Radio Free Kabul: rallying the Afghan resistance
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The network has presented the Afghan resistance with imaginative new possibilities in opposing the Soviet occupation of their country. ''It is vital to have a means of combatting the radio and television which is in the hands of the occupiers,'' said Marparwin Ali, an Afghan university lecturer in Paris when the radios were first launched.Skip to next paragraph
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One of the most popular parts of the program, which is transmitted in both Farsi and Pashto, is a 15-minute ''letter box.'' Here queries from listeners in Kabul, the resistance-held areas, and the refugee camps in Pakistan are answered on the air. The letters are often brought in by friends and relatives visiting the areas where the hidden stations are located.
The communist press has consistently attacked the clandestine radio network as an affront to the Soviet Union and the government of Afghanistan. ''The object of this subversive action, of these broadcasts, is to consolidate the counterrevolution, to bring disrepute on the political help of the Soviet Union to the Afghan people,'' commented Izvestia.
Claiming that RFK was founded with the help of the CIA, the Russians were notably vexed last year by the dissident broadcasts to the Soviet troops. When French TV reported the presence of clandestine radio stations in Afghanistan on a nationwide news show, the Soviet Embassy in Paris lodged a formal protest warning that relations between France and the USSR could suffer.
Apart from trying to bombard the radio transmitters, the Russians have also banned the possession of FM receivers among both Afghan and Soviet soldiers. ''It is something the Russians cannot really grasp,'' explained Halter. ''It is not the BBC or the VOA which they're attacking, but the radio of the Afghan people themselves.''
Although the European committees help provide funds, equipment, and technical assistance, the network is run by five of the six Peshawar-based political parties that have signed a basic RFK protocol. In addition to the 11 broacasting units already in existence, they have established a modern and well-equipped studio in Peshawar. Prerecorded tapes are hand-carried to the stations across the border, where local producers transmit a mixture of live and prepared programs.
Overall, the Paris RFK committee maintains, the Afghans need an estimated $ 250,000 to install and maintain the entire 36-station network. Each broadcasting unit costs roughly 25,000 francs ($3,600 US) including transmitter and recording equipment.
''The problem right now is having enough funds to expand and ensuring that the network will develop professional standards,'' Halter said. Although quality varies from station to station, the broadcasts to Kabul heard by this reporter were unusually well-produced.
Receivers are another drawback. Most radio sets found in Afghanistan only have AM, long and short wave, but no FM. The RFK committees in Europe are launching a massive campaign to collect funds to purchase FM radio sets in Singapore and Hong Kong at $15 to $20 each. Using the slogan, ''One Afghan, one radio,'' they hope to swamp Afghanistan with pocket-size receivers.
It is not just a matter of equipment. French volunteer technicians have already gone inside to help set up the transmitters and train local producers. But the war has taken its toll.
In the Panjshir Valley, for example, RFK lost three French-trained Afghan technicians when two were killed and one was captured during Soviet-Afghan attacks.
A new advisory team is expected to return to Pakistan and Afghanistan shortly not only to help set up the new Russian station but also to further develop the network.