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Welcome To Afghanistan Page. Happy 88 years of Independence Anniversary of Afghanistan


Afghanistan (officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan); Persian (Dari): Jomhori Eslami Afghanistan, Pashto: Da Afghanistan Eslami Johoriat; is a land-locked country at the crossroads of Asia. Generally considered a part of Central Asia, it is sometimes ascribed to a regional bloc in either the Middle East or South Asia, as it has cultural, ethno-linguistic, and geographic links with most of its neighbors. It is bordered by Iran in the west, Pakistan in the south and east, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and the People's Republic of China to the east. The name Afghanistan is derived from Persian, meaning "land of the Afghans"

Afghanistan is a mosaic of ethnic groups and cultures, and a crossroads between east and west. An ancient land that has often been plundered, and also a focal point of trade, the region of present-day Afghanistan has seen several invading forces come and go, including Aryan nomads, the Mede and Persian Empires, Greeks, Arabs, Turks, and Mongols. Modern Afghanistan arose as an independent state in 1919, when foreign intervention ceased following the Anglo-Afghan wars. The country's recent history has seen it ravaged by the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, the Afghan Civil War, the rise and fall of the Taliban, and the United States invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

As a result of these traumatic events, Afghanistan is in a rebuilding phase, as it attempts to reconcile the devastation that constant warfare has created, with a new government that seeks to unify and rebuild Afghanistan. Afghanistan faces numerous problems, ranging from its devastated economy, the return of millions of refugees, continued warlordism, drug trafficking, and a new government that is struggling with the political forces trying to define the sort of country Afghanistan will become in the 21st century.


  • 1 Name
  • 2 History
  • 3 Politics
  • 4 Administrative Divisions
  • 5 Geography
  • 6 Economy
  • 7 Demographics
  • 8 Culture
  • 9 Education
  • 10 Views of Afghanistan
  • 11 See also
  • 12 Notes
  • 13 Additional references
  • 14 External links
    • 14.1 Profiles and general information
    • 14.2 News and directories
    • 14.3 Organizations
    • 14.4 Other

The name Afghanistan literally translates to Land of the Afghans. Its modern usage derives from the word Afghan. The Pashtuns began using the term Afghan as a name for themselves from the Islamic period onwards. According to the history, several other scholars, "The word Afghan first appears in history in the Hudud-al-Alam in 982 AD." The last part of the name Afghanistan originates from the Persian word stan (country or land). The English word Afghanland that appeared in various treaties between Qajar-Persia and the United Kingdom dealing with the lands between Persia and British Raj inhabited by Pashtun tribes (modern Southeastern Afghanistan) was adopted by the Afghans and became Afghanistan.

However, Afghanistan was pronounced by its current name from the 18th century onwards when Ahmed Shah Abdali formed the new government based on Pashtun tribal rule, and was officially named as Afghanistan during the ruling of Abdur Rahman Khan. Before the 18th century, Afghanistan was always known as Khorasan, as today's Afghan territory forms the major regions of the Great Khorasan.

The Encyclopaedia of Islam states:

Afghanistan has borne that name only since the middle of the 18th century, when the supremacy of the Afghan race (Pashtuns) became assured: previously various districts bore distinct apellations, but the country was not a definite political unit, and its component parts were not bound together by any identity of race or language. The earlier meaning of the word was simply “the land of the Afghans”, a limited territory which did not include many parts of the present state but did comprise large districts now either independent or within the boundary of Pakistan. 

Map of Afganistan
Map of Afganistan
Buddhas of Bamiyan, dating back to 1st century pre-Islamic Afghanistan, were the largest Buddha statues in the world. They were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001 calling them
Buddhas of Bamiyan, dating back to 1st century pre-Islamic Afghanistan, were the largest Buddha statues in the world. They were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001 calling them "Un-Islamic".

Afghanistan exists at a unique nexus-point where numerous Eurasian civilizations have interacted and often fought and was an important site of early historical activity. Through the ages, the region today known as Afghanistan has been invaded by a host of peoples, including the Aryans (Indo-Iranians: Indo-Aryans, Medes, Persians, etc.), Greeks, Mauryans, Kushans, Hepthalites, Arabs, Mongols, Turks, British, Soviets and most recently the United States. Rarely, though, have these groups managed to exert complete control over the region. On other occasions, native Afghan entities have invaded surrounding regions to form empires of their own.

Between 2000 and 1200 BC, waves of Indo-European-speaking Aryans are thought to have flooded into modern-day Afghanistan, setting up a nation that became known as Aryânâm Xšaθra or Airyânem Vâejah, meaning "Land of the Aryans." Zoroastrianism is speculated to have possibly originated in what is now Afghanistan between 1800 to 800 BC. Ancient Eastern Persian (Dari) languages such as Avestan may have been spoken in Afghanistan around a similar time-line with the rise of Zoroastrianism, being spread from Persia. In the eastern area, the early Indo-Aryan Vedic civilization may have had some prominence, although this has yet to be conclusively proven. By the middle of the 6th century BC, the Persian Empire supplanted the Medes and incorporated Aryana within its boundaries; and by 330 BC, Alexander the Great had invaded the region. Following Alexander's brief occupation, the Hellenistic successor states of the Seleucids and Bactrians controlled the area, while the Mauryas from India annexed the southeast for a time and introduced Buddhism to the region until the area returned to the Bactrian rule.

During the 1st century AD, the Tocharian Kushans occupied the region. Thereafter, Aryana fell to a number of Eurasian tribes — including Parthians, Scythians, and Huns, as well as the Sassanian Persians and local rulers such as the Hindu Shahis in Kabul — until the 7th century AD, when Muslim Arab armies invaded the region.

The Arab Empire initially annexed parts of western Afghanistan in 652 and then conquered most of the rest of Afghanistan between 706-709 AD and administered the region as Khorasan, and over time much of the local population converted to Islam. Afghanistan became the center of various important empires, including the Ghaznavid Empire (962-1151), founded by a local Turkic ruler from Ghazni named Yamin ul-Dawlah Mahmud. This empire was replaced by the Ghorid Empire (1151-1219), founded by another local ruler, this time of Tajik extraction, Muhammad Ghori, whose domains laid the foundations for the Delhi Sultanate in India.

In 1219, the region was overrun by the Mongols under Genghis Khan, who devastated the land. Their rule continued with the Ilkhanates, and was extended further following the invasion of Tamerlane (Timur Lang), a ruler from Central Asia. Babur, a descendant of both Tamerlane and Genghis Khan, established the Mughal Empire with its capital at Kabul by 1504. Later, the Safavids of Persia challenged Mughal rule with the Persians acquiring the area by the mid-17th century.

Ghilzai Pashtun tribesmen under the Ghaznavid Khan Nasher rose against Persian rule in the early 18th century. The Persian army was defeated and the Afghans briefly controlled Afghanistan and eastern parts of Iran from 1719-1729. Nadir Shah of Persia defeated the Afghans in the Battle of Damghan, 1729. He had driven out the Afghans, who were still occupying Persia, by 1730. In 1738, Nadir Shah conquered Kandahar, In the same year he occupied Ghazni, Kabul and Lahore. One of Nadir Shah's high-ranking military officers, Ahmad Shah Abdali, himself a Pashtun tribesman of the Abdali clan, called for a loya jirga following Nadir Shah's assassination (for which many implicate Abdali) in 1747. The Afghans/Pashtuns came together at Kandahar in 1747 and chose Ahmad Shah, who changed his last name to Durrani (meaning 'pearl of pearls' in Persian), to be king. The Afghanistan nation-state as it is known today came into existence in 1747 as the Durrani Empire which was centered in Afghanistan. The Durrani Empire lasted for nearly a century until internecine conflicts and wars with the Persians and Sikhs diminished their empire by the early 19th century. However, the current borders of Afghanistan would not be determined until the coming of the British.

Lord Nasher after defeating the British colonial forces
Lord Nasher after defeating the British colonial forces

During the 19th century, following the Anglo-Afghan wars (fought in 1839-1842, 1878-1880, and lastly in 1919) and the ascension of the Barakzai dynasty, Afghanistan saw much of its territory and autonomy ceded to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom exercised a great deal of influence, and it was not until King Amanullah Shah acceded to the throne in 1919 (see "The Great Game") that Afghanistan regained complete independence. During the period of British intervention in Afghanistan, ethnic Pashtun territories were divided by the Durand Line, and this would lead to strained relations between Afghanistan and British India, and later the new state of Pakistan, over what came to be known as the Pashtunistan debate.

The longest period of stability in Afghanistan was between 1933 and 1973, when the country was under the rule of King Zahir Shah. However, in 1973, Zahir's brother-in-law, Sardar Mohammed Daoud launched a bloodless coup. Daoud and his entire family were murdered in 1978 when the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan launched a coup known as the Great Saur Revolution and took over the government.

Opposition against, and conflict within, the series of communist governments that followed, was considerable. As part of a Cold War strategy, in 1979 the United States government under President Jimmy Carter and National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski began to covertly fund and train anti-government Mujahideen forces through the Pakistani secret service agency known as Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), which were derived from discontented Muslims in the country who opposed the official atheism of the Marxist regime, in 1978. Brzezinski's recruiting efforts included enlisting Usama bin Laden to fight the Soviets. Bin Laden became a stinger missile expert in this war earning the nom de guerre "The Archer." In order to bolster the local Communist forces the Soviet Union - citing the 1978 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good Neighborliness that had been signed between the two countries in 1978 - intervened on December 24, 1979. The Soviet occupation resulted in a mass exodus of over 5 million Afghans who moved into refugee camps in neighboring Pakistan and Iran. More than 3 million alone settled in Pakistan. Faced with mounting international pressure and the loss of approximately 15,000 Soviet soldiers as a result of Mujahideen opposition forces trained by the United States, Pakistan, and other foreign governments, the Soviets withdrew ten years later, in 1989. For more details, see Soviet war in Afghanistan.

Soviet troops withdrawing from Afghanistan in 1988.
Soviet troops withdrawing from Afghanistan in 1988.

The Soviet withdrawal was seen as an ideological victory in the U.S., which ostensibly had backed the Mujahideen through 3 bipartisan US Presidential Administrations in order to counter Soviet influence in the vicinity of the oil-rich Persian Gulf. Following the removal of the Soviet forces in 1989, the U.S. and its allies lost interest in Afghanistan and did little to help rebuild the war-ravaged country or influence events there. The USSR continued to support the regime of Dr. Najibullah (formerly the head of the secret service, Khad) until its downfall in 1992. However, the absence of the Soviet forces resulted in the downfall of the government as it steadily lost ground to the guerrilla forces.

As the vast majority of the elites and intellectuals had either been systematically eliminated by the Communists, or escaped to take refuge abroad, a dangerous leadership vacuum came into existence. Fighting continued among the various Mujahideen factions, eventually giving rise to a state of warlordism. The chaos and corruption that dominated post-Soviet Afghanistan in turn spawned the rise of the Taliban (mainly pashtun tribe of afghanistan) in response to the growing chaos. The most serious fighting during this growing civil conflict occurred in 1994, when 10,000 people were killed during factional fighting in Kabul.

Exploiting the chaotic situation in Afghanistan, a few regional bedfellows, including fundamentalist Afghans trained in refugee camps in western Pakistan, the Pakistani ISI, the regional Mafia (well-established network that smuggled mainly Japanese electronics and tires before the Russian invasion, now involved in drug smuggling) and Arab extremist groups (that were looking for a safe operational hub) joined forces and helped to create the Taliban movement. Backed by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other strategic allies, the Taliban developed as a politico-religious force, and eventually seized power in 1996. The Taliban were able to capture 90% of the country, aside from the Afghan Northern Alliance strongholds primarily found in the northeast in the Panjshir Valley. The Taliban sought to impose a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law and gave safe haven and assistance to individuals and organizations that were implicated as terrorists, most notably Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.

Massive bombing and invasion of the country by the United States and its allies following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 helped opposition factions and forced the Taliban's downfall. In late 2001, major leaders from the Afghan opposition groups and diaspora met in Bonn, and agreed on a plan for the formulation of a new government structure that resulted in the inauguration of Hamid Karzai as Chairman of the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) in December 2001. After a nationwide Loya Jirga in 2002, Karzai was chosen by the representatives to assume the title of President of Afghanistan.

Hamid Karzai casting his vote at the 2004 Presidential elections.
Hamid Karzai casting his vote at the 2004 Presidential elections.

As the country continues to rebuild and recover, as of late 2005, it was still struggling against widespread poverty, continued warlordism, a virtually non-existent infrastructure, possibly the largest concentration of land mines on earth and other unexploded ordinance, as well as a sizable illegal poppy and heroin trade. Afghanistan also remains subject to occasionally violent political jockeying, although the nation's first genuinely free presidential elections were successfully held in 2004, with Karzai victorious in a landslide victory. Despite logistical problems, and some instances of voter intimidation and fraud, the Parliamentary elections in 2005 helped to further stabilize the country politically, and were noteworthy for the election of female MPs in record numbers. The landmine problem persists; in 2002, the Red Cross recorded 409 landmine deaths in Afghanistan, one of the highest mine tolls anywhere on Earth. The country continues to grapple with increasing acts of violence in the south from a resurgent Taliban, the threat of attacks from a few remaining al-Qaeda, and instability, particularly in the north, caused by the remaining semi-independent warlords.

On August 6, 2006, about 800 South Korean Christians left Afghanistan after their planned "peace festival" was called off due to concerns that their presence could spark violence.


Politics in Afghanistan has historically consisted of power struggles, bloody coups and unstable transfers of power. With the exception of a military junta, the country has been governed by nearly every system of government over the past century, including a monarchy, republic, theocracy and communist state. The constitution ratified by the 2003 Loya jirga restructured the government as an Islamic republic consisting of three branches of power (executive, legislative, and judiciary) overseen by checks and balances.

President Hamid Karzai addressing the United Nations.
President Hamid Karzai addressing the United Nations.

Afghanistan is currently led by President Hamid Karzai, who was elected in October 2004. Before the election, Karzai led the country after being chosen by delegates of the Bonn Conference in 2001 to head an interim government after the fall of the Taliban. While supporters have praised Karzai's efforts to promote national reconciliation and a growing economy, critics charge him with failing to rein in the country's warlords, inability to stem corruption and the growing drug trade, and the slow pace of reconstruction.

The current parliament was elected in 2005. Among the elected officials were former mujahadeen, Taliban fighters, communists, reformists, and Islamic fundamentalists. Surprisingly, 28% of the delegates elected were women, 3% more than the 25% minimum guaranteed under the constitution. Ironically, this made Afghanistan, long known under the Taliban for its oppression of women, one of the leading countries in terms of female representation.

The Supreme Court of Afghanistan is currently led by Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi, a former university professor who had been legal advisor to the president. The previous court, appointed during the time of the interim government without parliamentary approval, had been dominated by fundamentalist religious figures, including Chief Justice Faisal Ahmad Shinwari. The court had issued numerous questionable rulings, such as banning cable television, seeking to ban a candidate in the 2004 presidential election for questioning polygamy laws, and limiting the rights of women, as well as overstepping its constitutional authority by issuing rulings on subjects not yet brought before the court. The current court is seen as more moderate and led by more technocrats than the previous court.

Administrative Divisions

Afghanistan is administratively divided into 34 provinces (velayat), which are further subdivided into districts.

 Map showing provinces of Afghanistan
1 Badakhshan 7 Farah13 Jawzjan19 Kunduz25 Oruzgan31 Sar-e Pol
2 Badghis8 Faryab14 Kabul20 Laghman26 Paktia32 Takhar
3 Baghlan9 Ghazni15 Qandahar21 Logar27 Paktika33 Wardak
4 Balkh10 Ghur16 Kapisa22 Nangarhar 28 Panjshir34 Zabul
5 Bamiyan11 Helmand17 Khost23 Nimruz29 Parwan 
6 Daikundi12 Herat18 Konar24 Nuristan30 Samangan 

Afghanistan is a land-locked mountainous country, with plains in the north and southwest. The highest point, at 7485 m (24,557 ft) above sea level, is Nowshak. Large parts of the country are dry, and fresh water supplies are limited. Afghanistan has a continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters. The country is frequently subject to earthquakes.

The country's natural resources include copper, zinc and iron ore in central areas; precious and semi-precious stones such as lapis, emerald and azure in the north-east and east; and potentially significant oil and gas reserves in the north. However, these significant mineral and energy resources remain largely untapped due to the effects of the Soviet invasion and the subsequent civil war.


Main article: Economy of Afghanistan

Afghanistan is an extremely impoverished country, being one of the world's poorest and least developed countries. Two-thirds of the population lives on less than US$2 a day. The economy has suffered greatly from the recent political and military unrest since the 1979-80 Soviet invasion and subsequent conflicts, while severe drought added to the nation's difficulties in 1998-2001. It is the poorest country in the world outside of Africa.

The economically active population in 2002 was about 11 million (out of a total of an estimated 29 million). While there are no official unemployment rate estimates available, it is evident that it is high. The number of non-skilled young people is estimated at 3 million, which is likely to increase by some 300,000 per annum.

As much as one-third of Afghanistan's GDP comes from growing poppy and illicit drugs including opium and its two derivatives, morphine and heroin, as well as hashish production.

Afghanistan is an impoverished country, one of the world's poorest and least developed. Two-thirds of the population lives on fewer than 2 US dollars a day. The economy has suffered greatly from the recent political and military unrest since the 1979 Soviet invasion and subsequent conflicts, while severe drought added to the nation's difficulties in 1998–2001.

The economically active population in 2002 was about 11 million (out of a total of an estimated 29 million). As of 2005, the official unemployment rate is at 40%. The number of non-skilled young people is estimated at 3 million, which is likely to increase by some 300,000 per annum.

A business center in Kabul.
A business center in Kabul.

However, Afghanistan has achieved respectable economic recovery and growth since 2002. The real value of non-drug GDP increased by 29% in 2002, 16% in 2003, 8% in 2004 and 14% in 2005. As much as one-third of Afghanistan's GDP comes from growing poppy and illicit drugs including opium and its two derivatives, morphine and heroin, as well as hashish production.

In a recent article in the Washington Quarterly, Peter van Ham and Jorrit Kamminga argue that the international community should establish a pilot project and investigate a licensing scheme to start the production of medicines such as morphine and codeine from poppy crops to help it escape the economic dependence on opium:

There is no time to waste, as Afghanistan could well be slipping back to chaos and civil strife. Tackling the drug economy is central to easing Afghanistan's ills, and the only remaining alternative is the poppies for peace proposal, using medicinal poppy cultivation as bridge to sustainable development and lasting security in Afghanistan.

On a positive note, international efforts to rebuild Afghanistan led to the formation of the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) as a result of the December 2001 Bonn Agreement, and later addressed at the Tokyo Donors Conference for Afghan Reconstruction in 2002, where 4.5 billion US dollars were committed in a trust fund to be administered by the World Bank Group. Another 4 billion US dollars were committed in 2004 followed by 10.5 billion US dollars in early 2006 at the London Conference. In early 2007, 11.6 billion dollars were committed to the country from the United States alone. Priority areas for reconstruction include the rebuilding of the educational system, health, and sanitation facilities, enhancement of administrative capacity, the development of the agricultural sector, and the rebuilding of road, energy, and telecommunication links.

According to a 2004 report by the Asian Development Bank, the present reconstruction effort is two-pronged: first it focuses on rebuilding critical physical infrastructure, and second, on building modern public sector institutions from the remnants of Soviet style planning to ones that promote market-led development. In 2006, two US companies, Black & Veatch and the Louis Berger Group, have won a US 1.4 billion dollar contract to rebuild roads, power lines and water supply systems of Afghanistan.

One of the main drivers for the current economic recovery is the return of over 4 million refugees from neighbouring countries and the West, who brought with them fresh energy, entrepreneurship and wealth-creating skills as well as much needed funds to start up businesses. What is also helping is the estimated US 2–3 billion dollars in international assistance every year, the partial recovery of the agricultural sector, and the reestablishment of market institutions. Private developments are also beginning to get underway. In 2006, a Dubai-based Afghan family opened a $25 million Coca Cola bottling plant in Afghanistan.

While the country's current account deficit is largely financed with the donor money, only a small portion – about 15% – is provided directly to the government budget. The rest is provided to non-budgetary expenditure and donor-designated projects through the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations. The government had a central budget of only $350 million in 2003 and an estimated $550 million in 2004. The country's foreign exchange reserves totals about $500 million. Revenue is mostly generated through customs, as income and corporate tax bases are negligible.

Inflation had been a major problem until 2002. However, the depreciation of the Afghani in 2002 after the introduction of the new notes (which replaced 1,000 old Afghani by 1 new Afghani) coupled with the relative stability compared to previous periods has helped prices to stabilize and even decrease between December 2002 and February 2003, reflecting the turnaround appreciation of the new Afghani currency. Since then, the index has indicated stability, with a moderate increase toward late 2003.

The Afghan government and international donors seem to remain committed to improving access to basic necessities, infrastructure development, education, housing and economic reform. The central government is also focusing on improved revenue collection and public sector expenditure discipline. The rebuilding of the financial sector seems to have been so far successful. Money can now be transferred in and out of the country via official banking channels. Since 2003, over fourteen new banks have opened in the country, including Standard Chartered Bank, Afghanistan International Bank, Kabul Bank, Azizi Bank, First Micro Finance Bank, and others. A new law on private investment provides three to seven-year tax holidays to eligible companies and a four-year exemption from exports tariffs and duties.

The plan for Kabul's nine billion dollar future modern urban development project, the City of Light Development.
The plan for Kabul's nine billion dollar future modern urban development project, the City of Light Development.

Some private investment projects, backed with national support, are also beginning to pick up steam in Afghanistan. An initial concept design called the City of Light Development, envisioned by Dr. Hisham N. Ashkouri, Principal of ARCADD, Inc. for the development and the implementation of a privately based investment enterprise has been proposed for multi-function commercial, historic and cultural development within the limits of the Old City of Kabul along the Southern side of the Kabul River and along Jade Meywand Avenue, revitalizing some of the most commercial and historic districts in the City of Kabul, which contains numerous historic mosques and shrines as well as viable commercial activities among war damaged buildings. Also incorporated in the design is a new complex for the Afghan National Museum.

The overall good news is the country has potential to quickly come out of poverty and become an economically stable country. This is due to many reports showing that the country has possession of mass amounts of high demand natural resources and minerals. According to the US Geological Survey and the Afghan Ministry of Mines and Industry, Afghanistan may be possessing up to 36 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, 3.6 billion barrels of petroleum and up to 1,325 million barrels of natural gas liquids. This could mark the turning point in Afghanistan’s reconstruction efforts. Energy exports could generate the revenue that Afghan officials need to modernize the country’s infrastructure and expand economic opportunities for the beleaguered and fractious population. Other reports suggest that the country has huge amounts of gold, copper, coal, iron ore and other rich minerals.

Afghanistan is now a member of SAARC and ECO regional organizations, as well as the Organization of the Islamic Conference.


Main article: Religion in Afghanistan

Blue Mosque in Mazari Sharif.
Blue Mosque in Mazari Sharif.

Religiously, Afghans are over 99% Muslims: approximately 70% Sunni and 30% Shi'a (estimates vary). Up until the mid-1980s, there were about 30,000 to 150,000 Hindus and Sikhs living in different cities, mostly in Jalalabad, Kabul, and Kandahar.

There was a small Jewish community in Afghanistan (see Bukharian Jews) who fled the country after the 1979 Soviet invasion, and only one individual, Zablon Simintov, remains today.

Largest cities

See also: List of cities in Afghanistan and Places in Afghanistan

The only city in Afghanistan with over one million residents is its capital, Kabul. The other major cities in the country are, in order of population size, Kandahar, Herat, Mazari Sharif, Jalalabad, Ghazni and Kunduz.


From the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 through the early 1990s, the Afghan War (1978–92) caused more than 6,000,000 refugees to flee to the neighboring countries of Pakistan and Iran, making Afghanistan the greatest refugee-producing country. The number of refugees fluctuated with the waves of the war, with thousands more fleeing after the Taliban takeover of 1996. Since 2002 more than 4 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan.

Since late April 2007, the Iranian government has forcibly deported back to Afghanistan nearly 100,000 registered and unregistered Afghans living and working in Iran. The forceful evictions of the refugees, who have lived in Iran and Pakistan for nearly three decades, are part of the two countries' larger plans to repatriate all Afghan refugees within a few years. Iran says it will send 1,000,000 by next March, and Pakistan announced that all 2,400,000 Afghan refugees, most living in camps, must return home by 2009. Experts say it will be 'disastrous' for Afghanistan.


Minaret of Jam.
Minaret of Jam.

Afghans display pride in their religion, country, ancestry, and above all, their independence. Like other highlanders, Afghans are regarded with mingled apprehension and condescension, for their high regard for personal honor, for their clan loyalty and for their readiness to carry and use arms to settle disputes. As clan warfare and internecine feuding has been one of their chief occupations since time immemorial, this individualistic trait has made it difficult for foreign invaders to hold the region.

Afghanistan has a complex history that has survived either in its current cultures or in the form of various languages and monuments. However, many of the country's historic monuments have been damaged in recent wars. The two famous statues of Buddha in the Bamyan Province were destroyed by the Taliban, who regarded them as idolatrous. Other famous sites include the very cities of Kandahar, Herat, Ghazni and Balkh. The Minaret of Jam, in the Hari Rud valley, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The cloak worn by Muhammad is stored inside the famous Khalka Sharifa in Kandahar City.

Buzkashi is a national sport in Afghanistan. It is similar to polo and played by horsemen in two teams, each trying to grab and hold off a goat carcass. Afghan hounds (a type of running dog) also originated from Afghanistan.

Although literacy levels are very low, classic Persian poetry plays a very important role in the Afghan culture. Poetry has always been one of the major educational pillars in Iran and Afghanistan, to the level that it has integrated itself into culture. Persian culture has, and continues to, exert a great influence over Afghan culture. Private poetry competition events known as “musha’era” are quite common even among ordinary people. Almost every home owns one or more poetry collection of some sort, even if it is not read often.

The eastern dialects of the Persian language are popularly known as "Dari". The name itself derives from "Parsi-e-Darbari'' meaning Persian of the royal courts. The ancient term Dari – one of the original names of the Persian language – was revived in the Afghan constitution of 1964, and was intended "to signify that Afghans consider their country the cradle of the language. Hence, the name Farsi, the language of Fars, is strictly avoided. With this point in mind, we can consider the development of Dari or Persian literature in the political entity known as Afghanistan.

Many of the famous Persian poets of the tenth to fifteenth centuries stem from Khorasan where is now known as Afghanistan. They were mostly also scholars in many disciplines like languages, natural sciences, medicine, religion and astronomy.

  • Mawlana Rumi, who was born and educated in Balkh in the thirteenth century and moved to Konya in modern-day Turkey
  • Rabia Balkhi (the first poetess in the History of Persian Poetry, tenth century, native of Balkh)
  • Daqiqi Balkhi (tenth century, native of Balkh)
  • Farrukhi Sistani (tenth century, the Ghaznavids royal poet)
  • Unsuri Balkhi (a tenth/eleventh century poet, native of Balkh)
  • Khwaja Abdullah Ansari (eleventh century, from Herat)
  • Nasir Khusraw (eleventh century, from Qubadyan near Balkh)
  • Anvari (twelfth century, lived and died in Balkh)
  • Sanai Ghaznawi (twelfth century, native of Ghazni)
  • Jami of Herat (fifteenth century, native of Herat in western Afghanistan), and his nephew Abdullah Hatifi Herawi, a well-known poet
  • Ali Sher Navai (fifteenth century, Herat).

Most of these individuals were of Persian speaking which still is the first official language in Afghanistan. Also, some of the contemporary Persian language poets and writers, who are relatively well-known in Persian-speaking world, include Ustad Betab, Qari Abdullah, Khalilullah Khalili, Sufi Ghulam Nabi Ashqari, Sarwar Joya, Qahar Asey, Parwin Pazwak and others. In 2003, Khaled Hosseini published The Kiterunner which though fiction, captured much of the history, politics and culture experienced in Afghanistan from the 1930s to present day.

In addition to poets and authors, numerous Persian scientists have had their origins lie in where it's now called Afghanistan. Most notable was Avicenna (Abu Al Hussein ibn Sina) whose father hailed from Balkh. Ibn Sina, who travelled to Isfahan later in life to establish a medical school there, is known by some scholars as "the father of modern medicine". George Sarton called ibn Sina "the most famous scientist of Islam and one of the most famous of all races, places, and times." His most famous works are The Book of Healing and The Canon of Medicine, also known as the Qanun. Ibn Sina's story even found way to the contemporary English literature through Noah Gordon's The Physician, now published in many languages. Moreover, according to Ibn al-Nadim, Al-Farabi, a well-known Philosopher and Scientist, was from the Faryab Province of Afghanistan, .

Before the Taliban gained power, the city of Kabul was home to many musicians who were masters of both traditional and modern Afghan music, especially during the Nauroz-celebration. Kabul in the middle part of the twentieth century has been likened to Vienna during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The tribal system, which orders the life of most people outside metropolitan areas, is potent in political terms. Men feel a fierce loyalty to their own tribe, such that, if called upon, they would assemble in arms under the tribal chiefs and local clan leaders (Khans). In theory, under Islamic law, every believer has an obligation to bear arms at the ruler's call (Ulul-Amr).

Heathcote considers the tribal system to be the best way of organizing large groups of people in a country that is geographically difficult, and in a society that, from a materialistic point of view, has an uncomplicated lifestyle.

See also: Radio Kabul, Music of Afghanistan, and Islam in Afghanistan


Communications and technology

Main article: Communications in Afghanistan

Afghanistan has rapidly increased in communication technology, and has embarked on wireless companies, internet, radio stations and television channels. Afghan telecommunication companies, Afghan Telecom, Afghan Wireless, Roshan, Areeba and Etisalat which is expected to be launched in 2007, have boasted increase in rapid cellular phone usage. In 2006, the Afghan Ministry of Communications has signed a US 64.5 million dollar agreement with a company (ZTE Corporation) on the establishment of a countrywide fibre optical cable network. This will improve telephone, internet, television and radio broadcast services throughout the country.

Afghanistan's television channels include:

Animated Afghanistan Flag

Jomhori Eslami Afghanistan
Da Afghanistan Eslami Johoriat
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Flag of AfghanistanEmblem of Afghanistan
Motto: none
Anthem: Soroud-e-Melli
Location of Afghanistan
34°31′N 69°08′E
Largest cityKabul
Official language(s)Dari or Persian, Pashto
GovernmentIslamic Republic
 - PresidentHamid Karzai
 - Vice PresidentAhmad Zia Massoud
 - Vice PresidentMohammad Karim Khalili
IndependenceFrom United Kingdom 
 - DateAugust 19, 1919 
 - Total647,500 km² (40th)
 250,001 sq mi 
 - Water (%)N/A
 - 2005 est.29,863,000 (38th)
 - 1979 census13,051,358
 - Density46/km² (150th)
111/sq mi 
GDP (PPP)2006 estimate
 - Total$31.9 billion (91st)
 - Per capita$1,310 (162nd)
HDI (2003)NA (unranked) – NA
CurrencyAfghani (Af) (AFN)
Time zone(UTC+4:30)
 - Summer (DST)(UTC+4:30)
Calling code+93

Map of Afganistan

Map of Afghanistan

Buddhas of Bamiyan, dating back to 1st century pre-Islamic Afghanistan, were the largest Buddha statues in the world. They were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001 calling them
Buddhas of Bamiyan, dating back to 1st century pre-Islamic Afghanistan, were the largest Buddha statues in the world. They were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001 calling them "Un-Islamic".


Main article: Transportation in Afghanistan

Afghanistan's commercial airlines, Ariana Afghan Airlines, now serves flights to Frankfurt, Dubai and Istanbul to and from Kabul and Herat. Afghanistan has also improved in vehicle conditions with Toyota, Land Rover, BMW and Hyundai dealerships all over Kabul, and a huge import of fine second-hand vehicles from UAE on display in Kandahar. Afghanistan, however, still is a long way from major modern technological advancements, but is on the fast road to that goal.


Main article: Education in Afghanistan

In early 2003, it was estimated that 30% of Afghanistan's 7,000 schools had been very seriously damaged during more than two decades of civil war. Only half of the schools were reported to have clean water, while fewer than an estimated 40% had adequate sanitation. As regards the poverty and violence of their surroundings, a study in 2002 by the Save the Children Fund said Afghan children were resilient and courageous. The study credited the strong institutions of family and community. As of 2006, more than four million male and female students are enrolled in schools throughout the country. Primary education is totally free and available for all boys and girls.

Literacy of the entire population is estimated (as of 1999) at 36%, the male literacy rate is 51% and female literacy is 21%. Up to now there are 9,500 schools in the country. Another aspect of education that is rapidly changing in Afghanistan is the face of higher education. Following the fall of the Taliban, Kabul University was reopened to both male and female students.

In 2006, the American University of Afghanistan also opened its doors, with the aim of providing a world-class, English-language, co-educational learning environment in Afghanistan. The university accepts students from Afghanistan and the neighboring countries. There is also newly private unversities liscenced by Ministry of Higher Education like Kardan Unversity. Construction work will soon start at the new site selected for University of Balkh in Mazari Sharif. The new building for the university, including the building for the Engineering Department, would be constructed at 600 acres of land at the cost of 250 million US dollars. Official website of the Polytechnical Unversity of Kabul, click here.

The government of King Zahir Shah (ruled 1933–1973) significantly improved education in Afghanistan, making primary schools available to about half the population who were younger than 12 years of age, and expanding the secondary school system and the national university at Kabul. Despite those improvements, in 1979 some 90 percent of the population remained illiterate. Beginning with the Soviet invasion of 1979, successive wars virtually destroyed the education system. Most teachers fled the country during the Soviet occupation and the subsequent civil war. By the middle of the 1990s, only about 650 schools were functioning.

In 1996 the Taliban regime banned education for females, and the madrassa (mosque school) became the main source of primary and secondary education. After the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, the interim government received substantial international aid to restore the education system. In 2003 some 7,000 schools were operating in 20 of the 34 provinces, with 27,000 teachers teaching 4.2 million children (including 1.2 million girls). Of that number, about 3.9 million were in primary schools. When Kabul University reopened in 2002, some 24,000 students, male and female, enrolled. Five other universities were being rehabilitated in the early 2000s. Since the end of the dogmatic Taliban era in 2001, public school curricula have included religious subjects, but detailed instruction is left to religious teachers. In 2003 an estimated 57 percent of men and 86 percent of women were illiterate, and the lack of skilled and educated workers was a major economic disadvantage.

By 2006, over 4 million male and female students were enrolled in schools throughout Afghanistan. At the same time school facilities or institutions were also being improved, with more modern-style schools being built each year.

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