Context & Culture

AAN’s most-read dispatches in 2019: Peace talks and presidential polls dominate


The photograph accompanying our most-read Dari and Pashto website dispatch, "From ‘Slavers’ to ‘Warlords’: Descriptions of Afghanistan’s Uzbeks in western writing”. Uzbek emissary Mirza Faiz (left), representing northern Uzbek Khan Mir Wali, meets a representative of Afghan ruler Shah Shuja in September 1840. The lithograph by James Rattray is via the British Library.

The photograph accompanying our most-read Dari and Pashto website dispatch, "From ‘Slavers’ to ‘Warlords’: Descriptions of Afghanistan’s Uzbeks in western writing”. Uzbek emissary Mirza Faiz (left), representing northern Uzbek Khan Mir Wali, meets a representative of Afghan ruler Shah Shuja in September 1840. The lithograph by James Rattray is via the British Library.

As 2020 begins, we wanted to take a look back at what you were reading on the AAN website in 2019. Dominating the dispatches that were most read on our English language site were those analysing the Afghan presidential elections and the negotiations between the United States and the Taleban. Our Dari and Pashto readers were interested in these topics as well, but also reading dispatches to do with human rights, Afghan culture and pieces aimed at giving broader historical or social contexts. How Uzbeks are portrayed in western writing topped the Dari-Pashto list of top reads in 2019. AAN’s readership increased last year: the number of Pashto and Dari readers doubled and we received – for the first time – more than one million visits to the English website in a single year. AAN’s Kate Clark looks back at 2019 and forward to 2020 (data compiled by Sudhanshu Verma).

What was most read on AAN’s English website in 2019

We published 98 dispatches – our term for our in-depth, but ‘every day’ publications – last year. Topics ranged from the taboo on naming Afghan women in public to detailed reporting on the elections, from militias to migration, obituaries and book reviews to possible war crime trials and memories of the Soviet invasion and celebrations of Independence Day. We had in-depth reports on security in particular provinces and also published two special research series: one on how Afghans in districts under insurgent control or influence access basic services – schooling, healthcare and telecoms – and the other on what people think about peace, peace talks and how to end the conflict.

To ensure we cover a broad range of topics at AAN, we make sure we publish dispatches falling into seven thematic categories. Last year, the majority of our most-read dispatches fell into just two categories, War and Peace and the Political Landscape – a reflection of how much 2019 was dominated by two political ‘events’, the talks between the United States and the Taleban and the presidential elections. In terms of the seven categories, this is how the twenty most-read dispatches on the AAN website broke down:

  • War and Peace: 7 dispatches in the top twenty most-read
  • The Political Landscape: 7
  • Rights and Freedoms: 2
  • Context and Culture: 2
  • International Engagement: 0
  • Regional Relations: 0
  • Economy and Development: 0
  • Dispatches introducing long reports: 3

NB: one dispatch was about both elections and peace, so the total adds up to 21.

Among the top-twenty were also three dispatches which introduced longer, more substantial reports on: the ideology of the Taleban (published 2017); Pashtunwali (published 2011) and; an Afghan Bibliography which details publications on a range of topics to do with Afghanistan. (1)

The twenty most-read English-language AAN dispatches in 2019

1. Afghanistan’s 2019 elections (2): Who is running to become the next president?

Ali Yawar Adili

11 February 2019

Political Landscape

Afghanistan’s 2019 elections (2): Who is running to become the next president?

2. Afghanistan’s 2019 elections (6): Presidential campaign kicks off amid uncertainty

Ali Yawar Adili

28 July 2019

Political Landscape

Afghanistan’s 2019 elections (6): Presidential campaign kicks off amid uncertainty

3. Afghanistan’s 2019 Election (11): A first look at how E-Day went

Thomas Ruttig and Jelena Bjelica

28 September 2019

Political Landscape

Afghanistan’s 2019 Election (11): A first look at how E-Day went

4. Widespread Violence yet Perpetrators go Unpunished: A new UN report on violence against Afghan women

Jelena Bjelica and Thomas Ruttig

29 May 2018

Rights and Freedoms

Widespread Violence yet Perpetrators go Unpunished: A new UN report on violence against Afghan women

5. “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”: First steps in Afghan peace negotiations

Thomas Ruttig

4 February 2019

War and Peace

“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”: First steps in Afghan peace negotiations

6. Pashtunwali – tribal life and behaviour among the Pashtuns

Lutz Rzehak

21 March 2011

Pashtunwali – tribal life and behaviour among the Pashtuns

7. US-Taleban talks: An imminent agreement without peace?

Thomas Ruttig and Martine van Bijlert

30 August 2019

War and Peace

US-Taleban talks: An imminent agreement without peace?

8. Afghanistan Analyst Bibliography 2019

Christian Bleuer

1 April 2019

Afghanistan Analyst Bibliography 2019

9. Afghanistan’s 2019 Election (9): Presidential poll primer

Ali Yawar Adili, Jelena Bjelica and Thomas Ruttig

25 September 2019

Political Landscape

Afghanistan’s 2019 Election (9): Presidential poll primer

10. Symbolism of a Day: A century of changing independence day celebrations in Afghanistan

S Reza Kazemi

18 August 2019

Culture and Context

Symbolism of a Day: A century of changing independence day celebrations in Afghanistan

11. Deciding To Leave Afghanistan (1): Motives for migration

Lenny Linke

8 May 2016

Rights and Freedoms

Deciding To Leave Afghanistan (1): Motives for migration

12. Why the Taleban Should Read the Afghan Constitution

Ghizaal Haress

9 April 2019

Political Landscape

Why the Taleban Should Read the Afghan Constitution

13. The Results of Afghanistan’s 2018 Parliamentary Elections: A new, but incomplete Wolesi Jirga

Ali Yawar Adili

17 May 2019

Political Landscape

The Results of Afghanistan’s 2018 Parliamentary Elections: A new, but incomplete Wolesi Jirga

14. “Faint lights twinkling against the dark”: Reportage from the fight against ISKP in Nangrahar

Andrew Quilty

19 February 2019

War and Peace

“Faint lights twinkling against the dark”: Reportage from the fight against ISKP in Nangrahar

15. Trump Ends Talks with the Taleban: What happens next?

Kate Clark

8 September 2019

War and Peace

Trump Ends Talks with the Taleban: What happens next?

16. The Myth of ‘Afghan Black’ (1): A cultural history of cannabis cultivation and hashish production in Afghanistan

Fabrizio Foschini and Jelena Bjelica

7 January 2019

Culture and Context

The Myth of ‘Afghan Black’ (1): A cultural history of cannabis cultivation and hashish production in Afghanistan

17. AAN Q&A: What came out of the Doha intra-Afghan conference?

Thomas Ruttig

11 July 2019

War and Peace

AAN Q&A: What came out of the Doha intra-Afghan conference?

18. Ideology in the Afghan Taliban: A new AAN report

Anand Gopal and Alex Strick van Linschoten

29 June 2017

Ideology in the Afghan Taliban: A new AAN report

19. Khost Protection Force Accused of Fresh Killings: Six men shot dead in Zurmat

Kate Clark

21 January 2019

War and Peace

Khost Protection Force Accused of Fresh Killings: Six men shot dead in Zurmat

20. AAN Q&A: Between ‘Peace Talks’ and Elections – The 2019 Consultative Peace Loya Jirga

Jelena Bjelica and Thomas Ruttig

26 April 2019

Political Landscape + War and Peace

AAN Q&A: Between ‘Peace Talks’ and Elections – The 2019 Consultative Peace Loya Jirga

 

The photograph accompanying one of our most-read English dispatches, "Ideology in the Afghan Taliban: A new AAN report”. It shows the Kherqa-ye Sharif (the Shrine of the Holy Cloak) in Kandahar. The cloak belonged to the Prophet Muhammad and was displayed to a crowd by Mullah Omar when he was declared amir ul-mumenin in the spring of 1996. Photo: Thomas Ruttig (2005).

The photograph accompanying one of our most-read English dispatches, “Ideology in the Afghan Taliban: A new AAN report”. It shows the Kherqa-ye Sharif (the Shrine of the Holy Cloak) in Kandahar. The cloak belonged to the Prophet Muhammad and was displayed to a crowd by Mullah Omar when he was declared amir ul-mumenin in the spring of 1996. Photo: Thomas Ruttig (2005).

 

What was most read on AAN’s Dari and Pashto website in 2019

The picture for the ten most-read dispatches on our Dari and Pashto website, where we published 38 dispatches last year, was quite different. The elections and peace talks also featured, but the overall breakdown was of a rough, four-way split between dispatches dealing with culture and context; rights and freedoms; war and peace and; the political landscape. Compared to the English list, there were many more dispatches from previous years, with several also having been in last year’s top ten – those looking at the portrayal of Afghan Uzbeks, legal aid, sexual harassment and political parties. (The list below also gives the link to the English version of each dispatch.) (2)

1. From ‘Slavers’ to ‘Warlords’: Descriptions of Afghanistan’s Uzbeks in western writing

Christian Bleuer

17 October 2014

Culture and Context

From ‘Slavers’ to ‘Warlords’: Descriptions of Afghanistan’s Uzbeks in western writing

2. Afghanistan Election Year (1): Who’s Trying to Become the Next President?

Ali Yawar Adili

11 February 2019

Political Landscape

Afghanistan’s 2019 elections (2): Who is running to become the next president?

3. How to End the Afghan War? A new publication on peace reviewed

Kate Clark

2 June 2018

War and Peace

How to End the Afghan War? A new publication on peace reviewed

4. Harassment of Women in Afghanistan: A hidden phenomenon addressed in too many laws

Ehsan Qaane

2 April 2017

Rights and Freedoms

https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/harassment-of-women-in-afghanistan-ahidden-phenomenon-addressed-in-too-many-laws/

5. Afghan Exodus: The re-emergence of smugglers along the Balkan route

Jelena Bjelica and Martine van Bijlert

10 August 2016

Rights and Freedoms

Afghan Exodus: The re-emergence of smugglers along the Balkan route

6. Legal Aid in Afghanistan: Contexts, Challenges and the Future

Sarah Han

18 April 2012

Rights and Freedoms

Legal Aid in Afghanistan: Contexts, Challenges and the Future

7. Inside and Outside the System: New AAN report on Afghanistan’s political parties published

Thomas Ruttig

6 May 2018

Political Landscape

Inside and Outside the System: New AAN report on Afghanistan’s political parties published

8. What’s in a Woman’s Name? No name, no public persona

Rohullah Sorush

8 March 2019

Culture and Context

What’s in a Woman’s Name? No name, no public persona

9. A Tomb in Kabul: The Fate of the Last Amir of Bukhara and his country’s relations with Afghanistan

Vladimir N Plastun and Thomas Ruttig

27 December 2018

Culture and Context

A Tomb in Kabul: The Fate of the Last Amir of Bukhara and his country’s relations with Afghanistan

10. The 2016 Insurgency in the North: Beyond Kunduz city – lessons (not taken) from the Taleban takeover

Obaid Ali

30 January 2016

War and Peace

The 2016 Insurgency in the North: Beyond Kunduz city – lessons (not taken) from the Taleban takeover

The AAN readership

For the first time, AAN had more than one million ‘visits’ in a year to its English language website – visits were up by 12 per cent compared to 2018. The number of individual readers coming to the site also increased, by almost a third. Meanwhile, the number of visits to AAN’s Dari and Pashto website almost doubled in 2019 compared to 2018 and the number of readers more than doubled. (3). The boost has come, it seems, because of interest in the elections and the peace process, with readers wanting to understand what is happening and what the consequences of these ‘events’ might be. As to the different countries which readers accessed the English website from, the scene was virtually unchanged from last year: Afghanistan still tops the list as the place where 41 per cent of our readers access the site (a proportion that has been roughly the same since 2014), followed by the United States (30 per cent) and then various European countries and India and Pakistan, at between three and seven per cent. (4)

The year ahead 

One of our last dispatches of 2019 was the 27th in a series analysing the presidential election which had been held in September. Entitled “The preliminary result, finally, but no end to controversy”, this dispatch heralded the fact that it will not be the last on this subject. Expect more, possibly many more dispatches in this series in 2020, as we cover the emerging first round results, allegations of fraud and a possible second-round run-off.

Dispatches on war and peace can also be anticipated in 2020; we hope for more of the latter than the former. There should also be developments on whether the Afghanistan ‘situation’ will be investigated by the International Criminal Court. In our last report from the ICC, in December 2019, we left the judges of the ICC appeal court going off to debate whether they should authorise such an investigation or not. Other issues will also continue to get our attention: trends in how the war is fought, including the harm done to civilians, the drug economy and developments in the Afghanistan’s political parties. Pieces on the near horizon include a report into the Afghans still in Guantanamo, a look at how well the newish local defence force, the Afghanistan National Army Territorial Force, is doing and an analysis of the political economy of Afghanistan, given its almost unique dependence on foreign aid and spending. We are also very much looking forward to publishing a history of elephants in Afghanistan.

AAN is now ten years old and to mark this, we will have a new website coming online. As to its content, in the year ahead, we hope to continue to bring you not only solid and insightful reporting on whatever 2020 brings to Afghanistan, but also insights into forgotten, but fascinating topics.

 

(1) Earlier surveys of what you were reading were:

 

“AAN’s most-read dispatches in 2018: So much war… and a little peace and justice”

Kate Clark

1 January 2019

AAN’s most-read dispatches in 2018: So much war… and a little peace and justice

“AAN’s 50 Most-Read Dispatches: War, headgear, politics…”

(This looked at the previous five years of dispatches)

Kate Clark

1 January 2017

AAN’s 50 Most-Read Dispatches: War, headgear, politics…

(2) Ten most-read Dari and Pashto dispatches, by category

  • Culture and Context 3
  • Rights and Freedoms 3
  • War and Peace 2
  • Political Landscape 2
  • International Engagement: 0
  • Regional Relations: 0
  • Economy and Development: 0

(3) Visits to the English website in 2019: 1,019,613, up by 11.6%

English website readers in 2019: 233,701, up by 30.4%

Visits to the Dari and Pashto website in 2019: 70,124, up by 96.8%

Dari and Pashto website readers in 2019: 23,154, up by 110.9%

(4) AAN English website readership by country 2019:

  • Afghanistan: 41% of readers
  • United States: 30%
  • UK: 7%
  • Pakistan 6%
  • Germany 5%
  • India 4%
  • Canada 4%
  • Australia 4%
  • France 3%
  • Sweden 3%

Readership by country 2018 

  • Afghanistan 40% of readers
  • United States 29%
  • UK 7%
  • Germany 5%
  • India 5%
  • Pakistan 5%
  • Canada 4%
  • Australia 4%
  • France 3%

 

 

 

Thematic Category: Context & Culture