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Afghanistan today
Afghanistan lost a million lives during the Soviet occupation of 1979-1989. This was followed by an Afghan civil war from 1992-1996, then the present-day war from 2001 until now. With the Taliban and the Haqqani militants still fighting the US and Afghan government for control, the future still looks very uncertain.


Afghanistan: What’s a kid’s life like?

Afghan girl (Photo: Kenny Holston)

Afghan girl (Photo: Kenny Holston)

My name is Nisa Nesa and I am 13 years old. I live in Kandahar, Afghanistan. A nice lady from the Catholic group is writing this for me. I cannot read or write. I cannot go to school either. I am just a girl. Girls are nobody in Afghanistan.

This is a really bad time to be living in this place. There was a movie that even said so. At night, I dream of waking up to a place where girls feel safe. I want to be able to read and have enough to eat. Do not think I am complaining. Oh, No! My life is much better now than in the past. I just want you to know that I have good dreams, not of how life used to be.

Before the Catholic people came to the Kabul River area, all was so much worse. My 5-year-old brother died from a lack of food. Other kids died. Some were too weak to walk. Mothers’ were crying. Men beat them for letting the kids die. Back then we ate only tea and bread. There was never enough water to drink.

Since the Catholic Relief came, we make money. Now, we eat rice, yogurt, and meat. The men act nicer to the women. Mothers learned to bathe a child every day not every ten days and to wash after going to the bathroom. Everything is better because we have work. Mom works at the bakery because the Catholic Relief got the place, stuff, and food. Mother has lots of money for food now, about $8 a week!

Actually, my dream is that girls be able to learn. I think that, if I could learn to read, I would never be hungry again. Even if I learn to read, I am afraid to read where people can see me. Even my mother used to think that girls did not need to read. She knows better now. She works at the bakery. She needs to make notes about what to buy. She had to learn to read how to make things in the bakery. She is very special! The Catholic people told me that only one girl out of ten in Afghanistan can read. Knowing that makes me sad, and mad!

We live near Kabul. Kabul is the capital of Afghanistan. There is a highway called the Silk Road from Kabul to Kandahar. No one in Kabul grows silk. In Kabul, people make dried fruits, nuts, Afghan rugs, and leather products that travel to China. Silk is in China. If I could read, I could travel to Kabul and make money. I would live with other girls in Kabul. I could live my dream! We would protect each other, respect each other, and love each other.

But, my dream is only a dream. Since before my mother was born, there has been a war here. Over 30 years there has been a war. People in Kabul grow or make things to sell, but the warriors steal it from them. The Russians have occupied our country. For years, we have had horror under the Taliban. What is to become of us, especially us girls?

Afghanistan: What are the people like?

The population of Afghanistan is around 29.8 million as of the year 2011[1], which includes the 2.7 million Afghan refugees staying in Pakistan and Iran.[2] The nation is composed of a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual society, reflecting its location astride historic trade and invasion routes between Central AsiaSouthern Asia, and Western Asia. The majority of Afghanistan’s population consist of the Iranic peoples, notably the Pashtuns and Tajiks. The Pashtun is the largest group followed by Tajik, HazaraUzbekAimakTurkmenBaloch and others.[3]

Pashto and Dari (Persian) are both the official languages of the country. Persian is spoken by about half of the population and serves as a lingua franca for the majority. Pashto is spoken widely in the south, east and south west of the country as well as in neighboring western PakistanUzbek language and Turkmen language are spoken in parts of the north. Smaller groups throughout the country also speak more than 30 other languages and numerous dialects.[4]

Islam is the religion of more than 99% of Afghanistan. An estimated 80-89% of the population practice Sunni Islam and belong to the Hanafi Islamic law school while 10-19% are Shi’a,[5][6][7][8] majority of the Shia follow the Twelver branch with smaller numbers of Ismailis. The remaining 1% or less practice other religions such as Sikhism and Hinduism. Despite attempts during the 1980s to secularize Afghan society, Islamic practices pervade all aspects of life. In fact, Islam served as the principal basis for expressing opposition to the Soviet invasion. Likewise, Islamic religious tradition and codes, together with traditional practices, provide the principal means of controlling personal conduct and settling legal disputes. Excluding urban populations in the principal cities, most Afghans are organized into tribal and other kinship-based groups, which follow their own traditional customs: for instance Pashtunwali.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Afghanistan: What’s its recent history?

Afghanistan mapAhmad Shah DURRANI unified the Pashtun tribes and founded Afghanistan in 1747. The country served as a buffer between the British and Russian Empires until it won independence from notional British control in 1919. A brief experiment in democracy ended in a 1973 coup and a 1978 Communist counter-coup. The Soviet Union invaded in 1979 to support the tottering Afghan Communist regime, touching off a long and destructive war. The USSR withdrew in 1989 under relentless pressure by internationally supported anti-Communist mujahedin rebels. A series of subsequent civil wars saw Kabul finally fall in 1996 to the Taliban, a hardline Pakistani-sponsored movement that emerged in 1994 to end the country’s civil war and anarchy. Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., a US, Allied, and anti-Taliban Northern Alliance military action toppled the Taliban for sheltering Osama BIN LADIN. The UN-sponsored Bonn Conference in 2001 established a process for political reconstruction that included the adoption of a new constitution, a presidential election in 2004, and National Assembly elections in 2005. In December 2004, Hamid KARZAI became the first democratically elected president of Afghanistan and the National Assembly was inaugurated the following December. KARZAI was re-elected in August 2009 for a second term. Despite gains toward building a stable central government, a resurgent Taliban and continuing provincial instability – particularly in the south and the east – remain serious challenges for the Afghan Government.

(Source: CIA World Factbook)

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