This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.

Love & War in Afghani-

stan is a deeply moving series of life stories told first-hand from ordinary Afghan men and women, collected by authors Alex Klaits and Gulchin Gulmamadova-Klaits.


Taliban representatives were even flown to Texas for talks) but continued instability keeps plans firmly on the drawing board. Afghanistan itself has small natural gas deposits in the north, which are yet to be fully exploited.


Afghanistan’s rich mix of over 20 ethnic groups reflects its geographi- cal and historical position as the crossroads of Asia. Successive waves of people have invaded and settled in the country, while others left to conquer or settle neighbouring countries. The result is a patchwork of nationalities that spills over Afghanistan’s borders at every point, into Pakistan, Iran and Central Asia – relatively few ethnic groups are con- tained entirely inside Afghanistan. While the concept of an Afghan nationality is a very real one, decades

For an insight into the role that complex Pashtun tribal relations (and warlordism) have played in post-Taliban Afghanistan, read Sarah

Chayes’ The Punishment of Virtue.

of war has enflamed ethnic divisions. Population flight in the form of the refugee crisis has further fractured traditional ethnic and power bal- ances in the country. Reliable population data are hard to come by in Afghanistan, although a limited census was carried out in 2003 to aid planning reconstruction.


The Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. The oldest con- tinuous inhabitants of the area, they are mentioned in ancient Aryan texts as the Paktua, and by the Greek historian Herodotus as the Paktues. The British called them Pathans, while Pashtuns have often simply referred to themselves historically as ‘Afghans’. They claim descent from Qais, a companion of the Prophet Mohammed. Pashtuns live mainly in east and southern Afghanistan, spreading into North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan in Pakistan. This whole area, straddling the contentious Durand Line, is often known as Pashtunistan. There are slight dialectical differences between the two populations – those speaking the ‘softer’ western dialect (Pashto) and the


Pashtunwali, the Pashtun moral code, has traditionally taken precedence over any external laws, acting as a constitution for Pashtun society. It has frequently been interpreted by the West as shorthand for tribal extremism, but it also provides a surprisingly open and democratic code for managing tribal affairs within the conservative and feudal nature of Pashtun society. Its key con- cepts are siali (individual equality), nang (honour) and melmastia (hospitality). Group decisions are made by a council of elders, or jirga. Nang is central to a Pashtun’s identity, most importantly that of the family (and women in

particular). Melmastia is the showing of hospitality to all visitors without expectation of reward. This can even go as far as offering sanctuary to a criminal, and laying down one’s life for a guest. From these two pillars flows the concept of badal – the obligation to avenge an insult of injustice to the individual, family or clan. Injustices can be those committed on the day or a century ago – a practice which readily leads to blood feuds, and is a major reason why many Pashtun villages look like collections of small forts. The vanquished in a fight may go to the victor in absolute submission for forgiveness. The winner is expected to show magnanimity to restore the balance of honour, a practice called nanawatai. Like many tribal structures, Pashtunwali has been threatened and reinterpreted as a result of war, with tribal power in many cases shifting from the elders to the young men with guns. The rise of Islamism among Pashtuns, in great part due to the post-Taliban radicalisation of the Afghan–Pakistan border regions, continues to further undermine this ancient code.

CULTURE •• Population 45

‘harder’ eastern one (Pakhtu). Yet these differences are nothing compared to the stark clan lines that have traditionally divided Pashtun society. The two main clans are the southern Durranis and the eastern Ghilzais, each further divided into subclans, known as khel. The Durranis have provided Afghanistan’s rulers since Ahmad Shah Durrani founded the Afghan kingdom in 1747 – Hamid Karzai is from the Popolzai subclan. The Ghilzais have always played second fiddle politically – a resent- ment exploited by Pakistan in the 1980s and ’90s through its sponsor- ship of Ghilzai jihadis, including Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Taliban leadership.


Tajiks represent almost a quarter of the Afghan population. They are an Indo-European people, and blue eyes and sandy hair aren’t uncommon. Until the 20th century, taj was shorthand for a Persian speaker, and the modern term Tajik encompasses a diverse group of settled peoples liv- ing in northern, western and northeastern Afghanistan, united by their language and adherence to Sunni Islam. Tajiks are not as tribal as Pashtuns, with loyalties revolving around the family and village. Since Dari has remained the language of government for several hundred years, they have traditionally served as administra- tors, but with the reigns of power kept firmly from them by the Pashtuns. Only in the 20th century has this balance been undone, with the Bacha Saqao rebellion of 1929, the Tajik-dominated mujaheddin government in the 1990s and the Northern Alliance in post-Taliban Afghanistan. The continued strength of the Tajiks, exemplified by the near canonisation of Ahmad Shah Massoud, against the marginalisation of the Pashtuns remains a key political issue for the country.


The Hazaras occupy the mountain vastness of central Afghanistan known as the Hazarajat, and are the country’s largest Shiite minority. This fact of religion has led to them being persecuted throughout history, largely viewed as a servant class by the ruling Pashtuns. Hazaras have distinct Mongoloid features, and they ascribe their ancestry to Genghis Khan’s warriors – hazar being Dari for thousand, representing the Mongol hordes. It’s more likely that the original Hazaras were Mongol farmers whose arrival in Afghanistan followed sometime after the great Khan. Modern Hazaras are also farmers, practising lalmi (rain-fed agriculture) in the marginal mountain environment. Aside from the Bamiyan region, there are large numbers of Hazaras in Kabul, Ghazni and Mazar-e Sharif. Hazara society is based on the power of the mir (local chief), with great stock placed on descent from the line of the Prophet Mohammed. Haz- aras speak Hazaragi as well as Dari. While traditionally marginalised, the Soviet invasion and civil war ironically gave an opportunity for the Hazaras to organise politically. Heavily supported by co-religionist Iran, the Hezb-e Wahdat party proved one of the most resilient of the mujaheddin groupings. The Haz- aras fought and suffered bitterly in Kabul against Ahmad Shah Massoud’s Tajiks, while the Taliban brought an ethnic fury to the Hazarajat in an attempt to bomb and starve the population into submission.


The Uzbeks originally descended from Siberian nomads who settled in central Asia following the tumult of Genghis Khan. They became settled

Pashtun hospitality – and revenge – is legendary. One proverb says ‘Help a Pashtun, and not only will he never forget it, he will repay you double. Hurt a Pashtun, and not only will he never forget it, he will repay you double.’

Naswar is Pashtun snuff, a chewing tobacco mixed with flavourings such as lime or juniper that gives users a mild buzz. But take care not to swallow the noxious green juice! Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84  |  Page 85  |  Page 86  |  Page 87  |  Page 88  |  Page 89  |  Page 90  |  Page 91  |  Page 92  |  Page 93  |  Page 94  |  Page 95  |  Page 96  |  Page 97  |  Page 98  |  Page 99  |  Page 100  |  Page 101  |  Page 102  |  Page 103  |  Page 104  |  Page 105  |  Page 106  |  Page 107  |  Page 108  |  Page 109  |  Page 110  |  Page 111  |  Page 112  |  Page 113  |  Page 114  |  Page 115  |  Page 116  |  Page 117  |  Page 118  |  Page 119  |  Page 120  |  Page 121  |  Page 122  |  Page 123
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