Afghanistan’s Location Afghanistan’s history relies largely on its location, which is at the crossroads of Central, West, and South Asia. –This location has brought migrants since the BCs, leaving the country a mixture of ethnic and linguistic groups. –This location has also brought numerous armies to the area; many established temporary local control.
Afghanistan’s Political History For centuries, the country was a zone of conflict; this conflict stemmed from its heterogeneous ethnic groups within and from strong neighboring powers. In 1747, the monarchy was established; it is this monarchy that rules until the coup in 1973, which Amir describes in Chapter Five. (This establishment is considered the beginning of modern Afghanistan.)
Afghanistan’s Political History, cont. Zahir Shah, whose forty-year reign Amir mentions at the beginning of Chapter Four, ruled from 1933-1973 and was the last monarch. –He established a bicameral legislature in 1964. This effort brought about few lasting reforms, but it did promote the growth of extremist parties on both the left and the right. One group, the communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, had close political ties to the Soviet Union.
From Monarchy to Republic As you discover in Chapter Five, Zahir Shah was overthrown by his cousin, Daoud Khan, in a 1973 non-violent coup. Daoud Khan abolished the monarchy and established a republic, declaring himself its first president and prime minister; this republic remained in place until 1978. Daoud Khan attempted much needed social and economic reform, but failed.
The Fall of Khan’s Republic In 1978, a prominent member of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan was killed by the government. Fearing the government planned to exterminate them all, the group organized an uprising. In April, 1978, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan overthrew Daoud Khan’s regime and assassinated him and his entire family. The uprising, which you will come to read about, was known as the Saur Revolution; it established the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.
The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan The Saur Revolution led indirectly to Soviet Military Intervention, which began in 1979 and lasted until 1989. This republic was in place until 1992 when Afghanistan entered a state of anarchy. As you read more, we will pick up later with the history of Afghanistan post the 1979 Soviet Invasion.
Afghanistan’s Religious and Ethnic History Hazaras: Ali and Hassan –They are thought to be of partial Mongol descent, which explains the references you see to the “flat nose.” –Most adhere to Shi’ism, the second-largest denomination of Islam. –Since the establishment of the monarchy in 1747, Hazaras have faced persecution at the hands of Pashtuns. –Hazaras attempted three uprisings between 1888 and 1893; ultimately, many were killed, and many others fled to neighboring Pakistan. (Amir references these uprisings on page 9.)
Afghanistan’s Religious and Ethnic History, cont. Hazaras in the Twentieth Century –Severe social, economic, and political discrimination continues; for example, the government often levied taxes against Hazaras but not Pashtuns. –Local Hazara uprisings continued as did their distrust of the government. –In 1989, there was an alliance of all Hazara resistance groups, but this group eventually fell to the Pashtun Taliban in 1998. (These ideas will be referenced later in Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen.)
Afghanistan’s Religious and Ethnic History, cont. Pashtuns: Baba and Amir –Pashtuns are the world’s largest tribal ethnic group; the group’s total population is estimated to be well above 42 million. –Pashtuns practice Sunni Islam, the largest denomination of Islam. –The monarchy established in 1747 was Pashtun, and Zahir Shah was the last Pashtun king although Pashtun leadership has continued in one way or another even through today.
Afghanistan’s Religious and Ethnic History, cont. Pashtuns in the Twentieth Century –Starting in the late 1970s, many Pashtuns joined the opposition against the Soviet Invasion. –In the late 1990s, Pashtuns became known as the primary ethnic group that composed the Taliban, a religious government based on Islamic law. –The Taliban government was ousted by the US Invasion in 2001; still, the current Karzai administration is dominated by Pashtun ministers. –The important thing to remember is that there are many, many Pashtun tribes who represent all kinds of ideas; however, Pashtuns have been more or less in control, so others have had to learn to deal with Pashtuns on Pashtun terms.