Biography – Early Childhood
Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan
His father worked with the Afghan Foreign Ministry
His mother taught taught Farsi and History at a girls
In 1970, Hosseini moved with his parents to Paris,
In 1973 the family returned to Kabul
In 1980 the family sought political asylum in The
Biography - Education
Hosseini graduated high school in 1984
Obtained his bachelor’s degree in biology
from Santa Clara University in 1988
Earned his medical degree in 1993 from the
University of California
Biography – Interesting Facts
In June 2006 he was awarded the 2006
Humanitarian Award from the UN Refugee
Agency. There are currently more than 3.6
million paperback copies of The Kite Runner
Biography - Influences
As a child, Hosseini
read a great deal of
Persian poetry as well
as Persian translations
His memories of
peaceful pre-Soviet era
Afghanistan, as well as
Afghan Hazaras, led to
the writing of The Kite
Statue of Khayyam, Persian poet and
philosopher at his mausoleum in
Biography - Novels
The Kite Runner is Hosseini’s first novel
It is also the first novel published in English by an Afghan
The novel, tells the story of two young boys in an Afghanistan
that precedes the bloody communist coup, Soviet invasion, and
the rise of the Taliban. The novel traverses decades—and
continents—bringing American readers into a world they’ve
rarely glimpsed, of violence and poverty and tragic betrayal. At
the same time, it’s a universal tale of friendship, redemption and
The novel was the number three best seller for 2005 in the
A movie by the same name is set to be released in November
A Thousand Splendid Suns is due to be released in May of
Biography – Perspective on American
Agenda in Afghanistan
The two major issues in Afghanistan are a lack of security outside
Kabul (particularly in the South and East) and the powerful
warlords ruling over the provinces with little or no allegiance to
the central government.
The other rapidly rising concern is the narcotic trade which, if not
dealt with, may turn Afghanistan into another Bolivia or Colombia.
Equally important is the lack of cultivable land for farmers
Afghanistan has always largely been an agricultural country, and
that even before the wars destroyed lands and irrigation canals,
only 5 per cent of the land was cultivable.
The Bush administration tripled
its aid package to Afghanistan.
Karzai finally (and courageously)
announced that warlords will be
forbidden from holding office in
the future government.
NATO agreed to expand the
peacekeeping forces to troubled
areas outside of Kabul
The People and Cultural
Atmosphere of Afghanistan
English 4U: The Kite Runner
The behaviors and beliefs
characteristic of a particular social,
racial or ethnic group. (ie. Pashtun)
Also, a particular form or stage of
civilization (as it pertains to the
development of a nation).
Further, the development or
improvement of the mind by
education or training. (ie. Miss McKee
Map 1 of Afghanistan
Afghanistan lies across ancient trade
and invasion routes from central Asia
into India. This geographic position
has been the greatest influence on its
history and culture. Invaders often
came there and stayed.
Trade Route: The ‘Silk Road’
‘Ancient City Gates’
For the most part, Afghans
are farmers, although a
significant minority follows
a nomadic lifestyle. In the
years since the Soviet
invasion and the later civil
war, a large number of
Afghans have fled the
country and become
refugees in neighboring
nations, most typically in
Iran and Pakistan.
Present Estimates place
Afghanistan’s population at
approx. 25 million
The population of
comprised of a
variety of ethnic
The largest of
these groups are:
Borders? What Borders?
The people of Afghanistan are related
to many of the ethnic groups in Iran,
Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan,
and Uzbekistan; the borders drawn
between these groups are arbitrary.
The Pashtuns (Pushtuns), who make
up the majority of the population,
have traditionally been the dominant
ethnic group. Their homeland lies
south of the Hindu Kush, although
Pashtun groups live in all parts of the
Male Pashtuns live by ancient tribal
code called Pashtunwali, which
stresses courage, personal honor,
resolution, self-reliance, and
hospitality. The Pashtuns speak
Pashto, which is one of the two
The Tajiks (Tadzhiks), are the second
largest ethnic group in Afghanistan.
They live in the valleys north of Kabul
and in Badakhshan. They are
farmers, artisans, and merchants.
The Tajiks speak Dari (Afghan
Persian), the 2nd
An Artisan of Badakhshan
In the central ranges live the
Hazaras. Although their ancestors
came from a region in northwestern
China, the Hazaras speak an archaic
(old) Persian. Most are poor farmers
The Hazaras have long been
discriminated against. In part, this is
because they are minority Shiites
(followers of Shi’a Islam) within a
dominant Sunni Muslim population.
Most Hazaras live north of the Kabul
River in an isolated, wooded,
North of the Kabul River
The Hazaras are of particular importance in
our study of The Kite Runner… for reasons
that will become apparent as you read the
The strongest tie
groups is their
religion: Islam. The
majority of Afghans
(99 percent) are
The population is
thus split along
Sunni (84%) and
Each of these two
has its own set of
has its own
Note: The minority
Shiites are made
up of the Hazaras
Behaviors and Beliefs…
An outline of the belief system of
Islam is far beyond the scope of this
presentation, of course, though
indeed we can list some major tenets,
as well as some differences between
Sunni and Shi’a Muslims.
…from the Qur’an
The Messenger of
God said, “Islam is
built on five pillars:
that there is no god
but God and
Muhammad is His
zakat, hajj, and
The Five Pillars of Islam
The Testimony of Faith (Shahadah) - the declaration that
there is none worthy of worship except Allah (God) and that
Muhammad is his messenger.
Ritual Prayer (Salat) - establishing of the five daily Prayers.
Obligatory almsgiving (Zakat) - which is generally 2.5% of
the total savings for a rich man working in trade or industry,
and 10% or 20% of the annual produce for agriculturists.
This money or produce is distributed among the poor.
Fasting (Sawm) – from sunrise to sunset during the holy
month of Ramadan.
The Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) - this is done during the
month of Zul Hijjah, and is compulsory once in a lifetime for
one who has the ability to do it. If the Muslim is in ill health or
in debt, he or she is not required to perform Hajj.). Note:
Mecca is in Saudi Arabia.
Sunni vs. Shi’a in Afghanistan
Sunni Muslims comprise
the vast majority of the
population of Afghanistan.
Shiites are in the minority
and suffer under the
domination of the stronger
Elsewhere in the world,
this is often reversed. In
Iran, for example, Shiites
are the more powerful
To complicate things, a
minority group can also
have the power as was the
case in Iraq, and is still is
in places such as Bahrain.
Disagreement among Muslims?
Sunni vs. Shi’a Continued…
Shi’a Muslims believe that the descendents from
Muhammad through his beloved daughter Fatima Zahra and
his son-in-law Ali (the Imams) were the best source of
knowledge about the Qur'an and Islam, the most trusted
carriers and protectors of Muhammad's traditions.
In particular, Shi’a Muslims recognize the authority of Ali -
Muhammad's cousin, son-in-law, and the first young man to
accept Islam. He is the father of the Prophet Muhammad's
This is directly opposed to that of the caliphate recognized
by Sunni Muslims. Shi’a Muslims believe that Ali was
appointed successor by Muhammad's direct order on many
occasions, and that he is therefore the rightful leader of the
The Caliphs (Sunni Tradition)
A Caliph is the head of state in a Caliphate, and
the title for the leader of the Islamic Ummah, or
global Islamic nation. It means "successor" or
The early leaders of the Muslim nation following
Muhammad's (570–632) death were called
"Khalifat ar-rasul Allah", meaning the political
successor to the prophet of God.
After the first four caliphs, the title was claimed by
various political leaders including the Ottomans,
and at times, by competing dynasties in Spain,
Northern Africa, and Egypt. Most historical Muslim
governors were called sultans or amirs, and gave
allegiance to a caliph.
It is this issue of ‘political succession’
vs. that of ‘rightful authority’ that has
divided the Muslim world for
This issue has been the cause of
many civil wars (like that in
Afghanistan in the 1990’s).
Note: The civil antagonism presently
brewing in Iraq is essentially over this
War…what is it good for? Absolutely
nothing! Say it again…
Welcome to the world of The Kite
A World of Conflict, Struggle and
Some Afghan Proverbs:
A real friend is one
who takes the hand
of his friend in time
of distress and
One flower does
not bring spring.
No rose is without
The first day you
meet, you are
friends. The next
day you meet, you
A Brief History of Afghanistan
English 4U: The Kite Runner
The Middle of the World
Afghanistan's history – its political
development, foreign relations, and
indeed, its very existence as a state-
has largely been determined by its
geographic location at the crossroads
of Central, West, and South Asia.
Map 1: Asia
Since the dawn of
passed through the
by historian Arnold
Toynbee as a
"roundabout of the
leaving behind a
story of conquest
Map 2: Afghanistan
Afghanistan is shaped roughly like a clenched fist
with the thumb extended out to the northeast. The
country covers an area of about 650,000 sq km.
Its maximum length from east to west is about
1250 km; from north to south approx.1000 km.
The northwestern, western, and southern borders
are primarily desert plains and rocky ranges,
whereas the southeast and northeast borders rise
progressively higher into the major, glacier-
covered peaks of the Hindu Kush - an extension of
the western Himalayas.
Only the northern border is formed by a river, the
The Terrain 2
Afghan History: ‘A Tournament of
It is safe to think of Afghanistan as the ‘center
square’ of a chess board. In its long history, the
region has rarely known peace for any substantial
period of time. Afghanistan has been invaded from
Any outline of the History of Afghanistan will
necessarily focus on vast armies of the world
passing through the territory, temporarily
establishing local control in an endless
‘tournament of shadows.’
"Frontiers are the razor's edge on which hang
suspended the issue of war or peace and the life
of nations.” –Lord Curzon
Soviet Era Tanks
Pre-Historical (The Stone Age)
Archaeologists have identified
evidence of stone age technology
around present day Kabul.
Settlement remains at the foothills of
the Hindu Kush mountains indicate
that Northern Afghanistan was one of
the earliest places on earth to
domesticate plants and animals.
Zoroastrianism - the world’s first monotheistic
system of belief was founded in Afghanistan.
Judaism and Christianity would later borrow many
ideas from this religion (including that of Heaven
It has been indicated that Bronze (an alloy of
copper and tin) may have been invented in ancient
Afghanistan 3000 years BCE.
Many Historians believe that the earliest great
‘civilizations’ (Babylonia, India, Egypt, Persia)
were started by people (the Aryans) who
migrated from and through Afghanistan.
Persian Ruins (Iran)
The meaning of the
word Iran is “the
country of Aryans.”
Aryans. This term
has been used by
the 1830s in an
Pre-Islamic Period (pre- 651 CE)
Afghanistan's known pre-Islamic past began with
Aryan invasions around 2000 BC and continued
with Persian, Median and Greek conquests.
Following the defeat of the Persians in 329 BC,
Alexander the Great entered the territory of
modern Afghanistan to capture Bactria (present-
day Balkh). Invasions by the Scythians, White
Huns, and Turks followed in succeeding centuries.
During Kushan rule (100-250 CE), Afghanistan
became a great center of culture and learning.
When the Kushan Empire faded, The Sassanians
and other Persian powers ruled most of
Afghanistan until the coming of Muslim armies
(mid-7th century CE).
Alexander in Persia
Great fighting the
Persian king Darius
from a 4th century
BC original Greek
painting – now lost)
The invasion of
complete five years
after the death of
the Islamic prophet
Muhammad. All of
under Arab control,
though pockets of
During the 7th
century CE, Arab
The Islamic conquest of Persia (637-
653) led to the eventual decline of the
Zoroastrian religion in Persia.
However, the achievements of the
previous Persian civilizations were
not lost, but were to a great extent
absorbed by the new Islamic polity.
Over the next 500 years, an Islamic
culture took hold of the region (under
the authority of a Caliphate), its
influence extending in an uneasy
Caliphate in Afghanistan
By 1219 the empire had fallen to the Mongols.
Led by Genghis Khan, the invasion resulted in
massive slaughter of the population, destruction of
many cities, including Herat, Ghazni, and Balkh,
and the despoliation of fertile agricultural areas.
Following Genghis Khan's death in 1227, a
succession of petty chiefs and princes struggled
for supremacy until late in the 14th century, when
one of his descendants, Timur Lang, incorporated
what is today Afghanistan into his own vast Asian
empire. Babur, a descendant of Timur and the
founder of Moghul Empire at the beginning of the
16th century, made Kabul the capital. To the West,
the territory fell into the hands of local warriors.
Lead into Modern Times
Afghanistan was divided in many parts in the 16th,
17th and early 18th century. North were the
Uzbeks, west was Safavid's rule and east was the
Mughal's and local Pashtun rule. In 1709, the
Pashtuns (Afghans) decided to rise against the
Persian Safavids. The Persians were defeated
very badly and the Afghans held Iran from 1719-
1729. Nadir Shah of Persia pushed back the
Afghans. In 1738, Nadir Shah conquered
Kandahar, in the same year he occupied Ghazni,
Kabul and Lahore. After his death in 1747, the
Durrani Pashtuns became the principal Afghan
The British Experience…
Collision between the expanding British and
Russian Empires significantly influenced
Afghanistan during the 19th century in what was
termed "The Great Game."
British concern over Russian advances in Central
Asia culminated in two Anglo-Afghan wars.
"The Siege of Herat" 1837-1842, had the
Persians trying to retake Afghanistan from the
British. The siege resulted in the destruction of a
British army, thus prompting the Great Empire to
withdraw in disgrace. To this day, the battle for
Herat is remembered as an example of the ferocity
of Afghan resistance to foreign rule.
The British Withdraw…
Afghanistan remained neutral during World War I, despite
German encouragement of anti-British feelings and Afghan
rebellion along the borders of British India. The Afghan king's
policy of neutrality was not universally popular within the
In 1919, the King’s son and successor was assassinated,
possibly by family members opposed to British influence. His
third son only regained control of Afghanistan's foreign policy
after launching the Third Anglo-Afghan War with an attack on
During the ensuing conflict, the war-weary British forever
relinquished their control over Afghan foreign affairs, signing
the Treaty of Rawalpini in August 1919. In commemoration
of this event, Afghans celebrate August 19th as their
Civil War and a Short Line of Kings
Following a ten year civil
war for control of the new
state, Afghanistan entered
into a period of relative
stability and prosperity
under the reigns of Nadir
Shah and Zahir Shah
Zahir Shah (pictured right)
became the youngest,
longest-serving and last
king of Afghanistan.
You will remember these
kings were mentioned in
Upheaval Amid the Cold War
Amid charges of corruption against the royal family
and poor economic conditions created by severe
drought (1971-72), former Prime Minister
Mohammad Daoud Khan seized power in a
military coup on July 17, 1973.
Zahir Shah fled the country, eventually finding
refuge in Italy.
Daoud abolished the monarchy, and declared
Afghanistan a republic with himself as its first
President and Prime Minister. His attempts to
carry out badly needed economic and social
reforms met with little success, and the new
constitution promulgated in February 1977 failed
to quell chronic political instability.
Upheaval Amid the Cold War 2
Disillusionment set in. On April 27,
1978, the communist PDPA (People’s
Democratic Party of Afghanistan)
initiated a bloody coup, which
resulted in the overthrow and murder
of Daoud and most of his family.
Nur Muhammad Taraki, Secretary
General of the PDPA, became
President of the Revolutionary
Council and Prime Minister of the
newly established Democratic
Republic of Afghanistan - strongly
supported by the USSR.
Backview of Afghan Parliament
The PDPA Agenda
The PDPA, as a Communist Party, implemented a
socialist agenda which included decrees
abolishing usury, banning forced marriages, state
recognition of women’s rights to vote, replacing
religious and traditional laws with secular and
Marxist ones, banning tribal courts, and land
reform. Men were obliged to cut their beards,
women couldn't wear a burqa, and mosque visiting
The PDPA invited the Soviet Union to assist in
modernizing its economy. The USSR sent
contractors to build roads, hospitals, schools and
mine for water wells. They also trained and
equipped the Afghan army.
The Russians Roll In
These reforms and the PDPA's monopoly on
power were met with a huge backlash, partly led
by members of the traditional establishment. Many
groups were formed in an attempt to reverse the
dependence on the Soviet Union, some resorting
to violent means and sabotage of the country's
industry and infrastructure. The government
responded with a heavy handed military
intervention and arrested, exiled and executed
many mujahideen: “holy muslim warriors".
In 1979, the Afghan army was overwhelmed with
the number of incidents, and the Soviet Union sent
troops to crush the uprising. On December 25,
1979 the Soviet army entered Kabul, and installed
a pro-Moscow government.
The Russians are in the House!
Resistance / Bad Tidings
For over nine years the Soviet Army conducted
military operations against the Afghan mujahideen
rebels. The American CIA, Pakistan, and Saudi
Arabia assisted in the financing of the resistance
because of their anti-communist stance, and, in
the case of Saudi Arabia, because of their Islamist
Their efforts were eventually successful, and in
February 1989, after ten bloody years the Soviet
Union reluctantly withdrew its troops. The
mujahideen had become a force to be reckoned
Public Enemy # 1
Among the foreign
participants in the war
against the Soviet Union
was Osama bin Laden,
whose organization trained
mujahideen, and provided
some arms and funds to
fight the Soviets. Bin
Laden, although only
playing a limited part in this
conflict, broke away with
some of his more militant
members to form Al-
Qaeda (1988). His dream
was to expand the anti-
Soviet resistance effort into
a worldwide Islamic
When the victorious mujahideen entered Kabul to assume
control over the city and the central government, fighting
soon began between the various militias, which had
coexisted only uneasily during the Soviet occupation. With
the demise of their common enemy, the militias' ethnic, clan,
religious, and personality differences surfaced, and a second
civil war ensued.
In reaction to the anarchy and warlordism prevalent in the
country, and the lack of Pashtun representation in the Kabul
government, the Taliban, a movement of religious scholars
and former mujahideen, emerged from the southern
province of Kandahar. The Taliban took control of
approximately 95% of the country by the end of 2000,
limiting the opposition mostly to a small corner in the
The Taliban were
of Bin Laden’s Al-
protection for his
training camps. We
all know where that
In response to the September 11, 2001 attacks,
the United States and its allies (including Canada)
launched an invasion of Afghanistan to oust the
Sponsored by the UN, Afghan factions met in
Bonn, Germany and chose a 30 member interim
authority led by Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun from
Kandahar. After governing for 6 months, former
King Zahir Shah returned to convene a Loya Jirga
(council meeting), which elected Karzai as
president and gave him authority to govern for two
more years. On October 9, 2004, Karzai was
elected as president of Afghanistan in the
country's first ever presidential election.
Another Chapter Underway…
Tension is again
running high in his
country with a
resurrgence of the
Hamid Karzai is in
a very difficult
Will he last?
For our part,
resistance in the
South. Are we
Canadian Soldiers in Afghanistan
When you think of modern
Afghanistan, know this…
30 years of continuous war has totally crippled the
economy. In many parts of the country, one must
try to survive day-by-day by scrounging enough
food to eat.
An average person faces a high chance of
becoming blind or crippled simply because of the
lack of fresh fruit and vegetables (malnutrition).
Most people do not have the facilities to receive an
education, nor do they have the facilities to receive
medical treatment. Still, hundreds of thousands of
people are maimed or disabled because of war
and land mines. Illiteracy rates stand at 50%.
Today, the average life-expectancy for males is 40
years. For females, it is 43 years.
ENG 4U: The Kite Runner
According to UNESCO, the total
literacy rate in Afghanistan in 2000
was 36.3 percent.
The rate is 51 percent for males, and
only 20.8 percent for females (because
previous Taliban laws prevented the
education of women).
However, Persian poetry has played
a significant role in Afghan culture
since pre-Islamic times.
Persian literature dates as far back as
650 BCE, but most Zoroastrian
writings were destroyed during the
Islamic conquest of Iran
Due to anti-Persian policies, Arabic
became the primary language, but
literature written in other languages
by those of Persian descent is still
considered to be “Persian”.
The Medieval Era
Persian was revived during
the Middle Ages, due in
large part to Persian poet
Ferdowsi, who wrote the
Shahnama in 1000 AD.
You should recall that a
copy of this book was
given to Amir as a birthday
present from Ali in The Kite
The Middle Ages, cont’d.
Poetry became an extremely
important form in Persian literature,
and could even be found in scientific
or metaphysical texts.
This was linked to a tradition of court
(royal) patronage and panegyrics
(public speeches of praise), which led
to the emergence of epic poetry, the
greatest of which can be found in the
Shanama (or Shahnameh).
In addition to reviving the Persian
language, this text is considered to be
a literary masterpiece that reflects
Iranian history, cultural values,
ancient religions, and nationalism.
Although the focus is on Iran, it is
important to all Persian peoples,
including those of Afghanistan.
Known as “The Epic of Kings”, the poem itself
contains 62 stories and 990 chapters, consisting of
60,000 couplets, and is based on an earlier prose
work by the same author.
In general, the book recounts the history of Iran,
though not necessarily in precise chronological
order. Ferdowsi’s poetic style prevents the story
from becoming a dry historial account.
The characters (heroes, villains, and shahs) come
and go, but the image of Greater Iran remains
The tragic story of Rostam and
Sohrab can be found in the section
devoted to the heroic age (which
comprises about two thirds of the
It has been turned into a famous
opera and, more recently, an
elaborate “puppet opera”.
It is also the subject of a poem by
English writer Matthew Arnold.
Ferdowsi did not expect his reader to pass over
historical events indifferently, but asked him/her to
think carefully, to see the grounds for the rise and
fall of individuals and nations; and to learn from
the past in order to improve the present, and to
better shape the future.
Ferdowsi stresses his belief that since the world is
transient, and since everyone is merely a
passerby, one is wise to avoid cruelty, lying,
avarice, and other traditional evils; instead one
should strive for justice, honor, truth, order, and
other traditional virtues.
The Middle Ages, cont’d.
In the thirteenth
century, lyric (i.e.
and Sufi poetry.
Much of this poetry
was actually directed
at young men –
pages, slaves, and
Some leaders in
this genre were
Rumi, Sadi, and
The Middle Ages, cont’d.
A memorable prose epic from this era
is One Thousand and One Nights,
which includes the stories of Aladdin,
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and
Sinbad the Sailor.
One important poetic form to emerge
from this era was the ghazal
Originating in the 10th
century, and still
important in Persian literature today,
this type of poem involves a very
strict structure, and traditionally
deals with the subject of love.
The term refers to the form of the
poem, and can thus be composed in
It has evolved into a popular song
form in India and Pakistan.
Popular themes include:
Illicit unattainable love
Sufism ("a science whose objective is
the reparation of the heart and turning it
away from all else but God”).
Eventually, this form found its way
into English poetry, and the world’s
first anthology of English-language
ghazals was published in 1996.
The form consists of a short lyric
composed in a single metre with a
single rhyme throughout.
Often the poet’s pen name is
incorporated into the last line in a
creative way, in a tradition known as
A great change occurred when Prime
Minister Amir Kabir expressed his
concern that traditional poetic forms
were detrimental to the “progress”
and “modernization” of Iranian
This led to a wave of comparative
literature and literary criticism,
adapted from Western culture.
After returning to
exile in Turkey,
began to publish a
important part of
He was also the
first to introduce
the novel in
In the 1930s, the Herat Literary Circle and the
Kabul Literary Circle published magazines
dedicated to culture and Persian literature.
Despite strong traditional influences, new styles
did manage to evolve, and in 1962 a book of
modern poetry was published in Kabul.
Many emerging Afghanistani writers (such as Asef
Soltanzadeh, Reza Ebrahimi, Ameneh
Mohammadi, and Abbas Jafari) grew up in Iran
and were under the influence of Iranian writers,
which was evident in most of their work.
Persian short stories have undergone
an evolution from the formative period
(with a focus on modernism), through
a period of growth and development
(with a focus on political and
psychological issues), to a period of
diversity (which involves a great deal
of experimentation and change).
After years of classical tradition, Nima
Yushij introduced new forms of
modern Persian poetry that involved
much more freedom of structure and
a focus on human and social
This led to a movement of “Sepid
poetry”, which is a type of free verse.
Although Iranian literature has
enjoyed more prominence worldwide,
Afghanistani writers are beginning to
The Kite Runner was the first novel to
be written in English by an Afghan(-
Private poetry competitions events,
known as “musha’era” are still held,
even among ordinary people (i.e. not
just published writers).