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.

At the Turn of a Century: A rare chance to discover Nawruz in history and in Afghanistan

S Reza Kazemi

By popular count at least, the coming solar year 1400 will usher in a new century in Afghanistan. Taking this as an exceptional once-in-a-lifetime chance, AAN researcher Reza Kazemi taps into a diverse array of sources, including history, literature and folk music, to look at Nawruz in deep time and through Afghanistan as a kaleidoscopic […]

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Playful Pastimes and Much More: Seven folk games from Afghanistan

S Reza Kazemi AAN Team

A ‘fundraising’ game by children to buy themselves treats for Nawruz, a children’s play that satirises wedding traditions, a funny game about how to deal with a duff player, a deceptively easy game particularly played by girls with hazelnut-sized stones, two more stone throwing games played by grown-ups and a complicated ‘egg fighting’ game favoured […]

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A Sufi Lodge, a Leaning Minaret and a Polymath’s Shrine: A look at recent efforts to preserve – and appreciate – historical Herat

S Reza Kazemi

Herat, the oasis town in the far northwest of Afghanistan, has been a flourishing Sufi and cultural centre at various points along its long, chequered history. Based on observations, conversations and a literature review, and illustrated by photos, AAN researcher Reza Kazemi takes a look at the city’s rich heritage through three memorials: a tenth-century […]

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AAN Obituary: Muhammad Azam Rahnaward Zaryab, pioneering Afghan writer and guardian of the Persian language

Thomas Ruttig

One of Afghanistan’s most influential and prolific writers died in a Kabul hospital 40 days ago on 11 December 2020. Born in Kabul in 1944, Zaryab wrote some of the first modern Afghan novels, and his contributions to Afghanistan’s literature inspired a new generation of Afghan writers. In Afghanistan’s post-Taleban media scene, the celebrated author […]

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AAN’s most-read dispatches in 2020: Cannabis, Bollywood, Bride Prices… and War

Kate Clark

2020 was a year when our readers wanted to read about the war and efforts to find peace and Afghanistan’s culture and history. Reports scrutinising the Doha talks and mapping the conflict appeared in our twenty most-read publications last year, along with others looking at Afghanistan’s history, its relationship with Bollywood and practices around getting married and […]

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From Tazi to Afghan Hound… from hunter’s friend to silken-haired pet

Kate Clark

Winter is the time when Afghan hunters go up into the snowy mountains with their dogs, known as tazis. These are lean, graceful creatures who use speed and keen sight to catch their prey. To the outside world, they became known as the ‘Afghan hound’ after officers in the British colonial army brought individual dogs to London a […]

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“Helmand is my soul, my mother. I never want to leave”: Obituary for murdered journalist, Muhammad Aliyas Dayee, 1988-2020

Andrew Quilty

One of Afghanistan’s most respected journalists, Muhammad Aliyas Dayee, was killed in a targeted attack on 12 November in the Helmand capital, Lashkargah. Greatly admired and loved by colleagues and listeners to his radio reports alike, Dayee’s murder has raised questions about whether the profession is a viable one as the incidence of targeted killings […]

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Karbala

Disappointment over Karbala: A pilgrimage off-limits in 2020… and memories of 2019

Rohullah Sorush

In normal times, millions of people, including tens of thousands of Afghans, would be gathering in Karbala in Iraq today for the Arba’in pilgrimage. It marks the 40th day of mourning after the martyrdom of the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, Imam Hussain and his 72 companions in Karbala more than 1300 years ago. This year, […]

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AAN Obituary: PDPA leader and poet Sulaiman Layeq (1930-2020)

Thomas Ruttig

Sulaiman Layeq, one of the last surviving founding members of the leftist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), which changed the country’s history with its coup d’état in 1978, has died in late July. In 1992, he even made it to the top of the party, albeit in its final moments. The circumstances of his death […]

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AAN wishes a peaceful and healthy Eid al-Adha to all its readers

AAN Team

At a difficult and uncertain time for growing numbers of people in Afghanistan, there is at last some good news: the Taleban and government have again declared a third three-day ceasefire to mark the major Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha. We acknowledge that many people who have continued to bear the brunt of this brutal […]

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Citizens, Finally, But No Place to Settle: The Magats, one of Afghanistan’s most marginalised minorities

Khadija Hossaini Thomas Ruttig

The Magats – a small ethnic group most frequently called ‘Jogi’ by others, a term often considered derogatory by them – have been living in Afghanistan for more than a century. Until recently, they were stateless but have now started a struggle for legal recognition and acknowledgement of their identity. The first successes, such as registration […]

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The Kot-e Sangi Bazaar in Kabul during the run-up up to Eid. Photo: Ali Sina Sorush, 20 May 2020.

AAN wishes a peaceful and healthy Eid al-Fitr to all our readers

AAN Team

After a Ramadan that has been difficult for many in Afghanistan, there is finally some better news: the Taleban have announced a three-day ceasefire to mark Eid ul-Fitr and the Afghan government has reciprocated. Acknowledging that the many people who have lost dear ones in the brutal violence this spring or are afflicted by coronavirus […]

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