Aug 26, 2015

The Hazaras who Create Afghanistan's Arts



While other ethnic groups in Afghanistan are trying to stay busy fighting and killing each other, the Hazaras of Afghanistan are doing something different, the art. Here is an example, Anahita Ulftat is a Hazara girl who last year participated in Afghan Star - Afghan idol - has just released a new video clip, which is astonishingly beautiful and artistic in post-modern context.

By Afghan standard, this kind of art is astoundingly rare and new. This is an example of how freedom, education, and liberalism benefit the very people who Ms. Ulfat belongs to, have been excluded from all basic rights. It has been only a decade since the Hazaras have been through a period of relatively peacefulness, which bestowed freedom under the protection of the U.S. and the international community. Hazaras are proud of their identity and country. In sport, Hazaras have often took their country's flag to the international stage and garnered gold medals for their country.

Last year, in February, I published a blog post about Anahita Ulfat and her talents. Here's that blog post:
Anahita Ulfat, Sings Songs of the Oppressed

Aug 20, 2015

I Swear by Mustache


I swear by my mustache and my love of it that I will not surrender to Jeff’s (Jeff is a real person who lives on this planet) request to shave my mustache, nor ask any man on earth to shave for me. I swear by my mustache and the love of its amusement in which my fingers twirl it every second, that I behold and hold this truth to be self-evident that every mustache is being grown free and independent with inherent natural rights that cannot be, by persuasion and lure, deprived or interrupted its spread and domination over the lips.

Apr 4, 2015

Afghan President Plays Prank on April Fool's Day

April Fool’s Day is a great day for people who deliberately play jokes on one another, but in some countries like Afghanistan April Fool's Day does not exist. What instead these countries have are their leaders who play pranks on them and the world.

The latest prank from Afghanistan came on April 1, 2015 when President Ashraf Ghani announced that his government is ready with ALL its POWER (yes, that is correct, with all its power) to support Saudi Arabia in its fight against the Huthi rebels in Yemen.

"The Afghan government stands with all power by the brotherly government and people of Saudi Arabia in defending the sacred territory should there be any threat." Read the entire statement here.
It is quite amusing to hear the Afghan president announces his country's support for Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is a country that is largely responsible for exporting the extreme interpretation of Islam to other Muslim countries. Afghanistan is one of those countries. The Afghan people know all too well what Wahhabism has done to them. They have paid a heavy price to fight against it.

Despite this, Afghanistan now has a new president who seems to be ignorant of all these sacrifices. On the top of that he does not recognize the regional sectarian sensitivity of this issue. I believe he has made a major mistake in his foreign policy, because it appears he has not made a careful assessment of what the repercussions could be. Ashraf Ghani, should be anxious for he has to expect some resentment and anger from Iran. Iran hosts more than two million Afghan refugees, shares a boarder, and has strong historical, religious and linguistic ties with Afghanistan. On the other hand Saudi Arabia shares relatively little except for religion.

So, what compels Ashraf Ghani to stand by Saudi Arabia in its fight against the Huthi rebels with all its powers when Afghanistan's capital and other major cities are being rocked by suicide attacks on a daily basis and its security forces are not able to protect its citizens?

Since taking office in September of last year, Ashraf Ghani has frequently traveled to Riyadh to explore avenues for seeking the Saudi's cooperation with the peace negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The outcome of his efforts and travels to Saudi Arabia have had little affect on Afghanistan. Perhaps those travels will not be significant because the Saudi's have never played a positive role in Afghanistan's peace nor are the Saudi's really interested in the wellbeing of the Afghan people.

What entices the Afghan president to seek the Saudi's support in the peace negotiations with the Taliban is not the Saudi King's initiatives, but rather the sanctity of the oil rich country that hosts Mecca. Mecca has a sacred mosque that attracts hundreds of thousands of Afghans every year.

It is highly unlikely the Saudi will be a successful role player in the peace negotiations between the Afghanistan government and the Afghan Taliban. So, many Afghans look at Ashraf Ghani's statement of support for Saudi Arabia's attacks on the Huthi rebels in Yemen as amusing. It is being looked at like an April Fool's Day hoax/joke. Ashraf Ghani is famous for his stupid and ludicrous remarks among many Afghans. There are some similarities that could be drawn between he and his predecessor, Hamid Karzai.

Mar 28, 2015

Jump Break Problem in Blogger

I am having difficulty creating a jump break in my blog post. It looks dull and boring to see a single post is a foot long, sometime even longer. As everyone tries to adapt to newer widgets and features, it necessitates me to spend a little on bringing some changes to the appearance. The current theme doesn't represent my optimal style, still, I think the simplicity of it matches my taste.

I have installed the current theme in 2009, and I can't exactly remember where I found it, and who has designed it. It's, as resembles, a basic Wordpress theme called "Pilcrow" (see the theme on wordpress website).

Is there anyone who could help with the xml codes? I attempted several times to change the codes, but wasn't successful. I would appreciate anyone who could assist me to solve this problem. To contact me, please use the contact form on the right column.

Mar 20, 2015

Celebration of Nawruz at the White House and Afghan Traditional Dance

On March 11, the First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a celebration of Nawruz, at the White House. Participants were mostly from community diasporas including Afghans, Iranians, Tajiks and Kurds. I felt honored to be invited by the White House and celebrate Nawruz with Mrs. Obama. Nawruz, as part of the United State's presidential greetings, was introduced by Georg H.W. Bush, in 1992. Since then, though sporadic, Nawruz, has keenly been celebrated.

Georg H.W. Bush, uninformedly called Nawruz as Iranian new year, a tradition that is widely celebrated across the region and Iran is part of it. In fact, if we call Nawruz as an Iranian new year, we belittle the historical importance, the traditions and its relevance in a larger context of Khorasan, a historical region comprising Afghanistan and some parts of Central Asia. The word Iran derives from eran, in Pahlavi dialect which once spoken in northeast Iran, where it meant aryans. Though old, the word "Iran" is used in the modern context and in a sense, it excludes other ethnic groups - like Turks, Kurds and Arabs - inside the Iranian territory who claim to be ethnically Aryans. But as it appears, ethnic groups in Iran are not only not sensitive to it, but proud of it, unlike Afghanistan, whose some ethnic groups are sensitive to be called Afghan, because up until mid-twentieth century, the word referred to Pashtun and in fact, still referred that way. Non-Pashtuns prefer to be called Afghanistani, instead of Afghan, a word that makes Pashtuns unhappy. 

Moreover, Iranian scholars credit Shahnameh in which the word Iran is repeated more than seven hundred times. It was written by Abul-Qasim Firdawsi around 1000 CE, and guess, where it was completed? In Ghazni, located in the central east of Afghanistan. And by the way, the majority of the cities mentioned in the epic stories of Shahnameh are in Afghanistan. Just for reminder, you would be better off not to mention this to some Iranians for not to make their blood boil.

Regardless of what has said here, Nawruz is an important holiday for people in Iran and thanks to them who preserved such a great tradition against the early conquest of Muslim Arabs who wanted to eradicate Nawruz and all other pre-Islamic traditions.

Happy Nawruz and I wish you all the best as you embark on 1994!
If you are curious to know how Nawruz is being celebrated in Afghanistan, you can read my article which I wrote for CNN, in 2010.

Here, enjoy a short video of Afghan traditional dance which I recorded on March 11, at the White House.

Mar 1, 2015

How Do Other Afghan Ethnic Groups View Iran-Hazara Relations?

In my previous post, I explained that how certain historical events have shaped the future of Hazaras and also how those events have affected Hazaras relations with Iran. The 9/11 attacks and its aftermath, which ushered in a new phase of Hazara’s liberation with the opportunity to finally enjoy some freedom. I indicated that such achievement has not been possible without the support of the United States and the international community.

In this post, as promised earlier, I will address some opposing arguments, which have often made by some other Afghan ethnic groups against the Hazaras. From Pashtun and perhaps some Tajiks viewpoints, the Hazaras are still agents of Iran and spying for Iran, and they are not loyal to their country. Why? Here is one of the popular accusations that has always been made. I will discuss the scale of such accusations in historical context and will argue how such accusations have helped perpetuate persecution and discrimination against the Hazaras.

This is what they argue:
Iran and Hazaras have a strong bond and it comes from their common religion and language because they are both Shiite and speak the same language. Most of Afghan refugees living in Iran are Hazaras. Iran feels comfortable to work with them and use them not only against the United States, but also against Sunni Muslim in Afghanistan. Therefore, because of all these commonalities, the Hazaras are susceptible to Iran’s influence and it is not wrong to treat them as suspicious.

This kind of argument is nowhere near commons sense, nor based on evidence but built on allegations and prejudice. But, perhaps, one of the compelling evidences that would back up this argument is Iran’s involvement in the jihad war against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. This was the beginning of Iran’s active engagement in Afghanistan’s affairs and as well as the beginning of Iran’s interaction with the Hazara people. Iran, like Pakistan played an active role by creating eight Shiite political parties, during the 1980s, to fight the Soviet troops.

Iran’s influence on Hazaras during the Soviet occupation is unquestionable. However, after the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989, the game has changed because the regional and transregional players achieved their goals: rolling back the Soviet to its borders. But what followed the post-Soviet occupation, was a series of disastrous events in which some players still found themselves unable to stop hepling once they started.  What happened subsequently was quite predictable. Iran lost its interest in Hazaras and instead began working with Tajiks, and their famous commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud. Iran realized that the Hazaras did not have the ability nor the capacity to run a government. During this time, Iran prefered and wished to have Tajiks ruling the country, however, it never had a serious and consistent foreign policy on bringing the Farsi speakers to power in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, Iran, continued to support the ruling political parties of Tajiks, Shura-e Nazar (supervisory council), and Jamiat-e Islami (Islamic society), until the fall of the Taliban regime.

On the contrary, the Hazara political parties which played an important role during the civil war between 1992-1995 and after losing the battle in Kabul, gradually marginalized and eventually became under the dominance of the Tajik parties, Shura-e Nazar, and Jamiat-e Islami, which later all of them made an alliance under compulsion to fight the Taliban regime. It is undeniably true that the Hazara parties kept close contact with Iran throughout the 1990s and up until the fall of the Taliban regime, because Iran did not want to have a brutal regime ruling Afghanistan, especially after 1998 murder of its diplomats and journalist at Iranian consulate, but the assistance was not direct and substantial because the Hazara parties relied on Northern Alliance logistic support. There were, however, other factions with direct support of Iran which they still receive Iran's support, namely, Harakat-e Islami Afghanistan (Islamic Movement of Afghanistan) that is led by its founder, Muhammad Asif Muhsini, who is ethnically a Pashtun from Kandahar, but religiously a Shia. He does not represent the Hazara people and the Hazaras hate him because of his racism attitudes against their late leader, Abdul Ali Mazari, also because of his notorious and misogynistic law allowing Afghan men to rape female.

To recapitulate, the Hazaras have changed as result of going through certain and decisive events, which took place during the 1990s and post-Taliban era. The detachment from the dominance and influence of Iran and its religious revolutionary ideology to becoming independent, and domesticating liberal and modern values, which heralded awakening of Hazaras, has not been a smooth transition. The Hazaras have paid a heavy price for their relations with Iran, but finally determined to liberate themselves from within and from without. They endured years of intense internal factional conflicts, and then suffered through dreadful years of mass atrocity against themselves by the Taliban. Therefore, it is not fair to build an accusation based on some matters which do not exist any longer. Speculation and accusation based on old and obsolete factors are not only helpful, but perpetuate prejudice and discrimination. Finally, those who still make these kind of allegations against Hazaras either being ignorant of Afghanistan’s history and the changes took place in recent decades, or for any reason, afraid to understand and acknowledge them.

In the upcoming posts, I will further discuss and analyze the opposing arguers’ points in different ways.