checked – when, at length, they managed to separate Soraya from the bag, it turned out to be just a suitcase full of her lingerie. ↩
- Okay. So this is one of those things that gets overstated and accepted as fact – and it sounds plausible. After all, Britain interfered with god knows how many countries – just 25 years later, they’d overthrow the democratic leader of Iran in a secret operation. But they stridently deny involvement here, and the declassified cables between their envoys bears that out. More on this later. ↩
- Some reports of “naked photos” of Soraya indicate a doctored photo of Soraya’s head on a dancer’s body, citing it as evidence of British involvement. Others assume that, to rural Afghans, merely showing bare shoulders would be considered a form of nudity. I could not find consensus on what photographs exactly were the ones to rile up the Afghans so. ↩
- The rumors of secret Christianity (“They met with the pope!”), a secret crematorium for old people, and a macabre soap factory are ones that apparently still sometimes pop up as rumors in present-day Afghanistan. ↩
- I’m glossing over it here, but after his visit to Europe, Amanullah got pretty iron-fisted in his approach. He’d pushed for western-style clothing for government employees already, feeling that traditional clothing was not taken seriously on the international stage. But here he started mandating clothing, and forcing people to cut their beards – and fining them if they didn’t. He made some parks burqa-free zones, and on one occasion purportedly ripped off a burqa from a woman in such a zone, leaving her to walk home, utterly humiliated. ↩
- Additionally, his civil service requirement, and that of coed education, directly robbed local tribes of power, by extracting their young for what many considered indoctrination. ↩
- Many other women whipped off their veils at this event, after the queen – although not all. It was an optional thing, and should not be viewed as a tool of oppression. Many women kept it on willingly and happily (ref. the woman on screen right). ↩
- Amanullah was not great at budgeting, and his taxes grew onerous in short order. His heart was in the right place, but he was pushing way too fast. ↩
- The bandit here was named Habibullah Kalakani (well, just Habibullah, “Kalakani” denoted where he was from), but he was known better as Bacha-i-Saqao, or “the water carrier”: a title indicating his low status. He was illiterate, brutish, and not well loved. ↩
- This was sort of a perfect storm of events: Amanullah was distracted by a rebellion in the Khyber pass, and by all accounts, Saqao was not really on his radar. The army was off quashing that rebellion, leaving it wide open to Saqao. Additionally, Amanullah’s backups had either been alienated by his behavior, or outright stymied from joining him. A number of nearby tribes were stopped at the Afghan border – whose exact location had been a point of contention – by British troops and not allowed to pass. ↩
- There was a humiliating period I am glossing over here where Amanullah tried acquiescing to Saqao’s demands, which included rolling back all his reforms and divorcing Soraya. It was not enough, and he was ousted anyways. ↩
- A number of writeups made a point of talking about how he fled in his import car that he’d gotten in Europe. Amanullah’s taste for luxury was not one of his more widely-lauded traits. ↩
- Here we get more points that some writeups point to as evidence of British interference. Adding to the peculiar exception for the British (which is explained by the fact that the British had been better to the rural tribes than, say, the Germans, whose drinking offended the religious minority) are some other oddities: TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) was in the area at the time for reason that have never been adequately explained; eyewitness accounts describe English rations being passed around by Saqao’s men; there are even reports of Saqao meeting with British envoys (which are not borne out in any cables). ↩
- The majority of modern academic thought seems to affirm that Britain wasn’t directly responsible, although they certainly didn’t help with the political atmosphere at the time. Bottom-line, it was not in Britain’s interests to have a destabilized Afghanistan at the time. Nevertheless, contemporary Western newspapers from France, Italy, Russia, and even England all assumed England had masterminded it, and that Saqao was Britain’s puppet. ↩
- Saqao was profoundly ill-suited to his new role in leadership. He did not understand how banks or taxes worked, and preferred to just threaten merchants to give him money. Likely apocryphal tales describe his men marveling over windows, which they’d never seen before. He staffed his entire government with various poorly-educated cronies and personal friends. Few of them could read, least of all Saqao. ↩
- The guy to overthrow Saqao was Nadir Khan (unrelated), who’d been Amanullah’s military commander in the Anglo-Afghan war, but had left to Paris during the Khost rebellion. He came back and overthrew Saqao, executing him. Some attempts were made by foreign powers, especially Italy, to reinstate Amanullah, but the local support wasn’t there. ↩
- The US’s involvement in the 70s and 80s is probably well-known to most of you, but here’s a Wikipedia article covering it. The short version, which is somewhat disputed, is that the US armed the rural religious population to overthrow the progressive government. This mass destabilization of the country led to the rise of the Taliban. ↩
- Kabul in the 60s was actually a hub of fashion! Crazy, right? ↩
- These women were wearing chaderi, which I believe is basically synonymous with burqa – I could be wrong on that. ↩
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First off, this is by far the most political post I’ve ever done. Apologies if it’s not to your taste, but what is the point of art if it’s comfortable all the time? Will be covering a folk tale next entry.
Otherwise: I’m a bit unsure about some of the outfits of the time – there’s very little photo documentation of the Afghan schools, and most of the pictures of the women are staged. Also hoping my Arabic writing on the chalkboard isn’t too godawful…! Other than that, everything is pretty much just using reference from the time, mixing in occasional poses from modern day that might have resonance.
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Next Time on Rejected Princesses
Back to folk tales for a bit. Here’s your hint:
If you wanted to marry this Armenian princess, you’d better get a job.
Widowed young queen who led a fearsome rebellion against the British with her child tied to her back.