Sholayi - Enrico Piovesana - ebook

It is not often that one comes across an important political and historical phenomenon so completely ignored by Western historiography, essay writing and journalism. It is all the more astonishing if it concerns a country of the first importance in geopolitical terms, such as Afghanistan which, for decades now, has had the misfortune of appearing in the front pages of world press.This book tells, for the first time ever, the story of Sholayi, the Maoist movement in Afghanistan, which organized many of the strikes, student revolts, peasant uprisings that marked the so-called ‘Afghan ‘68’ season, and the early 1970s. Sholayi was also behind many of the insurrections against the pro-soviet Khalq regime in the late 1970s, and had a major part in fighting against the Soviet occupiers and the Islamic fundamentalist militias financed by the United States. Even to this day the Sholayi movement – under the banner of the Afghanistan Liberation Organisation (ALO) founded in October 1973 – is actively committed in an underground struggle against the NATO occupiers but also against fundamentalism of the Taliban kind and of the warlords who are back in power with Karzai and his American support. As it was in the past, the struggle today is being fought by a new generation of militants who believe in a ‘third way’ for the country - «neither with foreign imperialism, nor with fundamentalist fascism» - who see Maoist communism as a valid solution to the problems of a country, like their own, that has yet to wake up from its hibernation in a pre-modern era. Enrico Piovesana, born in Perugia, starts working on international affairs creating the website ‘’ in collaboration with the Corriere dell’Umbria newspaper. He has freelanced in Iraq for the newspapers L’Unità and Liberazione and as envoy for PeaceReporter in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, South Ossetia, Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar) and the Philippines. His pieces are published in the Corriere della Sera, La Stampa, Il Manifesto, Famiglia Cristiana, L’Espresso, Il Venerdì di Repubblica, Diario, Left and Oggi. His video reports have been shown by Annozero and RaiNews24. He was awarded the Ezio Baldoni journalistic prize in 2007. He is currently editor of the E-online website and E-online monthly edition. NAOKI TOMASINI, photo-journalist with an Italian father and a Japanese mother, he started out in his profession in Ramallah as editor of Mustafa Barghouti’s Palestine Monitor. From 2004 to 2009 he has worked as journalist and photographer for the online daily ‘PeaceReporter’, travelling to all the main theatres of war in the Middle East and Central Asia. From 2009 he has been an independent photo-journalist. He presently lives in Brazil.

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Enrico Piovesana


The Afghan Maoist movement

Testimonies told by its militants (1965 – 2011)

Libro tradotto in inglese da Manoli Traxler

© Città del Sole Edizioni s.a.s. di Franco Arcidiaco & C. Via Ravagnese Sup., 60/A 89131 REGGIO CALABRIA Tel. 0965.644464

Fax 0965.630176 e-mail:

Edizione - Luglio 2012

ISBN: 9788873515616

A special thanks to

The Afghan women of RAWA


It is not often that one comes across an important political and historical phenomenon so completely ignored by Western historiography, essay writing and journalism. It is all the more astonishing if it is regarding a country of the first importance in geopolitical terms, such as Afghanistan which, for decades now, has had the misfortune of appearing in the front pages of world press.

No one has ever told the story of Sholayi, the Afghan Maoist movement, a prime mover of the student uprisings and the peasants’ and workers’ revolts typical of the ‘Afghan ‘68’ and of the early Seventies, organizer of insurrections against the pro-Soviet ‘khalqist’ regime of the late 1970s, and active participant in the armed resistance against both the Soviet invader and the US backed fundamentalist militias. Even to this day – under the guise of the ALO (Afghan Liberation Organization) born in 1973 – it is active in a clandestine political resistance against NATO occupation and all forms of fundamentalism, be it of the Taliban or of the warlords who have returned to positions of power with Karzai and with U.S. backing. Just as it was in the Seventies, the fighters are young Afghans who believe there is a ‘third way’ for their country – “Neither with the foreign imperialism, nor with fundamentalist fascism” - who look upon the Maoist version of Communism as still a valid solution to the problems of a country hibernating in a pre-modern era.

The only existing publication in the western press with even a superficial mention of Sholayi is Louis Dupree’s 1973 essay on the history of Afghanistan: a valuable track which no one has ever sought to follow or pursue.

Not even the development of the global information superhighway has brought back from oblivion what was hidden in the layers of the country’s history. The information which has been made available on ALO’s website does not appear to have generated any interest outside of Afghanistan other than the occasional ‘cut and paste’ appearing on some specialized blog.

If today’s lack of interest can be attributed to a general ignorance of the phenomenon – if you don’t know of it, how can you research it? – the reasons for which there has been so little mention of the Afghan Maoist movement in the history books are to be sought in the cultural climate that existed during the Cold War era, a time in which, on both sides, there were either ‘friends’ or ‘foes’: tertium non datur. It was a rigid dualism which didn’t leave room for anyone attempting to create confusion or sow doubt in the mind of public opinion. If, in the 1980s were considered the ‘bad guys’ and the Afghan Mujaheddin were the ‘good guys’ (the Islamic fundamentalists, with CIA funding, were ‘resistance fighters’) it was better to ignore the existence of a Communist Afghan resistance: someone might have been led to think that there could be such a thing as ‘good communism’. The same reasoning, only turned on its head, was made by the Western Communist parties for whom it would have been very embarrassing to mention ‘Afghan comrades’ being imprisoned, tortured and executed by the Soviets.

From the 60s and 70s the only people who might have had an interest in the Afghan Sholayi were the European left wing intellectuals and the youth movements born out of the events of 1968. But it was not to be, simply because in those years no one spoke of Afghanistan if not as a paradise for dope consumption. At that time, western anti-Soviet communism was busy looking at the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the Prague Spring: no one was interested in the political affairs of a backwater like Afghanistan.

If the students and the workers who confronted the police and occupied factories and universities throughout Western Europe had only known what their Afghan comrades were doing, this publication wouldn’t be the first ever written about the Sholayi.

Far from claiming the scientific value of a history essay, this publication is just the fruit of numerous interviews held in Afghanistan over the summer of 2011 with members in hiding of the ALO, young and old, women and men who, after specific deliberation by the movement’s Central Committee, accepted to be interviewed by a foreign correspondent in order to put an end to the enduring silence there has been concerning the Afghan Maoist movement.


When, back in 2003, in the Loya Jirga, I denounced the crimes committed by the warlords who sat next to me in Parliament, they shouted at me from their seats that I was a whore, an infidel, a communist. They used the term ‘Sholayi’ which, for them, was an insult. Only for them, because in Afghanistan the Sholayi don’t have a bad reputation. People are well aware of the differences between the self-styled communists of the pro-soviet Khalq Party who, in the name of Socialism, have committed horrendous crimes and who sit in Parliament today, arm in arm with the fundamentalists, and the Sholayi who sacrificed their lives while fighting both of those.

The Maoist militants are the only ones, in the tragic history of my country, whose hands are clean of the blood of our people, who didn’t commit crimes against Humanity, who didn’t act as puppets in the hands of foreign masters. For this reason I respect them and I consider them heroes. Like heroes are the young militants of the ALO, the Afghan Liberation Organization, who to this day continue their underground opposition to those same criminal fundamentalists and to the military occupation by NATO and United States forces who commit their crimes in the name of peace and democracy.

I underwrite, and I share, their choice to go underground, to work with the people and outside of the corrupt institutions of this puppet-regime full of criminals backed by the West. As I have been able to witness personally, in Afghanistan today there is no real alternative to underground opposition. This is because it is obvious that no chance will ever take place through the farcical elections with which these warlords have sought to legitimize their power. It is also because working underground is the only way for us to fight these criminal gangs without being physically eliminated. We haven’t got weapons, real weapons, and I personally hope we’ll never have to take up a gun, though I would be ready to do so if it was the only way to defend my country’s freedom, like my father did at the time of the Soviet occupation.

I strongly believe that people should learn about the Sholayi, and that the world should be made aware of the history of this movement, whose role has been important, and whose record is clean, in the often shady history of this country, a movement which continues to work alongside with the people, against the foreign occupying forces and against the fundamentalists, be they the warlords currently in power or the Taliban who could well return to power with the help of the United States.

Malalai Joya

Former Member of Parliament, activist and author of ‘Raising my Voice: The extraordinary story of the Afghan woman who dares to speak out’.


Traffic is congested on the notorious Jalalabad Road that winds its way along the bottom of the Kabul river canyon, the long line of cars and trucks blocked for hours by the charred carcass of a tank truck hit by a Taliban rocket.

The Pakistani drivers, lying under their psychedelic tractor trailers, watch with fatalistic indifference as two American Kiowa helicopters hover high overhead like a pair of vultures looking for their prey: the guerrillas who fired from the rocky peak towering above the road.

But Naoki, my photographer, and I look with slightly more apprehension towards the long line of diesel-filled tank trucks we are stuck with: like sitting ducks. If the Taliban are still around up there, they could easily hit them and all hell would break loose.

That’s what we’re expecting will happen when all of a sudden a loud blast shakes the air in the canyon, followed by a just as loud second one. Seeing the two choppers fly away and a cloud of smoke climb from the tip of the rock, we understand that they’re not Taliban rockets but missiles launched from the Kiowas. They immediately start a second round of attack with heavy machine-guns: a long rattling sound, then another, and yet another.

Two more raids follow within minutes this first one. Then all becomes quiet. Nobody knows if the Taliban have been neutralized: “They’ll have killed a couple of goats” jokes one of the truck drivers. But in the meantime everybody is turning on the engines and the long line of trucks starts to move again hesitantly. Everyone is honking their horn and overtaking, trying to get out of there as soon as they can. We too get into our car and pass the smoking, burned smelling wreck of the tanker truck, and resume our journey towards Jalalabad.