washingtonpost.com  > World > Asia/Pacific > Central Asia > Afghanistan
Page 3 of 3  < Back  

Persian New Year Celebrations Unite Afghans

"I guess they didn't get the message," Kluyver said with a shake of his head.

Back at the hotel where musicians from the festival had been put up for the night, the Singing Mullah of Shebergan said he was sure he would enjoy a warmer reception when he played at the auditorium the following night.

Buzkashi matches are held during Nowruz, or Persian New Year. Horsemen race each other while fighting for a headless goat carcass. (Photos N.c. Aizenman -- The Washington Post)

"I am famous around here," said the 62-year-old, whose real name is Taj Mohammed, as he leaned back on his thin hotel mattress with a confident grin.

Certainly, he had the most interesting stage name, although technically he had given up his job as an Islamic preacher four decades ago. Now, Mohammed works as a supervisor at a natural gas mine by day and an entertainer by night.

Mostly his band plays weddings. But perhaps his most memorable concert was in the early 1990s, when the band traveled to the front lines of the battle then raging between Abdurrashid Dostum, the pro-communist, ethnic Uzbek general, and Islamic guerrilla groups. "Suddenly we came under fire from Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades," said Mohammed, an Uzbek. "But we kept on playing for Dostum."

A powerful militia leader who switched sides multiple times during Afghanistan's various wars and whose troops are widely believed to have brutally massacred hundreds of Taliban prisoners in 2001, Dostum remains a controversial figure.

But Mohammed said he was unaware of those charges and had only fond memories of the period in the mid-1990s when Dostum ruled several northern areas, including Mazar-e Sharif, as his fiefdom.

Still, Mohammed added that he had always been committed to national unity. Back in the days of civil war, he said, he frequently sang a song of his own composition called "We Love Our Homeland." Its message was that Afghans should stop fighting each other.

Now the band was working on a new song, meant to encourage countrymen to make use of Afghanistan's natural resources.

"It is for the reconstruction of Afghanistan," Mohammed said as his band mates picked up traditional Uzbek instruments for an impromptu performance.

< Back  1 2 3

© 2005 The Washington Post Company