Publishers on Wednesday said that hundreds of valuable and historical manuscripts are being smuggled from Afghanistan every year and are being sold in markets around the world.
According to local publishers, during more than four decades of war, many of Afghanistan’s manuscripts have been smuggled to EU countries and Arab and Asian markets.
The publishers said that some of these manuscripts, which are sold in Turkey, India, Pakistan and Iranian markets, are printed abroad and then sent to Afghanistan at higher prices.
An example of this is the smuggling of a copy of Rumi's Masnavi with Behzad calligraphy and miniature painting, which was printed in Konya after being smuggled from Afghanistan to Turkey, and now the copies are sold for up to 200,000 Afs in Kabul (The Masnavi, or Masnavi-ye-Ma'navi, also written Mathnawi, or Mathnavi, is an extensive poem written in Persian by Jalal al-Din Muhammad Balkhi, also known as Rumi. The Masnavi is one of the most influential works of Sufism, commonly called "the Quran in Persian").
“Treatise on Music” is another historical manuscript that was written in 888 C.E., but it was printed in Iran 31 years ago and then copies were sold in Afghanistan.
“Those who buy the manuscripts from me or someone else in the bazar or from private libraries, they know how to transfer them,” said Shah Mohammad Idris, a manuscript seller in Kabul.
“When these manuscripts started attracting attention in the markets of neighboring countries, then there was a shortage of it here,” said Abdul Wadoud, the deputy head of the Kabul Publishers Association.
Four books of the famous poet Mirza Abdul Qader Bedil were smuggled from Afghanistan and printed in New Delhi and then copies came to Afghanistan. (Mawlānā Abul-Ma'ānī Mīrzā Abdul-Qādir Bēdil, also known as Bīdel Dehlavī, was the greatest poet of India-Persian, next to Amir Khusrau, who lived most of his life during the reign of Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal emperor.)
Wasim Amiri is a publisher in Kabul who has bought three private libraries with hundreds of manuscripts.
Most of the manuscripts in his library belonged to the late cultural dignitary of Kabul, Saleh Mohammad Paronta.
“We are a group of three or four people working here—we are trying to identity the books and categorize them,” said Wasim Amiri, the head of Amiri Publishers.
The National Archive of Afghanistan has now decided to purchase some of the manuscripts from the Amiri Publishers.
“There are incredible books here, particularly on religion—we also gathered some books from our Hindu and Sikh community,” said Mahmoud Marhoon, a member of the National Archive of Afghanistan.
In more than five decades, the Afghan government this year allocated 50 million Afs to purchase 400 manuscripts.
“Smuggling these manuscripts from Afghanistan is a crime,” said Afsar Rahbin, the head of the National Archive of Afghanistan.