27 April 1978
Saur Revolution in Afghanistan
The Saur Revolution, also called the April Revolution started in Afghanistan led by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA).
- The Afghan monarchy headed by King Zahir Shah was deposed by a coup in 1973 led by Mohammad Daoud Khan. This coup established the first Afghan Republic.
- Daoud Khan was supported by the PDPA in this coup. However, soon after the coup, two rival factions emerged within the PDPA, called the Parcham and the Khalq.
- On 17th April, 1978, Mir Akbar Khyber, a senior member of the Parcham faction was murdered.
- Many in Kabul suspected government-hand in the murder.
- Many leaders in the PDPA had their suspicions that the President, Daoud Khan had plans to eliminate them.
- In fact, the government arrested many members of the party during a protest at Khyber’s funeral.
- One leader, Hafizullah Amin was only put under house arrest. This gave him the opportunity to order the coup through army officers even though he did not have the explicit authority to do so.
- The coup started in 27th April and by evening, the state-owned radio announced that the Daoud government was overthrown by the Khalq faction.
- During the coup, soldiers had surrounded the palace of the president and had asked him to surrender. But Daoud Khan and his brother came out of the palace and fired at the soldiers. This led to them being shot and killed.
- Initially, the people were happy with the coup and the new government as many citizens were unhappy under the Daoud administration.
- In the early days of the new government, there was unity between the Parcham and the Khalq factions although this did not last long.
- The new president was Nur Muhammad Taraki of the Khalq group. He executed many leaders of the revolution by August that year insinuating that a ‘plot’ had been discovered.
- However, in September 1979, Taraki himself was overthrown and executed by Amin.
- The PDPA in power implemented many changes in Afghan society. Many modern regulations were put in place replacing the old Islamic codes. Socialism was introduced. However, there were many haphazard regulations brought in that unsettled many. Land reforms were brought in that affected the peasants adversely.
- The PDPA was also an advocate for women’s rights.
- They suppressed all opposition brutally. There was severe discontent among the people and this was manifest in many uprisings for the next two years. Finally, this political instability prompted the USSR to intervene. The civil war that followed between insurgent groups (called Mujahideen) and the USSR and the PDPA lasted 9 years further dragging the country back in terms of development. This period also saw a huge humanitarian crisis in the country leaving millions dead and millions refugees in other lands particularly Pakistan.
Also on this day
1994: For the first time in South Africa, general elections were held in which adults of all races could vote, ending apartheid in the country.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.