Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Context and Culture

What We Were Writing, What You Were Reading in 2022: Reports about economic struggle and loss of rights

Kate Clark 7 min

2022 was the year in which the new reality of Islamic Emirate rule bedded down, following the precipitous collapse of the Islamic Republic in 2021. In that year, our reports and, even more so, the attention of our readers was dominated by trying to make sense of the war, the change of regime and failure of the ‘peace process’. In 2022, it was Taleban restrictions on Afghans’ rights and freedoms, especially those of women and girls, that weighed most heavily on us and our readers’ minds, closely followed, for AAN, by the calamitous effects of the economic collapse. At the same time, we and our readers remained interested in the historical, social and cultural context in which wars, politics and life are all played out in Afghanistan. Kate Clark has been looking back at 2022 and introducing some of AAN’s plans for 2023.

An Afghan girl carries a thermos and packed lunch out to family members working in a field in Bati Kot district in Nangrahar province. Photo: Shafiullah KAKAR/AFPAn Afghan girl carries a thermos flask and packed lunch out to family members working in a field in Bati Kot district in Nangrahar province. Our research plans for 2023 cover both the economy and the lives of women and girls. Photo: Shafiullah KAKAR/AFP

Much of AAN’s time in 2022 was coloured by trying to understand how the new Taleban administration was working and how its policies, and the policies and actions – or inactions – of the world, were affecting Afghan citizens. In a series of reports, we explored the difficult reality for many people as they struggled to survive after the economy crashed in the wake of the Taleban’s seizure of power. Other research began with a top-down view of the economy: we published a major piece of research on Taleban taxation and also scrutinised how donors were trying to find ways to help Afghans without supporting the Emirate – with mixed results. 

Other reports traced the changes to the lives of women and girls in the face of edicts restricting their dress, movement, education, work and any public-facing role. Allied to that was a series putting the Taleban’s closure of girls’ secondary schools in context. We looked at how some parts of the country were managing to keep their schools for older girls open, how and why many Taleban were also educating their older daughters, and how national attitudes to schooling for both girls and boys had changed in the last few decades. A final report on this topic assessed Amir ul-Mu’minin Hibatullah Akhundzada and the clerics around him who have been pushing this and other ultra-conservative policies. In 2022, we also scrutinised the Taleban’s Ministry to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice, how it has been reconstituted and how it saw its role in policing the nation’s morals. 

Looking over last year’s publications, they include, as always, quick responses to current events, typically grounded in a long historical view or deep political context, and pieces based on weeks or months of field research. Our report on the July 2022 killing of al-Qaeda leader Aiman al-Zawahri in the centre of Kabul fell into the first category, while examples of the second are an investigation into the Taleban’s use of pressure-plate IEDs in the insurgency, even after Mullah Omar had banned them during the first Emirate, and a detailing of the land disputes between Kuchis and local communities, especially Hazaras. 

At AAN, individual researchers generally focus on what interests them, a strategy which we hope keeps our publications lively and fresh. At the same time, we try to cover a broad range of topics, so we set ourselves to cover eight key thematic categories:

  • War and Peace
  • Economy, Development and the Environment
  • Culture and Context
  • Political Landscape
  • Rights and Freedoms
  • Regional Relations
  • International Engagement
  • Migration

As the table below shows, two categories dominated our publications in 2022: Rights and Freedoms, and Economy, Development and the Environment, followed by Culture and Context, and War and Peace. This did not mean topics falling into the other categories did not feature, but they often folded into other categories. Out-migration, for example, is also featured in some of our recent economic research.

What you were reading in 2022

As to what you, our readers, were interested in, reports looking into Rights and Freedoms also came top, especially girls’ schooling: four reports on this topic featured in the twenty most-read AAN reports of 2022, along with three other pieces about Rights and Freedoms. The change from 2021 in what you were reading was startling: then, 70 per cent of the reports in the most-read list for that year were about the conflict or the failing peace process. 

Some reports in the War and Peace category did make our most-read list of reports. They included a 2020 investigation into Taleban Shia Muslim commander Mawlawi Mehdi in Balkhab district of Sar-e Pul, who last year ran foul of the Emirate, and our most read-piece of 2022, a look at attacks on Hazaras in west Kabul and at how successive administrations have failed to protect this community. 

Reports on the climate crisis also featured in this list for the first time, with two pieces published in 2021 and 2022 by Mohammad Assem Mayar. Afghanistan is one of the lowest emitters of greenhouse gases and among the countries most vulnerable to climate change, with the harm already evident in the form of droughts, melting glaciers and extreme floods: this is a topic we will continue to follow. 

Several older reports were also still being read by many of our readers: a special report from 2011 on Pashtunwali by Lutz Rzehak; a piece, one of two published in 2016, on the myth of the ‘Chechen fighter’ in the Afghan insurgency by Christian Bleuer and a report on the pilgrimage to Karbala all feature in our top twenty most-read reports. Meanwhile, one of our two reports published at the end of 2021, looking back at how and why the Republic collapsed and the Taleban won power, also continues to be widely read.

The mix of most-read reports was slightly different among readers of AAN’s reports in Dari and Pashto. Girls’ schools and climate change also featured, as well as an in-depth look at how the Taleban capturing power by military means had inevitably sparked economic collapse, as not only did the sanctions against the Taleban kick in against the whole country, but most of the foreign funding, on which Afghanistan was so heavily reliant, vanished overnight. 

Two older reports also featured in the Dari and Pashto list: an evergreen report on the taboo on referring to or addressing Afghan women by their actual names, and a 2016 scrutiny of Afghans trying to travel through the Balkans to seek asylum further west into Europe.

The year ahead

As the new year unfolds, we already have some promising research projects underway. We will be hearing about from Taleban about their experiences of coming to live in Kabul, and also from Kabuli civilians who have been able to return to their villages for the first time in many years. We have reports coming up on political currents among Hazaras since the Taleban takeover and, in a follow-up to the 2022 report on Taleban revenue collection, we will be scrutinising how the Taleban are spending taxpayers’ money. We also hope to look into the ban on Afghan women working for aid agencies and tease out the differences between how the Taleban and NGOs deal with this clash of principles and policy now and in the 1990s. One series that we hope to continue is The Daily Hustle, when we interview an individual or individuals about one aspect of daily life post the Taleban takeover. That series began with two reports, on going to the bank and going to an English class; both actions should be normal and straightforward, but one involved a mother’s prayers for her child’s safety and the other courage and determination just to leave the house.

In 2023, it seems inevitable that the economy, and rights and freedoms will form a large part of our research portfolio as they did in 2022. At the same time, we hope, as always, to explore some lighter topics. We began the year by hearing about the men who work as professional trackers, who follow the footsteps of thieves and other miscreants, a report which contained the revelation that: 

If you look at the footprints of millions of humans, the footprint of each will differ from all the others.

We look forward to the coming year and, as AAN writers and researchers, sharing the journey with you, our readers.

AAN’s reports by category in 2022.

AAN’s top-twenty most-read reports of 2022

A Community Under Attack: How successive governments failed west Kabul and the Hazaras who live there, Ali Yawar Adili, 17 January 2022 

A Community Under Attack: How successive governments failed west Kabul and the Hazaras who live there
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Who Gets to Go to School? (3): Are Taleban attitudes starting to change from within?, Sabawoon Samim, 7 February 2022

Who Gets to Go to School? (3): Are Taleban attitudes starting to change from within?
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Chechens in Afghanistan 1: A Battlefield Myth That Will Not Die, Christian Bleuer, 27 June 2016

Chechens in Afghanistan 1: A Battlefield Myth That Will Not Die
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The Ban on Older Girls’ Education: Taleban conservatives ascendant and a leadership in disarray, Ashley Jackson, 29 March 2022

The Ban on Older Girls’ Education: Taleban conservatives ascendant and a leadership in disarray
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Who Gets to Go to School? (1): What people told us about education since the Taleban took over, Kate Clark and the AAN Team,  26 January 2022

Who Gets to Go to School? (1): What people told us about education since the Taleban took over
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Dossier XXX: Afghan Women’s Rights and the New Phase of the Conflict, AAN Team,  29 July 2021

Dossier XXX: Afghan Women’s Rights and the New Phase of the Conflict
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The Climate Change Crisis in Afghanistan: The catastrophe worsens – what hope for action?, Mohammad Assem Mayar, 6 June 2022

The Climate Change Crisis in Afghanistan: The catastrophe worsens – what hope for action?
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Global Warming and Afghanistan: Drought, hunger and thirst expected to worsen, Mhd Assem Mayar, 6 November 2021

Global Warming and Afghanistan: Drought, hunger and thirst expected to worsen
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“We need to breathe too”: Women across Afghanistan navigate the Taleban’s hijab ruling, Kate Clark and Sayeda Rahimi, 1 June 2022

“We need to breathe too”: Women across Afghanistan navigate the Taleban’s hijab ruling
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Afghanistan’s conflict in 2021 (2): Republic collapse and Taleban victory in the long-view of history, Kate Clark, 30  December 2021

Afghanistan’s Conflict in 2021 (2): Republic collapse and Taleban victory in the long-view of history
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Disappointment over Karbala: A pilgrimage off-limits in 2020… and memories of 2019, Rohullah Sorush, 8 October 2020

Disappointment over Karbala: A pilgrimage off-limits in 2020… and memories of 2019
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Marking a New Century in Afghanistan: Nawruz 1401, Roxanna Shapour, 21 March 2022

Marking a New Century in Afghanistan: Nawruz 1401
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Donors’ Dilemma: How to provide aid to a country whose government you do not recognise, Roxanna Shapour, 5 July 2022

Donors’ Dilemma: How to provide aid to a country whose government you do not recognise
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War Crimes Trial Begins in the Netherlands: Former commander at Pul-e Charkhi faces justice, Kate Clark, 16 February 2022

War Crimes Trial Begins in the Netherlands: Former commander at Pul-e Charkhi faces justice
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Who Gets to Go to School? (2) The Taleban and education through time, S Reza Kazemi • Kate Clark, 31 January 2022

Who Gets to Go to School? (2) The Taleban and education through time
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Al-Qaeda Leader Killed in Kabul: What might be the repercussions for the Taleban and Afghanistan?, Kate Clark, 2 August 2022

Al-Qaeda Leader Killed in Kabul: What might be the repercussions for the Taleban and Afghanistan?
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The case of Mawlawi Mehdi and Balkhab District: Are the Taleban attracting Hazaras?, Thomas Ruttig, 23 May 2020

The case of Mawlawi Mehdi and Balkhab District: Are the Taleban attracting Hazaras?
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Obituary for Francesc Vendrell (1940-2022): An outspoken diplomat who cared about people, principles and peace, Thomas Ruttig, 28 November 2022

Obituary for Francesc Vendrell (1940-2022): An outspoken diplomat who cared about people, principles and peace
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The Cost of Victory: How the Taleban used IEDS to win the war, despite the misgivings of some, Sabawoon Samim, 21 August 2022

The Cost of Victory: How the Taleban used IEDS to win the war, despite the misgivings of some
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Pashtunwali – tribal life and behaviour among the Pashtuns, Lutz Rzehak, 21 March 2011

Pashtunwali – tribal life and behaviour among the Pashtuns
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AAN’s top-five most-read reports of 2022, Dari and Pashto

Afghan Exodus: The re-emergence of smugglers along the Balkan route, Martine van Bijlert and Jelena Bjelica, 10 August 2016

ظهور دوباره قاچاقچیان در مسیر بالکان
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English version here.

Who Gets to Go to School? (1): What people told us about education since the Taleban took over, Kate Clark and the AAN Team, 26 January 2022

چه کسی می تواند به مکتب برود؟ (1): آنچه مردم درباره مکتب بعد از تصرف کابل توسط طالبان به ما گفتند
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English version here.

What’s in a Woman’s Name? No name, no public persona, Rohullah Sorush, 8 March 2019

رازی های پنهان در نام زنان: بدون نام ، بدون شخصیت اجتماعی؟
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English version here.

The Climate Change Crisis in Afghanistan: The catastrophe worsens – what hope for action?, Mohammad Assem Mayar, 6 June 2022

په افغانستان کې د اقلیمي بدلون ډېرېدونکی ناورین – د عملي اقدام هیله څومره ده؟
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English version here

Killing the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg: Afghanistan’s economic distress post-15 August, Kate Clark, 11 November 2021

کشتن قازی که تخم طلایی می گذارد (از بین بردن منبع درآمد و معیشت): بحران اقتصادی افغانستان بعد از 24 اسد 1400
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English version here.

References

References
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Tags:

2022 AAN Economy Human Rights Taleban Women's rights

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