Historical Memory Deficit in Afghanistan

History is full of both positive and negative events, joys and sorrows, and bittersweet moments. The purpose of writing and recording history is to prevent the same mistakes from being repeated and to build upon the successes of the past. Historical memory is created through the documentation of events, which helps to bring people’s awareness to a higher level of understanding and prosperity. This is why ancient works, historical documents, and other evidence of events are so important and are given special attention for preservation. In more developed countries, efforts are made to commemorate those parts of history that are relevant to their current lives through statues, symbols, inscriptions, stories, films, poems, plays, and other forms of media, so that the memory of the past is not forgotten and the same mistakes are not repeated.

There is no historical memory in Afghanistan, as evidenced by the lack of works from the past. This can be seen when visiting the museums of the world, where the crowns of kings, swords of warriors, pen works of writers, and artistic products of artists are kept with great care. These works demonstrate the distinction between reality and fiction, and prevent fabricated narratives from the past from replacing historical facts. In Afghanistan, compared to other countries, there are very few and insignificant works of the past, and even these few works are not used to read the past. It is understandable that, in the absence of historical documents, the past remains a blank slate on which anyone can draw their desired narrative, such as singing about a five-thousand-year old civilization. However, the harsh reality is that even from the recent past, there are not enough documents, ranging from the Durand border document to documents related to the constitutional movement, the political Islam movement, the leftist movement, jihad against the Soviet Union, the rise of the Taliban, the fall of the Republic, and how decisions were made in the dark rooms of the Taliban leadership.

In the absence of reliable and verifiable sources, people can create their own narrative based on their imagination and desires, as some political factions have done; while this may be useful in certain contexts, it cannot accurately reflect actual historical events. When there is a lack of historical records and documents, and the attempt to reinterpret the past is not done in a systematic and accepted manner, the collective memory of history is also subject to numerous disruptions and disturbances; if such a thing as collective historical memory even exists. It is the absence of this collective memory that serves as the foundation for the repetition of mistakes and disasters, leading to governments in the region collapsing, wars breaking out periodically, and a lack of stability, development, progress, and prosperity in the society. A nation cannot escape from perpetual crises and turmoil without a collective historical memory. Had we had such a memory and learned from the events of the past decade, the republic would not have descended into corruption and destruction, the Taliban would not have regained power, the country would not have reached its current impasse, and the people would not have been trapped in this helplessness.