Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Context and Culture

This thematic area encompasses the wide array of subjects that illustrate Afghanistan’s rich history, arts, literature and culture, and the many ways Afghan society is changing and evolving.

Happy Nawruz: Wishing our readers a healthy and blessed 1399

AAN Team

Nawruz, the ancient and popular festival marking the start of the new year and the beginning of spring, will be observed this year with growing worries. Many people will be restricting the normal festivities because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nawruz also comes after the week-long reduction in violence in February, the United States-Taleban agreement, and […]

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Bollywood’s ‘Great Betrayal’ of Afghanistan: “Panipat” and the cost of vilifying Ahmad Shah Durrani

Fabrizio Foschini

Panipat: The Great Betrayal”, out in Indian cinemas since December 2019, is just the latest in a string of recent Bollywood movies that feature Afghans in the role of arch-villains, in this case Ahmad Shah Durrani, often described as the founder of the modern Afghan state. The historical revisionism and stereotyping of Afghans seen in the film have sparked protests […]

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Kabul’s Expanding Crime Scene (Part 1): The roots of today’s underworld

Fabrizio Foschini

Criminality in Afghanistan, particularly in Kabul, has soared in recent years. An increase in the city’s population, coupled with shrinking economic opportunities, appears to have forced more people into illegal activities as a means of survival. On top of this, the activities of well-armed and politically-connected criminal groups, present in the city and its surroundings […]

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

Kate Clark

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 […]

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The Largest Standing Stupa in Afghanistan: A short history of the Buddhist site at Topdara

Jelena Bjelica

A dome-shaped ancient Buddhist shrine, the Topdara stupa to the north of Kabul was described by 19th century British explorer Charles Masson as “perhaps the most complete and beautiful monument of the kind in these countries.” Since Masson’s visit in 1833, the Topdara stupa saw few visitors and had fallen into neglect until recently, in […]

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AAN Reads: An Afghanistan history covering 750 years

Thomas Ruttig

Eminent Afghanistan specialists and historians have praised Jonathan L Lee’s 2018 Afghanistan: a history from 1260 to the present as “detailed research of the highest quality” and even the new go-to “encyclopaedia” on this subject. It is indeed encyclopaedic, pulling interesting episodes out of the dark of Afghan history, but still, it is partly disappointing, […]

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"The Afghan peace delegation while crossing the Torkham border on their way to the Rawalpindi peace conference, 24 July 1919. The tall, bearded man on the left is Ghulam Muhammad Khan Wardak, then Minister of Commerce, while the figure in the centre with a plumed cap is probably Mahmud Tarzi, Minister of Foreign Affairs and head of the delegation.”

The 1919 War of Independence (or third Anglo-Afghan War): a conflict the Afghans started (and ended)

Fabrizio Foschini

Not all conflicts in Afghanistan’s history have been long, drawn-out or seemingly endless affairs, and not all of them degenerated into civil wars either. Outstanding among them, sadly many, instances of military operations inside or around Afghanistan, was the War of Independence of 1919, one of the few which was started by the Afghan state […]

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Drawings of mynahs by Serbian ornithologist Voislav Vasić, who travelled to Afghanistan in 1972 in search of birds. Photo: Author

Searching for the Afghan Snowfinch: Memories of a birdwatching journey fifty years ago

Voislav Vasic

The bearded vulture, the rich diversity of wheatears and, above all, the Afghan snowfinch – found nowhere else in the world – are what drew a young ornithologist, Voislav Vasić, to travel from Yugoslavia to Afghanistan in the summer of 1972. In this guest dispatch, Vasić, now the retired head of the national Natural History […]

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

S Reza Kazemi

From Amanullah Khan in whose time independence was realised, to Habibullah Kalakani who seemed to distance it from the previous regime, to Nader Shah and Zaher Shah who gave it a regal face, to President Daud who continued the royal tradition, to the communists and the mujahedin who downgraded it, to the Taleban who revived […]

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AAN’s Eid al-Adha greetings – in a difficult time for Afghans

AAN

سره له دي چي ډیری افغانان یو  غملړلی اختر لري او  په وروستیو کې يې د خونړیو پېښو له امله خپل  خپلوان او دوستان  یا له لاسه ورکړي او یا هم ټپیان شوي دي.د افغانستان د تحلیلګرانو شبکه هیله لري چي د لوی اختر په را رسیدو او د قربانیو او حاجیانو د دعاوو په   برکت […]

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A still from the documentary showing a young girl wearing the traditional hat called kola-ye topak-dar in Daikundi province. Photo: Nasim Seyamak

A Kaleidoscopic Heritage: New efforts to promote Afghan traditions of art and culture

S Reza Kazemi

A fifteenth-century miniature painting of the prophet Yusuf brought to new life in an animation, puppets telling the modern love story of Siyamoy and Jalali and women’s traditional hats in Daikundi: all are featuring in a festival held in Kabul at the Qasr-e Chehel Sotun – the Palace of Forty Columns. The festival is one […]

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Lizards far from home. Some of the specimens brought back from Afghanistan in 1972 and now part of the Belgrade collection of lizards from Afghanistan at the Siniša Stanković Institute for Biological Research at the University of Belgrade. Photo: Jelena Bjelica

Lizards of Afghanistan: An unknown collection discovered in Serbia

Jelena Bjelica

In the summer of 1972, Serbian ornithologist Voislav Vasić travelled to Afghanistan and brought back a collection of lizards. It was a favour to a herpetologist (specialist in reptiles and amphibians) colleague. The collection, practically forgotten since has been rediscovered and re-examined by a Czech herpetologist Daniel Jablonski who published a paper with Serbian colleagues […]

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