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.

Five Things Worth Watching

Martine van Bijlert

In early November several of AAN’s analysts and members gathered in Stockholm, to brainstorm, exchange ideas and participate in the annual SCA conference. We started the discussions by doing a quick round, asking everyone what the one or two issues were that are likely to be central, or that should not be forgotten, as we […]

Context and Culture Read more

Birding for Survival

AAN Team

Our Dutch ex-soldier-cum-birdwatcher HG Scheltema from Kandahar (see his bird list here(*) has a friend, a US National Guardsman from Connecticut who served in Iraq for a year in 2004/05: Birding Babylon. His name is Jonathan Trouern-Trend who wrote a blog on his bird-watching (see it here, it seems to be continued by other bloggers). Meanwhile, […]

Context and Culture Read more

Flash from the Past: Missed Opportunities for Reconciliation

Anand Gopal

Our guest author Anand Gopal (*) looks back how chances for integrating Taleban into Afghanistan’s past-2001 political system were squandered and how the alienation of leading former commanders in Kandahar became a key motivating factor in sparking the insurgency. Therefore, the original article had the following sub-line: ‘The Victor’s Hubris and the Failure of Reconciliation’. […]

Context and Culture Read more

If you want to learn Pashto…

AAN Team

Sean Mann, a research intern at our partner organisation TLO, has put together an online bibliography to Pashto learning materials. It includes textbooks, dictionaries, multimedia, radio, university courses, etc. It is called ‘Pashto Language Resources’ and is hosted on Christian Bleuer’s ‘Afghanistan Analyst’ website – use this link. You can start with the following sentence: کاڼه […]

Context and Culture Read more

Afghanistan Bird Watch 2: Birds on the Wire

AAN Team

Earlier this afternoon shortly before grey clouds rising over Paghman let the sun disappear and brought a short drizzle, three bottle-green parakeets darted across the airspace over our AAN garden, between the high pine trees, the grapevines (that did not carry this year) and the neighbouring house’s wall on which his pigeons gather. This reminded […]

Context and Culture Read more

Talking Pashto 2: 40 countries, two options

Thomas Ruttig

We continue our series of mini Pashto lessons, not with a poem or a proverb this time, but with a short and striking sentence I heard from a campaigner for one of the woman candidates in Paktia yesterday. ‘Da de tsalwexht pe sha-o-khwa hewaduna dwa lare lari: De edari fasad per zed mubareza – ya […]

Context and Culture Read more

Talking Dari (1): The Road to Turkestan

Thomas Ruttig

Today, we continue our little series with important Afghan-language expressions that are useful to describe political situations in striking accuracy. This time we turn to one of the most famous Iranian poets – so actually we also could say ‘Talking Farsi’ here. But let’s not be too nitty-gritty. ترسم نرسی به کعبه ای اعرابی کین ره […]

Context and Culture Read more
... and Amanullah the reformer-king, with Queen Soraya.

Afghan Encounters in Europe or: How My Grandma Saw King Amanullah – Part 3

Thomas Ruttig

In the third and final part of a little series, Thomas Ruttig takes you on a journey in G.H. Wells’ time machine, back to Berlin in the year 1928 when Afghan King Amanullah visited the German capital as first head of state after the end of Kaiser Wilhelm’s monarchy. Read how the King drove the […]

Context and Culture Read more

Afghan Encounters in Europe or: How My Grandma Saw King Amanullah – Part 2

Thomas Ruttig

Thomas Ruttig takes you on a short trip on Afghan traces in central Europe, this time encountering Afghanistan’s cultural heritage saved from looting and destruction and shown at a museum in Germany’s former capital. II. Bonn on the Rhine One of the major cultural venues in the town that was (West) Germany’s capital for more […]

Context and Culture Read more

Afghan Encounters in Europe or: How My Grandma Saw King Amanullah – Part 1

Thomas Ruttig

Summertime, vacation time. But an Afghan analyst finds it difficult to get away from his chosen subject even then. Sometimes, even pure chance leads him back on track – as on a short trip through Switzerland and Germany. Travel notes from Thomas Ruttig. I. La Gruyère, Switzerland This little town in the Fribourg Alps, known […]

Context and Culture Read more

Kabul’s kitschy wedding cake architecture

Anne Feenstra

Kabul is a city of dramatic contrasts. In the streets, shiny black-windowed limousines drive immediately alongside scruffy pushcarts with wobbly wheels. On the sidewalks, one-legged beggars hold out hands to well-dressed business men in sharp, knitted suits and gleaming shoes. In the built environment, too, these contrasts seem nearly infinite writes our guest blogger Anne […]

Context and Culture Read more

Talking Pashto (1): One-Liner of the Week

Thomas Ruttig

Today, we start a little series with important Pashto expressions for field use. It is meant to complement the electronic translation computers handed out to the international forces which – reportedly – contain useful phrases like: “Lasuna porta!” (Hands up!), “Mulla Omar cheri dey?” (Where is Mulla Omar?) and “Hawayi maidan kum taraf dey?” (Which […]

Context and Culture Read more