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Dance Like It's 1949: Afghan Islamists Celebrate Chinese Communism

FILE Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah (C) sits with his two deputies Mohammad Khan (left) and Mohammad Mohaqiq during a gathering in Kabul in October 2013.
FILE Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah (C) sits with his two deputies Mohammad Khan (left) and Mohammad Mohaqiq during a gathering in Kabul in October 2013.

Sibghatullah Mojadedi, Mohammad Mohaqiq, and Mohammad Khan are among Afghanistan's most prominent onetime hard-line Islamists. But the former warlords' credentials have been questioned by some Afghans after they attended a celebration marking Chinese communism in Kabul.

The three gray-bearded men, clad in traditional Afghan garb, were photographed attending a dance performance at the Chinese Embassy, where Chinese women performed acrobatic dances in skin-tight clothing. The act was part of a September 29 ceremony marking the anniversary of the formation of Communist China in 1949.

As the photos of the event were revealed on September 30, the irony was not lost on many Afghan social-media users.

Mojadedi, Mohaqiq, and Khan were prominent commanders of the mujahedin, the Islamist militant groups who fought against the Soviet and Afghan communist forces in the 1980s and seized power from 1992-96 during the country's devastating civil war.

The mujahedin enforced an Islamic dress code in Kabul and women who wore makeup or failed to cover their heads were threatened and sometimes beaten. Some women also lost their jobs, as some occupations were considered un-Islamic.

Photos on social media captured the attendance of Mojadedi, a former president during mujahedin rule; Mohaqiq, a former warlord from the mainly Shi'ite Hazara community and the second vice president of Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah; and Khan, Abdullah's first vice president and a senior member of the Hizb-e Islami party that was accused of being behind instances of acid being thrown in women's faces in the 1970s and 80s.

The three men cut a large cake with representatives from the Chinese Embassy and then took their seats to watch the show among other senior Afghan government officials.

Ismail Miakhail, a BBC reporter, mocked the three men on Facebook on September 30: "Subhanullah [Glory to God!] Former Afghan jihadist leaders watching Chinese dancers & cutting cake in Chinese embassy Kabul."

One Twitter user accused the three men of "hypocrisy":

Another Twitter user, who described himself as a freelance journalist, joined in:

Twitter user Abdugheni Sabit, who describes himself as an activist for Uyghur rights, wrote:

It was unclear if the three men were aware that the ceremony at the embassy was to feature the dance performance.

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    Frud Bezhan

    Frud Bezhan is the editor for Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan in the Central Newsroom at RFE/RL. Previously, he was a correspondent and reported from Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Turkey. Prior to joining RFE/RL in 2011, he worked as a freelance journalist in Afghanistan and contributed to several Australian newspapers, including The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.