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I4M Country profile afghanistan learnmera (in english)


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This document was created for the Project Info4migrants. Project number: UK/13/LLP-LdV/TOI-615

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I4M Country profile afghanistan learnmera (in english)

  1. 1. AFGHANISTAN Country profile Project number: UK/13/LLP-LdV/TOI-615 Info4Migrants
  2. 2. 652,864km2 31,822mln POPULATION GDPper capita Afghani (AFN) Languages DARI (PERSIAN), PASHTO CURRENCY $725
  3. 3. COUNTRY BACKGROUND Official name: the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Location: Central Asia, north and west of Pakistan, east of Iran, and south of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Ta- jikistan. The narrow Wakhan Corridor extends from the northeastern part of Afghanistan to meet with China. Capital: Kabul Climate: Afghanistan’s climate generally is of the arid or semi-arid steppe type, featuring cold winters and dry, hot summers. Ethnic Make-up: Pashtun 42%, Tajik 27%, Hazara 9%, Uz- bek 9%, Aimak 4%, Turkmen 3%, Baloch 2%, other 4% Religions: Sunni Muslim 80%, Shia Muslim 19%, other 1% National Flag Emblem Afghanistan Kabul IRAN PAKISTAN TAJIKISTAN UZBEKISTAN TURKMENISTAN INDIA 3 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  4. 4. Languages More than 30 languages are spoken in Afghanistan. Pash- tu and Dari (Afghan Persian) are the official languages of Afghanistan. Both belong to the Indo-European group of languages. According to estimates, approximately 35% of the Afghan population speaks Pashtu, and about 50% speaks Dari. Turkic languages (Uzbek and Turkmen) are spoken by about 11% of the population. There are also numerous other languages spoken in the country (Baluchi, Pashai, Nuristani, etc.), and bilingualism is very common. Flag The background of the Afghan flag is three equal vertical sections of black, red, and green. In the center of the flag in yellow is the national coat of arms, which portrays a mosque with a banner and a sheaf of wheat on either side. In the upper-middle part of the insignia are the lines “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet” and “Allah is Great,” together with a rising sun. The word “Afghanistan” and the year 1298 (the Muslim calendar equivalent of the year of independence, 1919) are located in the lower part of the insignia. AFGHANISTAN FACTS Chai-Khana The most typical characteristic of Afghan society are the Chai Khanas, or tea houses, which abound every- where in the country. Often beautifully decorated, the Chai Khanas are the central gathering place for every town and village in Afghanistan. In them, one can enjoy a nourishing Afghan meal, such as palaw, chalaw, ka- bab, a pot of green or black tea. 4 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  5. 5. Islam Islam is practised by the majority of Afghanis and gov- erns much of their personal, political, economic and legal lives. Muslims are obligated to pray five times a day - at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening. Friday is the Muslim holy day. Most shops and offices will be closed. Government offices and businesses may also close on Thursday, making the weekend Thursday and Friday. During the holy month of Ramadan all Muslims must fast from dawn to dusk and are only permitted to work six hours per day. Fasting includes no eating, drinking, cigarette smoking, or gum chewing. Foreigners are not required to fast; however, they should not eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum in public. Capital The teeming capital of Afghanistan, Kabul is home to some of the best heritage sites in the world. Also being one of the oldest cities of the world it has many worth seeing natural splendors coupled together with the pres- ence of ancient monumental landmarks. One of the most prominent attractions in Kabul is the Baghi Balah, located at the top of the city providing the visitors a beautiful bird’s eye view of the whole city and its surroundings. Other tourist attractions include Darulaman Palace, Kabul Museum, Shamali and the King Nadir Shah’s Tomb. It is interesting to note that the old Kabul is full of nar- row pebbled streets, dilapidated buildings and bustling crowd. Few people would ever think that Kabul has shopping malls which have international products and accessories. The illustrious historical forts widely display the architecture of the past era. AFGHANISTAN FACTS 5 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  6. 6. Bamiyan One of the world’s first oil paintings can be found in the caves of Bamiyan, in the central highlands of Afghan- istan around 650BC. Bamiyan boasted a flourishing Buddhist civilisation from the 2nd Century up to the Islamic invasion of the 9th Century. This is where the world’s two largest standing Buddhas once were, until they were destroyed in 2001. New Year Afghans celebrate their new year, Nawroz, on 21 March, the first day of spring. Thousands travel to the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif to welcome in Nawroz, a pre-Islamic festival. Local strong men raise a great Janda, an Islamic banner, to herald the beginning of spring and the start of the new year. If they are able to lift it in one smooth motion, this is seen as a good omen for the months to come. AFGHANISTAN FACTS Buzkashi Afghanistan would like its national game, buzkashi, or goat-grabbing, to be an Olympic sport. Regarded as the world’s wildest game, it involves riders on horseback competing to grab a goat carcass, and gallop clear of the others to drop it in a chalked circle. It has been played on Afghanistan’s northern steppe for centuries. The game used to be the sport of rich rival warlords but is now also financed by Afghan mobile phone com- panies and private airlines. But it is still not a sport for the faint-hearted, and women should not apply. 6 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  7. 7. The Ethnic Make-up and Tribes Afghanistan is a vast country with a rich mix of ethnicities and tribes. The Pashtu are Sunni Muslims and constitute around 42% of the population and are concentrated in Nangrahar and Pakhtya provinces and also live in neighbouring Pakistan. Tajiks comprise roughly 27% of the population. They are Iranian in origin and speak a form of Persian found in Eastern Iran. Most are Sunni Muslim and reside in Kabul and Herat provinces, and in the mountains north of Hindu Kush, and the Iranian border. Hazaris make up about 9% of the population. They are de- scendants of the Mongols, and speak a dialect of Persian that contains many Turkish words. They are also Shia Mus- lims, which has led to much of their persecution under Taliban rule. Most live in the Hazarajat region. Uzbeks live in the northern parts of the country and also comprise only 9% of the population. They are Sunni Mus- lims and speak a dialect of Turkish. The Turkomen are a small minority with making only 3% of the population. Baluchis are pastoral nomads who speak Baluchi, an Irani- an language. They comprise 2% of the population. Poetry Poetry is a cherished part of Afghan culture. Afghans have told their stories in verse for more than 1,000 years. Thursday night is “poetry night” in the west- ern city of Herat- men, women and children gather to share ancient and modern verse, listen to traditional Herati music, and enjoy sweet tea and pastries long into the night. AFGHANISTAN FACTS 7 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  8. 8. The refugees (both legal and illegal) fled Afghanistan in four main waves: • Soviet war in Afghanistan (1978-89) • Civil War (1992–96) • Taliban Rule (1996–2001) • War in Afghanistan (2001–present) Returning to Afghanistan Over 5.7 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan since 2002, increasing the coun- try’s population by approximately 25%. However, overall trends since 2006 show a dimin- ishing level of voluntary repatriation and growing internal displacement. Relatively low voluntary return rates may reflect mounting concerns among exiles about the security situation in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan that return refugees encounter upon their arrival is far from the eco- nomically and politically stable country that they might have hoped for. According to a November 2012 report by the Feinstein International Center, one in three Afghan chil- dren are malnourished, with rates of malnourishment far higher in conflict-affected regions, such as those in the country’s south. Access to healthcare remains very limited, with 15% of the population without access to even the most basic healthcare services. Because of the economic vulnerability and insecurity that Afghans face in their home re- gions, increasing numbers are on the move to other Afghan cities. Over 15% of returned refugees had to move again in 2011, often from rural to urban areas to seek security, food, and work. Many return refugees have been unable to go back to their places of origin for reasons of continued insecurity or the lack of a viable livelihood. Poverty and disasters associated with natural hazard events have also contributed to the recent displacement of Afghans, but violence has been the major factor in involuntary population movements. Not all Afghans are returning home. The 2011 industrialized country asylum data notes a 30% increase in applications from Afghans from 2010 to 2011, primarily towards Germa- ny and Turkey, reflecting the unwillingness of Afghan refugees to return and the eager- ness of those still residing there to leave. REFUGEES 8 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  9. 9. In 2013, more than 2.8 million Afghan refugees were living in Iran with only 0.8 million of them being registered as legal migrants and rest living as illegal refugees in Iran. Similarly 1.5 million officially registered Afghan refugees were reported to be living in Pakistan in addition to approximately one million more illegal refugees. In December 2014 there was a terrorist attack on a school in Peshewar by the Pakistani Talaban and over 100 school children were killed. A few Afghans were involved. Following the attack, Afghan refugees in Pakistan began to encounter seri- ous harassment and often were told to return to Afghanistan. There was a mass exodus of tens of thousands of refugees which was ongoing as of February 2015. Afghans in Finland Nearly three million Afghans are living in exile, not only in the neighbouring countries, but also spread all over the world. Millions of Afghans have left their homes in fear of war, famine and chaos. One of the countries they have been resettled in is Finland, which supports the international refugee programme by receiving approximately 200 Afghan refugees from Iran every year. Small numbers of Afghans have migrated to Finland since the early twentieth century, but since 2001-2010 in particular there has been an increase in the num- ber of Afghans arriving to Finland. In 2010, Finnish immigration service estimated the total number of Afghans in Finland as 3500. In 2014, this number grew to up to approximately 4000 people. The figure includes both persons with a permanent status and those whose asylum applications are under consideration. REFUGEES 9 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  10. 10. • The people of Afghanistan are called Afghans and not Afghanis, which is the currency. A common mistake that happens among people. • Afghanistan’s main source of income comes from agriculture. They produce large amounts of crops that are enough to provide for the people and export as well. They plant vegetables, fruits, rice and nuts. • Afghanistan is also rich in natural resources, with the main ones being natural gas and oil. • Afghanistan celebrates its independence on August 19th from Britain. Afghanistan was not actually part of the British Colony. However, they went into war three times until Af- ghanistan declared its independence in 1919. • The modern state of Afghanistan was founded by Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1747. • Initially, the capital city of Afghanistan was Kandahar. It was later shifted to Kabul. • In Afghanistan, the meal is incomplete without ‘naan,’ which is a flat, unleavened bread. • The highest mountain range of Afghanistan is Hindu Kush, the highest point in the coun- try is formed by Nowshak, which is situated at 7,485 m above sea level. ‘Kush’comes from the verb ‘kushtan’ which means ‘to kill.’ Hindu Kush means ‘Hindu Killer.’ Mountaineering tourism has become very popular in recent years, Hindu killing is a thing of the past. • Opium is the fastest and largest growing crop in Afghanistan. • The Minaret of Jam, in the Hari River valley, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. • For a long period of time, the foreign affairs of Afghanistan were under the control of the United Kingdom. It was only on August 19, 1919, after the third Anglo-Afghan war, that the country regained sovereignty over its foreign affairs. • The term ‘Afghanistan’ means the ‘Land of Afghans’. Afghans is an alternative name for Pashtuns, which is the largest ethnic group. • The endorheic Sistan Basin in Afghanistan is regarded as one of the driest regions in the world. INTERESTING FACTS 10 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  11. 11. Mazar Sharif Every year thousands of pilgrims come to Marzar Sharif to pay homage to the Shrine of Ali, the Fourth Caliph of Islam. Festivities are held on Now Ruz, the Afghan New Year, ob- served on March 21st – the beginning of spring. Mazare is also a major market place for karakul and traditional Afghan carpets. Balkh Referred to by the ancients as the “Mother of Cities,” today it is a small town near Mazare that is overshadowed by memories of past glory. Here, Zoroaster first preached, and Al- exander made Balkh headquarters for two years. The city was also the capital of the Bac- trian Empire. Later the Timurid dynasty built a college and an impressive shrine at Balkh. Nearby stand the remains of one of the oldest mosques of the Islamic world, the Masjide Haji Piyada. Herat Few cities have as diverse a past as Her- at. Within Heart’s city walls Alexander built a mighty fortress; today a citadel, although altered many times, still stands on the same spot. In the centuries that followed, Herat was the pivot around which cultural influence from Iran, Central Asia, and Afghanistan converged. Ghenghis Khan and Tamerlane each wreaked havoc upon the city, but Herat persevered to live a period of unequaled splendor during the reign of the Timurid Kings. Today, Herat’s minarets, mosques, shrines, and monuments testify to the glory of that period, when art, literature, and refinement attained high degrees of perfection. ATTRACTIONS 11 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  12. 12. Kandahar The birthplace of modern Afghanistan, Kandahar is a thriving commercial and industrial center. Excepting its modern share Nau (New City), Kandahar still remains substantially unchanged from the city that Ahmad Shah Durrani, the founder of the state of Afghani- stan, built two hundred years ago. It is famous for its fruits and intricate embroidery work. Ghazni Although today it appears to be only a small town, Ghazni was once the capital of the powerful Ghaznavid Empire, which stretched from Persia to India. Two star-shaped mina- rets, a palace, a mausoleum, and a museum only suggest the glory of Ghazni’s past. Nouristan The people of this remote region, once called Kafirs, or unbelievers, were converted to Islam only 70 years ago. Now called Nouristanis – “People of Light” – they are still unique in all of Afghanistan. In legend, the people of Nouristan claim the Greek god Dionysus as their patron. Bamiyan Seven hours by car and one hour by plane from Kabul, this beautiful valley is undoubtedly one of Afghanistan’s fore- most attractions. There are also extensive ruins of ancient towns and fortresses – one being the Red City – which flour- ished until the onslaught of Ghenghis Khan in the thirteenth century. Bande Amir Bande Amir Without fail, visitors to Afghanistan have mar- veled at the country’s natural beauty. The formidable Hin- du Kush, the vast expanse of the Turkestan plains, and the seclusion of the Southern desert have impressed travelers from Alexander the Great to Marco Polo. In fact, it is the raw, unspoiled natural beauty that forms the visitor’s first and most enduring impression of the country. But of all the natural wonders of Afghanistan, the lakes of Bande Amir are perhaps the most outstanding. Situated in the mountainous Hazarajat at an altitude of almost 3000m., and 75 km from Bamiyan, these majestic blue lakes are of legendary beauty. ATTRACTIONS 12 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  13. 13. CUISINE Afghan food is a tasteful fusion of the regions that neighbor Afghanistan. Major ethnic groups are Pashtuns, Tajiks and Uzbeks. Modern Afghan cuisine is the blending of the cooking methods of the three. Indian influence is obvious in the use of spices like saffron, coriander, cardamom and black pepper. The Afghans prefer cuisine which is neither too spicy nor hot. Afghan cuisine is largely based upon the nation’s chief crops, such as wheat, maize, barley and rice. Accompanying these sta- ples are native fruits and vegetables (includ- ing nuts) as well as dairy products such as milk, yogurt and whey. Afghan Specials Qabli Pulao: It is the most popular dish of Afghanistan. It is steamed rice with chops of raisins and carrot. It is often served with lamb. Kababs: Lamb kabab is a favorite of the Af- ghans. Afghan kabab is mostly served with naan, and rarely rice. Mantu: Mantu are steamed dumplings fat- tened with minced beef with onion, usually topped with a tomato-based, yogurt- or qoroot-based sauce. Bread: Usually, Afghans consume three types of bread. These breads are locally called Naan, Obi Naan and Lavash. Naan is made of wheat and is thin, long and oval shaped. Obi Naan is shaped like a disk and is thicker than naan. Lavash is very thin bread and used as plating for meats and stews. Qorma: It is a stew or casserole, usual- ly served with chalau rice. Most are on- ion-based; onions are fried, then meat added, including a variety of fruits, spices, and vegetables, depending on the recipe. The onion is caramelized and creates a rich- ly colored stew. Rice Dishes: One of the most popular rice dishes is chalow, fluffy white rice. The Af- ghans love to eat chalow with Qormas. Weddings and family gatherings usually feature several rice dishes. Dairy Products: Because of cattle and sheep herding, dairy products are traditionally an important part of the diet. Shomleh is a cold drink made by mixing water with yogurt and then adding fresh or dried mint. It is the most widely consumed drink in Afghanistan, especially during lunch time in the summer season. Afghan people are fond of non-vegetarian dishes. Usually they don’t use cutlery. Food is gulped with the right hand, using naan as scoop. The Afghans treat their guests with great respect and try to serve their guests with excellent food. 13 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  14. 14. HISTORY IN BRIEF Afghanistan, often called the crossroads of Central Asia, and located along the Silk Road, has a long history of turbulence. Based on archaeological evidence, urban civiliza- tion began in the region between 3000 and 2000 BC. The first historical documents date from the early part of the Iranian Achaemenian Dynasty, which controlled the area from 550 BC until 331 BC. Between 331 and 327 BC, Alexander the Great defeated the Achaemenian emperor Darius III and squashed local resistance. Alexander and his successors, the Seleucids, brought Greek cultural influences to the region. Shortly thereafter, the Mauryan Empire of India gained control of southern Afghanistan, bringing with it Buddhism. In the mid-third century BC, nomadic Kushans established an empire that became a cultural and commercial center (60s–375 AD). From the end of the Kushan Empire in the third century AD until the seventh century, the region was fragment- ed and under the general protection of the Iranian Sassanian Empire. In 642 AD, Arabs invaded the entire region and introduced Islam. Arab rule gave way to the Persians, who controlled the area until conquered by the Turkic Ghaznavids in 998. Following Mahmud’s short-lived dynasty, various princes attempted to rule sections of the country until the Mongol invasion of 1219, led by Genghis Khan. 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, Tamerlane, incorporated Afghanistan into his own vast Asian empire. In 1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani unified the Pashtun tribes and created the Durrani Em- pire, which is considered the beginning of modern Afghanistan. In the late 19th century, Afghanistan became a buffer state between the British Indian Empire and the Russian 14 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  15. 15. Empire. On August 19, 1919, following the third Anglo-Afghan war, the country regained full inde- pendence from the United Kingdom. A brief foray into democracy ended in a 1973 coup and a 1978 Communist counter-coup. The Soviet Union invaded in 1979 to support the frail Afghan Communist regime, sparking a long and destructive war. The USSR withdrew in 1989 under relentless pressure from internationally supported anti-Com- munist mujahedin rebels. After a subsequent se- ries of civil wars, in 1996 Kabul fell to the Taliban, a hard-line Pakistani-sponsored movement that emerged in 1994 to end the country’s civil war and anarchy. Following the September 11, 2001, terror- ist attacks, a US, Allied, and anti-Taliban Northern Alliance military action toppled the Taliban for shel- tering Osama Bin Laden. The UN-sponsored Bonn Conference in 2001 established a process for politi- cal reconstruction that included the adoption of a new constitution. In December 2004, Hamid Karzai became the first democratically elected president of Af- ghanistan. The National Assembly was inaugurated the following December. After winning a second term in 2009, Karzai’s presidency came to an end in 2014. The Afghanistan pres- idential election of 2014 was controversial, and despite UN supervision there were many allegations of fraud. After a second round of voting Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai was elected president. Despite gains toward building a stable central government, a resurgent Taliban and con- tinuing provincial instability — particularly in the south and the east — remain serious challenges for the government of Afghanistan. HISTORY IN BRIEF 15 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  16. 16. PUBLIC HOLIDAYS Moveable date in winter or spring: Mawlid It is the observance of the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammad 15 February: Liberation Day This day marks the anniver- sary of the Soviet withdraw- al from Afghanistan in 1989. 21 March: Nowruz, the Bew Year’s Day Nowruz marks the first day of spring or Equinox and the beginning of the year in the Persian calendar. 28 April: Mujahideen Victory Day It commemorates the day when Mujahideen rebel forces overthrew Moham- mad Najibullah’s Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in 1992. It is celebrated mostly by former mujahideen and by the Muslim people of Af- ghanistan. Some minority of Afghans are against celebrat- ing the day because it marks the start of the civil war. 29 August: Independence day Afghan Independence Day is celebrated to commemorate the Anglo-Afghan Treaty of 1919. The treaty granted complete independence from Britain, although Af- ghanistan was never a part of the British Empire. Moveable date in summer: Eid ul-Fitr (3 days) The holiday celebrates the conclusion of the 29 or 30 days of dawn-to-sunset fast- ing during the entire month of Ramadan. 8 or 9 September: Martyrs’ Day. Ahmad Shah Massoud was an Afghan military leader of the resistance against the Soviet Invasion and the Taliban, assassinated on September 9, 2001. The hol- iday is celebrated as Haftai Shahid, or “Martyr Week”. It is also observed as Massoud Day as a commemoration of his death. Moveable day in autumn or winter: Day of Arafah Commemoration of prophet Muhammad’s final sermon and completion of the mes- sage of Islam. Marks the second day of the Pilgrimage or Hajj for the millions of Muslims who make the trip to Mecca each year. A day on which Muslims fast to repent for their sins. Moveable date in autumn: Eid al-Adha (4 days) This holiday is the second of two religious holidays cel- ebrated by Muslims world- wide each year. It honors the willingness of Abraham (Ibrahim) to sacri- fice his promised son, Ishma- el (Ismail), as an act of sub- mission to God’s command, before God then intervened, through His angel Gabriel (Ji- bra’il) and informs him that his sacrifice has already been accepted. 16 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  17. 17. PEOPLE IN AFGHANISTAN Concepts of Honour and Shame Honour in Afghan culture defines the repu- tation of an individual, as well as those they are associated with. The male who is the head of the family is responsible for pro- tecting the honour of the family. The issue of honour drives much of the behaviour surrounding the protection of women, dress code, social interaction, edu- cation and economic activity. If someone’s honour has been compromised, they are shamed and will look for a way to exact re- venge for themselves, their family or group. The role of honour and tribalism has fuelled much of the disharmony in the country’s recent history - with one group carrying out violent acts against another, the victims are forced to respond causing a circle of vio- lence. Meeting and Greeting When meeting someone the handshake is the most common form on greeting. You will also see people place their hands over their hearts and nod slightly. One should always enquire about things like a person’s health, business, family, etc. Women and men will never shake hands or speak directly to one another alone. Eye contact should also be avoided be- tween men and women. Between men eye contact is acceptable as long as it is not pro- longed - it is best to only occasionally look someone in the eyes, otherwise it is consid- ered aggressive. Hospitality is an essential aspect of Afghan culture. No matter who you are, if you visit a home you will be given the best the family has. This relates back to the idea of gaining honour. If you are invited for tea, you will be offered snacks and your tea glass will be constantly filled. When you have had enough, cover the glass with your hand and say “bus” (meaning ‘enough’). 17 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  18. 18. Family is of utmost importance in the Afghan culture. Extended families typically remain together for life. Communication and socialization are limited almost exclusively to the extended family. Nepotism – brothers taking care of brothers – is a normal, expected way of life in Afghan- istan. The word for this is Wastah (WAH-stah). Taking care of the family and friends is important in all aspects of life: in government, in educational institutions, in business, in marriage, in personal relationships, wastah is universally applied. Family bonds and family honor are sacred for the Afghans. Family honor determines the family’s status in society. Family matters are extremely private. Bringing shame upon an Afghan family will almost certainly result in some form of retaliation or revenge. When a female family member is shamed, the retaliation may literally be a matter of life and death for both her and the offender. Afghan wives are seldom pictured in photos. Among Afghans, respect comes with age for both men and women. In homes where the eldest is a female, she will enjoy great respect, but a teenage son might still be regarded as a decision maker. While Afghanistan’s society is patriarchal, women are highly revered and devoted to family life. In addition to age being respected, in Afghan society, women achieve respect and status by becoming mothers. Afghans are typically friendly and hospitable, but they can also be stern and hard by West- ern standards. This is in large part due to their war experiences. Their living codes that stress honor and one’s responsibility to fulfill expected roles are strict and inflexible. Personal disputes are not solved easily because of the need to protect one’s personal and family honor. Among Afghans, piety, or devoutness to religious standards and other obligations (such as to parents) and stoicism, or being restrained in outward demonstrations of emotions, are admired traits. For Afghans showing joy or grief openly is rare. Marriages are typically arranged by the family in Afghanistan. Marriage is typically the first contact the bride and groom have with anyone of the opposite sex who is not related to them. Due to the close bonds among extended family, marriage between second and even first cousins is quite common as is polygamy, which is allowed by Islam. FAMILY IN AFGHANISTAN 18 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  19. 19. Gender equity is an extremely controversial issue in Afghanistan, particularly under the Taliban’s rule. Afghans generally agree on the underlying principles of gender equity. It is the application of these principles that varies from group to group; and there is a wide range of standards set for accepted fe- male behavior, as well as differences in male attitudes toward correct treatment of wom- en. Contradictions arise between traditional tribal or ethnic practices, many of which are alien to the spirit of Islam. Further, the dic- tates of Islam are subject to diverse interpre- tation among reformists, traditionalists and ultraconservatives. Debates between these groups can be highly volatile. Historically, the conduct of women (and men) has been strictly governed by rigid tribal behavior codes, as much as by Islam- ic law. The concept of Purdah [PUR-dah] (meaning veil or curtain) establishes and represents the physical boundaries between men and women. Purdah can range from separate rooms for living and entertaining in the home, to the wearing of the burka or chadri [chad-REE], a garment covering the body from head to toe which women wear in public. A family’s social position depends on the public behavior of its female members. Step- ping outside prescribed roles and behavioral norms in public results in moral condemna- tion and social ostracism. It is the dictates of society that place a burden on both men and women to conform. Under such circumstanc- es, gender roles generally follow defined paths. Male roles reside in family economic welfare, politics, and relationships with out- siders; within the family they are expected to be disciplinarians and providers for aged parents. Female roles stress motherhood, child socialization and family nurturing. Even among professional career women, family responsibilities remain a top priority. For all Afghan women, maintaining a good reputation is a lifelong demand. Once a woman’s reputation is tarnished, she is no longer respected, and society’s respect cannot be regained. Promiscuity, rape, di- vorce and the like will all tarnish a woman’s reputation. This is not true among men, who can redeem themselves through revenge or some honorable settlement. Afghan society regards unmarried women over the age of 25 and divorced women with disapprov- al. There is no dishonor in being widowed. However, for financial reasons, a brother or father of the deceased husband will often take the widow as another wife or otherwise provide for her. Restrictions on women under the Taliban and fundamentalist mujahedeen groups were se- vere and included loss of jobs and education- al opportunities. Since the fall of the Taliban, women are returning to work and schools are slowly opening for young girls. It has been estimated that almost half of the gov- ernment workers are now women, including 25% of the parliament. GENDER ROLES 19 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  20. 20. IMPORTANT TIPS Dining Etiquette • Always remove your shoes at the door if visiting a home. • Wait to be shown where to sit. • If you can, sit cross-legged. Otherwise sit as comfortably as you can. Do not sit with legs outstretched and your feet facing people. • If eating at someone’s home, you will be seated on the floor, usually on cushions. • Food is served on plastic or vinyl table- cloths spread on the floor. • Food is generally served communally and everyone will share from the same dish. • Food is eaten with the hands. It will be a case of watch and learn. Food is usually scooped up into a ball at the tip of the fin- gers, then eaten. • Do not eat with the left hand. • Always pass and receive things using your right hand as well. • Leave food on your plate otherwise it will be filled up again. Conversation Good topics of conversation include: gen- eral inquiries about overall family welfare, friendship, culture, food, education, agri- culture and traits such as bravery, honor, courage and loyalty. Poor topics of conversation generally in- clude anything related to Islam, religion and spirituality. Regional politics, the Tal- iban, women’s rights, equality and things you may not agree with about the region are taboo as well. Detailed family matters are completely pri- vate and only discussed with other family members. Any criticism is highly offensive. While Af- ghans may engage you in discussions relat- ing to religion and politics, these subjects can be provocative. It would be best to avoid such topics in conversation. Gift Giving Etiquette • First rule of gift giving is to never give alcohol. • The first time you go to someone’s house for tea, it is appropriate to bring a small gift. When bringing a gift, be subtle in how it is given. Do not immediately give the present but rather discreetly place it near the door or where you sit down. • When it comes to wrapping gifts, there is no special protocol. Green is good for weddings. • If you are invited to lunch or dinner, bring fruit, sweets or pastries. Make sure the box is wrapped nicely. 20 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  21. 21. IMPORTANT TIPS Gender taboos • Communication between genders only takes places within families. In professional situations, such as at businesses or univer- sities, males and females may be co-work- ers, but are nevertheless cautious to main- tain each other’s honour. • Women should avoid looking men in the eyes, and keep their eyes lowered when walking down the street to maintain the reputation. • Women should always dress to avoid unwanted attention. They should always wear loose fitting pants under the skirts and be sure the shape of their legs is hid- den. It is also strongly advisable to wear a headscarf in public. • Foreign men should note that it is inap- propriate to initiate social conversation with a woman, and one should not ask a male about his wife or female relatives. • Men and women should never be alone in the same room. If this happens, the door should always be left open. Body language To beckon someone, one motions down- ward with the palm of the hand facing the ground. Pointing a finger at objects or at a person is considered extremely rude. The thumbs-up gesture is traditionally offensive for Muslims, being equivalent to showing the middle finger in the Western world. Some more media savvy Afghans may un- derstand the Western meaning of an up- turned thumb and intend for the gesture to mean just that. Other Afghans may use the gesture in its traditional sense. Just like with thumbs up, many Afghans have come to accept this symbol to mean OK, but it is safer to avoid the gesture en- tirely. Expect Afghans to violate your normal con- versational comfort zone where distance is concerned as they typically stand closer to other people than most Westerners do during conversation. Personal space should be considered when talking to Afghan women. Getting too close may be interpreted as dishonoring them. Animals Dogs are kept at a distance and are not house-pets in Afghanistan. They are rath- er used as guard dogs for their flocks. Like other Muslims, most Afghans consider dogs unclean and will be very reluctant to touch one. An Afghan who has touched a dog will want to wash his or her hands. Muslims do, however, like cats. 21 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  22. 22. DO’S AND DON’ТS DO’S • Do shake hands with the right hand, firmly but gently in greeting and depar- ture. • Do return the ges- ture of placing the right hand over the heart after shaking hands. • Do try all food offered to acknowl- edge the hospitality of the host. • Do offer a cigarette to everyone in the group. • Do recognize the nature of Afghan hospitality. • Do expect to spend much of a visit so- cializing and drinking tea before discussing business. • Do use applicable professional or aca- demic titles, such as “engineer,” “doctor,” and “professor.” • Do expect Afghans to have a different sense of time and punctuality. • Do give a gift in return for one received. • Do sit with your legs under you or tucked away. • Do remove your shoes when visiting a home. • Do wait to be seated by the host when dining at someone’s home. • Do wait to speak when spoken to, if el- ders are present. DON’TS • Don’t use the left hand for physical contact with others, to eat, or to make gestures. • Don’t sit with the soles of your feet facing some- one. • Don’t walk away from someone who is speak- ing to you. • Don’t show a woman attention by addressing, touching, or staring at her. • Don’t ask men direct questions about their female relatives. • Don’t tell an Afghan he is wrong if he gives incorrect information. • Don’t express emotion in public. • Don’t expect Afghans to be able to read, especially outside urban centers. • Don’t wag or point your finger. • Don’t wear sunglasses indoors. • Don’t offer an Afghan food or drink or publicly consume either during Ramadan. • Don’t ask an Afghan not to smoke. • Don’t use the OK sign or thumbs-up. • Don’t confront a Muslim on his religious beliefs. • Don’t maintain prolonged eye contact with an Afghan male. • Don’t shame an Afghan in public. • Don’t bring a dog into an Afghan’s home. • Don’t force a Muslim’s head to touch the ground. 22 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  23. 23. CORPORATE CULTURE Business Meetings • If the meeting involves a group of people, it will be led by the leader who will set the agenda, the content, and the pace of the activities. • Meetings are usually held to communi- cate information and decisions that have already been rather than a forum for dis- cussion and brain storming. • Meeting schedules are not very struc- tured. Start times, points of discussion, etc are all fluid and flexible. Be prepared for a lot of tangents in the discussions. • Do not be surprised or offended if, during meetings, people walk in and out of a room or phone calls are taken. • Honour and shame should always be con- sidered. Always express yourself in a way that is not direct or pins blame on some- one. Never make accusations or speak down to anyone. • Afghani communication style is rather in- direct. It is therefore sometimes necessary to read between the lines rather than exp- ect it to be explicitly stated. For example, if someone is asked if they can complete a job on time, you will rarely get “no” as the answer. It is therefore also important to phrase questions intelligently. Business is very much personal in Afghanistan. If you have not already invested some qual- ity time in getting to know your counter- parts, then you must use initial meetings to establish trust. 23 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  24. 24. Business Cards • Business cards are not widely used in Afghanistan. They therefore carry a sense of im- portance and prestige. • If you are given a business card, take it respectfully and study it so that they see that you are spending time considering their credentials. Comment on it and any qualifications the giver may have. • There is no real protocol used for exchanging cards except to use your right hand. • It may be a good idea to have your card translated into Dari or Pashtu. Dress • Men should wear conservative suits and shoes. • If working in the country in a non-commercial capacity then wearing the traditional Af- ghan dress (long shirt and trousers) is best. • Women must always dress modestly and conservatively. The general rule is to expose as little body from the neck downwards as possible. • If working in business, women should wear knee-length, loose fitting business skirts with loose fitting professional trousers underneath. Wearing headscarf is advisable. Negotiating • Negotiating can be a tricky, frustrating but often an enjoyable affair if approached cor- rectly. • Always make sure you negotiate with the most senior person possible as they are the decision makers. If you negotiate with someone more junior, they may be there to simply test the waters. • As a rule Afghans, generally negotiate with a win-lose mentality. The goal is always to get the best for yourself at all costs. This means that there is always a stronger/weaker party. This can however be used to your advantage if you play your cards right. • Always start extremely high when starting negotiations and very slowly work your way down, always explaining why you are dropping in price but at the same time explaining the damage it is doing to you. • Always appeal to their sense of fairness and justice and the fact you are looking to build a strong relationship. • If monetary matters do not work, then try pushing the idea that a deal with you will bring prestige, honour and respect. BUSINESS ETIQUETTE 24 Country profile AFGHANISTANLearnmera Oy
  25. 25. Veronica Gelfgren Yulia Bazyukina Marja-Liisa Helenius Research Research, layout Proofreading Learnmera Oy