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Find Out All About Herat

Map showing Herat province in Afghanistan

Herat is a province of Afghanistan; together with Badghis, Farah, and Ghor provinces it makes up the western region of the country. Its primary city and administrative capital is also named Herat, and its proximity to Iran makes it a sensitive area as Iran seeks to protect its interests in post-Taliban Afghanistan.

The province was one of the first major battlegrounds in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and remained an active area of guerrilla warfare throughout, with local military commander and mujahideen Mohammad Ismail resistance to Soviet rule from 1979 until the Soviet withdrawal in 1988. When the Soviets withdrew, Khan became the governor of the province, in which position he remained until the Taliban took control of the province in 1995. Following the ousting of the Taliban in 2001 by the Afghan Northern Alliance (supported by the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan), Ismail once again became governor.

The province is currently (as of November 2003) ruled more or less autocratically by Ismail, despite some attempts by the interim central government (headed by Hamid Karzai) to weaken the power of local strongmen. Ismail's rule has engendered some controversy, though Herat has remained largely free of the violence that has plagued some other regions of post-Taliban Afghanistan.

In March 2003, the Endowment and Islamic Affairs Department of the provincial government began steps to restrict what it saw as un-Islamic vices, on March 1 banning the sale and public screening of movies and the performance of music in public, and on March 5 banning the viewing of movies entirely, as well as the possession and sale of satellite dishes.

Map of Herat Province
Map of Herat Province

Radio Free Afghanistan (an extension of the United States' Radio Free Europe program) reported negatively on these steps, noting that the restrictions were very similar to those that had been in place under the Taliban, and portraying them as a step backwards for the province. Khan reacted angrily to these reports, as well as some citing human rights violations in the province, branding the Radio Free Afghanistan reporters (who were Afghanis) "traitors". On March 19, Ahmad Behzad, one of Radio Free Afghanistan's reporters for the story, was allegedly beaten and detained on Khan's orders. On March 21 Khan issued a threatening statement, saying "those Afghans from our city, through BBC and Radio Azadi, harm the dignity of our people... I would like to tell them that just like those who served the Russians and benefited from them, they too will meet the same end."

A verbal war of words followed, with local journalists protesting angrily at what they read as a threat to use violence against dissenting journalists. President Karzai issued several statements largely siding with the journalists and expressing concern at the situation. This culminated in Khan ordering Behzad to leave the province permanently, despite his being a native of the city of Herat. Journalists responded with a cessation of news reporting in protest, beginning March 24 (joined by the US's Radio Free Afghanistan, the UK's BBC service, Iran's Dari service, and a number of publishers of local newspapers and weekly news magazines). On March 28, Behzad met with President Karzai, who again expressed his support for the journalists and concern that the situation was affecting reconstruction in Herat and damaging the transitional government.

Khan backed down, claiming to have always supported journalistic freedom, and chalking the entire incident up to a misunderstanding. He released a statement saying, "the recent event that occurred was the result of a misunderstanding, and I hope it will not happen again. We are not against any Afghan or foreign journalist, and the reporters can be assured of their safety in our town, and can report on life in this country any way they wish." Behzad returned to Herat on April 3, and the local media resumed publishing.


  • Adraskan District
  • Chishti sharif District
  • Farsi District
  • Ghoryan District
  • Gulran District
  • Guzara District
  • Injil District
  • Karukh District
  • Kohsan District
  • Kushk District
  • Kushki Kuhna District
  • Obe District
  • Pashtun Zarghun District
  • Shindand District
  • Zinda Jan District