Armenians in Afghanistan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Armenians in Afghanistan
Languages
Armenian, Dari
Religion
Christianity

There was once a small but important community of Armenians in Afghanistan, centred at Kabul; they were welcome.[1]

Unlike Turkey, Azerbaijan or Pakistan, Afghanistan has relations with Armenia.

History

In 1755, Jesuit missionary Joseph Tiefenthaler reported that Sultan Ahmad Shah Bahadur took several Armenian gunners from Lahore to Kabul.[2]

The Perso-Indian diocese at Julfa sent Armenian priests to the community; however, after the priest died in the 1830 no replacement was sent and services were conducted by the deacon.[3]

A number of early British explorers and travellers stayed with the Kabul Armenians including George Forster (1793),[4] Edward Stirlng (1828)[5] and Charles Masson (1832).[6] When the missionary Joseph Wolff[7] arrived in Kabul shortly after Masson, he preached in the Armenian church and by his account the community numbered about 23 people.[3] In 1793 George Foster said there were around 100 Armenians in Kabul and there were also a few living in Kandahar and Herat. Alexander Burnes reported there were 21 Armenians in Kabul[8] while General Josiah Harlan claims there were 15.[9] Early trtavelelrs noted that the Armenians made wine, some were members of the Amir's personal body guard, the ghulam khana, others were traders and some owned land between the Bala Hisar and But Khak.

In 1839 during the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-1842) the Rev. G. Piggott, army chaplain of Bombay Army Division, visited the Armenian church in Kabul and baptised two Armenian children.[10] In 1843 the Rev. I.N. Allen, who accompanied Gen. Pollock's Army of Retribution, also visited the Armenian church and recorded that:

After some inquiry, we discovered them in a street in the Bala Hissar, leading from the Jalalabad Gate; their buildings were on the north side of the street. We went up an alley, and turned into a small court on the left, surrounded by buildings, and filled with the implements of their trade. A little door led from this court into their church, a small dark building, but on procuring lights, I found that it was carpeted, and kept clean, apparently with great care. Its aspect was due east to west, and an altar stood on the east, surmounted by a small picture of a Holy Family, much dimmed by smoke and dust. Upon the altar were six candlesticks, two small crosses, and two copies of the Holy Gospels. In front, without the altar rails, was a small desk, on which lay a book of Daily Prayer, in Armenian. The altar was not against the wall, but had a space behind and stood on a raises step. Our guides showed me a volume containing the gospels in Armenian, and another with the epistles, also a small English pocket Bible with clasps, edition, which I think was said to have been bought from an Hindoostanee. They state that their body came into Afghanistan with Nadir Shah; that they were then two hundred families, but were now reduced to four, comprising 35 persons, men, women and children".[11]

During the British occupation, two leading members of Kabul's Armenian community supplied the British army with fodder,[12][13] a fact which did not go unnoticed and after the British withdrawal the community suffered increased persecution and many were allowed to leave for Persia or India. However, at least three families remained behind. In 1848 Maj. G. Lawrence[14][better source needed] in Peshawar received a newsletter from his agent in Kabul reporting that Amir Dost Muhammad Khan's fourth son, Sardar Muhammad Azim Khan, planned to marry one of the daughters Timur, a leader of the Armenian community. Timur apparently appealed for Lawrence to use his influence with the Amir to prevent the marriage, but while Lawrence wrote to the Amir he satisfied himself that the marriage was not forced and the wedding went ahead.[15] However, Timur's daughter was not forced to convert to Islam and continued to practice her Christian faith. Later she gave birth to a son, Muhammad Ishaq Khan who in 1888, as governor of Afghan Turkistan, rebelled against his cousin, Amir 'Abd al-Rahman Khan, only for the revolt to be crushed.[16] Ishaq Khan fled to Russian-controlled Samarkand but his mother. Lucas and his brother, were imprisoned in Ghazni for several years.

British missionaries were interested in using the Armenian community as a base from which to conduct missionary work in Kabul; however, the community themselves reported that they had only converted one Afghan to Christianity, a robber who fell three times while attempting to break into their church to steal the valuable silver vessels stored therein, and then upon being discovered, begged for mercy and baptism.[17]

As late as 1870, British reports showed 18 Armenian Christians remaining in Kabul.[3] One Armenian man named Lucas A[rathun]Joseph, also known by the name Serwurdin (i.e. Sarwar al-din) Khan, managed the gunpowder factories at Jalalabad.

The Armenian church at Bala Hisar was levelled by order of General Roberts in early 1880 during the Second Anglo-Afghan War; the community did not received any compensation from the British despite Roberts' promise of allocating them a new building. Prior to the church's destruction the Rev. Iman Shah, the first 'native' Anglican priest of All Saints Church, Peshawar, visited the Kabul community where he administered Holy Communion and baptised a number of individuals, including adults.[18]

An Armenian, who has been identified as Yahya, and who designated himself as 'translator of the Amir' on Gray's marriage certificate and who may have been a son or close relative of Lucas A. Joseph, acted as interpreter for Dr Gray during his time in Kabul. Gray published a photograph of himself and "the Armenian" in his book,[19] though he never names his interpreter. Yahya accompanied Gray when he returned to England to get married. According to an unpublished letter in the hands of Gray's descendants, Yahya was approached by British intelligence who wanted him to send confidential reports to India about the situation in Kabul, only for him to refuse as it was far too dangerous. However, on his return to Kabul the paranoid Amir 'Abd al-Rahman Khan suspected him of spying and in 1897 he and his extended family were expelled to India.

According to Seth In 1896, Abdur Rahman Khan, emir of Afghanistan, even sent a letter to the Armenian community at Calcutta, India (now Kolkata), asking that they send ten or twelve families to Kabul to "relieve the loneliness" of their fellow Christians whose numbers had continued to dwindle.[20] However, despite an initial reply of interest, in the end, none of the Armenians of Calcutta accepted the offer.[21] Unfortunately Seth does not quote his sources and his claim cannot be verified.

Yahya, Lucas and all his family, including at least one babe-in-arms, arrived in Peshawar destitute and were housed in the Gor Khatri Bazaar where the CMS Missionaries had accommodation.[1] Lucas appealed to various agencies for financial assistance with little success. He and his family adopted the surname of Joseph and became citizens of India and later Pakistan. In 1974, following Partition, one of Lucas' sons, Dr Paul N[asraddin] Joseph was appointed Medical Superintendent of the Peshawar Mission Hospital. Two of Paul's close relatives (aunts?) served as a midwife and nurse respectively in the same institution. One of Paul's sons, by his second. Punjabi wife, achieved high rank and military honours in the Pakistani army, another rose to the rank of Air Vice-Marshall, a third taught in Edwardes' College. A fourth son joined the Indian Air Force during the Second World War but was killed in a flying accident before he saw combat.[22]

Some Armenians came with the Red Army during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; these veterans were reportedly interested in returning to Afghanistan again when Armenia announced in July 2009 that it would deploy medical specialists and interpreters in aid of the United Nations' International Security Assistance Force.[23]

See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ a b Seth 1992, p. 218
  2. ^ Seth 1992, p. 207
  3. ^ a b c Seth 1992, p. 208
  4. ^ Forster (1808). Journey, vol 2. pp. 64–7; 105. 
  5. ^ Stirling (1991). Journals. pp. 322–3. 
  6. ^ Masson (1842). Narrative. vol. 1. pp. 237; vol. 2, p. 244. 
  7. ^ Wolff. Researches. pp. 225–6. 
  8. ^ Burnes. Travels. pp. vol 1, p. 149–50. 
  9. ^ Macintyre. Josiah the Great. p. 126. 
  10. ^ Allen (1843). Diary. pp. 311–2. 
  11. ^ Allen (1843). op. cit. pp. 311–12. 
  12. ^ Gregorian. Afghanistan. p. 66. 
  13. ^ Lady Sale. Journal. p. 58. 
  14. ^ Lawrence, George St. Patrick. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_St_Patrick_Lawrence.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ Lawrence, Maj. G. Lawrence (30 July – 5 Aug 1848). "Punjab Government Records, Lahore Political Diaries, 1864-1849". 4: 528.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  16. ^ Lee. The Ancient Supremacy. pp. 484, n.147;149. 
  17. ^ Seth 1992, p. 209
  18. ^ Hughes 1893, p. 456
  19. ^ Grey 1895, p. 230, facing
  20. ^ Seth 1992, p. 210
  21. ^ Seth 1992, p. 217
  22. ^ personal information from Joseph family and CMS Missioners as communicated to Jonathan Lee
  23. ^ "Armenia to send forces to Afghanistan this year", The Armenian Reporter, 2009-07-24, archived from the original on 2009-08-01, retrieved 2009-07-26 

Sources

  • Allen, Rev. I.N. (1843), Diary of a March through Sinde and Affghanistan, London
  • Barr, Lt. W. (1844), Journal of a march from Delhi to Peshawar, and from thence to Cabul, London
  • Burnes, Alexander (1834), Travels into Bukhara, London, vol. 1, London
  • Cox, R.H.J. (1948), Signposts on the Frontier, jottings from a Doctor's Notebook, London
  • Forster, George (1808), A Journey from Bengal to England through the northern part of India, Kashmir, Afghanistan and Persia, 2 vols, London
  • Gray, John Alfred. (1895), At the Court of the Amir, London
  • Gregorian, Vartan (1969), The Emergence of Modern Afghanistan, Stanford UP
  • Harlan, General Josiah (1939), Central Asia, Personal Narrative of General Josiah Harlan, ed. F.E. Ross, Luzac
  • Holland, H.B.T. (1953), No Second Spring, London
  • Hughes, Thomas P. (1893), "Twenty Years on the Afghan Frontier", The New York Independent, 45: 455–456, retrieved 2009-07-26 
  • Karimi, 'Ali, مسیحیان کابل (Dari) http://8am.af/1393/08/04/kabul-christians-afghanistan-qani//
  • Lawrence, Maj. G. "Political Diaries of Maj. G. Lawrence, 30 July-4 Aug. 1848", Punjab Government Records, Lahore Political Diaries, 1846-1849, vol. IV
  • Lee, Jonathan L., (2002), "The Armenians of Kabul and Afghanistan", in Cairo to Kabul, Afghan and Islamic Studies presented to Ralph Pinder-Wilson, eds Warwick Ball and Len Harrow, London, pp. 157–62
  • Lee, Jonathan L. (1996), The Ancient Supremacy, Bukhara, Afghanistan and the Battle for Balkh, 1732-1901, E.J. Brill, Leiden
  • Masson, Charles (1842), Narrative of various Journeys in Baluchistan, Afghanistan, and the Panjab, 3 vols, London
  • Macintyre, Ben (2004), Josiah the Great, the true story of the man who would be King, London
  • Sale, LAdy Floentine (1843), A Journal of the Disasters in Affghanistan, London
  • Seth, Mesrovb Jacob (1992), "Chapter XVI: Armenians at Kabul - A Christian colony in Afghanistan", Armenians in India, from the earliest times to the present day: a work of original research, Asian Educational Services, pp. 207–224, OCLC 2970922 
  • Stirling, Edward (1991), The Journals of Edward Stirling in Persia and Afghanistan, 1828-1829, ed. J.L.Lee, IsMEO, Naples, 1991
  • Wollf, Rev. Joseph (1835), Researches and various Missionary Labours amongst the Jews, Mohammedans and other Sects, London
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