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|Noor Mohammad Taraki
President of Afghanistan, 1977-1979
Noor Mohammad Taraki was born in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, on July 15, 1917. He attended night school while working as a clerk in Bombay, India, where he also learned English.
Taraki entered government service in the late 1940's, working in the press department of the Afghan government. In 1953 he was appointed attaché at the Afghan Embassy in Washington, D.C. On returning to Afghanistan he opened a business that translated materials for foreign organizations, including the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
When Mohammad Zahir Shah introduced a more flexible home and foreign policy in 1963, Taraki helped found the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), a Marxist party with close ties to the Soviet Union. Personal rivalries and disputes over policy caused a split in the PDPA in 1967 -- the Parcham (Banner) faction, which followed the party's Deputy Secretary Babrak Karmal, and the Khalq (People's) faction, which followed General Secretary Taraki.
In 1977, the two PDPA factions reunited, with Taraki as General Secretary. The following year, with the assistance of Soviet-trained army units, the PDPA helped overthrow the government of Mohammad Daud Khan, and Taraki became President and Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.
Once in power, Taraki faced numerous problems. His Marxist land and social reforms led to violent demonstrations. Unable to end the growing unrest, he turned to the Soviet Union for assistance. In March 1979 Taraki was forced to elevate Deputy Prime Minister Hafizullah Amin to Prime Minister, while Taraki retained his positions as President and PDPA General Secretary. In September Amin survived an assassination attempt that was probably incited by the Soviet Union. Amin seized power on September 14, 1979. Taraki formally resigned as President on September 16, and is believed to have been assassinated soon after.
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This page was last updated on 05/26/2017.