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.

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

Fabrizio Foschini Jelena Bjelica

The cannabis plant is indigenous to the region of which Afghanistan is a part. Throughout human history, almost every part of the plant has been used – its fibres to make clothes, its oil-rich seeds as a food, its leaves, flowers, and resin as medicine, and of course, as a psychoactive drug. Hashish, made from […]

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

Kate Clark

Here at AAN, we have been looking back at what we published in 2018, in English and Dari and Pashto. We have also been considering what you, dear readers, have been most interested in. Compiling the list of our most-read dispatches in 2018 was a sobering task, says AAN Co-Director, Kate Clark (with data from […]

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The residential quarters of the exiled Emir, looted and damaged in the 1990s. Photo: Jolyon Leslie/2006

The Emir of Bukhara’s Forlorn Garden: Revealing Kabul’s hidden history

Jolyon Leslie

Kabul is a city of secrets. An outsider needs both curiosity and patience to discover the hidden layers that lie behind mud walls or at the end of dusty lanes. This heritage is however at risk from indiscriminate demolitions and new construction, much of which is uncontrolled. The stories behind places also risk being lost, […]

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El Borak, N. Ullah and The Way to Turkestan: An AAN Context and Culture Eid Reading List

Thomas Ruttig

After the fighting in Ghazni and the atrocity at the learning centre in Kabul’s Dasht-e Barchi neighbourhood, this is another of these Eid holidays into which many go in a subdued if not even depressed mood. We at AAN share these feelings, and our thoughts are with the relatives of the victims, their friends and […]

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Persian tile showing pilgrims the layout of the Kaaba in the holy city of Mecca, seen in Vienna's World Museum (Weltmuseum). Photo: Thomas Ruttig

On Eid al-Adha, AAN Wishes Afghanistan a Respite From War

AAN Team

This year’s Eid al-Adha comes at a time of escalating war and bloodshed, with horrendous violence across Afghanistan. Many have lost dear ones. Many have been injured. Many have been displaced. Many have seen their houses and shops on fire or destroyed. And the scars of this appalling war will remain for men, women and […]

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Taleban arriving in West Kabul on the first day of the Eid ceasefire. Not everyone was so delighted. Such scenes sparked a variety of emotions in onlookers,from hope to bewilderment and joy to fear. (Photo Andrew Quilty 16 June 2018)

The Eid Ceasefire: What did (some of the) people think?

AAN Team

Coverage of the Eid ceasefire mainly focussed on the most spectacular consequence, the mass fraternisation between combatants. AAN researchers wanted to try to understand what civilians thought about the truce and what sort of Eid holiday they had enjoyed – or not. We interviewed ten Afghans, four women and six men, to try to find […]

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Fruit Sellers in Kabul before Eid. Photo: Obaid Ali 2018

Eid Mubarak from AAN to All Our Readers

AAN Team

The AAN team would like to wish a joyful and peaceful Eid al Fitr to friends and readers, to all Muslims around the world and particularly to the people of Afghanistan. This year, as the Eid ceasefire in Afghanistan begins, there will be more space for festivities around the country. As AAN has reported before, Afghans celebrate the […]

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An April Day That Changed Afghanistan 4: The evolution of the PDPA and its relations with the Soviet Union

Thomas Ruttig

After the leftists of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) seized power in the Saur Revolution of April 1978, the Soviet Union became Kabul’s key backer, to the extent of invading the country in 1979 to prevent local insurgencies and military rebellions toppling its new ally. AAN’s Thomas Ruttig here explores the relationship between […]

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Photographs of those who disappeared in AGSA custody, placed by family members in the Puligun (Polygon) area of Pul-e Charkhi, where mass graves have been found. Families hold a ceremony every year on 10 December to remember their lost relatives (Photo: Victims’ Families Association, with permission, 2016)

An April Day That Changed Afghanistan 3: The legacy of the Saur Revolution’s war crimes

P. Gossman

The coup d’etat that brought the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) was a watershed for Afghanistan, driving it into a conflict from which it has yet to recover and ushering in a whole new level of violence by the state against its citizens. Forced disappearances, the routine use of torture for punishment as well […]

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A day after the PDPA took power, soldiers guard the Arg where Nur Muhammad Taraki is the new president (1978). Photo: Cleric77, Wikipedia - Creative Commons 3.0

An April Day that Changed Afghanistan 2: Afghans remember the ‘Saur Revolution’

Kate Clark

It is forty years, today, since the coup d’etat which brought the leftist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) to power. That event has had far-reaching consequences, plunging the country into a conflict from which it has yet to emerge and changing the course of almost every Afghan’s life. AAN has been speaking to a […]

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Coming Home to Kabul: A Mughal art exhibition opens in the cradle of King Babur’s Empire

Jelena Bjelica Kate Clark

The display of 72 paintings from the mid-sixteenth century Mughal period in Kabul as well as late sixteenth and seventeenth century Indian Mughal paintings opened in the Queen’s Pavilion of Babur’s Garden in Kabul on 31 March 2018. This, as well as an earlier exhibition in Herat’s Citadel in December 2017 showcasing fifteenth century Tîmûrid […]

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Nurullah, a farmer selling spring flowers ahead of Nawruz in Kabul. Photo: Obaid Ali 2018

Happy Nawruz: Wishing peace and happiness to AAN readers

AAN Team

After a cold winter, spring has finally arrived. By 1 Hamal 1397, in every corner of Kabul city, greenhouses are being reopened with a variety of trees and flowers on sale. AAN team would link to wish all our readers and friends a blessed and peaceful year. We wanted to brighten up your day (further) […]

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