Wings over Waziristan

Friday, February 7th, 2014

In 1919 there was a grand attempt to create a modern Islamist state in Afghanistan. It collapsed into civil war and horror, but the war against the British infidels continued in nearby Waziristan, where an RAF pilot took home-movie footage that would become — almost half a century later — Wings over Waziristan:

A young Wazir tribesman called Sayid Amir Noor Ali Shah from the village of Jhandu Khel fell in love with a Hindu girl — an heiress called Ram Kori — from Bannu. He persuaded her to run away with him, become a Muslim and marry him. The Hindus were furious and complained to the British authorities. The British sent soldiers to kidnap the girl and bring her back.

The Wazir tribe was furious, and a local hermit from the village of Ipi persuaded them to rise up in rebellion. He was known as the Faqir of Ipi and he used his charisma and religious reputation to unite the Wazir and the Mehsud tribes in a full-blown war against the British.

These were the two most reactionary forces — local maliks and the rural mullahs uniting together to try and force the British out. They had no other aim or vision. The British responded brutally — through what thay called “Air Control” — bombing the Waziristan villages.

In 1935 Group Captain Robert Lister of the RAF was sent out to fight in Waziristan. Lister was a keen amateur movie-maker. Home movie-making was just begining as a leisure activity and he had the most modern equipment available. He decided to take his camera and lots of film with him so that he could film the whole campaign including the bombing raids.

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