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.

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 […]

Context and Culture Read more

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 […]

Context and Culture Read more
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 […]

Context and Culture Read more

Flash from the Past: The 1950 Kabul Students Union and its impact on the post-WWII opposition movement

Thomas Ruttig

70 years ago, on 4 April 1950, the first students’ organisation in Afghanistan’s history was launched. The Students Union of Kabul University started as an attempt by factions in the government to gain control over a small, but enthusiastic group of activists and instrumentalise it for their own interests. This attempt backfired, and the Union […]

Context and Culture Read more

Elephants in Afghanistan: Surveying the history of a pachyderm cultural frontier

Shah Mahmoud Hanifi

Elephants (pil in Pashto and fil in Dari) are not indigenous to Afghanistan. However, they have had a significant presence in and impact on the country. The first of them seem to have arrived in 305 BC when an Indian ruler sent 500 war elephants to the Hellenistic empire, which then stretched across western Asia, in exchange for […]

Context and Culture Read more

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 […]

Context and Culture Read more

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 […]

Context and Culture Read more

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 […]

Context and Culture Read more

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 […]

Context and Culture Read more

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 […]

Context and Culture Read more

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, […]

Context and Culture Read more
"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 […]

Context and Culture Read more