Mahmud Tarzi

Mahmud Tarzi

Ask a question about 'Mahmud Tarzi'
Start a new discussion about 'Mahmud Tarzi'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
Mahmūd Bēg Tarzī was one of Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

's greatest intellectual
An intellectual is a person who uses intelligence and critical or analytical reasoning in either a professional or a personal capacity.- Terminology and endeavours :"Intellectual" can denote four types of persons:...

s. He is known as the father of Afghan journalism
Journalism is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience in a timely fashion. Though there are many variations of journalism, the ideal is to inform the intended audience. Along with covering organizations and institutions such as government and...

. As a great modern thinker, he became a key figure in the history of Afghanistan
History of Afghanistan
The written history of Afghanistan can be traced back to the Achaemenid Empire ca. 500 BCE, although evidence indicates that an advanced degree of urbanized culture has existed in the land since between 3000 and 2000 BCE. Alexander the Great and his Macedonian army arrived to Afghanistan in 330 BCE...

, following the lead of Kemal Ataturk in Turkey by working for modernization and secularization, and strongly opposing religious extremism and obscurantism. Tarzi emulated the Young Turks
Young Turks
The Young Turks , from French: Les Jeunes Turcs) were a coalition of various groups favouring reformation of the administration of the Ottoman Empire. The movement was against the absolute monarchy of the Ottoman Sultan and favoured a re-installation of the short-lived Kanûn-ı Esâsî constitution...


Early years

Mahmud Tarzi was born in 1865 in the city of Ghazni
For the Province of Ghazni see Ghazni ProvinceGhazni is a city in central-east Afghanistan with a population of about 141,000 people...

, Afghanistan. An ethnic Pashtun
Pashtun people
Pashtuns or Pathans , also known as ethnic Afghans , are an Eastern Iranic ethnic group with populations primarily between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan...

, his father was Sardar Ghulam Muhammad Tarzi
Ghulam Muhammad Tarzi
Sardar Ghulam Muhammad Khan Tarzi son of Sardar Rahim Dil Khan, was the ruler of Kandahar and Baluchistan. He is often given credit for developing the family name "Tarzi", which would go on to play critical roles in the history of Afghanistan...

, a leader of the Mohammadzai royal house and a well known poet. In 1881, Emir
Emir , meaning "commander", "general", or "prince"; also transliterated as Amir, Aamir or Ameer) is a title of high office, used throughout the Muslim world...

 Abdur Rahman Khan
Abdur Rahman Khan
Abdur Rahman Khan was Emir of Afghanistan from 1880 to 1901.The third son of Mohammad Afzal Khan, and grandson of Dost Mohammad Khan, Abdur Rahman Khan was considered a strong ruler who re-established the writ of the Afghan government in Kabul after the disarray that followed the second...

 exiled Mahmud Tarzi's father and family - who would end up living in Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

. On a second trip to Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 in 1891, Tarzi married the daughter of Sheikh Saleh Al-Mossadiah, a muezzin
A muezzin , or muzim, is the chosen person at a mosque who leads the call to prayer at Friday services and the five daily times for prayer from one of the mosque's minarets; in most modern mosques, electronic amplification aids the muezzin in his task.The professional muezzin is chosen for his...

 of the Umayyad mosque. Tarzi would stay in Turkey until the age of 35, where he learned fluent Pashto, Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

, Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

, French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, Arabic, and Urdu
Urdu is a register of the Hindustani language that is identified with Muslims in South Asia. It belongs to the Indo-European family. Urdu is the national language and lingua franca of Pakistan. It is also widely spoken in some regions of India, where it is one of the 22 scheduled languages and an...


When Abdur Rahman Khan died in 1901, his son Emir Habibullah Khan invited the Tarzi family back to Afghanistan the following year. Habibullah‘s most important contribution to Afghanistan was the return of Afghan exiles, and specifically that of Mahmud Beg Tarzi around the turn of the century. If there is a single person responsible for the modernization of Afghanistan in the first two decades of the twentieth century it was Mahmud Beg Tarzi. During this time, Mahmud Tarzi's daughter, Soraya Tarzi
Soraya Tarzi
Soraya Tarzi, known mostly as Queen Soraya, was the Queen of Afghanistan in the early 20th century and the wife of King Amanullah Khan. She is the only woman to appear on the list of rulers in Afghanistan, although wife of King Amanullah Khan...

 would marry and become Queen of Afghanistan. It was than that Mahmud Tarzi would take up a critical role in the history of Afghanistan - from famed poet to progressive leader.

Journalism and poetry

One of Mahmud Tarzi's earliest works was known as the Account of a Journey (Sayahat-Namah-e Manzum) that was published in Lahore
Lahore is the capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab and the second largest city in the country. With a rich and fabulous history dating back to over a thousand years ago, Lahore is no doubt Pakistan's cultural capital. One of the most densely populated cities in the world, Lahore remains a...

, Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. However, Mahmud Tarzi's most influential work - and the foundation of journalism in Afghanistan - was his publishing of Seraj-al-Akhbar. This newspaper
A newspaper is a scheduled publication containing news of current events, informative articles, diverse features and advertising. It usually is printed on relatively inexpensive, low-grade paper such as newsprint. By 2007, there were 6580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a...

 was published bi-weekly from October 1911 to January 1919. It played an important role in the development of an Afghan modernist movement, serving as a forum for a small, enlightened group of young Afghans, who provided the ethical justification and basic tenets of Afghan nationalism and modernism. Mahmud Tarzi also published Seraj-al-Atfal (Children's Lamp), the first Afghan Publication aimed at a juvenile audience.

Tarzi was the first who introduced Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 in Afghanistan and translated many English and French novels to Dari. He also contributed in editing, translations, and modernization of the Afghan press. He translated into Dari many major works of European authors, such as Around the World in Eighty Days, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is a classic science fiction novel by French writer Jules Verne published in 1870. It tells the story of Captain Nemo and his submarine Nautilus as seen from the perspective of Professor Pierre Aronnax...

, The Mysterious Island
The Mysterious Island
The Mysterious Island is a novel by Jules Verne, published in 1874. The original edition, published by Hetzel, contains a number of illustrations by Jules Férat. The novel is a sequel to Verne's famous Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and In Search of the Castaways, though thematically it is...

, International Law
International law
Public international law concerns the structure and conduct of sovereign states; analogous entities, such as the Holy See; and intergovernmental organizations. To a lesser degree, international law also may affect multinational corporations and individuals, an impact increasingly evolving beyond...

(from Turkish), and the History of the Russo-Japanese War. When he lived in Turkey and Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, he immersed himself in reading and research, using both Turkish and Western literary and scientific sources. In Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

, Tarzi wrote The Garden of Learning, containing choice articles about literary, artistic, travel and scientific matters. Another book entitled The Garden of Knowledge (later published in Kabul), concludes with an article “My beloved country, Afghanistan”, in which he tells his countrymen in Afghanistan how much he longs for his native land and recalls with nostalgia the virtues of its climate, mountains and deserts. In 1914, his novel Travel Across Three Continents in Twenty-Nine Days published. In the preface, he makes an apt comment about travel and history:

"Although age has its normal limits, it may be extended by two things-the study of history and by travel. Reading history broadens one's perception of the creation of the world, while travel extends one's field of vision."

He was instrumental in developing a modern literary community his last two decades in Afghanistan. Many of Tarzi's writings would be published after his death.


Mahmud Tarzi was an Afghan nationalist. He, of course, is of the Tarzi family, who were once rulers of Kandahar
Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan, with a population of about 512,200 as of 2011. It is the capital of Kandahar Province, located in the south of the country at about 1,005 m above sea level...

. Tarzi held many government positions in his life. He is a good example of the reform-minded individuals that ruled Afghanistan at the beginning of the 20th century. After Amanullah Khan
Amanullah Khan
Amanullah Khan was the King of the Emirate of Afghanistan from 1919 to 1929, first as Amir and after 1926 as Shah. He led Afghanistan to independence over its foreign affairs from the United Kingdom, and his rule was marked by dramatic political and social change...

 ascended the throne, Tarzi would become Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan in 1919. Shortly thereafter, the third Anglo-Afghan war began. After the national independence from the British in 1919, Tarzi, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, established Afghan Embassies in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, and other capitals of the world. Tarzi would also go on to play a large role in the declaration of Afghanistan's independence. From 1922 to 1924, Tarzi served as Ambassador
An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization....

 in Paris, France. He was then again placed as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1924 to 1927. However, throughout his tenure in Afghanistan, Tarzi was a high government official during the reigns of Amir Habibullah Khan and his son King Amanullah Khan
Amanullah Khan
Amanullah Khan was the King of the Emirate of Afghanistan from 1919 to 1929, first as Amir and after 1926 as Shah. He led Afghanistan to independence over its foreign affairs from the United Kingdom, and his rule was marked by dramatic political and social change...


Afghan Independence

Tarzi effectively guided the second movement of the young constitutionalists called Mashroota Khwah. This led to reviving the first suppressed movement of the constitutionalists in Afghanistan. Tarzi served as high counsel and advisor during this event.

Afghan Peace Conferences

During Mahmud Tarzi's time as Foreign Affairs Minister in Afghanistan, the third Anglo-Afghan war broke out. Britain
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 bombarded Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

 and Jalalabad
Jalalabad , formerly called Adinapour, as documented by the 7th century Hsüan-tsang, is a city in eastern Afghanistan. Located at the junction of the Kabul River and Kunar River near the Laghman valley, Jalalabad is the capital of Nangarhar province. It is linked by approximately of highway with...

, over a ton of munitions rained down to Jalalabad in a single day. Mahmud Tarzi was appointed head of the Afghan Delegation at the peace conferences at Mussoorie 1920 and Kabul 1921. The British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, who had dealt with Tarzi before attempted to reduced Tarzi's energy to get more than they were supposed to. After four months the talks broke up because of the Durand Line
Durand Line
The Durand Line refers to the porous international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which has divided the ethnic Pashtuns . This poorly marked line is approximately long...

. Sir Henry Dobbs led the British delegation to Kabul in January, 1921 - Mahmud Tarzi headed the Afghan group. After 11 months of hard discussions, the British and Afghans signed a peace treaty normalizing their relations. Although Afghanistan was the winner of the conference - as the British accepted Afghanistan's independence - Tarzi's diplomacy was shown as the British sent a message afterwards to Mahmud Tarzi, giving their good will toward all tribes.

Social Justice & Equality

Politically, he held important government positions during the reigns of Amir Habibullah Ghazi
Habibullah Ghazi
Habībullāh Kalakānī , also known as Habībullāh Ghāzī, was Emir of Afghanistan from January to October 1929 after deposing Amānullāh Khān with the help of various Ghilzai tribes who opposed modernization of Afghanistan...

 and King Amanullah. He reached the highest points of government as a chief adviser and Foreign Minister
Foreign minister
A Minister of Foreign Affairs, or foreign minister, is a cabinet minister who helps form the foreign policy of a sovereign state. The foreign minister is often regarded as the most senior ministerial position below that of the head of government . It is often granted to the deputy prime minister in...

. Mahmud Tarzi is a good example of the reform-minded individuals that contributed to Afghan society at the beginning of the 20th century. He was a main force behind Habibullah Khan's social reforms, especially with regard to education. These reforms included changing the medieval schools and madrasah systems, allow publication of books and journals, and lift all restrictions that ban girls and women from the rest of society. He led the charge for modernization - doing so as a strong opponent of religious obscuring. Although very religious, he was strongly against the state establishing a religion, even if it were his own. Early in his career, he was in favour of a united nation that would stretch from modern-day Pakistan to Syria, not to unify a Muslim nation but to stop inner-conflict and tribal wars that were common during that time in history. Tarzi's daughter, Queen Soraya Tarzi
Soraya Tarzi
Soraya Tarzi, known mostly as Queen Soraya, was the Queen of Afghanistan in the early 20th century and the wife of King Amanullah Khan. She is the only woman to appear on the list of rulers in Afghanistan, although wife of King Amanullah Khan...

 would play a bigger role for social justice, being one of the first major feminists in power in Afghanistan's history.

Final years

Many of Mahmud Tarzi's plans and projects were never started, as the royal house of Amanullah Khan came to an end by a coup in 1929. Tarzi and his family were put into exile in Turkey. He died on November 22, 1933 at the age of 68 in Istanbul
Istanbul , historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople , is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul metropolitan province had 13.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe after London and...

, Turkey.

Mahmud Tarzi Cultural Foundation

On September 1, 2005, the Mahmud Tarzi Cultural Foundation was established in Kabul, Afghanistan with its headoffice in Mahmud Tarzi High School. The foundation is serving, according to NGO rules as a whole, briefly as, increasing the life quality of children at the educational level, helping their education, building schools, training & health centers, running these facilities and to complete the mentioned services written in the Deed of Foundation by creating financial aid for Afghan students.

A major project that the cultural foundation is starting in the Spring of 2007 is the Mahmud Tarzi Compound in Afghanistan. This project contains a library and a museum for Mahmud Tarzi’s works, a street children care center (for the remembrance of Asma Rasmia who was the wife of Mahmud Tarzi), and a women's care center (for the remembrance of Melika Soraya, daughter of Mahmud Tarzi and Queen
Queen consort
A queen consort is the wife of a reigning king. A queen consort usually shares her husband's rank and holds the feminine equivalent of the king's monarchical titles. Historically, queens consort do not share the king regnant's political and military powers. Most queens in history were queens consort...

of Afghanistan).

In order to get necessary finance for the foundation, a business center and a hotel will be built together with the compound. With any profit, the foundation will organize scholarship programmes, publishes old and new works of Sardar Mahmud Tarzi, and make contributions to the young authors and litterateurs to whom work for Mahmud Tarzi's ideas.

External links