Amanullah Khan (Pashto: أمان الله خان, Dari: أمان الله خان, Urdu: أمانالله خان, June 1, 1892 – April 25, 1960) was the Sovereign of the Kingdom of Afghanistan from 1919 to 1929, first as Emir and after 1926 as Malik (King). After the third Anglo-Afghan War, Afghanistan was able to pursue an independent foreign policy free from the influence of the United Kingdom, and his rule was marked by dramatic political and social change. He was the first Afghan ruler who attempted to modernize Afghanistan on Western designs. However, he did not succeed in this because of a popular uprising by Habibullah Kalakani and his followers. On 14 January 1929, Amanullah abdicated and fled to neighbouring British India while Afghanistan fell into a civil war. From British India he went to Europe where he died in Zürich, Switzerland, in 1960.
Amānullāh Khān was born on 1 June 1892, in Paghman near Kabul, Afghanistan. He was the third son of the Amir Habibullah Khan. Amanullah was installed as the governor of Kabul and was in control of the army and the treasury, and gained the allegiance of most of the tribal leaders.
Russia had recently undergone its Communist revolution, leading to strained relations between the country and the United Kingdom. Amanullah Khan recognized the opportunity to use the situation to gain Afghanistan's independence over its foreign affairs. He led a surprise attack against the British in India on 3 May 1919, beginning the third Anglo-Afghan war. After initial successes, the war quickly became a stalemate as the United Kingdom was still dealing with the costs of World War I. An armistice was reached towards end of 1919, and Afghanistan was completely free of British influence.
Amanullah enjoyed early popularity within Afghanistan and he used his influence to modernise the country. Amanullah created new cosmopolitan schools for both boys and girls in the region and overturned centuries-old traditions such as strict dress codes for women. He increased trade with Europe and Asia. He also advanced a modernist constitution that incorporated equal rights and individual freedoms with the guidance of his father-in-law and Foreign Minister Mahmud Tarzi. His wife, Queen Soraya Tarzi played a huge role in regard to his policy towards women. This rapid modernisation created a backlash and a reactionary uprising known as the Khost rebellion was suppressed in 1924. He also met with many Bahá'ís in India and Europe where he brought back books that are still to be found in the Kabul Library. This association later served as one of the accusations when he was overthrown.
At the time, Afghanistan's foreign policy was primarily concerned with the rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom, the so-called Great Game. Each attempted to gain the favor of Afghanistan and foil attempts by the other power to gain influence in the region. This effect was inconsistent, but generally favourable for Afghanistan; Amanullah established a limited Afghan Air Force consisting of donated Soviet planes.
Visit to Europe
Amānullāh travelled to Europe in late 1927. The Afghan King and Queen set out from Karachi and en route they met with King Fawad of Egypt in Cairo. They undertook a whirlwind European visit: Italy, arrival on January 8th, 1928, where they met with King Victor-Emanuel III of Italy along with his Prime Minister, Benito Mussolini and Pope Pius XI in the Vatican City; France, arrival in Nice on January 22, 1928, in Paris on January 25, meeting with President Doumergue; Belgium, arrival on Brussels on February 8th, meeting with King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. The next stop was Germany. The germanophile king arrived via Germany in Berlin on February 22 to meet President Paul von Hindenburg the same day. Next he travelled to Great Britain as guests of King George V and Queen Mary. The SS steam ship Maid of Orleans arrived in Dover on March 13th. The royal couple left England on April 5th to Poland. On their way, they had a longer stopover in Berlin where the Amir underwent an emergency tonsillectomy. The royal train with the Amir back on board arrived in the Polish border town of Zbąszyń on April, 28. The next day it pulled into Warsaw to be met by Polish ministers, the speaker of the Sejm and the country's president Ignacy Mościcki. At his request Amanullah was granted a possible audience with the First Marshal of Poland Józef Piłsudski. Afghan party departed from Warsaw travelling east across the country to the border with the Soviet Union on May 2nd 1928.
Revolt and abdication
During Amānullāh's visit to Europe, opposition to his rule increased, an uprising in Jalalabad culminated in a march to the capital, and much of the army deserted rather than resist. In early 1929, Amanullah abdicated and went into temporary exile in then British India. His brother Inayatullah Khan became the next king of Afghanistan for a few days until Habibullah Kalakani took over.
However, Kalakani's nine months rule was soon replaced by Nadir Khan on 13 October 1929. Amanullah Khan attempted to return to Afghanistan, but he had little support from the people. From British India, the ex-king traveled to Europe and settled in Italy, and later in Switzerland. Meanwhile, Nadir Khan made sure his return to Afghanistan was impossible by engaging in propaganda.
Amanullah Khan died in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1960. His body was brought to Afghanistan and buried in the eastern city of Jalalabad. Very few of his many reforms were continued once he was no longer in power.