Fun Facts Land-locked, just a bit smaller than Texas Much of the terrain is rugged mountains. Cold winters, hot summers (high of 90° F in July and August and 40° F in January). Life expectancy is low (43 years) (U.S. 78 years). The literacy rate (over age 15 able to read and write) is 51% for males and 21% for females (US 97% for both). Gov’t = Islamic Republic Population: appx. 32 million people (July 2007)
Ethnically diverse - geographic location - history of frequent external occupiers. Official Languages: Pashtu and Dari (spoken by 85% ) There is also a large degree of bilingualism. About 99% of the population is Muslim, and of these Muslims, 84% belong to the Sunni sect. Traditionally, Pashtuns have been dominant (presumed majority) – Has created imbalances in wealth, influence and education
Pashtun (42%) The majority ethnic group in Afghanistan. Highest ethnicity on the social ladder; dominate governmental bodies Pashtu = native language Consist mainly of Sunni Muslims
Hazara (9%) Reside mainly in the central Afghanistan mountain region called ‘Hazarajat,’ also in Pakistan and Iran Historically, seem to have Mongolian origins, as evidenced by physical attributes and parts of the culture and language Commonly believed to be descendants of Genghis Khan’s army, which marched into the area during the 12th century. Most of are Shi’ite Muslims, and, the 1% of the population which is not Muslim is either Hindu, Sikh, or Jewish In The Kite Runner, it is evident that Hazaras are considered to be on the lower end of the socio-economic scale
Tajik (27%) They are the second largest ethnic community within Afghanistan Identified with agriculture and town life Mainly inhabit the fertile eastern valleys Like many Hazaras, not the highest on the social ladder - However, some city-dwelling Tajiks are successful and important members of the government
Other Ethnic Groups Uzbek (9%) Turkmen (3%) Such a small part of the population that they have not been able to hold positions of power Nuristani, Aimaq, and Baluchi (10%) More farming/herding tribes than ethnicities
Examine the BBC News handout. What patterns do you notice? Afghanistan has never had a true sovereignty over its borders. Beginning at least about one hundred years ago, Afghanistan has been a political battlefield for several countries including Iran, Pakistan, the former USSR, Great Britain and the US. A history of economic, political and military influence has left Afghanistan dependent despite the fact that it is considered an independent nation-state.
After the 1978 Soviet Invasion After this coup, it became difficult for a strong central gov’t to rule Afghanistan broke up into mini-states (regionalism), leaving it vulnerable to foreign occupation via “divide-and- conquer” strategy Anarchic situation leaves the country open to human-rights violations
Warlords Those who exercise military power in a region of a country that the central government cannot effectively control “Emerge from a direct response to absence of law” Have been able to gain the respect of the public by stepping in where there is an absence of gov’t Since 9/11, there has been a resurgence of warlords in the provinces.
Narco-State Country that relies heavily on the sale of narcotics for the progress of its economy Throughout the 1980-90’s, $$$ from the growing opiate industry financed the military efforts of many competing factions, including the Taliban. The opium trade is closely tied to the warlord system; military commanders encourage opium production in the regions they control, providing protection and funding for local communities.
Fundamentalism Those who advocate the replacement of secular law with religious law in accordance to literal translations of sacred texts such as the Bible or the Qur’an
Fundamentalism, Cont’d: The Taliban Originally trained as “freedom fighters” by the West in the war against Communism and the USSR 1979-1989: able to grow incredibly strong and impose a particularly brutally oppressive form of Islamic law by(which is by no means consistent with popular Afghan culture) the 1990s
Has had an especially significant impact on the lives of women and children in Afghanistan Has also created a huge crisis involving refugees and internally displaced people
Khaled Hosseini b. 1965 in Kabul, Afghanistan Family moved to San Jose, CA in 1980. Graduated from Santa Clara University and UC San Diego School of Medicine. The Kite Runner is his first novel, inspired by the “Afghanistan he knew as a child”