Haroon Yousofi is a satirist whose principal target is the corruption of high ranking officials in a tyranny; those who exercise power over people who have no rights and no way of challenging the legitimacy of the given hierarchy.

Haroon Yousofi was born into a Kabul intellectual family in 1950. He had a literary education, studying Persian Literature at Kabul University, then Russian Literature in Moscow University. From 1976-1990 he taught Western Literature at Kabul University and translated more than a hundred Russian short stories into his language, Farsi. Plays he translated from Russian were staged in Kabul.

As a distinguished literary scholar, he advised Kabul Radio on their arts output, then was put in charge of “arts and literature” programmes. He held this post for six years until he was promoted head of Afghanistan Television.

Haroon Yousofi published three collections of poems. Then, in recent years he turned his attention increasingly to satire, a difficult thing to do in the political conditions prevailing in Afghanistan under the communist regime. He belonged to the Independent Association of Afghani Writers, which published his two books of satire, The Testimony of Mirza Sadaf and I Forbid... This organisation is not “underground” but is viewed with hostility by the government and its publications are often banned or heavily censored.

Haroon’s response to the censorship was to subtitles. He refused to allow censored writing to be published in mutilated form. He would rather not publish at all. Instead he took refuge in metaphor and wrote seemingly innocent stories which only revealed their deep politician outrage as an after-flavour savoured by the penetrating reader. The story called In the Shop, for example, describes a deceptively ordinary situation: an angry shopkeeper and a crowd of people who happen to be in the shop. Its true subject, under the code, is terror. Encapsulated in this brief fable is a nightmarish world in which the individual (Mr Rahim, in this case) effaces himself, living in fear of being picked out if he has any distinguishing feature. But he never knows what is and what is not a distinguishing feature, and what he thought was safe can suddenly and surreally be transformed into the sign for guilt.

Haroon Yousofi says, “I write because I need to express my outrage against the injustices I see around me. Some of these injustices appear ludicrous and ridiculous to me and make me laugh. I always know, however, that there is poison in the absurdity. I feel compelled to write about this absurdity and about this poison. Satire is my weapon. It is the means by which I played a role in the struggle in my country.”

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