Khomeini Commemorations Met With Resistance By Afghan Youth
Young people swept through the streets of Kabul this week, defacing and tearing down posters of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini plastered throughout the city.
Meant to commemorate the anniversary of the death of the former Iranian supreme leader, the posters and large billboards have offended many in Afghanistan, a Sunni-majority country whose relations with its western neighbor have recently soured.
Demonstrations including both Sunni and Shi'a have been staged daily in the Afghan capital ahead of the June 3 anniversary.
Scores of young people gathered on June 1 in front of a looming billboard of Khomeini, some carrying placards reading: "This is Kabul not Tehran."
"Why are we celebrating Khomeini's day here?" asked Kabul University student Ahmad Jan Kandahari. "He is an Iranian figure. Why do we need to celebrate him here in Afghanistan? Here we have our own cultural icons and jihadi figures. They should be the ones celebrated in Afghanistan."
During a rally on May 31, a Kabul high-school student named Arash described efforts to honor Khomeini as a grave injustice to the Afghan nation.
"As you see, posters of Ayatollah Khomeini are hanging in the intersections," he said. "This is a direct attack against Afghan culture and own national heroes."
Fierce Political Debate
Coming amid increased tensions between Tehran and Kabul, with some Afghan lawmakers accusing Iran of meddling in Afghanistan's internal affairs, the issue has become fodder for a fierce political debate.
"Iranian leaders are not the leaders of Afghanistan!" wrote Kabul University student Rohullah Elham in one Afghan forum. "The policies of Iran do not favor Afghanistan. The Islamic regime in Iran is not our government. Those of you who have sold your souls, wake up!"
Ahmad Saeedi, a Kabul-based political analyst, says the marking of Khomeini's death in Afghanistan is a worrying indication of Iran's growing influence in the country.
"The cultural, economic, and political influence of Iran starts from the presidential office and spreads throughout the country," Saeedi says. "This is ensuring that the rules and traditions of Iran are overriding those in Afghanistan."